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December 7, 2020 1:00 am
Thank you for this living word that we have at our fingertips, or may we avail ourselves of all its riches tonight as we meditate on the truth before us Lord in our hearing. May we also be doers of what you tell us and in our doing may we be sincere and not self deceived open our eyes now to hold wonderful things from your word. I pray in Jesus name, amen to be seated. James has just mentioned the fact that God's word. The word of truth there in verse 18 is what brings us to live spiritually. It causes our spiritual birth.
In verse 19 and he moves on to make the point that not only does that word regenerate us at the start. It also sustains that is what causes growth throughout the Christian life just because we get saved doesn't mean we don't need the word of truth any longer.
We need the word of truth, the Scriptures, the gospel throughout our Christian journey just as much as we needed if it's at the start we we need that word in order to grow in our knowledge of the will of God, and in order to grow in our ability to obey that will, in order to know and do the will of God with the right heart attitudes with right heart motivation so yes the word of God saves us.
Verse 18, but our growth in grace versus 19 and following depend on continually hearing God's truth and obeying God's truth with sincerity. I think the key word here is that word implanted in verse 21 you see it's it's not as if God's word is just a bunch of letters on a page that make up words and sentences for for me to read with my coffee in the morning and go about my business for the rest of the day know this were supposed to take root deep in my mind and penetrate my heart and shake my will and desires in such a comprehensive way that it's truth take over my life. It's the implanted word. This word isn't supposed to be some rare flower blooming in the middle of the garden of my life.
It was supposed to be kudzu. It takes everything over. It covers it all.
It's not the occasional word.
The implanted word. It's not the nasty Bible on the shelf word. It's the implanted word.
If our growth in grace.
Then depends on hearing and obeying the word of God with sincerity. We can certainly expect can't week that there will be obstacles to that process. There will be hindrances to the fruitfulness of God's word in our lives. The enemy doesn't like this, it will resist the fruitfulness of God's word in our text tonight. James mentioned several of those hindrances. Several of those obstacles, three primary hindrances, but he also mentioned several other incidental ones.
The three primary obstacles to our growth in grace, that we find in our text here tonight, our number one talking without hearing number two hearing without doing and number three doing without broad idling list. Take a look at these three obstacles to growth so that we can be on guard against those things that hinder the fruitfulness of God's word in our lives. The first obstacle James mentions that is talking without hearing in verses 19 through 21. I suppose this should be obvious to us, but often the greatest hindrance to hearing from God is not listening to God. James's listeners evidently had a problem of of talking too much. They were quick to speak and slow to hear so glad that we don't have that tendency here tonight only.
All that was supposed to be sarcastic. We do have that tendency. We are quick to speak instead of being quick to hear. We would like to be heard not just by other people. We like to be heard in the private recesses of our own hearts in our own minds. We want to be the voice of reason we want to be our own conscience. We want to determine what's right and wrong. We want to reserve the podium we want to hold the floor. We want to be our own word of truth. God says slowdown quit talking so much and start listening. God says I have the words of truth. I am the truth. Ecclesiastes 53 says a fool's voice is known by his many words, but a wise man will slowdown will be slow to speak and quick to listen, particularly when it comes to listening to the voice of God. The primary obstacle to growth here has to do with the failure to listen to God because were too busy listening to ourselves but will see that with each of these primary obvious obstacles that James will mentioned, there are often several other underlying and's more subtle hindrances to growth that are associated with the primary obstacle so here in verses 19 and 20.
James associates anger with the tendency of speaking too much and listening to little.
He says be slow to anger for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God anger towards other people makes us poor listeners anger towards God makes us quick to interrupt and squelch the word of truth.
Another impediment to the word that's associated with his failure to listen is filthiness and rampant wickedness. Verse 21. These are our very broad categories that refer to moral impurity of all sorts.
Oftentimes, the reason I don't want to listen to God's word is because I love my sin too much.
