Big Idea: It is very important that we know that to humbly receive the implanted word, which is able to save our souls means a life of transformation and action.
Have a look at this video…
I love the First Mate scurrying off, the arrogant Captain humbled and the nonchalant Irish accent from the lighthouse. Just works.
A warning to check your co-ordinates.
James issues a warning to check our co-ordinates, to check our heading.
How do we calibrate our co-ordinates?
The short answer is that we check our co-ordinates, calibrate our heading through the living Word of God.
James says the Word is doing its work in us as we Receive. Obey. Display.
Let’s take a look. First, James says …
Here is something important (v19a) Know this my beloved brothers and sisters …
This is an imperative, a command; what he is saying to those he loves and cares for is that there is something that needs doing … check your co-ordinates, calibrate your heading. I want you to know this.
I want what is best for you. I want you to have life. Here are words of life. These words are for everyone …
This is for you as you sit here at MPC today. Now as you are reading this, hearing this.
v19b let every person [even if you are the Captain of the second largest vessel in the North Atlantic fleet]
… let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;
That’s a description of humility. The makers of the video did a great job in presenting the captain as wordy and angry. And in the end he looked foolish. And no one wanted to stand too close.
And throughout the Bible foolishness does not lead to salvation.
for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
For those who are wordy and angry, those who lack humility before the Word of God, they are not righteous. James is saying don’t be like that because that is not how God’s people live.
Rather, this is how God’s people live.
Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
We put away [literally take off and throw out] all the filth and abundant wickedness that clings to us.
We might think that words are harmless; that our anger is somehow excusable. James says something different. Filth, abundant wickedness.
James’ inspired teaching, the Word of God is recalibrating our co-ordinates.
I have been challenged again this week as I worked in this passage. I said a few weeks ago that I can express anger at inanimate objects. I usually write it off as harmless – no one else cops a blast, inanimate objects can’t be injured by my words of anger.
James says it’s not on. At the heart of that anger is unrighteousness. Self-centredness, pride, impatience, idolatry (me putting myself in the place of God).
Put it off. Put away the filth and wickedness that clings to me in this broken world.
The language here gives the image of changing a nappy. Take the soiled nappy, wipe away the residue that clings and smells bad, fold it all in on itself and throw it in the bin, outside or better in the neighbour’s bin. And then repeat the process the next time it happens.
Put away. Take it off, clean up and throw it out. That’s the imagery.
When you are the parent of a baby you look forward to the nappy stage ending.
But in the life of a follower of Jesus this putting away spiritual filth and wickedness is going to be a life long exercise.
And because we are aware of the ungodliness that clings to us we receive with meekness [humility] the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
We accept with meekness because we cannot achieve salvation by our own efforts. We accept with meekness because we realise the depth of love that God has for us expressed in the sending of Jesus.
But salvation comes through the implanted word. The image here is one of a seed planted in a garden. With careful attention it grows and produces fruit.
The implanted word is the gospel of Jesus Christ brought to bear on our lives through the power of the Holy Spirit. And as we keep in step with the Spirit we promote his fruit in our lives.
v18 says that of His own will God brought us forth, or gave us life by the word of truth – the gospel.
We were dead in our sin and rebellion. A dead possum on Samford Road cannot move out of the way of oncoming traffic.
That was our plight before the oncoming wrath of God. But through his grace God through his word/the gospel at work in us through the power of His Spirit He made us alive.
We have been given new life and in humble gratitude we live out that life in active, attentive obedience to God’s Word.
This is how we get our bearings, the info we need to adjust our co-ordinates.
We humbly receive the Word. Put yourself in the way of the Word. Obediently bring the commands and truth of the Word to bear on your life.
The three things which produce the greatest spiritual growth are … not rocket science.
Church – sitting under the Word together. Growth Groups – transformation; application this term. Personal – personal daily Bible reading habit.
Not rocket science but it is theological. Humbly receive the Word Put yourself in the way of its work.
Next year we will have a Read Through the Bible in a Year group. Organise a messaging app group. Read Plan Develop a personal bible reading habit. Encourage each other as we work our way through the whole Bible. Put ourselves in the way of the Word.
Secondly James says, …
But be doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
You might be really good at putting yourself in the way of the Word, but are you doing what it says? Be doers of the Word and not hearers only because if you don’t do you do deceive (yourself).
If you are hearing the Word but not doing, not obeying, not being directed and transformed by the Word you’ve missed the whole point; you’ve got it all wrong; you are deceiving yourself. If you go to a Christian Bookshop you will find lots of Theological Dictionaries of the Bible. I’m currently eyeing one that has 27 volumes!
The world does not need anymore Bible Dictionaries. The world does not need you to know more information. The world needs your transformation. Because then you will be living for the Lord Jesus. Imagine a world like that! Be doers of the Word.
Michael Hart wrote a book – 100 most influential people in history. Jesus is third; behind Ghandi and Mohammad. Does that make you a little annoyed? Hart said Jesus would be first if his followers actually did what he said. Be doers of the Word.
You are deceiving yourself if you think that when the Word convicts you of sin or exposes error, disobedience that you can simply ignore it and everything will be fine.
That’s the warning in Read v23-24.
23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.
The Word is like a mirror with really good lighting.
I watch the Block sometimes. Unreality Show about home renovations. So I know that a good bathroom mirror needs the right lighting. The Word is like a Block winning mirror on bathroom week.
It shows us what we are really like, it highlights the blemishes and spots, the wrinkles and the stains. It exposes our hearts, critiques our thoughts, judges our actions and cross examines our words. It identifies our idols, our unfaithfulness. Reveals the things we would prefer hidden, our weak kneed faith and wobbly obedience. Challenges our anxieties and generally can make us feel a little uncomfortable under its all illuminating glare. That is the work of the word.
