Introduction: Meet James - The James Code

Introduction: Meet James

Allow me to introduce you to James, the writer of the New Testament letter that bears his name.

I want to begin by telling you who he is not. The James I want you to meet is not the more well-known James of the Gospels—one of the Sons of Thunder, the brother of John the Beloved, and the fisherman son of Zebedee. That more well-known James often found himself in the inner circle, one of three men with whom Jesus often chose to be during His most significant and unforgettable moments, there on the Mount of Transfiguration and in Gethsemane’s dark garden that fateful night. Shortly after the ascension of the resurrected Jesus, this James of the Gospels met a martyr’s death by the sword of King Herod. He was the first apostle to die for his faith.

The James I want you to meet was not in our Lord’s inner circle, but probably no one knew Jesus in a more up-close- and-personal way than this James did. The James whose words we will explore during the next few weeks was, in fact, Jesus’ own half-brother, the natural-born son of Mary and Joseph. Literally, our James was Jesus’ little brother. They undoubtedly spent years sharing the same room, playing together on the dusty streets of Nazareth, and working side by side in their father’s carpentry shop.

During Jesus’ earthly life, James apparently could not bring himself to believe that his Brother was the long-awaited Messiah. James didn’t become a believer until after the resurrection. According to Paul, after Jesus rose from the grave, “he appeared to James, then to all the apostles” (1 Corinthians 15:7 NIV). Somewhere, privately and personally, before the risen Lord revealed Himself to any others, He met with James—and His little brother’s life was never the same. After his encounter with his older Brother, with the victorious-over-death God-man, James grew in faith, became the undisputed leader of the Jerusalem Church, and convened the Jerusalem Council to determine whether Gentiles needed to follow the law of Moses and Jewish traditions in order to become followers of Jesus (Acts 15). The apostle Paul referred to James as a pillar of the church (Galatians 2:9). And tradition tells us that James was so devoted to prayer that he was given the nickname “Camel Knees” because of the calluses resulting from the hours he spent on his knees.

Today we are two thousand years removed from James’s writing, yet his letter remains as relevant to us as the Internet’s morning news. Why? Because in these 108 verses is a sort of code—a James Code—that outlines how we can put our faith into action in the normal traffic patterns of everyday life. If you’re like me, your challenge is not knowing what Christ calls us to do, but actually doing it; the challenge is practicing with our lives what we know in our minds and proclaim with our lips. In every paragraph James reminds us that when we are walking in the Holy Spirit, we will not be wearing out the seats of our pants but the soles of our shoes. James challenged us to put shoe leather to what we say we believe. In his own words, we who name Jesus our Savior and Lord are to be “doers of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22). The importance of being doers was powerfully illustrated for me on the other side of the world.


For years, my wife, Susie, and I have made annual pilgrimages to Israel. Of the many sights and sounds of the Holy Land that I’ve grown to love, two in particular have captured my complete attention. In the north and teeming with aquatic life of many kinds, the vibrant Sea of Galilee is a beautiful blue and, in many places, as clear as crystal. The other body of water, in the south, is the Dead Sea, and it is called “dead” for good reason. There is no life in its stagnant water, and the putrid sulfur smell is nauseating.

What makes these two bodies of water so different? First, the Sea of Galilee has an inlet: the Jordan River flows from its source near Mount Hermon in the north into the Sea of Galilee. On its southern shore, the Sea of Galilee also has an outlet: water flows into the Jordan and on through the Great Rift Valley. Like the Sea of Galilee, the Dead Sea has an inlet: the Jordan flows into it. But the Dead Sea has no outlet: it takes in, but does not give out.

And this is the point of The James Code. Vibrant believers not only take in, but they also give out. They put the Word they receive (input) into action (output). Yes, they become “doers of the word, and not hearers only.”

James’s signal contribution to believers then and now is his warning that we could become so heavenly minded that we would be no earthly good. He challenged us not merely to have our minds and hearts focused on the heavenly message of Scripture, but also to act on that message so that, by being God’s light and salt, we are doing good on this earth. James’s letter is arguably the most practical of all the New Testament writings. In fact, it could be summed up with the famous Nike slogan “Just do it”!

If you’re struggling to put your faith into action, the message of James is for you. And this devotional is designed to move that message from your heart to your hands, to move you from merely hearing God’s commands to actually doing them. And you’ll discover that James isn’t speaking to us about faith and works, but about a faith that works. And this is what our dying world needs to see!

Let’s get started!

From the Book:

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The James Code
By O.S. Hawkins
Thomas Nelson

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