Summary: James makes it clear that it is not enough to know the Word of God but that we must allow it to become a part of our lives
Learning and Living the Word
September 24, 2006
Imagine, if you will, that you work for a company whose president found it necessary to travel out of the country and spend an extended period of time abroad. So he says to you and the other trusted employees, "Look, I’m going to leave. And while I’m gone, I want you to pay close attention to the business. You manage things while I’m away. I will write you regularly. When I do, I will instruct you in what you should do from now until I return from this trip." Everyone agrees.
He leaves and stays gone for a couple of years. During that time he writes often, communicating his desires and concerns. Finally he returns. He walks up to the front door of the company and immediately discovers everything is in a mess--weeds flourishing in the flower beds, windows broken across the front of the building, the gal at the front desk dozing, loud music roaring from several offices, two or three people engaged in horseplay in the back room. Instead of making a profit, the business has suffered a great loss. Without hesitation he calls everyone together and with a frown asks, "What happened? Didn’t you get my letters?"
You say, "Oh, yeah, sure. We got all your letters. We’ve even bound them in a book. And some of us have memorized them. In fact, we have ’letter study’ every Sunday. You know, those were really great letters." I think the president would then ask, "But what did you do about my instructions?" And, no doubt the employees would respond, "Do? Well, nothing. But we read every one!"
This may sound silly but this is the way that many Christians try to follow Jesus. They may hear the Truth but do nothing about it. American culture has created a passive form of Christianity that is totally unbiblical. We are meant to make active attempts to live out the message of God’s Truth
Passive Christianity is morally wrong – Bruce Barton
We cannot be passive but proactive when it comes to obeying the Word of God.
22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it--he will be blessed in what he does. 26 If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
James reveals a pattern for life change here in chapter 1. It is one that literally can change the lives of people if they would just follow it. The pattern is extremely simple in concept but much, much harder in practice.
Three Step Process to Life Change
1.) Listen – Being ready and willing to obey the Word of God
2.) Learn – The only way to learn is through personal obedience. It is putting what is heard into action. Turning the hearing into habits. It only takes 21 days to form a habit. If you can change your habits you will be able to change the way that you live
3.) Live – Change our way of life. This is a total change of lifestyle. This happens when we change enough of the old habits that it affects the entire way that we live. All of this starts with a willing heart and openness to hear God speak through His divine Word
James said that we should be quick to listen to the Word. This literally means that we should be constantly ready to obey when God’s Word connects with our lives. James carries on with this theme when he calls his readers to obey the Word. We need to always be ready to obey and then follow through with actual obedience. It is not enough to say that you will obey or have the intent to obey.
God does not call us to be successful, but to be obedient. -Billy Graham
Obedience must be completed through our actions. We cannot settle for just hearing God’s Word or even have a willingness to obey. Anything that falls short of actual obedience is not being a doer of the Word.
I’ve read that when Edward VI, the king of England in the 16th century, attended a worship service, he stood while the Word of God was read. He took notes during this time and later studied them with great care. Through the week he earnestly tried to apply them to his life. That’s the kind of serious-minded response to truth the apostle James calls for in today’s Scripture reading. A single revealed fact cherished in the heart and acted upon is more vital to our growth than a head filled with lofty ideas about God.