You Can Listen to the Full Sermon Here:-
Speak No Evil. Do No Evil.
A sermon on James 1:19-27.
Before we get into our text let me quickly remind you about the overall purpose of James.
No matter where we find ourselves in society there should never be a difference between our beliefs and our actions.
Our circumstances do not dictate how we act.
The people who we are with do not dictate how we act.
The challenges of life do not dictate how we act.
The pressure to conform does not dictate how we act.
Our belief in Jesus and His calling on our lives dictates how we act therefore we should stop compromising with worldly values and behaviour and give ourselves wholly to the Lord.
James wants us to be practitioners – and there is a very good reason why.
One of the woman who lives in our street has quite a loud voice. A few weeks ago her children deliberately locked her out of the house. It was kind of funny watching and listening to her go around to each door and window yelling at the kids and swearing like anything. I had to go out so I don’t know how it ended.
Then a week ago I heard her two oldest children who I guess are 11 and 9 yelling at her and swearing like anything. I kid you not the next thing she said, at the top of her voice was, “I’ve told you ‘little s … weet-hearts’ not to ‘flaming’ swear and yell at me. Who the ‘flowers’ do you think you are? After all I have done for you”.
She’s not a practitioner is she. And her lack of willingness to be a practitioner was having a negative effect on those around her.
James knows that this is an outcome – so he gives us some very specific directions. Directions which will help us to
Speak No Evil. Do No Evil.
Let’s read about it in James 1:19-27.
How do we become practitioners who speak no evil and do no evil? James challenges us with three commands.
The first command flows out of verses 19-21 … but especially verse 21. Therefore get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent, and humbly accept the Word planted in you, which can save you.
The first command is clear. James is calling us to
(command 1) Accept the Word.
Now remember that James is directing his words to those who already believe. So it isn’t about looking at our neighbours and pointing out their lack of consistency. It is about looking at ourselves and realising that our lives at times can be a contradiction.
What are we like when fellow believers are looking? What are we like when they are not looking?
Is our response to our circumstances different to those who do not call themselves believers? Or is it the same?
Would we be happy for Jesus to sit with us … when we are at home … or on a holiday … or out on the town … or at our job? Or would we rather He turned a blind eye?
Sometimes … in certain circumstances … when we are not as focussed as we should be. The contradiction can happen. To such people James says:-
Accept the Word.
The word “accept” in our text can also be translated as “welcome”.
Welcome God’s Word.
Invite God’s Word into your life.
Let God’s Word make a contribution.
That is the point James wants to get across.
And there are
Three behaviours you can use to make this welcoming process a lot easier.
One of those behaviours is found in verse 19 where James tells us to
Be quick to listen, slow to speak.
What is the most common response you get when you ask someone how they are going?
Most common answer … “I’m fine”.
Next most common answer … “I’m busy”.
And let’s be honest. Every time you ask the “How are you” question are we really expecting a deep and meaningful answer? We expect people to say “I’m fine” or “I’m busy”. But if they start talking about how rough the week has been, or how the kids have been playing up, or that they went to the doctors … well we don’t really listen to those answers as easily do we. We are too busy and we need to move on.
Life just travels along at a hectic pace. We are so used to doing everything in a rush. And the thought of stopping and taking time in our busy schedule just doesn’t always cross our minds. And the same can happen in our relationship with God. We allow our busyness to stop us from effectively applying God’s Word … because we are not even taking the time to listen. We need a new behaviour … the behaviour of slowing down.
The next behaviour we can use to accept God’s Word more easily is to
Be … slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.
You can’t communicate with an angry person. I have tried it. You have tried it. It is an impossible task.
When we are angry, we are closed and not listening to reason.
We are looking to get even and sometimes to get ahead.
We feel resentment, or bitterness, and sometimes even hatred.
All these are barriers to communication. And they don’t just break down communication between ourselves and others. They also break down our communication with God.
It is easy to get to a point where we resent God. He has some pretty strict rules and we don’t really like being restricted. He makes negative judgments about a lot of actions which we might feel very comfortable with – and that makes us feel guilty. Rather than change so the guilt goes away we get angry with God and stop listening.
God cannot speak to you when you hold these attitudes in your heart. We need to calm down so we can hear.
One more behaviour is found here.
Get rid of all moral filth and the evil which is so prevalent. Put your sin down. Why? Because sin stops you from hearing God. In fact there is a great word play in this verse.
The word for “filth” comes from the same Greek word which also means "ear wax".
That gives you a good picture doesn’t it.
Just as we can’t hear with our ears full of wax, so we can’t receive God’s word with our lives full of sin. So, if we are going to accept God’s Word we need to be willing to identify the sins which we are holding and put them down. And, until we do, we will never be able to benefit fully from God’s Word.
So that is the first command – Accept the Word of God.
Let’s move onto the command where James calls us to
(command 2) Apply the Word.
Do not merely listen to the Word … Do what it says … the man who looks intently into the perfect law … will be blessed in what he does.
There is a scientific formula which goes something like this:- For every action there is an opposite and equal reaction. If you push a block of wood across the floor, the friction from the two surfaces will work to slow it down. Eventually the block will stop moving because of the forces working against it.