Filthiness and rampant wickedness. I don't want God's word implanted in my life because I know that it's gonna weed out a whole crop of idols that I've been cultivating for a long time. James says uproot all that stuff to make room for listening to the word of God. My niece recently married farmer from California named Ben Brent Ben is a brilliant farmer heat. He studied agriculture in college. He knows the science of growing crops now out in California where Ben learned how to farm the techniques and procedures are not always the same as they are here on the East Coast will some some rich investors down in Georgia recently bought several hundred acres and they hired Dan to come and establish a pecan orchard. Well the first year then planted thousands of the contraries the second year he cut him way back the third year came around he cut them back even more, they just like little sticks sticking out of the ground. How in the world is going to grow and become fruit producing, not producing trees. They just look like a bunch of steaks and the locals thought that Ben was stressing these young plants way too much, but now that the fourth-year is coming around. The locals are beginning to see the wisdom of Ben's aggressive pruning because now these trees are flourishing, you see the aggressive pruning above the ground, enabled the root system of these trees to get far more established than they would have been had been not lopped off the tops of those trees season after season after season and so now because the root system is so well-established that visible part of the tree the fruit producing part is set to outpace other orchards were farmers were more concerned with the visible fruit than with the life-sustaining roots. You get the analogy don't you if God's word is to become implanted in my heart. It will require that those things which stand in opposition to God.
The prune be lopped off filthiness and rampant wickedness must be put away.
If I'm to become quick to hear from God and slow to hear from Eugene the stop speaking metaphorically for a minute and ask how can we put away these unhelpful worldly affections. Jesus goes behind the metaphor and speaks plainly in his parable of the soils he exposes some of those filthy and wicked impediments that ought to be put to death the first impediment, Jesus mentioned to Satan himself. Satan would love nothing more than to remove from your life.
The effectiveness of the word. He does this through temptation, through accusation, through confusion. Scripture tells us, in fact, James is the one who says, resist the devil and he will flee from you. Don't give Satan or his accusations, the time of day, speak the truth to yourself, believe the truth don't allow yourself the perverted freedom of listening to lies. But secondly, Christ identifies in his parable another impediment to the words effectiveness and this time it's tribulation and persecution when the going gets tough. Some people abandon the word and the solution is to learn to love the word and depend upon the word of God before persecution comes. So that when persecution comes.
You won't fall away. The third and final impediment to biblical fitness of fruitfulness from Christ parable is the cares of the world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things. In other words, the word of God is choked out in your life when you love other things that are contrary to the word more things like money that temporal prestige, reputation, when your love for those things is greater than your love for what the Bible says is of utmost importance and value we destroy this impediment of worldliness by controlling our affections, steering them in the direction of godliness and this of course takes time and effort and consistency brothers and sisters. It can be done were called to do this, the Christian empowered by the Holy Spirit, and equipped with the word of God can learn to love what he ought to love and learn to hate what he ought to hate.
None of this will happen though until we stop interrupting God with our own ideas and viewpoints and start listening to what he has to say in his word. So James has put all these impediments away and receive with meekness the implanted word. Then he adds one final thought that just stings the heart of the Christian who has been negligent of that went with the word he says this receive the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. This word of truth that you've not been able to hear because you been so preoccupied with your own voice your own ideas and desires this word that you have casually dismissed because you been wronged by someone you're mad at them or because they're just simply too many temporal concerns that need to be taken care off this word is able to save your souls. And yet you've ignored it. John Calvin caused a short little clause a sharp goad to chastise our idleness folks are very salvation depends on listening to what God has said to talking without hearing is indeed dangerous ground to be on.
But there's another obstacle to our spiritual growth and its hearing without doing hearing without doing.
James says in verse 22 be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves see a posture of submission toward the word of truth is not demonstrated by mere knowledge of the Bible is at least that you have to know the word of truth, but goes far beyond mere knowledge to include belief in its truth. Joy in its instructions. Obedience to his commands like anything less than that would be like jumping out of an airplane knowing everything there is to know about parachuting, but without actually wearing the parachute that would be futile.
