Summary: Message series in book of James: “Extreme Makeover: What Really Looks Good to God” - A church that is in hard times gets a lesson through James on how to grow together as a community of faith with big ears.
Message series in book of James: “Extreme Makeover: What Really Looks Good to God”
Big word, an in word, in our culture these days is “makeover.” Tummy tucks, lipo-suction, nose jobs, home renos, remodelling of gardens, they are all the rage. Many TV shows that have this theme are capturing the airwaves. I can see the appeal of it. People dream of a new improved versions of their bodies or homes, to feel good, to feel beautiful, to be loved, to be popular, accepted, liked. So I don’t think, it is a newsflash that folks want to see improvement in their lives.
It is not news, as well, that God wants to makeover our lives as well. He wants a remodelled, new and improved, growing you. He wants us to grow up to look like Him. He wants all of us to feel loved, accepted, forgiven. In others words, God desires us to be made over to be as perfect and complete as He is. But how can we be made over in a world that’s falling apart? We find ourselves struggling to make improvements in a world that’s ugly with problems and stresses.
This week we will learn from the letter that James wrote to the church that needed a makeover. The environment, in which that letter was written, was one of similar stresses. Hard times were a constant reality. Here in James we find a community that desparately needed a makeover.
History tells us that, it was a time when jobs were hard to find, the economy was bad, many are poor. James was writing to people struggling to get by on their meagre income as noted in 1:9 “the brother in humble circumstances.” Not only that, but the believers that he wrote to were showing favouritism, discrimination, the rich dragging poor people to court (see Jas 2:1-7), spreading gossip, having big time problem of controlling the tongue (Jas 3), bickering (Jas 4), boasting, bragging (4:16). These were not happy times! They were suffering as rejects in their society. The community James wrote to was a fractured, broken, discouraged bunch that needed a lot of growing up. They were not having a whole of fun. Is this a church community that needed a makeover or what? I wonder if this sounds familiar?
I am glad God’s word does not have a sanitized fairy tale version of reality. God’ Word deals with real people problems. And so it gives a sense of real hope that God continues to speak our real world problems. God’s Word guides us as we navigate through tough times.
If I were James, I would have not documented such problems. I would have painted a picture of a church with no problems, church where everybody got along. I would have drawn a cheery pretty picture of church life, but it is obvious; the word of God does not attempt to hide the facts that even in the early days of the church, there was trouble in the church and that’s the real world in which they struggled to live in. No wonder, 1:2-3 speaks of facing “trials of many kinds… testing of your faith.” He writes and speaks to people who are tempted to blame God for their stresses and saying “God is tempting me” (v.13). Do you see how the church that day was facing deep struggles, and so the Bible continues to speaks to us, as the church today, that are facing all sorts of trials, feeling tested, feeling tempted and yet desiring a makeover?
The true word in Christianity is this, which James touched on: God has noticed us. And He has EMBRACED us. James (1:16-17) puts it this way “So don’t be misled… In his goodness he chose to make us his own children by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his choice possession.” To a bunch of struggling believers looking for instruction and hope, James reminds his readers, the church, God the Father has already given us birth as His children. Here is a church that is very close to Jesus, not far removed from the first Easter Sunday, with a living brother of Jesus writing to them. But they struggled to live as Christians, just like we are. The needed to be reminded of the grace of God and the grace of God has come and it wipes the slate clean, sins have been forgiven, hope is secured by the resurrection power of the living Christ. We are God’s “choice possession” by His very own choice, do not be misled!
How are we his choice, chosen kids of the King? The passion of Jesus Christ speaks to us.
The cross tells us that Christ has absorbed into Himself all the evil and sin and ugliness of the world. His purposes is to transform what’s ugly about humanity and turn it into a beautiful expression of God’s love acceptance and forgiveness to anyone who feels ugly, dehumanized, unlovely, unlovable. So “Christ died for our sins” as the Bible declares (1 Cor.15:3) in order to speak to our world in search of dignity and worth and beauty, that God has noticed us despite our ugliness of sin, and He did more than just cosmetic surgery, he completely routed sin, obliterated it, with His sacrifice, so that sin will never again get in the way of a holy God loving us.