Summary: Last of 5 in the series "A Light Unto My Path: Growing Through God’s Word." This sermon brings the series to a close with the exhortation to live by the truth of the Bible.
Text: James 1 19-26
I remember as a little boy watching Saturday morning cartoons and a consistent theme was the Genie in the bottle or the mind controlled slave who responded to the master’s every wish with the monotone reply "I hear and obey master." I’m sure that you were all much more spiritually inclined children than me and you probably spent Saturday mornings in fasting and prayer. But if you would have been watching Saturday morning cartoons with me you’d know what I was talking about.
You may be wondering how I could possibly make a spiritual application from this--A preacher can make a spiritual application out of anything. It’s not that God is our Genie in a bottle ready to respond to our every command--although some might like to see it that way. In fact, it’s quite the opposite--we are to be the mind controlled slaves hastening to every command of our Heavenly Father.
Maybe, mind controlled is the wrong word--how about spiritually controlled? And not by some V-chip implanted in our brains but in the words of James by the Word planted in our hearts--that Word is how we hear the will of the Father. This is the application step of what we’ve been talking about for the last couple of months—The role of God’s word in our lives. Today we go from page to performance.
But if we are to respond to Him in the correct way we are going to have to make sure that we clear out all the static so we get the message right; and once we receive that message we are going to have to act on it.
Interrogative: How can we make sure we get the message loud and clear, and what are our responsibilities once we get it?
Transition: The answer is in our text today. First of all James gives us some tips on how we can be sure to...
1. Hear the Word (v. 19)
My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,
If we’re ever going to hear from God James says that there are three things we must do, first we must...
>Be quick to listen
This was especially important to the first readers of James because they Had no New Testament Scriptures--virtually all communication of the Gospel was orally. Believers met together in houses to hear preachers tell the story of Jesus and His saving grace. Good listening skills were crucial to their spiritual nourishment.
But listening is also a key need in the church today. We live in a world of fast food, 15 second TV commercials and 5 second sound bites. We are being transformed into poor listeners. Psychologist Paul Tournier has said that the majority of our conversations--even between couples--are "dialogues of the deaf."
This problem doesn’t just affect our social relationships though--it affects our spiritual development. If we have developed limited attention spans, our times of Bible reading are apt to be rough going. The devotional prayer of modern man is "Speak to me Lord, you’ve got fifteen seconds." Not only Bible reading is in trouble, though. Preaching is in some dire straights. The Puritans used to have dinner on the grounds long before the Gaithers thought of it. sermons of 3 & 4 hours were commonplace
My dad told me when I started preaching --20 minutes is about all people will hear.
The point is simply this we must make a concious effort to overcome our listening problems--limit exposure to the media--spend time reading in God’s Word, ask God to help you. Prepare to come and hear God’s Word taught. Hear the words of the Psalmist--Be still and know that I am God. Secondly if we are to hear we must be...
>Slow to speak
Another reason our listening is hampered is that we spend most of our time thinking of what we are going to say next. James is not calling on us to all take a vow of silence, nor does he mean to bar any interaction in a Bible study, what he is calling for is the common sense principle to think before we speak. Often times we open our mouth just long enough to change feet. Thirdly if we are to listen we must be...
>Slow to become angry
You may wonder what this has to do with hearing but if you think about it it makes sense. How many times have you heard a preacher say something that struck you the wrong way and spent the rest of the sermon stewing on that one point?
Often times we spread our toes our and just wait for someone to step on them. James says to us be slow to become angry. Hear what God is saying--often times anger is the disguise we put on conviction. The Lord is telling us through James to says still our tendency to fly off the handle and let God’s word get deep down in our souls and work on the things you keep hidden under those super-sensitive feelings.