Making reproducing disciples of Jesus Christ

God’s Grace to Sinners

You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near!  James 5:8

Do you ever feel like you are a total failure as a Christian?  Maybe you were angry at a family member or coworker.  Maybe a trial overwhelmed you and your response has been complaining, impatience, and irritability.  Has the Holy Spirit used the Word of God to convict your heart?  When convicted of sin by God’s Word, it is possible to think like Peter and wonder if there is any hope that God could restore and use a big fat sinner like you! (Matthew 26:75)

How should we think about our sin?

The Apostle James wrote to believers who had been scattered by persecution for their faith (James 1:1).  To assure their identity in the body of Christ, James addresses these believers as “brethren” 19 times in this short book.  11 of those times James uses the personal pronoun “my” to affirm his relationship with the “brethren” (cf. James 1:2).  To communicate the bond of love he felt toward them in Christ, 3 times he says, “My beloved brethren”  (James 1:16, 19; 2:5).

Why does James continually call them brethren?

He knows that these believers are going through deep trials (James 1:2; 5:1-6).  He also knows that he will be addressing a wide range of sins that were prevalent in their lives.  If we review the topics included in the letter, it is possible to paint a portrait of a Christian that reflects our own lives:

  • Brethren who grow weary and complain in trials (James 1:2-8)
  • Brethren who are weak and insignificant in society (James 1:9-11)
  • Brethren who are constantly under assault from temptation to sin and sometimes cave to the pressure (James 1:12-18)
  • Brethren who are quick to speak, slow to hear, and quick to anger (James 1:19-21)
  • Brethren who struggle to live out the truth of God’s Word (James 1:22-25)
  • Brethren who are prejudice (James 2:1-7)
  • Brethren who think they are spiritual, yet don’t obey God’s word (James 2:14-20)
  • Brethren who have a high view of self, yet hurt and destroy with their tongues (James 1:26; 3:1-12)
  • Brethren who are bitterly jealous and self-centered (James 3:13-18)
  • Brethren who fight with one another and have ongoing tension and spats (James 4:1-3)
  • Brethren who live and respond just like the world (James 4:4)
  • Brethren who are critical and hurtful in their conversations about one another (James 4:11-12; 5:9)
  • Brethren who live for themselves and ignore God’s will in their lives (James 4:13-17; 5:12)

An artist’s rendering of such a person would be grotesque indeed!  Could it be that such a sinful and struggling believer could still call himself a Christian?  Yes!  To ward off any doubt James continually addresses these sinners as brethren! (cf. Romans 8:12-17) But God’s grace exceeds our expectations!

Sinful believers may have boundless hope at Christ’s return!

One last usage of “brethren” provides incredible hope and encouragement to weak believers (James 5:7-8, 11).  These weak and sinful believers may still look forward to the return of Jesus Christ with confidence and hope!  Can you believe it?  The return of Jesus Christ still holds incredible hope even for imperfect and weak Christians!  In fact, we all fall in that category, even the Apostle James (“my brethren”).  Even though they have failed so many times, brethren may anticipate a reward at Christ’s return (James 5:7-8).  For those who endure with patience Christ will provide incredible blessings, compassion, and endless mercy at His return (James 5:11).

How can such brethren have hope?

Our hope comes not in our worthiness, but in the love and mercy of Jesus Christ.  On the cross He purchased for us perfect righteousness and eternal peace with God (2 Corinthians 5:21).  Genuine faith in Jesus Christ forever entitles a believer to endless compassion, forgiveness, and mercy (James 1:3; cf. Ephesians 2:8-9).

Weary and sinful believer, you have a wonderful Savior in Jesus!  He forgave all your sins when you turned from your sin in faith to Him (Ephesians 1:7).  He now calls you to daily grow by His grace as you battle the strongholds of your flesh (The Epistle of James).  Agree with the Word of God when it reveals your sin.  Cry out for strength and grace and you will find it.  Don’t allow the presence and power of sin to rob you of the joy endless hope that is yours both now and at our Savior’s return!

You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near!  James 5:8


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