Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A Servant of God

This is the first part in a series on the book of James.

How do you define yourself?
If you were writing or speaking to a group of people who did not know who you were or anything about you, and you had only a few seconds to sum yourself up, what would you say?

I was faced with this question yesterday when I finally broke down and decided to try Twitter (@JustinMGatlin) and needed to write a biography. It occurs to me now, however, that most of the letters in the New Testament begin with just this kind of a blurb (this is not a uniquely biblical phenomenon, but is the way that most ancient letters were written).

I invite you to read the first part of James 1:1. In the KJV, this is:

 "James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ."

A little background may be necessary. The James who wrote this was the younger half-brother (through Mary) of Jesus, and did not believe in Jesus until after the Resurrection. Yet, when this James saw Jesus risen in power, it totally transformed him. If you want proof of the Resurrection, this ought to be good enough: what would it take to make your brother worship you? But when Jesus split death wide open, James came to faith.

When the time came to write this letter, he knew what summed him up. He did not write 'James, the faithful Jew and brother of Jesus,' 'the master preacher and writer extraordinaire' or even 'the worthless sinner.' He did not identify primarily with any of these terms. No, James saw his identity in terms of being a servant - a bond-slave - of God and of Jesus. His whole identity was summed up in the one idea: follow.

My pastor growing up (and hero), the later Darrell Streeter, used to have us sing the song "I'll live for Him," with the words changed to the present tense. 

My life, my love, I give to Thee,
Thou Lamb of God who died for me;
Oh, may I ever faithful be,
 My Savior and my God!
I'm Living for Him, who died for me!
How happy now my life shall be!
I'm Living for Him who died for me,
My Savior and my God!

If we are to study James (and we will, if the Lord is willing), let us begin with this attitude. James is the book where the rubber hits the road and God commands us to do. How more powerfully can we see this than in the brother who became Lord?

What about it: how fully do you serve God now? Could you define yourself as "____, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ?" 

May God grant that we will!

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