Today some of the guys in our unit met for our midweek lunch and Bible study. We are beginning the New Testament Letter of James, Jesus’ half-brother (Matthew 13:55; Galatians 1:19). James was not only a devout follower of the Lord Jesus but also a leader in the 1st century Christian church, a period when persecution was real, not a sermon illustration.
The guys gathered into the room. We had pizza and fellowshipped. We caught up on each other. And then I began with the big picture of James–that it was written by Jesus’ half-brother, that it is perhaps the most practical of New Testament books, that it is concerned with action, with living out Christianity amidst hostile environs.
My guys are my congregation, in a sense. Admittedly, I don’t have fellow elders; nor do we have a written church covenant; nor do we own any property or have a steeple or a narthex or a pulpit.
But what we do have is men and women who take time out of their days each week to gather with fellow believers (and/or future believers) and pray and break bread and open our Bibles and sit under the authority of Scripture. We read the Scriptures straight through, book after book. We read, talk about what we read, interpret the words and ideas in their proper contexts, and flesh out how to apply what God has revealed.
And week after week, we are seeing new faces. Guys are seeing what the gospel is, who the gospel is, and what the gospel does.
In Psalm 23, David wrote a lot about how God prepares a table before the believer, and he does it in the presence of the believer’s enemies. Then David penned one of the most beautiful images in literature: “you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” Stunning in its specificity and detail. God anoints the heads of his sheep. He does it by way of the oil of blessing. And at this table in the presence, the believer’s cup overflows. It’s a picture of the faithfulness of God, of Shepherd and sheep, of the goodness of God and his care of his people.
Today when I was cleaning up after Bible study and talking with a friend, inside my spiritual cup was overflowing. We had enjoyed a table in the presence yet again. And we did so by looking into James’ letter, to see how trying to live out the life of the cross in a pagan culture looked in the 1st century under Roman occupation and how it looks today in 21st century under paganism and the politicization of nearly everything.
It is so striking to me how at Bible study, we have male and female, black, white, Hispanic, Oriental, young and old, from rich backgrounds and poor backgrounds, some super-educated and others less so–but we are one in Christ. No special victim statuses or groups. No alphabet identities. It is about how Christ came for us sinners.
And if you have ever been gripped by that amazing grace of the gospel, and been granted spiritual eyes to see, your cup may overflow, too. Why? Because God is good and he gives good gifts to his chilren. And because we get to be part of his cosmic plan to reconcile all thing to himself through the crucified and risen Son.
I look forward to several weeks ahead with as many soldiers as the Lord will send to glean from James the tactics, techniques, and procedures for the Christian life. We will again gather at the table in the presence and be fed heaven’s manna and filled with cups of God’s overflowing good news.