Monday, February 15, 2016

Your Identity in Christ

James begins his letter by introducing himself, “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ (1:1).” As we make our way through the letter, James shows us what it looks like for us to live as servants of God and Christ. 

Some English translations (HCSB & NLT) translate the word servant as slave. This may actually be more helpful in understanding how we are to see ourselves. John MacArthur has an excellent book devoted to studying that single word. The book is called Slave: The Hidden Truth About Your Identity in Christ. In it he lists five truths about what it meant to live as a slave in first century Rome. So people who were reading James would have made the connection to what it looks like to be a slave of Christ. Here are the five (p.44-53 in the book). 

  1. Exclusive Ownership. According to Roman law, a slave was considered “property in the absolute control of another.” Servants of Christ know they are not their own, but have been purchased by the blood of Christ and he has exclusive ownership. 
  2. Complete Submission. Slaves were to give their master unquestioning obedience. In the same way, disciples give Christ unquestioning obedience. There is no part of his Word that can be taken lightly. 
  3. Singular Devotion. Jesus told his followers how impossible it is to serve two masters (Matt 6:24); he warns the many people who call him Lord but do not really know him by their actions (Matt 7:21). To be Christ’s follower is to be singularly devoted to him and his will.  
  4. Total Dependance. Slaves were able to be confident that everything they needed would be provided for them. They simply did not have to worry about basic provision in life. Those who are in Christ can trust their Master with everything from salvation to sustenance. 
  5. Personal Accountability. Slaves understood that they worked for the pleasure of the master. They all had to give a personal account of how they lived and labored. In the same way all believers will give personal account, down to the very use of words (Matt 12:36-37). 

The main hope for all true followers of Jesus is tied up with the words they will hear someday, “Well done good and faithful servant…Enter into the joy of your master (Matt 25:21).”