Summary: Although the Bible can produce spriritual growth, Christians may interfere with the Bible’s ability to help us grow.
1. Illus. of Mutiny on the Bounty
• The true story of the Mutiny on the Bounty has often been retold. Nine mutineers with six native men and twelve native (Tahitian) women put ashore on Pitcairn Island in 1790.
• One sailor soon began distilling alcohol, and the little colony was plunged into debauchery and vice.
• Ten years later, only one white man survived, surrounded by native women and half-breed children.
• In an old chest from the Bounty, this sailor one day found a Bible. He began to read it and then to teach it to the others. The result was that his own life and ultimately the lives of all those in the colony were changed.
• Discovered in 1808 by the USS Topas, Pitcairn had become a prosperous community with no jail, no whisky, no crime, and no laziness.
2. God’s Word has the power to change lives. But for every testimony of a life changed by the Word, we all know of other Christians who have not been changed. They lead lives very little different from the lost world, except that they come to church. They gossip, they lie, they slander. They hold onto ungodly attitudes. To be honest, some of them are as mean as snakes!
3. Why is it that God’s Word transforms one believer, and seems to have no effect on another? Maybe more importantly, how can I keep from being one of those believers? That is exactly what James talks about in our text today.
4. Text: James says that some of the early Christians had actually hindered the Word of God’s power to change them.
5. Today: We can hinder the Word of God’s power to transform us.
6. How does that happen? James says there are at least three reasons God’s Word isn’t able to change us.
REASON #1: GOD’S WORD CAN’T CHANGE US BECAUSE WE HAVE ANGRY HEARTS
1. In vs 18, James reminds these Christians that, “God brought us forth by the Word of truth…” In vs 20 he says, “For the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God… The clear inference is that the same Word that saved them should have been producing righteousness in them- but it wasn’t! Why not?
2. See vs 19-20. The early church met in house churches. It was very informal. They would sing a hymn, someone would pray, and someone would teach the Bible. Apparently there was some confusion about the right meaning of the scripture, and it was causing arguing and anger among the church people! Important: the word anger here in not the word for a quick flash of anger, but rather the word for a seething, smoldering anger. This wasn’t just a disagreement quickly over and forgotten. This was a feud!
3. Here is a group of Christians who had seething anger and icy bitterness in their hearts, yet they were surprised that the Bible study wasn’t producing God’s righteousness in their lives!
4. Principle: God’s Word is unable to produce its fruit in our lives if our hearts are filled with anger and bitterness.
5. Illus. of anger in church
• Pastor Chester Miller was closing out a morning worship service in March of 1999, in Saddle Arkansas. One of his church members, Victoria Smith, pulled a gun on Pastor Miller during the closing prayer because he had not preached from the book of Revelation that morning. The fifty-eight-year-old woman said a sermon from Revelation was “important for her feud with another church member.”
• I think we can safely say she received no spiritual benefit from the Word of God spoken from the pulpit that day.
• God’s Word can produce no fruit in a heart filled with anger and bitterness.
6. Does this surprise you? It shouldn’t! See Ephesians 4: 30-31. This book is a spiritual book teaching spiritual truths. Without the influence of the Spirit, how can we expect God’s Word to produce fruit in us?
7. Application: Examine your hearts today. Is there bitterness and anger there? You have only two choices: let go of it, or let go of any hope that God’s Word will produce its fruit in you!
REASON #2: GOD’S WORD CAN’T CHANGE US BECAUSE WE HAVE DIRTY LIVES
1. See vs 21 “Therefore” is the little Greek word "dio" and it literally means “on account of this.” It points back up to the stuff he had already discussed in vs 19-20. The idea is this: “On account of the fact that we desire the righteousness of God in our lives, we must:
• Lay aside all filthiness- moral sin, any action that dirties us and makes us unclean.
• Overflow of wickedness- used in the NT to refer to sinful habits left over from our pre-conversion days.