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Sometimes I'm A Lily-Livered Preacher!

Sometimes I'm A Lily-Livered Preacher!
This Sunday we end our series called Mastering The Art of Living.Truth be told, I'm ending it a couple of weeks early.Call me chicken, call me lily-livered (from the medieval belief that a pale colored liver meant the person had no courage!), call me a wimp - but every Sunday for the past six weeks as I've driven away from 445 S. Mary Avenue, Sunnyvale - I've cringed at another Sunday where I've smacked people over the head!When you choose to preach from the short little letter from James, he really does speak candidly and challengingly verse after verse after verse after verse.It’s just a powerful, relentless burst of guilt inducing teaching!
Every Sunday I've driven away thinking - wow that wasn't very gentle or kind! Every Sunday I've thought ..... will they email me saying 'can we have Linda preach - she is kind and gentle!'And every Thursday/Friday as I sit down to write next week’s message I cringe as James fires off another volley of honest, blunt teaching! Can he not be a little bit more like his loving, gracious half-brother!
I'm sure James was just as hard on himself as he is on us his readers.I'm sure James frequently thought - dang, I was slow to grasp who my half-brother Jesus really was, I've wasted so many years, no time to now slack or settle for mediocracy, it's full in with both feet from now on! (Although I'm questioning etymologically if the word 'dang' has a Greek equivalent. Maybe he said "enochlisi ...the more eloquent British phrase "bother!")
So, a couple of weeks ago as we drove back to Fresno I decided ...... call it Gilbert at the end of October! No more whacking everyone every Sunday .... preach a little gentler.Therefore, this Sunday is our final teach from James' explosive and bothersome writing!Have I become lily-livered?
So, this enews is my way of reassuring myself that I'm not a wimp!
Let me take one more swing before we preach on Sunday ........
The swing comes from possibly the core emphasis that James teaches in his writings - faith and works.The Protestant Church has always struggled with James because of his insistence on works as well as faith - a more Catholic teaching.Some suggest that the great Reformer Martin Luther did not accept James as part of the Canon of Scripture due to how James' emphasis on works seemed to clash with the teachings of the Apostle Paul.James does talk about works a lot, crescendoing in his powerful words "a person is justified by works and not by faith alone" (James 2 vs 24).This is the line Luther struggled to have in the canon!
While this really does deserve a full sermon let me quickly summarize it as a final punch!
Faith is invisible. People cannot really see whether or not you're a true believer. The work of God's justifying grace is an internal work in your soul. That's true.But people can see the fruit, the works, that flow from your faith! When James uses the word 'justification' he's not talking about the way we're declared righteous before God - Paul's great doctrine. James is focusing on whether we can be vindicated as genuine believers in the eyes of other people.It is by good works, good actions, that your faith will be justified and proved genuine before their eyes.
And here's the punch - James teaches that unless your life, your works, prove you as a genuine believers - you aren't a genuine believer!
Ouch!
When society today sees Christians as acting very much like non-Christians, James causes us to ask many hard questions about ourselves and about our church.
Another punch from James.Of course doing this via the invisible of enews is kinda wimpy!
One more Sunday folks (hang in there) and then in November ..... gentler (maybe!)
Gilbert
P.S. Here's two books worth reading as a commentary on James' teachings applying today:
unChristian @ David KinnamanThe Unsaved Christian @ Dean Inserra

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