Summary: This is an introduction to a study of the Book of James. In this sermon we look at the different stages in the life of the author as he transforms from doubting skeptic to humble believer and righteous leader.
For most of this past year we have studied Paul’s letter to the Galatians on Sunday mornings. Galatians is a book that emphasizes Christian doctrine. As we studied Galatians we learned what we are to believe about the gospel. Hopefully, we grew in our understanding of the gospel.
So, now it seems appropriate to me for us to spend the next few months studying a book of the Bible that emphasizes Christian practice. I plan to study the letter of James, which will help us put into practice what we believe. I am hoping that as a result of studying the letter of James we will learn how to live in light of what we believe.
So, with that in mind, let’s read James 1:1:
"1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings." (James 1:1)
In his book The Mind of Watergate psychiatrist Leo Rangell attempts to analyze the psyche of Richard Nixon and several of his closest men. The book contains a transcript of the verbal investigation between Senator Baker and young Herbert L. Porter. Here is a brief segment of that account exactly as it transpired:
Baker: Did you ever have any qualms about what you were doing? . . . I am probing into your state of mind, Mr. Porter.
Porter: (Uncomfortably) I was not the one to stand up in a meeting and say that this should be stopped. . . I mean. . . I kind of drifted along.
Baker: At any time did you ever think of saying, “I do not think this is quite right, this is not quite the way it ought to be.” Did you ever think of that?
Porter: Yes I did.
Baker: What did you do about it?
Porter: I did not do anything.
Baker: Why didn’t you?
Porter: (After evidence of much inner thought on his face) In all honesty, probably because of the fear of group pressure that would ensue, of not being a team player.
Porter’s answer continues to haunt us to this very day. How much of that whole ugly nightmare between the break-in in June 1972 to the resignation of President Nixon over two years later would never have happened if there had been one person with the integrity and courage to stand alone? What if the refusal to compromise one’s personal integrity had been stronger than the desire to be loyal to the man at the top?
What was missing at Watergate? One word: Integrity! It was an all-out integrity crisis. People of true integrity are an endangered species not only in the leadership of this nation, but also among ordinary people like you and me. And the issues at stake are not always classified. Sometimes personal integrity is sacrificed for the most trivial of reasons.
Many years ago I read about a lawyer in his brand new office on the first day of his new practice. He saw a prospective client walk in the door. He decided he’d better look busy. So he picked up the phone and started talking, “Look, Harry, about that amalgamation deal. I think I better run down to the factory and handle it personally. Yes, I’m sure. No, I don’t think $3 million will swing it. We better have Rogers from Seattle meet us there. OK. I’ll call you back later. Bye!”
He put the phone back in its cradle, looked up at the visitor, and said, “Oh! Good morning! How can I help you?”
The visitor said, “You can’t help me at all. I’m from the phone company, and I’m just here to hook up your phone!”
Although stories like this are funny, the increasing loss of integrity today is no laughing matter. Where is the man or woman of integrity today? Our world needs persons with integrity. Not persons who are perfect. But persons willing to stand alone—to pay a price and even to suffer loss for what he or she believes.
A person of integrity is hard to find. And so today I want to introduce you to such a person. His name is James. James lived in the first century. In his generation some called him James the Just because of his steadfast Christian character.
But James’ integrity was an exception in his day as well. In fact, he found himself surrounded by many whose Christian profession did not match their practice. And his heart was broken by the integrity crisis he saw in his day.
So in order to help his fellow Christians know how to have a faith that really works, how to live with integrity, how to live the practical Christian life, he wrote what was probably the first book of our New Testament, this little book we call “James.”