The gift of salvation is ﬁrst and foremost a change of identity. When we understand this truth, the New Testament will make much more sense. When we discover that our salvation promises to infuse us with the divine, turning us into sons and daughters of God, then we’ll begin to look at God’s Word and ways in a new light.
There’s a reason James became the leader of the church in Jerusalem, and that reason wasn’t nepotism. James did life with the One who is Life (John 14:6). As the brother of Jesus, James no doubt saw things that made him question what it is to be human – things that made him uncomfortable with easy answers and half-truths. His proximity to Jesus created a depth in him, a depth that eventually turned into profound respect and love for Jesus as the Son of God and Savior of his soul.
James’s lofty view of Jesus led him to pen these words: “Receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21). These thirteen words are loaded with hope and promise, and they abound with meaning. Notice that this is a charge, an imperative statement. James is not passively suggesting we receive the implanted word. He is ﬁrmly telling us to do so. Also, this instruction lies within the ﬁrst few paragraphs of his letter, which means this truth is foundational and necessary if the reader is to understand the rest of his message.
James makes it clear throughout this letter that his message is intended for people who are following Jesus. It’s a manifesto on how to be the people of God for the people of God.
Returning to James 1:21, we read, “Receive with [humility] the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” l substituted humility for meekness. Some versions use humility, and this word is more widely understood today. When I think of childlikeness, humility is the first attribute that comes to mind. Kids love learning and exploring new things. They are rarely satisﬁed with shallow answers because their imaginations know no bounds. Regardless of how many answers you give them, there’s always a follow-up question, especially after they’ve been put to bed and their minds are reframing information gathered throughout their day.
At times, bedtime in our home feels like a reverse hostage situation: we’re giving our four kids whatever they want to get them to stay in their rooms. It baffles me how many questions they have when I‘m putting them to bed. My wife and l will be in our room when we hear a pitter-patter growing louder. Knock, knock, knock. Sure enough, another kid is out of bed with a question such as “Why do bad things happen to good people and shouldn’t God just stop bad things from happening?” Despite my wishing otherwise, you can’t just leave a question like that unanswered. Not to mention the answer is difficult and will invariably lead to many follow-up questions.
But God never gets frustrated by our questions. In fact, he invites us to be relentless in our asking (Matt. 7:7-11; Luke 11:9-13). An inquisitive disposition will lead to a greater understanding of truth. A life of childlike humility will give us eyes to see who God is and what he has for us.
Jesus constantly mentioned the idea of having eyes to see. His countrymen were looking for a warring Messiah to save them from Roman oppression, but instead Jesus offered a freedom that can be found and grown in the midst of oppression. This is why he continually spoke of seeing the world and ourselves in a new light. It’s also why all the Gospels begin with John the Baptist preaching repentance, which is ultimately a change of perception that leads to a new way of living and a new identity.
The good news is we don‘t need a new landscape; we don’t need our environment to change before our lives can change. We can experience peace, wholeness, and grace in the midst our turmoil, pain, and injustice. God’s saving power supersedes circumstance; it’s not hampered by the latest tragedy. But we must chase it with humility, knowing our journey will test the limits of our imagination and redeﬁne our view of “impossible.”
Addison Bevere appears this Thursday on LIFE TODAY. This is an excerpt from Saints: Becoming More Than “Christians” by Addison Bevere. Copyright ©2020 by Addison Bevere. Published by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Used by permission.