Summary: James warns us that believers can be guilty of wearing the Word, talking about the Word, singing about the Word but not doing the Word. How do we become doers of the Word?
“Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:21-22).
There once was a famous inventor who unveiled a new invention. He traveled around the country displaying it. He sold booklets explaining how it was built. Then one day a reporter asked: “What does it do” The inventor replied, “Do? Why it doesn’t do anything – but isn’t it beautiful doing it!” James is concerned that the church will be guilty of the same thing. He wants to warn us that believers can be guilty of wearing the Word, talking about the Word, singing about the Word but not doing the Word. How do we become doers of the Word?
I. ACTIVATE YOUR HEART TO RECEIVE THE TRUTH
To be hearers there are some things we have to do to activate our hearts to that truth.
A. By Removing the Impurities of Your Life.
James 1:21 says there are some things that we need to lay aside from our hearts and lives. That call to put off certain things is a constant in Scripture. Hebrews 12:1 says, “let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us …” and Romans 13:12 says, “let us cast off the works of darkness.” My wife and I like to work in our yard. I love to watch things grow but I don’t like the back breaking work that goes into preparing the land for growth. That ground preparation is necessary, however. Much has to be “laid aside” from the ground before it is ready to have anything put in it.
First we are told to lay aside all filthiness in our lives. The word used here originally was used of ear wax. We need to lay aside anything that would impede our spiritual hearing. Is there anything you participate in that might be building up spiritual ear wax on your heart where it has become harder to hear the voice of God?
Secondly we must lay aside every overflow of wickedness. The King James Version translates this, “superfluity of naughtiness.” These are sins that tend to flow out of us and affect others around us. The Phillips paraphrase puts it this way: “every other evil which touches the lives of others.”
B. Receive the Implanted Word.
The word receive indicates a deliberate and ready reception of what is offered. Our hearts should be as eager for God’s truth as a baby is for its mother’s milk. “ ... as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby..." 1 Peter 2:1-3).
That reception of God’s Word is an attitude of the heart. We are to receive God’s Word with meekness. James sees meekness as a readiness to be taught in the word. One of the traits of the trusting Christian is that he faces life with a quiet humility, knowing that God is in control of all things (James 3:13-18).
When we have a spirit of readiness and meekness God can implant or engraft His Word into our hearts. I remember watching my grandfather graft branches onto fruit trees. By doing so he could cause a tree that was not bearing good fruit to begin to bear good fruit. God wants us to have an attitude of readiness to receive with humility whatever God is seeking to graft into our lives.
C. Recognize God’s Intention For Us Is.
He does this because God’s Word is able to save your souls. There are three tenses of salvation in the Bible:
* Justification – Believers have been saved from the penalty of sin.
*Sanctification – Believers are being saved from the power of sin.
*Glorification – Believers will be saved from the presence of sin.
In this passage, James is speaking of the present tense of salvation, our sanctification. God’s Word is the agent for saving us from the power of sin in our daily life. In particular James is pointing toward the sins that come from reacting to life and its problems in ways that are not consistent with who we are in Christ.
II. APPLY THE TRUTH YOU RECEIVE
Once you receive God’s truth you need to apply it.
A. Refuse to be an Auditor of the Word.
We are not to be not hearers only. This word was often used of an auditor of a class. When you audit a class in college, you sit attend but don’t do any of the assignments or get any credits. There are spiritual auditors in the church. They attend but don’t want to be involved in an active way.
Jesus warned of this tendency in Matthew 7:20-27. Hearers only are building their lives on dangerously unstable ground. In fact James says when you do this you are deceiving your own selves. Verse 16 warned us of how the world can deceive us but here the deceiver is our own heart. Professing Christians who are content with only hearing the Word have made a serious spiritual miscalculation. Matthew Henry put it best when he wrote, “Self-deceit will be found the worst deceit at last.”