Do we know who we really are? It’s all about identity.
OCTOBER 4, 2021
Do we know who we really are. It’s all about identity on this edition of Key Life.
If you’ve suffered too long, under a do more, try harder religion, Key Life is here to proclaim that Jesus sets the captives free. Steve invited Pete Alwinson to teach us this week. Pete is a former pastor, founder of ForgeTruth.com and the author of Like Father, Like Son.
Thank you Matthew. Well, today this is Pete Alwinson sitting in for Steve Brown. And what a privilege it is to be able to be in Steve’s chair and behind his microphone, talking to you. Giving him a little bit of a break. And you usually listen to me on Q&A on Fridays. So, that’s the Pete Alwinson we’re talking about, what a privilege to be with you all. Well, we’re going to be talking about identity as we jump into the book of James. And some of you are probably thinking right now, James, come on, Martin Luther didn’t even like the book of James. I mean, he said it was an epistle of straw. And the word grace isn’t even found in the book. Why are we talking about James? Well, James is really a great book. It’s one of my favorite. And, I’ll lay some of that out for you. Let me read the text of Scripture. And then we’ll pray and then we’ll jump into it. So, the text that we’re going to look at today is James 1, just verses one and two. But let’s begin in prayer. Our Great God, what a joy it is to be your children. Thank you for the privilege of being called by your name and being known by you. And Lord Jesus, thank you today that as we come into your presence, we come as your disciples, as your children, as people who are loved and have been loved before the foundation of the world. You know us and you know all of our needs. And as we start out of new week, you know that we need you for healing, that we need you for relationships, that we need you for hope, that we need you for truth, in every way we need you. And so, as we look into your Holy Word today, we pray for the one who teaches that you’d forgive him his sins and use one who is finite to communicate your infinite truth. And in the meantime, speak to our hearts. Because we pray these things in your strong and Holy Name. Amen. Well, James, James chapter one.
A bond servant of God, and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad: Greetings.
Well, you know, James is one of those absolutely fascinating books. It’s one of those books that surprises us, as we think about, what in the world is going on in this letter. And he starts out in a powerful way, talking about his identity. Guys, identity is everything. Identity is everything. When you’re driving down the street and you look at the backs of cars and you look at their bumpers and windshields and you see stickers, stickers all reflect how, how we see ourselves, what we identify with and how those things reflect upon us. Well, as we get into James, as we look at this identity, we see how he presents himself. He says.
James, a bond servant of God.
And so, immediately we wonder who in the world is this, really? Which James and we have some options. It could be James, the son of Zebedee, the brother of John. You might remember those two guys, the sons of thunder. In Acts 12, they called down fire from heaven because one of the towns wouldn’t admit them, really spiritual guys. Well, it’s not that James. And then there’s James, the son of Alpheus, who was another disciple, but we frankly don’t know much about him. There’s a James, the father of Judas that’s mentioned in Luke 6:16, but it’s not him. Can’t be him. So we’re left with James, the half-brother of our Lord Jesus Christ. Most likely of course, this is who it is. And you know, he had a nickname called James the Just. That nickname was given to him because of the character that he exhibited in his life. But James didn’t followed Jesus in Jesus’ earthly ministry. In I Corinthians 15, we see that Jesus appeared to James after the resurrection. And when I think about that, I think what a cool thing for Jesus to have done. His brothers, his family, as far as we know, other than Mary, didn’t really follow him in his earthly ministry, but then Jesus, after his resurrection appears to James and James becomes a follower of his elder brother, Jesus Christ, and really also the leader of the church in Jerusalem. So, if you’ve read James before and you say there’s not even the word grace in the book, you’d be right. And you say, this book seems so much like a bunch of to-dos, then you miss what probably happened in the background and that is that having not followed Jesus for his earthly experience, but having seen him at the resurrection. And after the resurrection, James becomes an absolutely committed disciple of Jesus. And he understands grace at an extremely deep level, as one who had been a skeptic, as one who had been a rejecter, as one who had turned away from Jesus, he saw that Jesus was who he said he was, the son of God and the savior of sinners and the only Messiah. And so, he came to know and understand the forgiveness of God, the forgiveness of his elder half-brother. He understood grace. And so, that’s why we see James giving his self identity and jumping into it just a bunch of, well, how do you follow Jesus sort of statements in this book. He called himself a bond servant.And that is an identity that he was very, very committed to. In fact, this phrase,
A bond servant of God, and of the Lord Jesus Christ.
