September 15 Curriculum

kthomasLearning Groups Curriculum

Words of Wisdom: Faith and works go hand in hand

September 15, 2019 (click here for PDF version)

 

Overarching theme:  Living a year in God’s presence through the practice of following Jesus.

Instructions: When using this material as teacher, feel free to pick and choose the point you want to emphasis in the lesson. The format of the curriculum is designed to have an abundance of information in which to refer as desired.

Core PointWe are focusing on the words and actions of people as they follow Jesus as disciples.  The salient point of this series is that as Christians we are called into community with other believers to be a holy nation representing the grace and love of God in the world by both word and deed.  This will be the final week for this series.

Start point: The scripture focus is found in the Letter of James.  This letter was written by James, the brother of Jesus, who became the leader of the Jerusalem church. The letter was probably written about 40–45 A.D. to Jewish Christians living outside Palestine. The theme of the letter calls the Christian to live by faith and be doers of God’s Word.  It appears that the receivers of the letter were suffering persecution and living in poverty. They were in tremendous social and spiritual conflict while living in a worldly manner. Because of the challenges of the people, James encourages them to seek God’s wisdom and actively live their faith so the world sees their good deeds in Christ. James provides some practical ideas on how to live out faith. He was an advocate for bringing together faith with works.

Reflect on this Scripture:

James 1:19-27 (NRSV)

19 You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness. 21 Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls.  22 But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. 23 For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; 24 for they look at themselves and, ongoing away, immediately forget what they were like. 25 But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act—they will be blessed in their doing. 26 If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

James 2:14-17 (NRSV)

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? 17 So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.

Questions to Ponder:

What jumps out at you from this passage?

In this passage, what is James’ most important message to the receivers?

Why is the “doing of the word” so important?

When does anger step over the line and become negative or toxic in relationships?

How do you think James would describe what religion is and what it is not?

In this passage, how is one blessed?  What do you think that looks like?  Do you want to be blessed?

Commentary:

In our text for the week, James is either encouraging new Christians on how to show their faith, or a course correction in habits of believers who have fallen short in demonstrating an active faith.  You may fall into one of those categories.  The fundamental message is that religion starts with faith in God and then gets translated into action by what we do, what we say, and how we behave.  James encourages the believers to remember what we are to look like as believers in Christ.  We are to reflect the grace and love of God that Christ Jesus showed.  We are to be quick to listen, slow to anger, and show the righteousness of God in us.  When we give into anger and wickedness, we are essentially in bondage, and don’t control ourselves.  When we look into God’s law, the perfect law, or law of liberty, we find freedom from that which controls us in a negative way.  The law of liberty incorporates the words of Jesus when he called his believers to practice the most important two laws of the day (Matthew 22:37-40): Love the Lord your God…, and love your neighbor as yourself.  Those two laws give us freedom in how to treat people in positive ways.  Hence, we are under the law of liberty.  James encourages the listeners to make their religion a benefit to the community and those around them as a form of witness.  A true religion with an active faith makes a positive impact on the world through a variety of ways that include, but not limited to, feeding and clothing needy people, caring for others, and treating others with love in all our encounters on behalf of God.  If you follow the law of liberty and practice your faith by doing the word of God, then you will be blessed (vs. 25).

James 2:14 may make you question what is being said in relationship to Paul.  Paul wrote in Romans 3:28 that you as a Christian are “justified by faith alone.”  James is saying that faith without works is dead.  How do you reconcile the two?  In Matthew 5:16, Jesus says, “16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”  Looking at the words of Jesus, we can see that faith and works go together.  Justification is by faith alone, but the natural evidence of faith comes out in what we say and do.  Faith comes first and then works, not the other way around.

Questions to Ponder for accountability in the group:

What does a dead faith look like?  Explain how your faith is alive, or dead in practice?

As one living in God’s righteousness, how should you treat others in word and deed?

On a scale from 1 to 10 (with 1 being low and 10 being high), how would you rate yourself in being a hearer of the word of God?  Rate yourself on being a doer of God’s word? Share why you ranked yourself where you did.

What changes do you need to make?

 

Activity of for the life of a disciple:

1. Memorize and internalize this scripture: James 2:17 (NRSV)

17 So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.”

2.This week, focus on one thing you can do to liven up your faith on a regular basis.

3. Sign up for “140 hours of prayer” and a time to serve during Faith Works week at FUMC, Coppell. Make an investment in developing an active faith that others can experience and feel a positive difference.