Summary: Knowing the importance of hearing and obeying God’s Word
I Pity The Fool 5-7-06
“Stop Foolin’ Yourself” Series James 1:21-27
Intro. At age 36 Erik Weihenmayer (WINE-mayor) is known as a world-class athlete. He’s a skydiver, a paraglider and a marathon runner. He’s been featured in Time magazine, People magazine, Sports Illustrated and he’s been on the Tonight show, Oprah, NBC’s Nightly news and the Learning Channel. And oh, by the way, he just happens to be the one and only blind man who ever made it to the top of Mt. Everest. Now how does a blind man climb such a treacherous mountain? He does 2 things very well – he listens and he obeys. He listens to what his guide has to say and then he does it. For Erik, listening and doing is a matter of life and death. He would be a fool if he listened to his guide, but then decided to do his own thing.
It may surprise you to know how often the Bible identifies a person who hears God’s word but refuses to do it as foolish. In Matt. 7 Jesus said it this way, “Anyone who listens to my teachings and obeys me is wise…but anyone who hears my teaching and ignores it is foolish.” In Rom. 2:13 the Apostle Paul wrote, “For it is not merely knowing the law that brings God’s approval. Those who obey the law will be declared right in God’s sight.” Now let’s hear what James has to say about this very same issue. Read 1:21-27. If Mr. T were here, he’d paraphrase v.22 like this – “I pity the fool who hears God’s word but doesn’t do it!”
A couple of weeks ago the latest Barna Research report came out with some shocking news about how the church is perceived by most Americans. In this report 4 out of 5 Americans said that they DID NOT consider the church as a necessary ingredient for their spiritual growth. As I read that report I wondered, “What’s happened to the church? Why are we so impotent when it comes to making an impact on our culture?” I think I know the answer. When the church is filled with people who hear the word but we refuse to do the word, then the world looks at us…points its finger at us and says…that’s foolish! Our refusal to back up our words with actions is one of the primary reasons why the world looks at the church and says, “Why should I bother”?
We need to remember that James was writing to xians who had been scattered abroad. They’d been forced into missionary service because they no longer lived in familiar surroundings. But instead of their circumstances being viewed as a negative thing, James wants them to see their circumstances as an opportunity to make an eternal impact on their culture. And the only way they can do that is to do 2 things - hear the word and do the word. So you see, if our church is going to reach the culture that surrounds us, then we’ve got to do exactly what James says - hear the word and do it. James says there are 2 types of xians that peacefully co-exist in the church, the listeners and the doers. Let’s take a look at these 2 distinct groups and see which one we fit into.
I. The Listeners
1). The first thing we learn about the listeners is the fact that they spend time in the word. And that’s a good thing! Listeners are those types who love reading the bible; they might even have one of those systems where they read through the bible in a year. Listeners are often people who have a systematic quite time. That is they spend time almost every day reading, studying and taking notes over the things they’ve learned. I’ve found that listeners are often people who love the church, they usually take copious notes during the sermon time and they even teach bible studies and lead Life Groups. But according to this passage there’s another step necessary for your spiritual development.
2). This group JUST listens and they go no further. Parents – where’s the last time you were face to face with your kids and you told them to do something, you knew they heard you, but what ever you asked didn’t get done? Maybe it was a homework assignment or picking up their room or mowing the grass…but it just didn’t get done. Do you know what that is? It’s passive listening. That means you lack the passion to do anything with the info you’ve been given.
Now here’s the sad truth when it comes to the church. Most of us are passive listeners. We like what we hear, we agree with what we hear, we might even believe that doing what we hear would be good for us, but we simply lack the passion to carry it out. Think about it for a moment – you know what God says about sharing your faith, but you don’t do it. You know what God says about blessing you if you tithe, but you don’t do it. You know what God says about trusting him in every area and yet you still don’t do it. Now why is that? James gives us the answer in v.23. When he says you are “a hearer only or just a listener” he uses a word that means an auditor. Have you ever audited a class in school? It’s a blast! When you audit a class you don’t have to take any tests, you don’t have to complete any homework assignments and in fact, you don’t even have to show up for class. So when James says there are those in the church who are auditors, it’s not a compliment. It’s his way of saying you’re playing games with the most important information in the world.