Unfortunately there are times when we take this scientific formula and apply it to the Scriptures.
Our action is to read the Scriptures.
The opposite reaction is to not let it impact or for us to resist it.
It might be good science, but it isn’t good Biblical living.
If we are constantly listening to the Word of God, but never putting into action, we are deceiving ourselves.
Go back to the mirror example. The thing about mirrors is that they can actually be quite deceiving.
15 years ago I would look into the mirror and see a fit young man in the prime of his life.
Today, if I don’t really have a close look, I can still see a fit young man in the prime of his life.
That is the good thing about mirrors isn’t it. It doesn’t matter how old you get you can still look at yourself and say that you look the same as you did 10 or 20 years ago.
But to use a mirror in that way is really a form of self-deception isn’t. When you have a close intent look you will see the sprinkling of grey hair. And there will definitely be signs of aging. And life certainly has not always been so kind. That is not self-deception … it is reality. And you go from the mirror living your life in response to the reality. You’re not 20 anymore … and you haven’t been for some time.
So what has all that got to do with applying the Word? A lot actually. We can say that the Word of God is impacting our lives.
We love Jesus.
We are nice people.
We come to church.
And there is a sense where, when Jesus has entered our lives, we can honestly say that the Word is impacting us. But how much is it impacting us really?
As maturing believers we should have the desire to allow God’s Word to impact our lives far beyond the basics of the faith.
Of course we know about Jesus and His grace. We know about His death and His blood shed for us. We know about the resurrection and the need for us to trust in a resurrected Saviour. We know all of these things and they are the foundation of our relationship with God. Indeed, if we don’t know these things, we are lost for eternity.
God’s Word will impact us at that level … and it will certainly bring about some changes. But what about the Word of God impacting us in other areas.
Issues such as growing in holy living.
Responsibilities such as sharing our material possessions.
Goals such as developing in spiritual character.
Fruit which comes as a result of good works.
The call to be winning souls for Christ.
We are not saved by these activities – but they are evidence that the Word of God is impacting our lives.
You don’t become a practitioner by only reading through your Bible and highlighting certain passages and writing notes. You become a practitioner when:-
Your conversation with others is a highlight for them.
And when you write yourself into the lives of others.
We can look into a mirror and recognize that we have a dirty face, or that we need a hair cut, a shave, or the makeup is running – but the mirror is not much good to us if we don’t actually do something about it. People might come up to us and say, “you know that you’ve got a blotch of mud on your cheek?” And we can say, “Yeah, I saw it in the mirror”. So what? The knowledge is pretty useless unless we act on it.
And that brings us to our third command. Don’t just accept and apply the Word. Be a person who also
(Command 3) Activate(s) the Word.
What sort of activation is James looking for?
keep a tight rein on your tongue … or your religion is worthless.
look after orphans and widows in distress.
keep yourself from being polluted by the world.
We should not be content to be faith spectators. Our goal is to be faith-filled people.
We need to be prepared to get dirty for the sake of the Gospel.
Pure religion is not just about coming to church, learning the Scriptures, having a good devotional life, knowing the right response.
These things are helpful, but they are not the sum total of Christianity.
Pure religion is action … discipleship in action.
Pure religion will mean holding our tongue.
Our religion is worthless unless our tongue is kept on a tight rein. Not only are we to be slow to speak, we also need to control our speech. James knows that if we can learn to control our tongue, we can harness most of our other behaviour as well.
Pure religion will give to others.
When God’s Word is at work in our lives it will result in practical care for those in need. Why is that the case? Because people matter.
People matter to God.
Therefore people matter to us.
It doesn’t have to be huge support, or even long term. You won’t be able to do everything, but you can do something. And people will see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
Pure religion results in a guarded life.
The mark of true spirituality is to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. In other words, keep your life clean.
Watch what you do.
Keep gazing into the mirror of God’s Word so that you will be a person with a pure heart and a clean mind. Allow God to protect you from all the garbage which comes our way.
Accept. Apply Activate.
How many people here are thinking, “Well that just wiped me out?”
It is hard to be like this isn’t it.
It is easy to be discouraged.
So let me give you some encouragement – in fact two bits of encouragement.
Be encouraged knowing that your faithful actions change people.
Whether you like it or not the world is watching. And that is good. Because as they watch they see a life that they want.
There are countless people who have been converted as a result of just watching the lives of Christians.
They see the peace they have in the face of a disaster.
They see the restraint they show when treated unjustly.
They see the forgiveness which is given in situations where no-one else will.
They see the hope they have when everyone else has given up.
They see us. And they want to be like us – because they know something is missing.
The world is watching – and you can be an agent of change as a result.
Be encouraged knowing that your faithful Saviour will keep hold of you
As we go through the book of James we can’t forget the bigger picture. Ultimately our relationship with God does not rely on our works – but on His grace.
That doesn’t give us a “get out of jail free card”.
Nor does that just give us an excuse for slackness.
But it does give us a solid foundation. We stand secure on the foundation which is given to us by a Saviour who says, “Never will I leave you. Never will I forsake you”. You are safe in the hands of Jesus.
Apply that truth.
Accept that truth.
Activate that truth.
And then see what Jesus does through you.