Hypocrisy is the gap between what we say and what we do. It’s the label often given to Christians who speak of love and forgiveness but live with bitterness and repressed anger. We speak of sacrificial service and humility but demand our rights and seek our own good with as much energy as anyone. It is this disparity that stands between many people and a willingness to engage with the truth of the gospel.
This month we are kicking off a new series in the book of James called: “The End of Hypocrisy”. One of the great struggles in our lives as Christians is the visible gap between who we know God calls us to be and how we actually live. The ongoing struggle with sin can cause us to feel defeated, to become comfortable with sin or to just give up on trying to grow.
The book of James presents a bold call to all who would claim to have faith in Jesus but whose lives do not reflect that faith. James is the book that the great reformer Martin Luther famously ripped out of his bible and called the epistle of straw. For Luther, this call to wholehearted obedience jarred with his understanding of God’s grace and mercy and burdened him with guilt.
In case you were wondering, Martin Luther came to love the book of James and to see the place of works in the Christian life alongside grace like this:
“We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone.”
James is a profoundly practical book. It has much to say about how we treat one another, how we speak, how we dream about the future and much more. But it is still a book saturated in the gospel confidence found only in grace.
The emphasis of James is not on simple obedience but on the relationship between faith and obedience. We are saved by faith alone, through the work of Jesus on the cross to forgive us, wash us and restore us into a relationship with our heavenly Father. What James wants to show us is how our faith must impact and penetrate every sphere of our lives.
As Platt identifies, ‘the book of James addresses many practical issues: trials, poverty, riches, materialism, favouritism, social justice, the tongue, worldliness, boasting, making plans, praying, and what to do when we’re sick. As we’ll see, James moves from one issue to the next which can make it difficult to find the book’s structure, but he returns repeatedly to how faith impacts the details of our lives but also the lives of those around us - both locally and globally’ (Platt, D.).
It is our prayer that as we wrestle with God’s word through this series that it will impact not only our lives internally but the community we live in as well. The testimony of scripture is that when authentic faith is lived out in our workplaces, in our schools and in our families, it stands out, it shines and it is attractive.
This side of heaven we will never be perfect, but a trust in Jesus as saviour carries with it a trust in him as king. A relationship with Jesus results in life change and in hearts progressively shaped to love what he loves and to hate what he hates. By grace, when we fail we can confess and know that his love for us and commitment to us is unwavering, he will finish the work he begun (cf. Philippians 1:6), and so he calls us to persevere so that we might grow to maturity.
Please join with me in praying that this series would be a time of personal transformation for each of us. But more than that, that it would be a time of significant impact in our community for the glory of God and the joy of all people.
Your brother in Christ