Summary: What does it mean to be a hearer AND doer of the Word?
Last week we saw at some length that the main difference between a trial and a temptation was the source. Trials come from the Lord, and the purpose is to strengthen, to make sure our faith.
To endure these trials ensures the crown of life (see v.12). On the other side, the temptations we face come from other sources; either Satan or our own sinful nature. We saw that sin becomes a reality when we allow the process of being tempted to gain a foothold. The process as we saw it was the same for Eve in the garden, as for us today...we see it in verses 14,15:
Desire is the drawing card, the fruit looked good to Eve.
Deception is the lie; it promised much good without stipulating the cost.
Disobedience is the turning point where thoughts become deeds, spawning forth in sinful actions.
Death is but the final result.
We can look at that in one of two ways:
A. "I didn’t ask to be born. God put me here, so it’s His fault I’m like I am. Let me alone, I’m going to take as much from this life as I can grab." We call this the Grossness of Presumption.
B. "God put me here, and He knew I couldn’t stand alone, so He died in my place on Calvary. I owe Him everything." This we call the Graciousness of Perception. It is a spiritual sight that sees the love of God which gives good gifts (v.17), and responds with the heart: Yes, Lord!
In verses 19, 20, James speaks a truth that resounds like a thunderclap. "Listen...Hear...Understand!
Human beings are much more likely to wag our tongues than perk our ears. James admonishes us to keep the mouth closed and listen to the Lord’s instruction; then we will be prepared to do His will. The principle we get from this is found in verse 20: If the wrath of man (his own pride and selfishness) does not accomplish the righteousness of God, then the opposite does.
In order to please God you must do His will...His works. Anything less won’t do! But that’s hard, you say! Ah, not so hard, just alien to our human nature. James said we must be swift to HEAR. You can find out the will of God by being teachable, having an ear, and a heart for the things of God. Roughly translated that means the heart for God will find the body in God’s house at the appointed times.
The ear for the spiritual things will find itself engaged in Bible Study. The soul that belongs to God will want to be close to the heart of Christ. My friend, the heart of Christ is found in close proximity to the Bride He loves, the church. James said, "Be swift to hear...you be teachable". It means more than attending...it means attention to the things of God.
In verses 21-22 James gives us the whole design for Christian living. For a majority of us these are familiar words. Perhaps today our hearts will be more teachable to receive the meaning as we allow the Lord to teach us. James says in verse 21 we must remove things that hinder. He says to "lay apart all filthiness". Two words in the language of the Bible give a picture. To lay apart means to strip off frantically, as you would undress if you’d just fallen in a swamp.