Grow Deep - Faith Works Edition Vol 2 week 4

Week 4: October 28-November 3

Faith Works: The Reformation

Memory Verse: “… For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Romans 3:23-24

This week we look at themes of the Reformation from the Book of James. As the Reformation progressed, Martin Luther was uncovering what Scripture said about justification during his study of Paul’s writings—especially in Romans. We all recognize Luther’s discovery that we are justified by faith and not by works. But some of his critics tried to discount Luther’s theology with passages from James. They criticized Luther by quoting what James said about the relationship of one’s faith to one’s works that spring from Christian faith. At that time, the Roman church had a distinct focus on works—especially financial support for the church and works of penance after confession, works that would earn favor with God.

Although Luther called the Book of James a “book of straw” in 1522, he was not declaring it of no value. Straw in Luther’s time was inexpensive, but not worthless. As a matter of fact, Luther’s own mattress was stuffed with straw. Luther was simply drawing a comparison between the moral directives of James and what he considered the deeper theology and direct teachings of Christ expressed in the other epistles. Later, Luther’s chief writer, Phillip Melanchthon, included references to James in our Lutheran Confessions. Luther also began to preach sermons on James 1 beginning in 1535.

This week, we will look at passages in James that reflect some of the ideas that were being discussed during the Reformation … passages that still can provide guidance in our personal and family lives today. Some of these passages may be found in some of your readings in this series. But this week, we will look at them specifically through the lens of the Reformation.

Taking Jesus to the Streets:
On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther took a bold and probably
dangerous step. He nailed his 95 theses to the door of the cathedral in Wittenberg. From that point forward, the church would never be the same. Take a bold and courageous step in your journey of faith this week. Instead of talking about jack-o-lanterns and costumes for Halloween, start a conversation with someone about the significance of October 31 for the Protestant Church.

Reformation Sunday, October 28
Read James 5:19-20
Luther never intended to separate from the Roman Catholic Church, but to return it to its Biblical roots. The church was straying from the clear teachings of Scripture. He wanted to reform it, not replace it. From time to time in your life you, too, may meet people who are straying from the faith. What are some gentle ways you can bring back someone who begins to wander from the faith? What are some of the benefits for you and for the wanderer in bringing them back?

For the Family: What does James mean in verse 20 when he says, “turn a sinner from the error of their ways?” How can your family help someone turn from the error of his or her ways?

Monday, October 29
Read James 4:7-10
Luther realized that one of the best ways to bring people into a relationship with their Lord was through worship. His sermons, his writings, and his music all came together in worship. James reminds us that our attitude about worship is important. In New Testament times, “submit” meant to put things in the proper order or perspective. What is your perspective when you come to worship? How does God come to you in worship? How does your worship develop a closer relationship with Jesus?

For the Family: What are your family habits concerning worship? Is Sunday morning the only time your family worships? Think about one way your family can worship together every day.

Tuesday, October 30
Read James 4:13-17
Luther had no idea where his attempt at reformation would lead. He knew when he nailed his 95 theses to the cathedral door that he may be in danger of being killed. We all have plans, appointments, and schedules. Sometimes life may feel out of control because of busy schedules. How can you restore an element of control to your life when you feel you are being pushed around by life’s demands? Of what benefit is prayer, reading God’s Word, and fellowship with other Christians as you bring your life under control?

For the Family: Do you play soccer or fall baseball? Do you take dancing lessons or gymnastics? Does your family sometimes seem flustered and rushed when you have those activities? What is one thing you can do to help make things go more smoothly? How does that help your family?

Wednesday, October 31

Read James 2:14-18
How are works and faith related? Luther fought against cheap grace: the idea that you can do anything you want to do because faith trumps works. Therefore, there is nothing you can do that God won’t forgive. Instead, Luther and James both teach that controlled behavior is a mark of faith. There are things that Christians do and things that Christians do not do. Jesus summed up the law in one sentence: Love God with all your heart (faith) and love your neighbor as yourself (works). This is the two-sided coin that James gives us. Describe a time when an action of a Christian made you wonder if they really were a Christian. Describe a time when you witnessed a Christian doing something truly outstanding for another person. In both cases, how did actions relate to faith?

For the Family: Does your family talk together about Christian behavior? How do you demonstrate mercy, grace, and forgiveness within your family? How are confession and repentance (and even penance) a part of your relationships in your family?

Thursday, November 1

Read James 2:10-13
We say that the U.S. is a nation of laws. The person who follows the law is free from condemnation. So, in this way, following the law keeps us free. As humans, we know that no one keeps God’s Law perfectly. When we do keep the law, we show respect for God; but if we break God’s Law, we can fall back on grace. In both cases, our liberty is preserved. How is God’s Law a burden? How is God’s Law a blessing? How does God’s mercy and grace affect your behavior?

For the Family: What are some of your family’s “house rules?” What happens to family members who break the rules? How does today’s reading assist in dealing with family members who break the rules?

Friday, November 2

Read James 5:7-9
Do you think Luther had any clue as to how his reformation would end? Sure, he knew what he was hoping for, but there were no guarantees. He just remained steadfast (“Here I stand”) and put the outcome into God’s hands. What examples of “standing firm” in the face of adversity have you witnessed? What evidence do you have in your life that God is faithful and trustworthy?

For the Family: What does it mean to “stand firm?” How can your family be “built on the Rock” that stands firm no matter what happens?

Saturday, November 3

Read James 2:1-9
The Roman Church of Luther’s time was rife with well-defined positions of hierarchy. The clergy kept control through the structures within the Church. Even access to Scripture was controlled. Luther fought to bring the Bible to the people through his German translation. The Roman Church rigidly controlled who could receive forgiveness. In response, Luther taught the “priesthood of all believers,” which afforded every Christian the individual freedom to forgive and to be forgiven. Why is there no place in the Church for favoritism or inequality? What would it be like if God favored one person over another? How would your assurance of salvation be in doubt if God practiced favoritism?

For the Family: What is favoritism? Why does James tell us that favoritism is not a good thing? How do you show favoritism in your family? Do you think that showing favoritism hurts anyone? Who?