Summary: There are positive steps we can take to keep from fooling ourselves and, instead, develop a genuineness and depth of faith that will not only be lasting, but effective along the way.
How To Avoid Fooling Yourself (Part 1)
Pastor Tony Miano
Pico Canyon Community Church
January 7, 2001
Introduction: Last week we looked at some of the reasons why we, at times, are too busy to sit quietly before the Lord and listen for His direction. The distractions in our lives, the complaints we make, and our worries and troubles can cause us to set prayer and personal Bible study aside for the things we convince ourselves are just more important. In fact, I would encourage you, if you weren’t here last week, to request the CD on your Welcome Card. I think you’ll be encouraged by what God’s Word has to say on the subject.
This morning we’re going to get back into our study of James. It’s amazing the way the themes of God’s Word intertwine throughout Scripture. What we studied last week in the Gospel of Luke fits nicely with what we’re going to study this morning in the Book of James. We’re going to take a couple of weeks to look at what can be a consequence for not taking that quality, uninterrupted time with the Lord and in His Word.
As we will see in our passage for this study, if we do not receive the Word of God in our hearts, we run the risk of fooling ourselves—fooling ourselves into thinking it’s enough to simply be a hearer of the Word instead of being people who act upon what we learn from God’s Word. We can fool ourselves into thinking we are more spiritual than we actually are.
But as we will see in our study, it doesn’t have to be that way. There are positive steps we can take to keep from fooling ourselves and, instead, develop a genuineness and depth of faith that will not only be lasting, but effective along the way.
If you haven’t already, go ahead and turn to James, chapter one. We’re going to spend a couple of weeks looking at verses 19-25. Let’s begin with a word of prayer.
This week our focus is going to be on verses 19-21. We’re going to focus on three things we find in these verses that, if we apply them in our lives, will keep us from fooling ourselves about our spiritual health. We need to get control of our anger. We need to get rid of the repetitive sin in our lives. And we need to get implanted with the Word of God.
What we see in verses 19-21 is “a third test of a true believer. The first was his response to trials (1:2-12). The second was his response to temptation (1:13-18). The third is his response to the truth revealed in the Word of God (1:19-27)” (MacArthur, p. 65).
James begins verse 19 by saying, “This you know, my beloved brethren.” Verse 19 is a tricky one to translate from the original Greek. The first phrase, “This you know,” seems to be a simple statement. But it is actually better understood, considering the context and James’ style of writing, as a command. What James is saying here is, “Take note of this.”
Without turning this morning’s message into a class on ancient Greek, let’s take just a few moments and see why we can look at this phrase as a command. For one, the immediate context supports this since we see another command in the phrase that follows—“But everyone must be.” Another reason is that imperative commands have already been common in James’ letter, especially when we see the phrase, “my beloved brethren.”
James is telling his readers that it is imperative that they pay close attention to the contrast between “their knowledge and practice as Christians. James [is reminding] them that their knowledge of the new birth through the Word must lead to a new life directed by the Word” (Hiebert, p. 111). Some of James’ readers must have been fooling themselves into believing that factual knowledge of Christ and salvation through Him was enough.
Someone once said that the longest and most difficult journey is 18 inches—the distance from our head to our heart. Having knowledge rattle around in our head is not as important as having it penetrate our heart to the point that we not only believe the truth, but we obey it and live according to it.
Getting Control Of Your Anger
One thing we should do to complete that 18-inch journey, to keep from fooling ourselves about our spiritual health, is to get control of our anger. James gives us a three-step process for controlling anger.
Look at the second half of verse nineteen. “But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.” James’ wording is that of a command. And, as James often does, he makes the command in the present tense. That means that the command is to be followed continually. The word “everyone” is important here. The command is being made to every believer because, no matter how mild mannered a person may be, they are still subject to dropping the ball and allowing their anger to have control over them in a given situation.