is what New Testament scholars call a Hapax legomenon, a one time sentence that is found nowhere else in the New Testament. And so, he identifies himself as a doulos, as a servant. I love what John Guest, the British evangelist said when he first came to America years ago, he was in an antique store in New England someplace. And he saw a sign from the revolutionary war days that said, we serve no sovereigns here. And he said, ah, I understand the American mind. We don’t serve sovereigns here, Americans are independent. Well, the reality is, is that James was that way. James didn’t want to serve anybody until he met Jesus and he met his match and he found forgiveness and he was willing to be a bond servant of the most high God. Yes, his elder brother, but a servant. A British lady said, you know, I want Jesus to be my constitutional king, but I want to be the prime minister. I get it. So often we want Jesus to be the figurehead in our life. But James understood that when you are a servant of the most high God, when you accept Christ and are forgiven by grace and God’s not angry at you anymore, you want to be a servant, that’s the kind of person you want to serve, who’s done so much for you. And so, James sees his dignity and his high position as a follower of Jesus Christ and as an apostle of Jesus Christ. There’s a story that probably is behind James. We don’t have much time to talk about it, but Exodus 21, if you wanted to stay with a master to solve your debt, you could become a bond servant by taking your, lobe of your ear, putting it on a doorpost and voluntarily letting them pierce your ear, putting an earring in it. And willingly say, I’ve paid my debt, but I want to stay with you, my master. Oh, the gospel is so good, that what James did when he saw the resurrected Lord, when he realized that he was totally forgiven of all of his sins, that God wasn’t angry at him anymore, that he willingly, so to speak, put his earlobe on the post and said, I’m yours. I’m yours forever. How about you? Have you come to that point where you not only know that Jesus died for you and that God loves you and is not angry at you, but do you feel it? Do you live it? Does it mark your life so that you say I am so glad I’m so forgiven, that I give myself as your doulos. That’s my new identity. You’re deeply beloved and redeemed son or daughter who is willing to be your servant until you come again. Ah, think about it. What a place of peace, what a place of forgiveness, what a place of deep deep satisfaction, when we can give ourselves to our great God in that way. May we become the servants of the most high God, in that way, as we understand is deep forgiveness for us. Your identity, your purpose, your character, your confidence is all in your identity in Jesus Christ as a deeply beloved and redeemed son. And when that is your focus, guess what, your legacy, what you leave on this planet takes care of itself. Don’t forget it. Live it today that you are the deeply beloved redeemed son of the most high God. You take it to heart. Amen.
Thank you Pete. That was Pete Alwinson teaching us today from James 1:1-2. You know Pete from our regular Friday Q&A segment, but he will be here again tomorrow and the rest of the week teaching, hope you’ll join us. Well, here we are early in October. This year is flying by. So, let me ask you, have you claimed your copy of the 2021 edition of Key Life magazine yet? If not, allow me to intrigue you. This edition features a wonderful article from Steve called You Can’t Fix It. You’ll also discover pieces from Robin DeMurga, Chad West and a new Key Life voice, Chris Wachter, it’s all there in the 2021 edition of Key Life magazine. And we would love to send it to you for free. So, call 1-800-KEY-LIFE. That’s 1-800-539-5433. You can also e-mail Steve@keylife.org and ask for the magazine. If you’d like to mail your request, send it to
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