But James says if the Word does its work in us, on us by bringing these things to light and yet we walk away without addressing these things then we are fools. We deceive ourselves into thinking that everything is alright. We will have misunderstood the purpose of the word and the nature of life as a follower of Jesus.
Like Father of the Bride; one final check in the mirror before he heads out to walk his precious daughter down the aisle in front of those they love most on her most important day. Seeing his tie crooked, his fly down, a blob of toothpaste on his cheek he walks off without adjustment.
A teenager going on a date. A final check in the mirror and a booger or a pimple. But leaves without addressing the problem.
It would be foolishness. And James says it is utter foolishness to the extreme, To have the Word do its work and for you to ignore it, to walk away unmoved, unadjusted.
In fact you are deceiving yourself to claim that you are a follower of Jesus and yet refuse to be transformed by His soul saving, life giving Word. To refuse to adjust your co-ordinates on the basis of HIs command. That’s full steam ahead toward the shipwreck of life and faith.
Rather, blessing is found doing, in obedience. Read v25
But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
As good evangelicals we are a bit gun shy of the thought of law. We are saved by faith not works.
James isn’t preaching salvation through works. But he is teaching us a significant truth about the Christian life.
The reference to law here does express a set of standards and instructions. But notice that it is perfect and it is the source of liberty.
Freedom is not found in an absence of law. Freedom is not characterised by a life without responsibility. Freedom is having the capacity to meet you responsibilities.
I have great freedom in being able to drive into the city because there are laws establishing that freedom. Everyone stay on the left side of the road. Everyone stop at a red light. Use your blinker to let everyone know your intentions.
We have been designed to flourish in the obedience to the Word of God.
Adam and Eve were promised life and blessing in obedience to the Word of God; “Do not eat from the tree in the middle of the garden … If you eat from the tree you will surely die.” Obedience meant life and relationship with God. They disobeyed and death and brokenness came on all creation.
Through faith in Jesus we have been given new life and a new heart through the power of the Holy Spirit so that we can follow and obey him, who has satisfied the law completely on our behalf and set us free from the curse of sin and the power of death, that we now have life. And the capacity to obey his word. That’s where blessing is found.
A fish is designed to flourish in water. Apart from water it will not flourish, it will not live for long.
We were created to flourish in obedient relationship with God. In Christ we are able to flourish.
Our goal as followers of Jesus in this life is to live lives for Christ. Lives offered up to God in total devotion of worship and service. That is where our fullest life and our greatest freedom is found. The world bends over backwards to disagree and refute that claim. Don’t be deceived.
One of my friends was known as ‘gunna’. He was always gunna do this or gunna do that, just never got around to it. ‘Gunna’.
Be a doer not a ‘gunna’. Obey the Word.
Finally, James says, …
Display the Word at work in you through pure and undefiled religion.
Notice James is giving three examples, one negative, two positive of God honouring lives; lives lived for Jesus.
26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. 27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
When I think of religion it’s negative. Queen’s funeral. Soldiers in their uniforms. The important people in their suits and diamonds. The clergy in their ridiculous garb – how embarrassing.
Bad religion. James warns us not to display bad religion before the world. Not in the clothes we wear but be the characteristics that adorn our lives.
Bad religion v26 Not keeping control of our tongue.
James will say more about this later in the letter. The root of faith, the basis of our salvation is trust in Jesus. But the fruit of faith is displayed in self control.
26 If anyone thinks he is religious [living God’s way] and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.
Not controlling our speech is a sign that we are not actually following God. I need to stop expressing anger at inanimate objects. They can’t hear me, but God can, and my words don’t conform to His Word. Our lives need to display obedience to the Word.
God’s word says don’t gossip, don’t lie, don’t curse others (Colossians 3:8-9). It says don’t carry on with obscenity or coarse joking (Ephesians 5:4).
If this is how we speak then we are kidding ourselves if we imagine that all is well between us and God.
It matters how you speak to and about others. It matters the language you use, the jokes you tell, the subject matter of your conversations.
If you do not rein in your tongue you are deceiving yourself.
Good Religion 1 Compassion.
27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
v27a Being active in compassion toward the needy.
The proof that we truly listen and respond to God’s word is seen in us being determined to care for the needy. Obedience to God’s Word. Being shaped by God’s Word – understanding that Jesus visited us in our need. We follow Him.
Careful that in our gospel-centred mindset we don’t set aside God’s word in the area of mercy ministries.
Good Religion 2 Avoiding Pollution
v27b Keeping ourselves unstained by the world.
Pollution activists. Not talking about climate change. Avoid being polluted by the world. James’ focus here in the context of this verse and what will follow in the letter is guarding against being deceived by wealth or its trappings.
My superannuation app keeps telling me that wealth can disappear in an instant. Yet the world says that is the goal of life, a sign you are winning and worthy of praise.
More to come on that, but again, a conscious, deliberate decision and action to recalibrate our lives in line with the Word of God as we sail in this world
That video is old and with a little research the story is made up – never actually happened. I understand that the USS Montana doesn’t even exist. But never let the truth get in the way of a good yarn.
But it’s a great example of how to stubbornly shipwreck your life by refusing to recalibrate your co-ordinates.
Be shaped by the Word.
Salvation comes through faith in Christ Alone. Please don’t hear me saying you need to work for your salvation.
Martin Luther thought this letter an epistle of straw. He read James as muddying the waters between faith and works.
But what James is saying is that you will be deceiving yourself if you declare that you are a follower of Jesus and yet your life bears no fruit in support of that claim.