Listening & Doing
James 1:16-27 (Pastor Brian)
16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.
Listening and Doing
19 My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. 22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it–he will be blessed in what he does. 26 If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
James was the half-bro of Jesus – didn’t believe in him at first, but after resurrection, became a Christian – believed in his brother as Lord and Savior, and became pastor of the church of Jerusalem. (Jude – half-brother also believed and wrote another letter in the Bible.)
James realizes that the Christians who are scattered abroad will be undergoing hardships and he’s writing this letter to encourage them. “Rejoice in various trials and temptations from without…” (We are fallen and living in a fallen world – but we’ve been revived and regenerated by the Word of God. Nevertheless, we are still living in the flesh and the sinful nature may yet rise up and mar our testimony.)
There will be trials from without – but if a person endures, they will be strengthened, mature in faith, build character, be lacking in nothing ( “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Phil 4:13 )
James is encouraging people to endure the trials from without.
Also, acknowledge where you fail from temptations from WITHIN. God doesn’t tempt, it’s not God’s fault you’ve sinned. Sin is a choice YOU made – you allow it to come into your mind and satisfy your flesh. This eventually leads to death. Get RID of those things. They MAR your testimony.
“Let the poor man rejoice in his high status – he’s raised with Christ to the high places. Let the rich man rejoice in his low status – he’s like a flower in the field – here today and gone tomorrow.” James 1
James also says we should “ask for wisdom – in faith – believing.”
Spurgeon – “faith comes” (by hearing) Romans
We must be DOERS of the Word, not HEARERS only. (Don’t just quote Scripture, Do what it says.)
Apply the Word in our lives – that’s the Challenge.
Neil Andersen – at the time he wrote the book “The Bondage Breaker” there were many pastors falling into the exact sins they were preaching against. Even if you’re preaching and teaching, don’t assume that you’re above sin. Even preachers aren’t FREE from sin and temptation. There is always (should be) growing and sometimes (groaning) as we grow.
“Come thou fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing thy grace.” – 18th century – Robert Robertson
“Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love. Take my heart, Lord, take and seal it. Seal it for thy courts above.”
Prone = we have a tendency to wander
Robert Robertson’s parent died when he was young, then he got into trouble as a teenager. They went to a fortune teller and gave her some alcohol to tell their fortune for free. He, 17, was told he would live to see his grandchildren and children – he thought “I better get my life fixed.”
He went to see George Whitfield preaching, and he was preaching on the point where Jesus said, “you brood of vipers!” – He and his friends had gone to heckle (make fun of the preacher) but this Scripture grabbed his heart and held him for 3 years afterward. He eventually wanted to become a pastor.
He wrote this hymn at age 23.
“Here I raise mine Ebenezer, hither by thy help I’m come.” – 1 Samuel the Israelites had beaten the Philistines. Dago toppled over in their own temple and showed that Jehovah was the victor. Later, Samuel raised this stone of “help” that God had been to his people – he’d given them victory over their enemies. And this was a reminder of their victory.
The interesting point is – this was the point of their first DEFEAT – and then they were granted victory there and Samuel raised the Ebenezer? stone as a memorial.
Hitherto the Lord has helped us – “until here the Lord has helped us.”
When we sing “Here I raise mine Ebenezer” = we are remembering that the Lord has helped us up to this point.
“Praise the mount, I’m fixed upon it.” = Praise the Lord for Calvary – where the Lord was crucified for our sins. And we need to daily go BACK to it to remind ourselves of it (you know, humans are inherently forgetful.)
Later on, Robert Robertson did fall away from the faith. He was Baptist, Methodist, then Unitarian (didn’t really believe Jesus was totally God and man).
- Later on in the stagecoach, a lady was humming the hymn he’d written – and she started pressing him about it “Wow, this is a beautiful hymn, don’t you think?”
- He: “Madam, I’m the unfortunate writer of those words, and I’d give a thousand worlds to have the joy I’d had at that point when I’d written them.”
- She: “Don’t worry, the streams of mercy are still flowing.”
And he was stirred in his heart and gave himself back to Christ.
“Take my heart, Lord, take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above.”
And his words live on – they are words of life, of reality.