That would be foolish. That would bring harm. We need to be doers and not hearers only think there may have been a time when the church placed too much emphasis perhaps on the necessity of obedience. But I really think the extreme to which the church is prone today is on downplaying the necessity of obedience to a fault. I think generally, and this is a generalization, a stereotype, I know, I think generally we are more afraid of legalism that we are of antinomianism. And so we sometimes shy away from talk of obedient Christian living the church.
The Bible has a lot to say about the importance and blessing of obedience of being a doer of the word. The gospel isn't just about justification by grace alone through faith. It's also about sanctification that the process of becoming more and more holy. Throughout the course of one's life. If we have some notion that faithfulness is contrary to faith. We need to rethink our understanding of faith God saves us in order to make us new creations who love and obey the perfect law of God. Consider these verses for a moment when what they say regarding the centrality of obedience in the Christian life. If you love Jesus, you will keep his commandments. John 1415 now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. Therefore, let not sin reign in your mortal body to make you obey it. Passions, but present your members parts of your body to God as instruments for righteousness. Romans 682 13 on the day of judgment when Christ cast the lost into hell, he'll say to them. I never knew you depart from me, you unbelievers know depart from me, you workers of lawlessness, you disobedient ones.
Matthew 723 Paul describes unbelievers on Judgment Day as those who do not obey the gospel. First Thessalonians, 18 is not interesting that those who don't believe the gospel. Those who don't obey the gospel see the gospel is something to be obeyed is something to be believed and obeyed without both faith in the gospel and faithfulness to the gospel, that is, without both justification and sanctification. We will be lost, Paul said, for it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. Romans 213 now, please understand I'm not denying that we are both justified and sanctified by grace are good works will never merit salvation.
What I am saying is that salvation true salvation will always produce obedient doers of the law.
So, just as we should always be seeking to keep our faith firmly grounded in Christ and his finished work on the cross so we should always be seeking to keep our lives conforms to the instruction God gives us in his word. James refers to that instruction as the perfect law or the law of liberty that a beautiful description of God's moral directives for our lives. It's it's perfect in that he's revealed everything we need to be thoroughly equipped for every good work. It's liberating. It's freeing in that it frees us up from having to try to guess what a life pleasing to God, looks like he's told us what a life pleasing to him is one commentator I read, had this to say, he said, those who failed to do the word who are hearers only are guilty of a dangerous and potentially fatal self-delusion. If the gospel by nature contains both saving power and summons to obedience those who relate to only one not truly embrace the gospel very important truth for us to keep in mind hearing without doing is dangerous because it introduces a subtle self-deception.
Knowledge without obedience or faith without faithfulness slowly begins to instill a false confidence in the mind of a disobedient person I know so much truth that they think of themselves as having attained some measure of spiritual maturity when actually they may have not even been born again.
James describes the sort of person's relationship to the word of truth. Very interesting analogy. He says in verse 23. If anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror.
For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like now, don't misunderstand this mirror analogy doesn't imply that the forgetful hearer has has made his study of Scripture only cursory superficial sort of thing. Not at all. In fact, the word for looks.
In this passage implies a very diligent looking with understanding the forgetful hearer is not negligent for lack of attention is negligent for lack of retention. He studies the Bible hard and it probably forgets what he read what is learned because he had no intention of ever implementing any of his like forgetting to button those pesky little buttons on your collar never done that my the only one getting ready for the day you look in the mirror you notice perhaps while you're brushing your teeth that you haven't button those those little buttons on your collar so you tell yourself the button and the soon as you finish brushing teeth, but by the time you finish brushing your teeth are things that happen you forget all about your collar buttons and out the door you go get back at the end of the day glance in the mirror and there are those silly buttons mocking you for having gone through your whole day forgetting to button them the whole day with the a floppy collar. All because you looked in the mirror and then promptly forgot what you saw. James is not condemning the quality of one's Bible study, but the effect that acting upon the Bible study. The forgetful hearers, quiet time might be as consistent as milligrams. His knowledge of the word might be equivalent to RC Sproles himself, but that's as far as it goes this knowledge, this devotion to the Bible never translates into action into obedience.
