When you read the book of James, the Holy Spirit will read your heart. This is a good thing.
In most introductions to James you will read that this short New Testament book is like Proverbs in the Old Testament. James deals with practical matters and does so with some of the most memorable and proverbial sayings in the Bible. But we shouldn’t think of James, or Proverbs, as a book of common sense that deals with the issues of life in ways that require mere practical solutions that everyone should naturally know.
Proverbs says, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23). James seems to have picked up this theme and included it in every practical proverb and paragraph in his book. He tells us to receive with humility the word implanted in your heart (1:21). When we look into the word of God we are to see and remember what our hearts look like, and not walk away in forgetfulness (1:22-24). James exhorts us to humble our hearts before the Lord to receive his grace (4:6-10).
Clearly, James is a book for the heart. So, what are we to make of all the practical matters we read about in James: trials, temptations, growth in faith, active obedience, squabbles, partiality, and boasting? The point James is making is that these matters have to do with the heart. The heart is the priority and starting place for following Jesus in faithfulness.
What words for the heart does James give us? He calls us to honesty, repentance, and submission to God. He says that when we see our hearts revealed by our failures in living by faith, we can humble ourselves before God and receive grace and help. James tells us to look deeply into the heart, expose its depths to God, and receive his cleansing and healing mercy.
Heart work is often hard and humbling work. But oh, the sweetness of drinking deeply from grace.
At Grace, we are praying through the book of James during January. You can join us and download the prayer guide.
This Sunday we will begin a new sermon series from James. What do we expect to happen? As we read James, we expect God’s Spirit to read us, and to write in our hearts his love and the image of his Son.