Summary: The Righteous Life God desires for us requires applying His Word into our lives.
James: Religion That Works
“The Righteous Life”
February 26, 2006
Introduction: We have been looking at the writing of James, the brother of Jesus. He wrote to Jewish believers who had been scattered from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria because of the persecution against Christians. James has talked with them about how to approach trials and temptations and now is looking at a piece of practical advice for anyone who is living in the midst of great struggle.
Today, we are going to look at what James has to say about true religion. What is it that hinders our walk with Christ and our ability to live as he desires? What is it that God has called us to and what is his plan for us?
I. The foundation of a righteous life is receiving the Word of God.
“My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. 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.” James 1:19-21 (NIV)
When James uses the term, “take note of this,” he is saying be ready to listen. He is telling his listeners to be ready to hear what God has to say. To be unwilling to hear the Word of God will make us unable to obey the Word.
There are three actions that James instructs us to take in order to prepare ourselves for the life God has intended for us.
1) Quick to listen.
This quality shows that we are ready to hear form God. We are ready to listen to what we need to make our lives different.
James is writing to people in the midst of trials. He is writing to a group horribly oppressed and pressured by the circumstances of life. When we are in the midst of trials and temptations, there is the temptation to simply speak what is on our mind. We simply begin to complain or to blame or to challenge whatever we do not think to be just and right.
Scripture tells us over and over again to be willing to listen to the voice of God.
“Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance—“
Proverbs 1:5 (NIV)
“Listen, friends, to some fatherly advice; sit up and take notice so you’ll know how to live.”
Proverbs 4:1 (Message)
“Jesus called the crowd together again and said, "Listen now, all of you—take this to heart.”
Mark 7:14 (Message)
Reluctance to listen will block the reception of truth.
If we choose not to listen to what we are told, we run risk of having to experience consequences that are difficult and painful.
In his memoir of his experience in a Nazi concentration camp, Elie Wiesel notes that before his village was ever emptied of the Jewish settlers, a poor man, Moshe the Beadle, who had been deported on some of the first trains of Jews out of the Hungarian village and had seen first hand the destruction of many Jews at the hands of the Germans had tried to warn the village where he lived. No one was interested in hearing.
Story from “Night” pages 4-5
No one can say of course what would have happened had anyone listened, but we will never know.
We must be quick to listen.
2) Slow to speak.
All too often we are unable to listen because we are unable to stop speaking. We simply want to make our point and to get on with our lives.
If we are “slow to speak” our emotions are better controlled and our words are better chosen.
The fastest horse cannot catch a word spoken in anger.
Chinese Proverb in Bits & Pieces, July 25, 1992, p. 5.
3) Slow to become angry.
Anger will close the mind to God’s truth.
“For man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” James 1:20
We have to camp out here for a while. God has been talking to me all week about this area of my life. I have an anger issue. It is really easy for me to explode and go off like a Roman Candle.
Angry explosions are brutal and dangerous. They are most dangerous for the people closest to the blast.
A lady once came to Billy Sunday and tried to rationalize her angry outbursts. "There’s nothing wrong with losing my temper," she said. "I blow up, and then it’s all over." "So does a shotgun," Sunday replied, "and look at the damage it leaves behind!" Billy Sunday.
Anger is so ungodly. It blocks everything that God is about. In our anger, the righteousness of God and the grace of God do not have a chance to flow out of our lives.