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The tension between what God asks of His children in Scripture and our culture can be a real stumbling block in our walk with Christ. But the book of James can serve as a practical guide for navigating God’s chosen path in today’s world.

First, let’s get a little background information on James.

James was the half-brother of Jesus, but he really didn’t believe in Jesus as Messiah, Savior, or Lord until after the resurrection. He just had a hard time thinking his big brother was God incarnate. But after the resurrection, James became the leader of the church in Jerusalem.

I am very impressed with his introduction of himself. It's not, “I am James, the brother of the Savior of the world. I could tell you all kinds of stories about Jesus’ youth.” No, it was just, “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ ... (James 1:1).”

No titles, no personal PR—just a man who served Jesus as a follower of Him and who later would die for his faith in his Redeemer. The more clearly we see and understand the supremacy of Jesus, the more we will desire to stay away from anything that promotes self.

James addresses this in chapter 4 when he writes:

“‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’” -James 4:6b

He then follows this truth of God with a call for each of us.

"Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up." -James 4:10

Every Christian fights a battle in our hearts between pleasing our egos or pleasing the Lord. We will always struggle between choosing God’s way and man’s way, and we cannot successfully choose both.

"Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do." -James 1:8

God’s ways are not the ways of culture. God’s ways conflict with the way the world outside of Christ thinks. This fight—to embrace God’s truth—is the fight of our hearts.

Many of the things I do in life as a moral person can also be done by an unbeliever. For example, unbelievers can:

• give their money to help others,
• tell the truth, or
• work hard with integrity.

But our hearts are what make us different. We must ask: “What is my motive? Why am I doing what I am doing? Is this for my glory, reputation, or the approval of others? Or is it for God’s glory and His approval?”

Our motives make all the difference. We must fight in our hearts to make our motives for doing good and gracious things the same as Christ’s—the will and glory of the Father.


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