Hearing without doing is dangerous because it fools a person into thinking he or she is far more spiritually mature than God knows him or her to be is 1/3 and final obstacle than the James includes here an obstacle to our growth in grace.
First, we looked at the obstacle of talking without hearing and we consider the danger of hearing without doing. Finally, we see the fruitless and this of doing without bridal Ling doing without bridal Ling verses 26 and 27 and and there are several things here that we are to bridal to bring under control to restrain of the most obvious one is put upfront look at verse 26 if anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless as a quick word about the concept of religion. I suspect that most of us have a negative connotation in our minds we hear that word religion if if I refer to someone as a very religious person, I probably don't mean it as a complement in our current use of the word. I probably mean that they're very committed to the external forms of of their faith without much heart engagement to speak up religious people as we typically use that designation today are the source of people who come to church on Christmas and Easter to have their babies christened and insist on being married in the church and by minister, but otherwise they have no real interest in Christ, or genuine faith and repentance of sin. Their religion is merely external. Those of us who see the hookup hypocrisy in that like to describe ourselves as spiritual rather than religious, as if religious activity is always a sign of insincerity or of a shallow faith believing understand the James is use of this word here does not assume that religion is entirely negative. In fact, he assumes that a sincere faith in Christ will of necessity be accompanied by certain external forms of worship and an visible obedience. The Lord's supper that we observe just this morning, and I worship service is an external form that gives visible expression to our faith. It's a religious ritual that we do and if we neglected this external form of religion we would be disobedient to Christ now sure that the Lord's supper can be observed in an insincere way.
In fact, we warned about that very danger. Every time we observe communion and I would go further and point out that any act of obedience can be performed in a perfunctory and insincere way, but just because religious practices have the potential of being performed insincerely doesn't mean those practices are bad right religion isn't bad. Bad religion is bad. Religion is not the problem. False religion is the problem. So when James starts talking about religion. He's not condemning religion he's condemning pretentious religion, hypocritical religion he's condemning fake obedience. Obedience that is concerned merely with appearances. He's concerned with unbridled acts of religion.
In fact, there are three things James calls us to bridal to to restrain first where to bridal our mouths bridal our mouths, James James, comes full circle, hereby returning to the original famous speech. He began this section by telling Christians to be listeners not just talkers and he tells us to be doers, not just listeners, but some of the things that we are called to do as Christians involves talking right part of obedience involves using our mouths to speak the truth were to preach and teach were to bear witness to the gospel with our mouths.
So James returns to this theme of speaking in order to tell Christians that in there doing.
They need to bridal. First of all, their tongues, their speech, they need to put a restraint on the things they say to the first caution about speech, but been verse 19 has to do with speaking too much, but this second caution here in verse 26 has to do with speaking in the wrong way. It's possible to preach and teach the truth with harshness. It's possible to tell someone a truth that they need to hear, but in a in a cruel and harmful way. James admonishes us in our truth telling to do it with the bridal do it with restraint. Remember what Paul says about restrain speech in Ephesians 429 Paul said, let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear so that our words be true is not the only criteria for godly speech awards must also be appropriate.
They must be edifying.
They must be gracious and are doing that is in our obeying the word of truth.
We are to first of all, bridal, our mouths, but secondly were to bridal our motives.
James goes on in verse 27 religion that is pure and undefiled before God the father is this, to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and and I should point out that the word visit includes the idea of caring for meeting the needs not just sitting down having a chat. Your meeting the needs of orphans and widows in their affliction. James is not suggesting here that the only valid expression of of religious fervor is helping the needy. What he's doing is describing the kind of religious activity that is unmistakably sincere.
