When we gather as a group, these are some ways we ensure the best group discussion:
We make the circle safe by staying honest and transparent - leave the masks at the door.
We keep it inside the circle. Each person’s story is theirs alone to share.
We look to the Bible for wisdom and truth, and work together to let it shape how we see the world.
We don’t try to fix each other in front of each other or give unsolicited advice. We lovingly save hard conversations for private moments.
We respect each others’ time by starting and ending when we say we will.
We believe that in Jesus Christ, there is hope for everyone.
Life Hacks is all about taking the wisdom that we find in the book of James and applying it to our everyday lives. James was Jesus’ half-brother, and it wasn’t until Jesus’ death and resurrection that James believed that He was really God in the flesh - so it makes sense that we would listen to what he has to say!
Pretty early on in his letter, we find out that James is insistent on one main theme that runs through every topic he hits: application. Whether he’s talking about trials, favoritism, our language, our money… he constantly returns to the simple idea that it’s not about what we know: it’s about what we do with what we know.
EVERYONE has a next step
In a conversation about obedience, it can sometimes feel like it’s for new Christians only. Immature only. Inexperienced only.
It couldn’t be further from the truth.
Simply put, everyone has a spiritual next step. Everyone has something to obey - something they’re currently NOT obeying.
Spiritual formation is a lifelong journey. Even Paul called himself the “chief of sinners”. In fact, as we get to know the grace of God more, the understanding of the gap between me and God goes UP!
So no one is off the hook in this conversation - no matter how long they’ve followed Jesus or how “neat and tidy” their life looks.
Connect with each other
Share the most random fact that you can think of - about yourself, about the world, about your favorite subject… whatever! Then decide who the trivia master of the group is!
Connect with the Message
Throughout the Bible, God only gives commands to people he’s rescued, loved, and brought into His family. But instead of focusing on bringing others into the family, Christ followers often try to force the rules of God onto people that haven’t ever submitted their lives to the love and authority of God.
What is so damaging when Christians try to be the moral police for the world? What effect does it have on people who aren’t following Jesus?
Why are we so tempted to hold the world accountable to the the “perfect law” that God has given us as his followers?
How was the good news of God’s love shared with you? How can you tangibly share that same good news with your family, friends and the world around you?
playing devil’s advocate
Not everything is a problem to be solved. Many things are tensions to be managed - issues with 2 sides that are both important, but need to stay balanced.
As the facilitator, you need to think through these tensions so you can push the conversation toward balance!
In this case… it’s true that morally policing non-Christians is a nonstarter. But is it best to never hold firm on what God calls right and good and true? What about your non-Christian friend that is ruining his life and others’ lives along with it? Do you step in and say something? Yes!
In the second question, you can kind of uncover this tension. We are tempted to hold the world accountable to the “perfect law” because it leads to freedom! And we want that for people! It’s just that we go about it wrong so often.
So push toward the tension - don’t let it resolve too far to one side or the other.
A good discussion doesn’t always end with answers - it ends with a path toward further discovery with God.
Mike joked that because Jesus rose from the dead, he already has authority - we don’t have to give it to him! And following him, being in God’s family as his much-loved children, means putting ourselves under the authority of everything he taught us to obey.
What’s your journey been like learning to live under the authority of Jesus’ commands and what the Bible has to say about the world and how to live in it?
Obedience > Knowledge
After he rose from the dead, Jesus told his followers in Matthew 28:18-20, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
This is often called the Great Commission - the main thing Jesus has called his followers to obey and live out in our lifetime. And it was Jesus’ disciples’ obedience to this command that we have to thank for the church we’re a part of today! We stand on the shoulders of a those who have taken Jesus at his word and obeyed his calling on their life.
Throughout your life, what spiritual growth do you think has stalled due to a lack of application and obedience?
What’s the difference between teaching someone knowledge and teaching someone to obey?
What impact has your obedience (or lack of obedience) to Jesus’ commands had on someone else’s life?
teaching knowledge VS teaching obedience
There are lots of ways to talk through this, and lots of implications, but there’s a really important value to drive toward in the second question.
You reproduce who you are - not what you know.
