Summary: The third of a series through the book of James
This past week on ‘Larry King Live’ Larry King interviewed Jessica Hahn, the woman who was part of the Jim Bakker/PTL scandal of almost 20 years ago that affected the reputation of the Christian church as a whole and turned off many people to organized Christianity. As they went to a commercial break, they showed clips of law enforcement almost dragging a weeping Bakker from his residence and into an unmarked police car. You could hear on the sound track Bakker pleading in a tearful voice, “Oh, please don’t do this to me.”
During the investigation, numerous and troubling revelations of money misuse, immoral and inappropriate sexual behavior, and abuse of power came out and people who had invested large amounts of money in the ministry found that their money was used in ways that were the total opposite of what they thought it was being used for. What the PTL scandal revealed was a character problem that our main text for this morning forces us to confront head on in our own lives.
If it is our desire as followers of Jesus Christ to influence others to come to Christ and find eternal life and present hope in this life through Jesus, then we must ‘show them what we got,’ through our acts of character in everyday life.
James’ words are blunt on this subject. They are pointed, direct, and unavoidable. But they are exactly what we need to hear from time to time. I am going to be referring to other passages in James this morning and I encourage you to keep your Bibles open to James.
Our main text says some very important things right away that we need to ponder and address in our lives. They address the ‘everyday issues’ of living that challenge us to live well for the Lord and, quite frankly, are targets for Satan to tempt us into defeat. Let us listen to the Holy Spirit this morning as we walk through some things that James tells us to address in our daily lives as followers of Christ. (Overhead 1)
First on the list is the problem of anger.
We read in James 1:19, be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry…
There is an entire sermon in that verse. It is good advice, it is important advice, it is Biblical advice, and it is practical advice.
Looking back over your life, can you recall a time when you heeded that advice? It avoided a terrible conflict, didn’t it?
However, can you also recall a time when you did not heed this passage of scripture? Can you recall the results?
But James goes on to say that not only do we need to be ‘quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry we also need to ‘clean up our inner self’ as we read in 1:20 to “Get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives.”
Think about what you read, what you watch on TV, is it good stuff or does it drag you down?
What kinds of video games do you play? What kinds of movies do you watch? Are they appropriate ones?
What about jokes? What about stories swapped through e-mail? Are they God honoring ones?
How about the topics you address in the chat rooms you visit? If we saw your language on the screen this morning, how would you feel?
It is sometimes hard to avoid inappropriate material; some of the commercials for instance, during commercial breaks on TV are as bad as the shows they sponsor! They are on before we realize it.
But James makes it clear, ‘clean it out.’
“Get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives.”
The history of Israel is a Biblical illustration of what happens when we fail to clean out our souls and hearts. We read about it in the Old Testament history books of 1 and 2 Kings and 1 and 2 Chronicles as some kings of Israel, and later Israel and Judah, first clean out the pagan shrines to the pagan gods and then, when a new king comes along, start worshipping them again.
It was a major factor in the eventual downfall of ancient Israel that led to military invasion and triumph by other nations. They were spiritually polluted and did not clean house and worship God alone. They paid the price of their dirt.
‘But wait,’ says James, ‘there’s more.’ Probably the most quoted text of our main passage reveals both a challenge and a solution to how we can ‘walk the walk and not just talk the talk.’
This refers to the issue of, as Pastor Travis Moore calls it, letting your faith work.
In verse 22 and following we read: “And remember, it is a message to obey, not just to listen to. If you don’t obey, you are only fooling yourself. For if you just listen and don’t obey, it is like looking at your face in a mirror but doing nothing to improve your appearance. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you keep looking steadily into God’s perfect law—the law that sets you free—and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.”