Summary: The Gospel places real demands on how we are to conduct our lives.
Doers of the Word
Text: James 1:19-27
Theme: The Gospel places specific demands on how we are to live.
Opening: A schoolteacher lost her life’s savings in a business scheme that had been elaborately explained by a swindler. When her money disappeared and her dream was shattered, she went to the Better Business Bureau. “Why on earth didn’t you come to us first?” the official asked. “Didn’t you know about the Better Business Bureau?” “Oh, yes,” the lady replied sadly. “I’ve always known about you, but I didn’t come because I was afraid you’d tell me not to do it.” Many of us avoid the Bible for the same reason. We don’t want to hear what God has to say about our interests, because we view Him as some sort of cosmic killjoy whose primary goal is to make us miserable. But James reminds us in 1:16, that every good and perfect gift is from above. A demonstration of God’s goodwill is our salvation through the Word of truth, the Gospel. In choosing to follow Christ, we must understand that the Gospel places certain demands upon us as the firstfruits of all He has created. These demands are not meant to restrict our joy, but to heighten it!
I. The Gospel shapes our communication. (1:19,20) Three commands given by James in this passage relate to the Jewish wisdom literature about speech and anger.
A. Wisdom is displayed by listening carefully. See Proverbs 18:13. God gave us two ears and one mouth so that we would do twice as much listening as talking. (Talk about learning the skill of reflective listening.) The Goal of listening is ACCURACY.
B. Wisdom is displayed by thinking clearly. See Proverbs 13:3; 29:20. The idea here is that we train ourselves to be responsive rather than reactive in our speech. The wise person is one who thinks about what he’s going to say before he actually says it. The goal of thinking is UNDERSTANDING.
C. Wisdom is displayed by responding correctly. See Ecclesiastes 7:9. Our response should result in a display of the righteousness of God as it is revealed in us. James warns that the anger of man does not produce the righteous life that God desires. The goal of responding is FELLOWSHIP.
1. Human anger is by nature difficult to control. It tends to intensify rather than clarify. The point of God’s anger is to show us when we’re off base in our walk with Him.
2. Human anger is often incompatible with the teaching of Christ. See Matthew 5:21-26; 38-48.
Illus: Three times Moses struggled with anger, and three times it produced negative results. (See Ex. 2:11-13; Ex. 32:19; Num. 20:8-11). Jeff Smith is the pastor of the Woodinville Alliance Church in Woodinville, Washington. He had to work through this process when his worship leader informed him that he had been infected with aids from a homosexual relationship in his past. (See Leadership Magazine, Summer 2003, pgs 104-109).
II. The Gospel shapes our character. (1:21-25) In verse 21, James explains that the word implanted in our hearts and that brings salvation has moral consequences for our lives. We are commanded to ‘get rid’ or ‘remove’ anything action that is morally inappropriate or bears evil intent. This happens when we listen to the Word and do it.
A. Listening without doing brings self-deception and false security. It’s like a person who spends a great deal of time in front of a mirror staring intently at oneself, only to walk away and a few moments later, completely forget one’s image. Out of site, out of mind.
B. Listening that results in doing brings freedom and blessing. The ‘perfect law’ are the Jewish scriptures interpreted and completed by the teaching of Christ.
1. Freedom from the restraints of sin in order to fulfill the law of Christ. See John 8:34-38.
2. Blessing that comes from God as a result of our moral decisions.
Illus: Mirrors are made to reveal truth about our natural reality. The Word of God reveals truth about our ultimate reality. Most people know that W. C. Fields was a lot like the drunken, rascally character he played in the movies. When he was on his deathbed, a friend came to visit him and was surprised to find him reading the Bible. He said, "What are you doing reading the Bible? Are you looking for answers?" W.C. Fields said, "No. I’m looking for loopholes."
III. The Gospel shapes our conduct. (1:26, 27) Religious practices are fine. (Probably what is in view here are the practices of worship, giving, prayer and fasting.) However, if they have no ethical impact on our lifestyle, they are worse than useless. They are self-deceiving and leading people to a false sense of security. Anyone who has a claim to a genuine religious experience, must submit the claim to these tests according to James.