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July 11

James 4:13-17

13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will travel to such and such a city and spend a year there and do business and make a profit.” 14 Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring ​— ​what your life will be! For you are like vapor that appears for a little while, then vanishes. 15 Instead, you should say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16 But as it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. 17 So it is sin to know the good and yet not do it. — James 4:13-17

Permission to Follow

by Matt Pearson
West Franklin Campus

When you were a child, did you ever try to convince one parent to let you do something so you could go to the other parent with “permission”—according to the other parent? Did you ever tell a little white lie to the first parent, making them think you had already talked to other? In other words, did you ever try to play your parents into agreeing with the other by deceptive manipulation?

Me either.

But my kids do it all the time.

(Okay, so maybe I did it once or twice...but only because my sisters made me...)

We know what it’s like to live under authority. We know what it’s like to have boundaries and to need to ask permission before we go somewhere or do something. As children, we didn’t go get in the car and drive to McDonald’s for a Happy Meal. We had to ask. We had to seek permission. We went to McDonald’s if it was in the plans of our parents/guardians. They had to actually go with us.

The half-brother of Jesus (James) lets us in on a stark, yet fascinating reality about the Christian life. Following Jesus is not primarily about avoiding evil and bad and sin. Being a child of God is more than avoiding wickedness. A Christian isn’t to be about what he/she is against. A Christian is freed from that and can be known for what and who he/she is for. A Jesus follower follows. A Jesus follower goes after Jesus. A Jesus follower lives under a new authority. A member of Christ’s kingdom gladly seeks the will and direction and leading of the King and makes plans accordingly.

When we say yes to Jesus, we are saying no to any and every other authority. In other words, following Jesus means we die to self-guided life tours. We now belong to Jesus who shows us the way. James is clear: Jesus followers don’t go about life as if they are in charge. The mindset, the heart, the spirit, the aura of a Christian is one that is locked in to where Jesus is active around him/her and where He is leading. Make plans and plan for the future—but do so loosely. Prepare and schedule, but do so knowing that your ultimate allegiance is to the leading of your King.

You see, for the Christian, life so much more than avoiding sin. Jesus took care of that on the cross! Life is about following Jesus—knowing the good He calls you to and doing that.

When we were children, we manipulated our parents because we knew our desire wasn’t happening unless they wanted it to and were able to be with us. Because of the cross, as Jesus followers, not only is He with us, but He leads us to where real life happens.

Praxis

  1. Review the last seven days on your calendar. What percentage of it was planned as a result of following Jesus’ leading? What percentage was a result of being on auto-pilot? Why?
  2. When you prepare and plan and schedule for the future, how much time and thought do you put into seeking direction and leading from Jesus? Why?
  3. What “good” things has Jesus led you to pursue recently? How does being led and ruled by Him help you know what those things are?
  4. How might these verses from James encourage you to change how you respond to someone when invited to participate in an event?