Big Idea and Small Group Questions, IDX 9/7/2014
To read the Teaching, click here or scroll down
Big IDEA: Your IDENTITY affects Your ACTIVITY – We can only make decisions, we can only do things when we know what we are supposed to be doing. But we can only know what we are supposed to be doing if we know our title, our place, our rank, our identity. James has the ultimate Identity Shift story. He went from SKEPTIC to SERVANT. There is 1 big reason for the shift that we see Biblically…he had a confrontation with Jesus (1 Cor. 15:3-7). We don’t know the details, just that it happened.
James started off thinking his brother was crazy, he mocked him, and made fun of him. And somehow, Paul refers to him later as a pillar of the church. Peter makes sure to send word to James that he is out of prison. And James carries most of the credit for making it easier for Jews and Gentiles to come together under the servanthood of Christ.
Once a skeptic…sees Jesus post-resurrection…becomes a pillar of the church.
Challenge: Have a confrontation with God this year. See the resurrection as something that defines who you are.
Recap: James, brother of Jesus, was a skeptic at best…who became a servant of Christ.
James 1:1 – “James, servant of God, and servant of Lord Jesus Christ.” Servant? Of Jesus Christ?
From Skeptic to Servant.
– How? – Jesus came to him specifically after his rose from the dead.
– Why? – When we confront the truth of the resurrection…we can not stay the same.
– For real? – Roman historian Josephus, documented James’ death for being a servant of Christ’s. It is written in history…it’s real.
Small Group Questions:
- Any questions, quotes, or critiques from Becca’s talk?
- Recap: What happened that caused James to go from skeptic to slave of Christ?
- What do you think it means to be a servant of Christ?
- Becca challenged us to have a “confrontation” with God. What do you think that means? Have you had one? Is it something you are willing to do this year?
- James went from skeptic to servant. We don’t have all the details of what he questioned, but we do have his identity before and after Christ’s resurrection. If there was a scale of skeptic to servant…where do you think you would fall? We’re only asking because in order to know where you are going, you need to know your identity and where you currently stand with God. No shame where you are, just own it as yours!
- Your Identity affects Your Activity. You can’t accept the commands, unless you know your commander. You can’t play your part until you know what your part is. You can’t do all the good things you think Christians are supposed to do until you truly, heart-wrenchingly and desperately grasp onto your identity as a Christian, because your identity moves you to activity. Without fully grasping whose you are, you’ll never feel confident just being who you are.
This blog is based off Becca’s talking notes that she used to teach the Sr. High students at IDX, the evening of Sept. 7, 2014
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to [Peter], and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.
~ 1 Corinthians 15:3-7, NIV
Have you ever been in a situation where you weren’t sure what to do, or how to be, or what to ask? Did you ever stop and think that maybe you didn’t know what to do, because you didn’t know what your title was? No one had told you. No one had showed you.
You had no idea how or what to do, because you had no idea who you were supposed to be.
Your lack of identity caused a lack of activity.
That makes sense, right? We can only make decisions; we can only do things when we know what we are supposed to be doing. But we can only know what we are supposed to be doing if we know our title, our place, our rank, our identity.
So here’s the nugget for the night…
Your Identity affects Your Activity
Now, the reason we are studying James is because his story is one of the greatest Identity shifts of all time.
We get our first introduction to James, as one of Jesus’ unnamed brothers, in Mark 3:20-21. According to the passage, does James believe Jesus is Jesus Christ? No. He and the rest of the family think he’s gone crazy. Jesus was huddled in this house with all these people surrounding him, and his family was like, “Oh gosh, he’s done it again. Sorry guys, he gets a little weird sometimes.” James thought Jesus was crazy!
Now, for just a second, sit in that. Yes, Jesus is Jesus, but remember too that he was just as much a guy as he was God. He had a family, and obviously, it was one that didn’t understand him well. Because in the midst of him teaching, they didn’t show up to support him, or to learn from him, they showed up to “collect” him, because they thought he was out of his mind.
Been there? One of the biggest reasons I can read this book and not throw it down in disgust and frustration when it doesn’t make sense, is because of stories like that…when I realize that Jesus’ life, wasn’t all that different from mine. He had a familythat didn’t know him, didn’t support him, and thought he was crazy. Jesus was the black-sheep of the family…can you imagine that? You can’t ever say that Jesus doesn’t get it, that he doesn’t get you…he’s done it all already.
So James doesn’t believe Jesus is Jesus.
The next time we see James is in John 7:1-5. So what happened? All the sudden James and the family sound like the are supportive of Jesus and his ministry. They seem to be pushing Him out, right? “Jesus, dude, if you want to be really successful at this you got to put yourself out there. Go to the BIG cities, find the big crowds! We could even book your tour dates, we’ll call all the temples and set it up, Jesus, because no one does the things you do in secret. You’re ‘healing’ people, you’re ‘helping’ people, you should be on the big stage Jesus!”
Sounds good right? Not when you read the next verse, 5. They were mocking him. Jesus’ family was mocking him. Making fun of him.
So, first James gets embarrassed by his brother in town and goes to collect him because he thinks he is going crazy. And now, James is out right mocking, and making fun of his brother Jesus. I’ll say it again, if your home life isn’t great…know that Jesus has been there too.
James, brother of Jesus, was a skeptic at best.