Another way that has been said is that more is CAUGHT than TAUGHT. Why do you parents say “do what I say, not what I do!” Because they know kids are MUCH more likely to imitate their parents than just listen to what they say.
So how do we teach obedience? We LIVE obedience.
The best thing I have to offer another person is my own surrendered life.
In James 1:22, James says “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.”
When we hold up God’s word to our lives, we see the gap between who God wants us to become and the true state of our heart and character. We are often more committed to managing what we look like on the outside than addressing what’s broken on the inside.
Where in your life do you have trouble “doing what it says”? Or maybe even knowing what it says?
What kind of tangible step can you take this week that might help you more substantially toward knowing what God’s word says and actually doing what it says?
defining the “it”
It’s easy to fall back on “the Bible says” as the reasoning behind obedience. But Jesus said “All authority has been given to ME” - not to the Bible. It’s subtle, but important.
We don’t obey the Bible - we obey God. The Bible is just the primary way God has revealed his character and design for the world and how we are to live in it.
And we obey what we find in the Bible different based on what exactly it is. The 10 Commandments are pretty clearly meant for us to listen to - but Jesus actually took them further in Matthew 6. And then there are the laws given to the Israelites in the early books of the Old Testament - and those actually AREN’T for us at all today!
But all throughout the entire Bible, we see more and more of God’s character and design for the world, and we work to apply it to our context today. It’s a journey we have to go on with each other, and with God!
Perfect law → freedom
James says that God’s commands are a “perfect law that gives freedom” - but following a law doesn’t really sound like freedom at first…
Even speaking generally, not about following Jesus, why is law so necessary for freedom to exist?
What are some examples of how God’s “law” has led to freedom in your own life?
Practical steps toward obedience
Mike said to start focusing on obedience, we should try to focus on 3 specific things:
:: less talk and more walk
:: success is obedience to what God has called us to
:: do the next right thing you know you ought to do
Which one of these resonates with you the strongest? Why?
What do you already know that God is now asking you to obey?
How can we help each other move toward that obedience this week?
remember the “clean room” example!
As you finish out the conversation, remember the example Mike used! As you’re trying to mine for practical next steps in your conversation, analogies like this one can really help to get people’s minds working and ideas flowing.
You can even ask what other funny examples people can think of that are similar to Mike’s! The more we think about something in creative ways, the easier it can be to find personal next steps.
READ. PRAY. DO.
Read along during the series!
James’ letter is one of the most jam-packed 5 chapters of wisdom in the entire Bible. It’s full of big concepts about how God created the world and how we can live in it best. During this series, we’re going to work through this dense and important book in several different ways!
So far, we watched this video overview and read the book straight through to get the full picture of the letter!
THIS WEEK, we’re going to continue what we started last week!
Watch this video below and get an understanding of how much of the Bible is written as “Jewish Meditation Literature”. As many days as you can, quietly read James 2 out loud to yourself. Don’t worry about getting to the next part. Don’t worry about not making “progress”. Just slow down, soak it in, and see what happens as you focus in consistently on how God might be speaking to you through James’ words.
Pray this prayer on your own, or use it to kickstart your own personal prayer time.
(adapted from Psalm 119)
Father, you have been so good to me - you’ve given me more than I ever could deserve.
Keep your perfect love in front of me always - it’s the only way I can obey your word.
Open my eyes so that I may see how wonderful your perfect law is - how much freedom awaits me in obedience to your commands.
You made me. You made this world. You are the creator of everything seen and unseen - so only you hold the keys to a life full of wisdom and life and goodness.
Let your law become my delight, not my burden.
Help your way become refreshing, not frightening.
Give me the grace I need to hear what you are saying to me, and then follow you closely.
Make a “Wisdom Board”
This letter from James is FULL of one-liners and powerful statements about how we can live wisely in a broken world. In the book of Deuteronomy, in the Old Testament, the people of Israel received God’s commandments for the first time - and this is what he said to them:
These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:5-9)
So that’s kind of what we’re going to do! As you read through the book of James and listen to the messages in this series and different things stand out to you, write them down in little, memorable phrases. Keep them on the same page and put them up somewhere visible in your house. Keep coming back to them and start noticing just how often they’re VERY relevant to your everyday life.
Example from James 1:19: quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger