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Those of us here this morning with sisters and brothers can appreciate sibling rivalry.
And, those of us that were not the oldest sibling, knew, as young kids, the necessity to prove yourself just as good and able as the oldest.
some of you know that I grew up with two older sisters: Christi was the oldest, Danielle was the middle child, and I was the youngest.
in my family as kids, if you were to ever win at an argument or get out of trouble it was important to have Christi on your side.
as Christi was the oldest, it seemed as she was always smarter than me.
And sometimes I disagreed with her! Anytime I fought with Christ, she somehow convinced Mom to be on her side— and I know from deep down in my heart I was never in the wrong!
Also, when Danielle and I had an argument, the winner was always whoever Christi sided with—always!
As the first born, Christi always had the upper hand: smarter, wiser, bigger.
Many times Christi was cunning and conniving, you could even go as far as to say that we were slaves of her when Danielle and I wanted to use her to our advantage—Christi was master manipulator too—only seldom of course (she may listen to the recording of this message, remind me later to edit this out!). as it turns out Danielle was only a little over a year older than me and Christi was only a little older than a year from Danielle.
But as we grew and matured into our teenage years, Christi was the wise sister that Danielle and I would go to when we didn’t know what to do with our lives— we trusted she would always give us good advice and she did! because from a young age, she loved our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
so fast forwarding to today, Christi is still wise and we are not that different in age, but I’ve accepted that she is usually wiser and I’ve realized that she wasn’t always in the right.
Now imagine if you were the younger sibling to Jesus.
Growing up with Him in your home, it would always seem that Jesus was right because he always is right.
It would be hard to disagree with Jesus because you would make the rebuttal: “you don’t know everything, Jesus!
Oh wait, you do..” well such is the case with the author of the book that we are looking at this morning and that we will be looking at for the coming weeks.
This morning starts my exegetical preaching through the book of James.
Most letters from antiquity, and most of the letters in the New Testament, can generally be seen as of a common type of introduction.
They usually follow an established formal pattern: first, the name of the sender; then the name of the recipient; a word of greeting, usually a blessing or the expression of a desire for good health--and such is the case with the book of James.
But who is James?
Ἰάκωβος (James)
The name, James, comes from the OT name Jacob and appears about 42 times in the New Testament and scholars claim that the name occurrences could refer to at most 6 men, but at least 3 different men.
Jude 1 confirms that the author, to which this epistle Jame is attributed, is the half-brother of Jesus, James the Just, as the early church documents title him.
Matt 13:54-55
James, Jesus’ own brother, second born, did not believe Jesus was the Messiah.
For most of Jesus’ life (maybe all), James thought of his older brother as a liar.
John 7:5
δοῦλος (slave)
δοῦλος was the common Greek term for “slave,” although it could also be used for “servant.”
Our understanding of this term is heavily colored by the American experience, an experience of slavery that differs greatly to slavery in the Roman empire.
This is true for at least two reasons:
Roman slavery had little if anything to do with race.
Roman slavery was far more complex than its modern manifestations, having four major types.
The worst form was slavery in the mines, normally reserved for criminals or other enemies of the Roman state.
Life expectancy was low, although in spite of this we do know of cases of Christian communities providing care for Christians condemned to the mines.
Next was rural slavery.
Ancient agricultural manuals describe deplorable conditions: Work could be performed in chain gangs, family life existed at the whim of the owner, and rations could be cut to the bare minimum for slaves when they fell ill.
The type of slavery that the New Testament had most often in view is urban household slavery.
Here conditions also varied, but we do know of cases where people sold themselves into slavery, counting it a reward and personal benefit.
The new master provided food, shelter, and even training in a skill.
Many scholars believe that urban household slaves could expect to be freed after only a few years of service, and some argue that it was automatic at the age of thirty.
Freedom from this type of slavery could be gained under many conditions, including a sum of money given to the slave or even the adoption by the master.
This helps understand New Testament commands to slaves to “please” their masters, and perhaps even to masters to “provide your slaves with what is right and fair.”
The final type of slavery was imperial slavery—slaves in the household of the emperor.
Some of these held positions of power and wealth second only to the emperor himself.
Now just notice here for a moment in verse 1 of James.
He doesn’t say, “James, the half brother of Jesus.”
He doesn’t say, “James, the one who has risen to great prominence among the Church and the brethren in Jerusalem.”
He could have, but instead he says, “James a slave of Christ Jesus.”
He says, “You want to know who I am?
I am a bond servant, I am a slave.”
Now let’s just stop here for a moment.
If someone were to ask you to choose one word to identify yourself would this be the first word, the prominent word that popped in to your mind?
A slave.
Would it?
The thing that first pops into your mind is probably the thing you think most about yourself—your identity and that it just might control you.
“Well, I am this or I am that.
I have this title or that title.”
And none of those things ultimately bring joy.
None of those things ultimately bring pleasure.
They may bring prestige, the respect of men and so many other things, but they will bring nothing from God. Remember those things that are highly esteemed by men are often despised by God.
My question to you: If someone were to say, “Who are you?” the first word that popped into your mind and out your mouth, would it be, “I am a slave”?
The definition for this type of a slave is this: one who completely belongs to this owner and whose entire life is shaped by the will of his mater.
Would you describe yourself as someone who completely, totally belonged to someone else and whose life was completely and totally shaped by the will of a master?
“Who are you, Josh Umbriaco?”
“Oh, I am a deacon/ interim preacher.
I am a community supports aide at Northpointe.
I am this.
I am that.”
The first thing that ought to pop into my mind is, “I am a slave.
Wholly and completely I belong to another, not myself.
I have been bought with a price.
And my entire life is shaped by the will of the one who bought me.”
Bob Dylan.
In his Christian years, so called Christian years he wrote a song and the song said this. “You have got to serve somebody.”
You see it is not a question of: Are you going to be a slave?
It is only a question of: Whose slave are you?
You are a slave to something.
As a matter of fact, our culture needs to understand that those today in our culture who claim to be most free, most autonomous are actually those who are in the greatest amount of slavery.
You are a slave.
You are.
The only question is: To what?
First of all, in the Bible...
You don’t have to turn here.
I have written these verses out.
In Romans 6:16, just before what Leon read with the congregation a moment ago, it says,
if you are here this morning and your life is marked by a constant slavery to sin, then maybe you should talk to someone here because the Christian life is not marked by bondage to sin.
And there are many people who are enslaved to sin even though they sit in church every Sunday.
If that is you, realize that we want to speak with you.
We want to talk to you compassionately and with mercy and with truth.
Don’t remain as you are in bondage to sin.
And you say... Immediately when I say something like that people are thinking, “Yes, bondage to pornography, bondage to immorality.”
Yes, those things.
But there are other things that can be indications that you do not know him: bondage to anger, bondage to hatred, bondage to bitterness and unforgiveness.
Are you in bondage to those things?
You see, you are a slave.
The only question is: To whom or to what?
Go on.
You can also be a slave to the glory of men.
The Bible says in Matthew 6:5, One of the most terrifying passages in all the Scriptures that God will give you the desires of your heart.
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