The kind of obedience for which there is no reward, no payback, no praise, no accolades it's it's a motive.
Check am I willing to be a doer of the word when no one will see it when nobody will praise me for it when I will get nothing in return. Because you see if you only do the word when there's something in it for me. I'm really not doing the word James has put a bridle on your motives. Make sure that your external obedience is not secretly driven by a longing for the praises of men in church. I would just caution you that our sin nature is such that it's even possible to visit orphans and widows in a self-serving way we can even do that with wrong motives.
James picked that particular act of obedience. I think because it is more difficult to fake religious sincerity when you're engaged in an active service than when you're simply talking. It's easier to deceive your own hearts.
I think with the words you say that it is with the deeds you do, but we need to be self-aware enough and self skeptical enough to recognize that even the most humble menial acts of service can be performed with very selfish proud motives, so we need to put a bridle on our motives. Finally, we need to bridal our morals with the latter part of verse 27 says religion that is pure and undefiled before God the father is this, to keep oneself unstained from the world we got our mouths, we need to guard her motives. We need to guard our morals are actions being a doer of the word means your values and creed your priorities and pursuits. Your thought processes and choices and behavior will be distinct from the world if I religious commitment produces no noticeable difference in these areas from those who have no interest in Christ. We really need to question the validity of our religious profession.
James will get more specific in the coming chapters with with what that distinction should look like. But for now we need to know that being a doer of the word will require a bridle laying of our mouths are motives and of our morals as we wrap this up tonight. We just spend a few moments thinking about how we might practically avoid these three obstacles to our growth in grace and think for many of us, myself included, we might just need to learn to stop talking so much. Someone recently gave me a book that has a chapter on learning to listen on the discipline of silence, the author says when you meet a wise person listen to him and you will learn wisdom when you meet a foolish person listen to him and you will learn patience when you're alone, listen to God and you will learn everything everything necessary. The Christian life. At the end of this chapter in this book the author gives a homework assignment. He says this refrain from having the last word in your next conversation might be a good practical application for all of us. We need to learn to be good listeners, which probably means we need to learn to talk less, overcoming the second obstacle then requires that we approach God's word already resigned to the commitment that we will obey whatever command or principal God puts before we've already settled the issue.
I will obey whatever you say maybe in planning this will be as simple as writing down at the end of your time in the word each day.
In answer to the question, what does this passage require of me and and maybe review that answer. A week later to see if you're being a doer of the word.
The last obstacle requires that we learn self-restraint. There is nothing more tiring than trying to exercise self-restraint in your own strength and yet we are called to bridal our tongues.
We are called to lay down our lives for others to die to the sinful effects at affections and appetites we find in ourselves Christian. You can only do these things in the power of the Holy Spirit. But good news. The Holy Spirit lives in you.
You have the Holy Spirit, Paul says, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh is doesn't mean self-control can be easy. The flesh dies hard but it does mean God has given you the strength to bridal your propensity to sin and to walk in obedience. Perhaps you want to begin every day with a prayer that the Holy Spirit would shut your mouth when it needs to be shot that he would purify your motives when they are self oriented, self consumed, he would keep you holy in a very unholy world. I know it sounds cliché, it is cliché, but God didn't save us to merely get us out of hell is saving us to get hell out of us. Let's submit ourselves holy and joyfully to that good work which God has begun in us and that he will complete on the day when Christ returns its prey. For thank you for your word of truth that is so much more than empty powerless words on a page. Your words are living and powerful and able to do surgery on our sinful black hearts. May we be more diligent to hear that word more committed to obeying that word more humble in living out that word God. We have failed in this, everyone of us has failed to live up to this passage in your word and we will fail again thank you that when we sin, we have an advocate, the Lord Jesus Christ who listened as he ought to obeyed as assured and restrained himself with perfection. Thank you Lord that you attribute the obedience of Jesus to us in May. That act of grace on your part motivate us all the more to be hearers and doers of this sweet sweet word of truth. I pray in Jesus name a man