Recently – a pastor who’d fallen into sin said, “Sometimes we take a persona to church (a tie, a “happy family” – an IDEAL life – rather than the REALITY of who he/she really is).” It’s actually in LONELINESS that we see who we really are.
“Just as I am” – without any ideas of falsity – the Lord receives us.
I wanted to explain the hymn so that it will become more relevant to where we are and what we are doing.
Back to James.
James is encouraging Christians to live in the world IN the New Life that we’ve received by the Word of God. We become a kind of firstfruits of all that he’s created. To Nicodemus “You must be born again – born anew.”
“Must I go back and come forth again?”
No, no, without Christ and his grace and intervention for us, we are dead in our sins.
God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16
God is longsuffering, patient, kind, but he wants the similar Spirit to be manifest in our own lives. As Paul writes: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control.” If these things are not evident, then we are bearing the fruit of the flesh: sexual sins, pride, strife, jealousy, anger, quick to speak, quick to anger.
You know, we can be in the Spirit one minute and the next BAM! out comes something we didn’t fully intend. Where did that come from? The flesh.
1 John 1:8-9 “If we say we have no sin, the truth is not in us… But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
Neil Andersen: Bondage Breaker
Speaking of the San Andreas fault – if they get a small tremor – no problem. But if there is NO movement, uh oh, maybe “the BIG one” is coming…
Like this, if we confess our sins OFTEN – this is the course of life and reality and spiritual health. BUT, if there is a LONG period of silence, we are hiding sin, secret sin – and this may grow and culminate into an EXPLOSION of pain and trouble.
We must keep “up to date” with our confessions with the Lord. It’s like looking into a mirror. “I didn’t leave anything in there did I?” If you just LOOK and don’t CLEAN UP – what good is it?
Look in the Word of God and don’t apply it (to yourselves). Don’t just think of how it might apply to OTHERS. What about YOU??
“Lord, help ME get over this, help ME get rid of this.”
- Sometimes it’s helpful to seek out a stronger Christian and confess and keep accountable to them.
- Sometimes, when our spiritual joy is not where is should be, we should find a brother or sister in Christ to confide in and confess our sins to.
“Lay aside all that remains – the wickedness or naughtiness” – we can’t receive what the Bible promises if we remain in sin. If we think this is for someone else, and not just for ME, we are also not DOING the Word.
Jesus also said, “Deal RADICALLY with sin. If you right eye offends you, poke it out. If your right hand offends you, cut it off. It’s better to enter heaven mutilated than go to hell whole.”
(He meant this spiritually, not physically literally.)
Consider David (Psalm 51?) – Confession of his sin with Bathsheba before God.
David put Uriah – her husband – in the front lines of battle and had all the soldiers pull back so that he would be killed. Then he took her into his house – but the prophet Nathan? came and spoke to him.
“A rich man had tons of stuff, but stole the small lamb from his neighbor for a feast. You are that man.”
Psalm 32 = his ANGUISH over unconfessed sin.
“I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’ and thou didst forgive my sin.”
David was forgiven, but not the same – not as bright as before.
3 aspects of sin:
- Missing the mark (Romans 3:23 – “all have fallen short of the glory of God” – we are all born that way and need the Spirit of God to be renewed)
- Transgressions (Presumptuous sin – willful, knowledgeable sin – you KNOW what you SHOULD do, but CHOOSE not to)
- Iniquity (deep roots – premeditated choice to CONTINUE in unrepentant sin)
Eventually, he recognized all three aspects of evil and confessed his sin.
He had to DO it, he had to HUMBLE himself before the Lord.
“A man was confined to a Communist prison in Europe around 20 years old. He was there for 50 years. Eventually, he was released in a wheelchair – and was speaking an ancient Hungarian tongue. He asked for a mirror – there were no mirrors in prison. The last time he’d seen himself, he was 20, now he was a shell of what he had once been at age 70.”
Is that like us sometimes?
We SEE the mirror of the Word, but we go away and forget the person we WERE reflected in the mirror to us.
Let’s let the Lord speak to our hearts now.
Let the Lord deal with one area of our hearts where we have failed, where we are prone to wander.
Quick to listen, slow to speak is what James recommends. Let’s be quick to listen to the Lord and slow to speak up in defense of ourselves.
The Lord wants to help, encourage us, and allow the streams of mercy to flow over us.