9.8.19 - Righteousness Over Rightness (Matt Murphy; Story by Kenny Camacho)
SCRIPTURE: James 1:19-27; 5:13-20
Perhaps above all, James’s letter challenges us to soften our hearts. There are 5 signs of a “soft heart,” and they include being quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; being humble towards God’s word; and putting what God teaches us into practice. These things amount to active and meaningful faith, and they cannot help but manifest themselves in our outer behavior. In this way, a soft heart is the key to religious practice, which is marked by prayer, confession, forgiveness, and generosity towards all who are in need. This week, we want to meditate on these principles and proofs, allowing them to challenge us individually and as a church community.
Consider the qualities of a “soft heart” listed in James 1:19-22 and pay special attention to 1) whether each one is hard or easy for you, 2) if one is easy, whether or not it has always been so, and 3) what hard qualities you most desire. Talk through your answers to these questions as a group, and resist the desire to coach or advise one another! Instead, practice listening and spend time in prayer with one another, asking God to give you a “softer heart.”
James 1:27 defines “pure and undefiled” religion as: caring for widows and orphans in their distress, and keeping oneself “unstained” by the world. What do these two descriptions mean to you? How are they challenging you this week? What would it look like to pursue this definition of “religion” for yourself, or for your church community?
Read James 5:13-18. What is the “common thread” in James’s instructions for church communities? How does this instruction line up with what we have learned about what God is doing in our lives?
What do you think it means to “bring someone back” when they “wander from the truth”? Have you ever been in either of these positions? Describe your experience.
How have you felt challenged to be a “doer of the word” over the course of this series?