Summary: Once we receive the Word implanted, we need to be intentional to do three things. We need to look at it intently. We need to abide by it continually. And we need to respond to it effectively.
How To Avoid Fooling Yourself (Part 2)
Preached by Pastor Tony Miano
Pico Canyon Community Church
January 21, 2001
Introduction: In our first look at how we can avoid fooling ourselves about our spiritual condition, we considered how getting control of our anger, getting rid of habitual sin, and getting implanted with the Word of God would head us in the right direction. This morning we’re going to continue our study of this important topic. In James 1:22-25, we find three more things we should do to avoid fooling ourselves about the depth of our walks with Jesus Christ.
What I see in verses 22-25 is not only a continuation of thought from verses 19-21, but also a progression of thought. The things James speaks of in the first half of the passage are preliminary. They are things we need to do before we can even begin to avoid fooling ourselves. Once these things are accomplished, once they become a regular part of our lives, then we can move to the next level in the spiritual growth process. What we will in our verses for this morning are other steps we can take to grow a deeper faith and draw even closer to Jesus Christ.
The three things we’re going to look at this morning, which all build upon the genuine reception of God’s Word in our hearts, if we sincerely and diligently do them, will help us to avoid fooling ourselves about the genuineness of our faith. Once we receive the Word implanted, we need to be intentional to do three things. We need to look at it intently. We need to abide by it continually. And we need to respond to it effectively.
All of what we will learn today, and everything we drew out of verses 19-21, can be distilled down to a common denominator—obedience. Vance Havner, in his book Consider Jesus, had this to say about obedience. “You have not really learned a commandment until you have obeyed it . . . The church suffers today from Christians who know volumes more than they practice” (as quoted in Morgan, p. 588).
Even in the early stages of Christianity, James probably saw this happening among his own flock, among his readers. Remember, James’ ministry was to the Jews. Many of those who first came to faith in Christ were men and women who were well versed in the Law of the Old Testament. They were people who frequented the local synagogue for social and religious purposes. Knowledge of, and strict adherence, to the Law were at the center of some of these new believers’ lives before they came to Christ.
Their awakening to the grace of God in Christ, coupled with years of working day in and day out to try to meet the requirements of the Law, trying to constantly do what it says, which was a human impossibility, could have built in them an interesting attitude. This attitude might have carried with it a thirst for knowledge about their new faith in the Savior, and a desire to simply rest in it.
Some of them may have been so taken in by James, or even the teaching of the apostles, and caught up in the collection of new knowledge, that they were failing to continue to grow beyond their knowledge because they weren’t living what they were learning. I have met many people who have similar attitudes. They covet knowledge, or should I say information, as if it were silver or gold. They store it away for the rainy day; knowing in their hearts that it will never rain hard enough for them to pull it out of the safe and use it, act upon it.
James’ Command to Obey the Word
James issues a command to his readers in verse 22, which, simply put, was a call for them to act upon what they learned from God’s Word. Once these young Christians dealt with the sin issues in their lives, once they sincerely received God’s Word into their hearts, they were to follow through by actively pursuing opportunities to live out what they were learning.
Verse 22 begins, “But prove yourselves doers of the word.” Again, this idea of acting upon what they knew from the Word shouldn’t have been a foreign concept to these recently converted Jews. James’ command shouldn’t be taken as an inference that his readers were not practicing the things they learned from the Word. The words “prove yourselves” in the NASB translation shouldn’t be thought of to mean that James in some way doubted that his readers were doing God’s Word. It can be more literally translated as “keep on striving to be” (MacArthur, p. 79). The command is in the present tense. That means they were to continue doing what they had already started, only they should do it all the more.