Summary: In a cultgure that prefers to work in shades of grey, the Bible presents a different picture. The choice is clear and the results are real.
Passage: James 1:19-27
Intro: In our culture, the tendency is for everything to become a shade of gray.
1. it seems that the list of things that are “wrong” has become shorter and shorter.
2. we have become eager to excuse every alleged fault, to redefine our ethics based on polls and the latest university study of public behavior or attitudes.
3. the church has not been immune from this trend, so eager are we to be accepted by the world.
Il) watched a sermon by Billy Graham a few days ago, from the 50’s, about divorce. Wow!
4. then we read the book of James, and find a very different approach.
5. the viewpoint revealed in God’s word is counter-culture, because it exposes the evil nature of our sinful flesh and offers a clear solution.
6. and when we read it, we gulp, maybe loosen our tie, and go read something a little less confrontative.
7. but as we’ll find, we are warned against that very response to God’s word.
8. James is going to get personal, and stay there through the rest of the book.
9. He is going to paint a black and white picture, one we aren’t really used to.
10. but the truth will save our lives, if we will receive it.
I. The Problem Defined
1. v19 begins with a discussion, it would seem, about communication styles.
2. most of us would agree that it is good to listen more and talk less.
3. and so we would nod and smile at v19
4. but there is something introduced at the end of 19 and clarified in v20 that makes this much more powerful.
5. slow to become angry, because human, self-centered anger is in opposition to the righteous, God-honoring life.
6. on thing I’ve noticed about anger. It will not be silenced.
PP Luke 6:45
7. whether given voice through words or actions, anger will have its say.
8. and even if not expressed, it is so powerful it will tear a person up inside.
9. but amazingly, James is not just singling out anger either.
10. v21, he lumps anger and wrong speech into a particular category.
11. “moral filth” and evil.
Il) word used to describe dirty clothes and moral defilement. Same root as “ear wax”
12. furthermore, this expression of anger in word or deed is manifesting an evil that just overflows in our lives. An excess
13. those with the KJV read “superfluity of naughtiness” I love it!
14. the problem, my friends, is not what we say.
15. the problem is deeper, it is the evil that resides inside us, in unmet expectations of how we are to be treated
16. human anger is the tantrum of the little tyrant within that demands everyone love us as much as we love ourselves.
17. the problem is not our tongues, my friends. That is just where the tyrant of self most often shows itself.
18. so what do we do about this problem?
II. The Solution Offered
1. the solution begins here in v21, using the same picturesque language.
2. “moral filth” is like dirty clothes, and what do you do with them?
3. you strip them off, which is the word translated as “get rid of” in the NIV.
4. when clothes are bad enough, filthy enough, they need to be tossed, not just washed.
Il) as a new grandpa, I have been reintroduced to the realities of caring for an infant. And it often starts with an olfactory indicator. Strip it off, and get rid of it!! Preferably in the big black container outside!!
5. we recognize the problem, and we deal with it with radical action.
6. in our day, we recoil from identifying anything as “morally wrong” or evil, unless it is mistakenly leaving a police dog in a hot car too long.
7. but James calls us not to just a one step solution, but three steps.
8. the second step is to embrace the Biblical viewpoint as the truth.
9. it is the tense of command, God calls us to accept His Truth as The Truth.
10. but notice that it “can” save you.
11. Greek “has the power to” save you, from yourself!
PP John 17:17
12. but what is required is the third step.
13. v22 central to James: don’t just listen, but do what it says.
14. word for “listen” refers to people who listened to lectures, but never became disciples of the teacher.
Il) a person who goes to a class, but only audits it. He does nothing but listen to the lectures. Distant observer.
15. listening to the word of God is not enough. It is meant to be lived.
Il) Swindoll story about the executive who leaves the country, sends letters.