“Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first-fruits of his creatures.” James 1:18
Annie Lobert grew up in Minnesota. She lived the quintessential American life… until she was sexually abused as a teenager. The shame led her deeper and deeper into darkness. She became a prostitute and eventually a call-girl for wealthy celebrities and politicians. She became drug-addicted, strung out, and ultimately, hopeless. Eventually, she cried out to God in desperation. Now, she runs a ministry called “Hookers for Jesus.” She helps women caught in sex trafficking, prostitution, and porn. To date, her ministry has helped countless women come to know Jesus and find hope and recovery.
John Newton was a slave trader turned abolitionist. Saul of Tarsus was a murderer turned Apostle. Martin Luther was a monk turned reformer. These stories are so profound because it highlights a fundamental truth: The Gospel changes lives. It is impossible for a person to pass from darkness to light, to become indwelt by the Holy Spirit, to be given the ongoing and sustaining gifts of faith and repentance, to be raised to newness of life and not be changed! Granted, we will never be perfect this side of eternity, but genuine faith is not content with our broken condition. It yearns for conformity to Christ. The Gospel declares, “It is Finished!” But, faith responds in obedience as the law of God is spiritually tattooed on our hearts. Genuine repentance turns a person away from sin. Thus, prostitutes become missionaries, slave traders become human rights activists, murders become preachers, and monks become reformers!
This Sunday we start a 13-week series through the book of James. James mentions Jesus only twice (1:1, 2:1) and there is no direct mention of the Gospel. Yet, he presupposes his audience understands this central truth. Thus, he acknowledges the Gospel of grace as he writes, “Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth…” (1:18). James is less about “Christian growth” and more about genuine faith finding it’s expression in conformity to Christ. This book channels the longing of our hearts towards King Jesus rather than providing a template for behavioral modification. We dare not pursue sanctification without the life-transforming grace of conversion. If we miss this, we’ve missed it all.
This week, spend time reading and meditating on the book of James. My prayer is that this short book will be used by the divine author to shape your faith into the image of King Jesus.
Soli Deo Gloria!
Pastor Matthew S. Rickett