But then we read this… James 1:1 – “James, servant of God, and servant of Lord Jesus Christ.”
Servant? Of Jesus Christ? That’s what it says. “James…servant of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Is that a big statement? That’s how he identifies himself. A servant.
A servant of God, but all Jews said that. It was like their thing, their catchphrase. Very cool, but nothing special. But a servant of Jesus? Now, that is something very different.
James went from Skeptic…to Servant.
How? Why? For real?
How? Jesus came to see him, it says in 1 Corinthians 15:3-7.
Why? When we are confronted by the resurrection, we can’t stay the same. When we really see the resurrection, when we allow it to confront us and force us to look at our pitiful little, short lives in light of it, it SHOULD be something that stumps us.
IT SHOULD be something that makes us question. IT SHOULD be something that pushes us, confounds us, and makes us think it’s all a big pot of crazy.
It’s supposed to be UNCOMFORTABLE, because if it was as easy as reading a kids book, we’d have gotten over it by now.
It’s supposed to make you think it’s not real, so that when you actually let it get in front of your face and you actually spend time looking at it, you’ll be ready to see and hear and know that God is looking right back at you.
The Gospel is life-changing, it is Identity changing, yes. But even more than that, it is life-giving, it is identity-giving. How do you know what to do, where to go, what decision to make, how to respond, how to act, if you don’t know who you are and what your role is supposed to be? You can’t play your part until you know what your part is.
For real? How do we know it happened? How do we know James wasn’t just like, “Ok I’ll swtich teams.” How do we know this was a RADICAL Idenity-shift for him?
Historian Josephus documented James’ death in 1st century AD. James willingly died for his belief that Jesus was Jesus Christ. He kept saying to the leaders at the time that Jesus was “seated on high.” So for that, they took him to the top of the temple and pushed him off. And then when he landed on the ground, people stoned his almost dead body, until they were sure he was dead.
James the skeptic, became James the servant, and willingly died for his belief that Jesus was Jesus Christ the Messiah. James, the same man who though his brother was insane, became a leader in the Church who couldn’t stop saying, “ My brother is God’s salvation plan for the world.” A skeptic turned servant.
James wasn’t confronted with an experience of Jesus, but an actual Jesus. He wasn’t given a feeling of peace, he saw for fact, that Jesus stood in front of him, holes in the wrist and side.
Christianity is not built on feelings, emotions, and things that are subjective. They show up, those things are a part of my relationship with Jesus, but my faith can’t survive on it. If your faith relies on how you feel about Jesus, what happens when you can’t hear him? What happens when He feels distant? If our faith is built on emotions and feelings only, then when those change, He changes with them. And guys, that’s not a God, that’s just an invisible friend. But when Christianity is built on objective facts that this guy died and then he came back to life, and there were over 500 people who witnessed it and didn’t do a thing to dispute it, then it becomes something to IDENTIFY with.
Guys, in order to know our Identity, we MUST be willing to wrestle with this, with our doubts. I want to challenge you this year to have a confrontation with a real God. Don’t just hope for feelings, don’t just wish that something meaningful will pierce your heart and cover your doubts, but have a confrontation with a risen Jesus Christ.
The Bible doesn’t say anything about how you are supposed to feel once you believe in Christ. All it says is that this guy died for you because He had to. There was no other way for you to exist and have a life of purpose and know love without His death. Jesus died, for you, and came back to life, and we as Christians need to deal with that.
What do I mean by “deal?” We need to wrestle with it until we feel like we can understand it. We need to accept it as fact, not just a good story. We need to see it as belief and not an opinion. We need to let it settle for us this discussion of our Identity, so that we can get to the part where we figure out our Activity.
Have a confrontation with a real God this year. Don’t let your apathy rule your life, don’t let your identity be so caught up in your sports team or your friends. Because at the end of the year, your teams end, and we all can name a friend we had last year, but don’t talk to this year. Don’t let your self-proclaimed laziness keep you from discovering your purpose this year. Have a real confrontation with God, question Him, wrestle with Him…let this place, our small group leaders here, me, Alex, let us do this with you.
Thing is, we all want Jesus to be true, to be real, to be right. We don’t want a God that fits everybody’s mold. We don’t really want Him to look the way we hope He does, because when life hurts, we need Him to be bigger than we imagine Him to be, and He is. Our dreamed up version of him, it will always fail us. When we hate ourselves, that Jesus we dreamed up, somehow hates us too. We don’t need a Jesus, a savior that we can dream up and make to fit our world, our opinions, our political stance. We want–we need–a real, actual, flesh-and-bone, walked-this-earth, died-and-rose-again-Jesus to take care of the pain, to remind us in the midst of hating ourselves, that He loves us more than we could ever imagine.
We need a Jesus that isn’t made up or talked up…we need a real Jesus, we need The real Jesus Christ.
We are studying James, because after years of him being a skeptic, he became a servant to Jesus Christ…all because of a confrontation. And it changed everything. His Identity as a servant to Christ, moved his activity to him becoming a pillar of the church, a leader who helped to grow the church by teaching the Jews to welcome the Gentiles. James the skeptic, became the servant of Christ who welcomed all of us, Gentiles, into the Kingdom. His Identity affected and defined his Activity. And this year, our prayer is that your Identity in Christ will do the same.