Summary: This sermon deals with growing as a Christian toward maturity.
James 1:19-27 "Gotta grow"
By Pastor Mark Hiehle
One of the stories that capture our imagination is the Walt Disney story of Peter Pan. Peter was the boy who never wanted to grow up, and so he lived in Never Land and lived a life of constant fun and adventure, no responsibilities or cares, just a never-ending childhood. Peter Pan makes for an enjoyable bedtime story. However, many people want to live a Peter Pan type of Christianity. They want to experience a new birth and then remain a spiritual infant, never going on to maturity. They say "Feed me, feed me" and always demand to have things go their way and focus only on themselves. I’m wondering this morning, are there any spiritual Peter Pans in the house?
James is used by God to tell us how to grow up and become mature in our faith. James is a very practical and direct book. James doesn’t pull any punches but lays the truth directly before us in a plain and understandable way. The Spirit first says through James that if we are to mature, "everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry." Does this describe you? James is talking to Christians for he begins with "My dear brothers." Obviously the church was having a problem in this area. How often we violate this directive from the Spirit. We are quick to speak our mind, lose our temper and rarely listen. So many times I have heard the complaint come in a counseling session where a spouse will, out of great frustration, look at their mate and painfully say, "You never listen to me!" Oh, the problems that could be avoided if only we would learn to listen. Not listening in order to respond, but listen in order to understand. We tend to listen to someone and as they’re speaking, we are formulating an answer or a rebuttal. That is not listening. That is actually self-centered and close-minded. You are focused on trying to get "your" point across to the other person instead of trying to understand "their" perspective. Guys, we are masters at this. As men, we get angry with our wives because they can’t see our point of view. They try to tell us where they are at concerning a situation, and we don’t have the patience to listen to them. We expect them to simply understand our thinking of a situation and not question us for more information. We need to become better listeners.
Some of the things I’ve learned about listening are so simple and so important to practice. First, when you listen, listen with your eyes and not just your ears. As you look at your child or spouse when they are talking to you, you are not only giving them your undivided attention but you are saying to them that they are important to you. When you read the newspaper when someone is talking and occasionally respond with a grunt or an "ugh huh," you are really communicating that the paper is more important to you than the conversation and the person talking to you. So, put the paper down and listen with your eyes. Second, listen for what is behind the words. This takes some work. Real listening takes work. Everything worthwhile does. Try to listen for the feelings and the emotions behind the words. What is under the surface? Again, don’t hear in order to respond, but listen to understand. Listening to understand where a person is coming from and how they are feeling is the beginning to real communication. I love the phrase that says, "People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care."
James continues with his focus on maturity by telling us how to properly respond when listening to God’s Word. He states the truth and then gives us an example. "Do not merely listen...but do what it says." James tells us that if we don’t put the truth of scripture into practice we actually deceive ourselves. Within ourselves, we think that we are "Ok" and in need of nothing. God’s Word reveals our true nature and spiritual condition. If we do not apply the truth of the Bible to our lives, we remain in our sinful nature and we deceive ourselves. There is a book titled "I’m Ok, You’re Ok." A more accurate book title would be "I’m A Mess, You’re A Mess." Scripture is a mirror that shows us our need for God and exposes our imperfections and areas where growth is needed. Therefore, if we are to grow and become mature Christians, we must apply the truth of God’s Word and do what it says - 100%. Simply agreeing that the Bible is true is not enough. We must live it out on a daily basis. Notice that verse 25 says that this is an ongoing process for the believer. We must "continue" in this practice of application in order to be blessed by God. As James says again, "not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it."