We are now in our third week of our study of the book of James. Last week we looked at how James reminds us to be joyful when we encounter trials of various kinds because our trials are not obstacles to our growth, they are the means of our growth as believers. We talked about how the trials the we face as believers are there to reveal the reality of our faith.
I also want to remind each of us of what we talked about this first week of this study that the things that James will tell us to do must flow out of our identity in Christ, and not become our identity. Much of what James gives us in this letter are like little litmus tests for our faith. They are not hoops for us to jump through, but they are things that are evident in true faith. these are not things that if we do them will produce salvation, they are things that should be evident in a believer’s life, and so if we are believers we should see them in some measure in our own lives. Now I say some measure because Christians are not completely sanctified at the point of conversion. They are Justified at the point of conversion, they have right standing with God and they have the righteousness of Jesus placed on them at conversion, but they are still “in the flesh” as Paul calls it, and they are being made into the image of Christ through the process of sanctification. That is important to remember as we look at these verses.
This week we are going to look at a text that helps us to see that simply hearing the word of God, and even affirming it, isn’t enough, we must apply it to our lives, or as James calls it, receive it, which means that we act on what we receive.
Let’s read the passage, and then we will unpack it with the Holy Spirit’s help.
I like to start with questions, so here is one to get you thinking today. What do you do with the word of God? Do you love it, cherish it, defend it, uphold it, degrade it, ignore it, neglect it, marginalized it? Well in this text, James wants to show us that what we do with the word of God is an indicator of the state of our hearts. You see even though the main focus of this passage is usually on our actions like doing, and hearing and receiving, the thing that those actions all revolve around is The Word. All of those things flow out of a response to the Word of God. All of those things will show us how we are responding to the word of God.
There are three incorrect responses to the word in this text and one correct response that I want to look at this morning.
Hear it for others, hear and forget, and hear it as a to do.
1. Hear it for others. The anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God…
It seems he is addressing Anger that is aimed at producing righteousness. There are people in his audience who are angry at wickedness that is around them, and they are slow to hear, quick to speak and quick to anger. You know what that says to me? it looks to me like they are self righteous arrogant people. They have bought into the idea that righteousness is an easy thing to come by and they are angry at the people around them who have not achieved their level of righteousness. Do you know anyone like that? I am sure you do. I know a few, and you know what I get so mad that they aren’t able to see what I see that their anger doesn’t produce righteousness in others.
So let me ask you a question, what do self righteous people do/say when they hear the truth of God’s word? They hear it for other people, and not for themselves. They apply the truth to everyone else’s life, but not to their own. Because they are under the false impression that they already have on lockdown the thing that they are applying to someone else’s life. One of my favorite quotes about this is from a man named D.L. Moody, He said, “A man once said that a good many of his congregation would be lost because they were too generous. He saw that the people looked rather surprised; so he said, “Perhaps you think I have made a mistake; and that I ought to have said you will be lost because you are not generous enough. That is not so; I meant just what I said. You give away too many sermons. You hear them, as it were, for other people.””
I believe that if we are honest with ourselves here, and if you cant be honest at church, where can you be honest? If we are honest, we all fit into this category in one way or another. So real quick, if you have already thought of a particular person that you think should hear this sermon, let me say, tag, your it!
2. Hear and forget: v. 23. Some of us are apathetic to the word of God. We hear it, or read it like the old Charlie Brown cartoons, when a parent or teacher is talking, what do you hear? Have you ever read the Bible like you did a text book at school?
3. Hear it as a to do. V. 26. Here he is pointing out people who hear the word of God, or some part of the word that they are good at and then declare how good they are at doing that thing, all the while neglecting the other aspects of the word, like bridling the tongue. They are like the Pharisees that knew the law, yet had never let it into their hearts.
Those are the wrong ways to respond to the word, and you will note that they are described as being deceived here in the text, and all of them flow out of people hearing the word only.
Now lets look at the response to the Word that James exhorts us to have.
To receive with meekness the implanted word. V. 21
To look into the perfect law of liberty v. 25
Out of these things flow the actions he mentions, as well as many others.