Donate to Support

Support the church that supports this blog. Donate at - Click the donate button in the upper righthand corner.

Monday, April 29, 2024

Listen and DO - James 1:19-27

We are studying the Epistle of James.  James is a short letter packed full of powerful wisdom.  It was written by Jesus’ half-brother.  We say that James is Jesus’ “half-brother” because Jesus and James both shared a biological mother—Mary.  But Jesus was the biological son of God while James was the biological son of Joseph.

Did you even know Jesus had a brother?  He did.  Matthew13:55-56 says Jesus had 4 brothers and that he had sisters too (but doesn’t tell how many).  And James was probably the oldest of Jesus’ younger brothers.  And James was the author of the Epistle of James.

Last week, James wrote that we should not seek so much to be saved from our trials and temptations, but that we pray to be saved through our trials and temptations, because God uses them to teach us enduring faith that refines our character.  But James has a new lesson for us today; listen to what he says.  Let’s read it together in our pew Bibles on page 1721.

James 1:19-27 (NIV)
19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 21 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.

22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Listen and DO
James says, “My brothers and sister take note of this:  be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…”  To whom is James writing?  He’s not talking about his biological brothers and sisters.  He’s talking about believers, fellow followers of Christ.  Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 12:50?  He said, “Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother!” 

It's important to note that James is not writing to unbelievers; he’s writing to Christians who are already following Jesus.  You cannot be saved and become a Christian by doing good deeds.  We are saved by faith alone.  We must trust Jesus and decide to follow Him.  But once we are saved, we should respond to the saving grace of God by doing something.  And James writes to remind Christians what we should do and how we should live.

And what should we do?  We should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.  Now this is great wisdom.  God gave us two ears and only one mouth.  That’s a great reminder God has design right into your face to listen at least twice as much as you speak.  Every time you see your face in the mirror, remind yourself, “Today, I’m going to listen twice as much as I speak.”  And don’t just say it.  DO it.  Really listen.  Don’t just hear.  Listen and try to understand people.

Sometimes that means listening to more than just the words they're saying.  It means understanding them as a person, what’s motivating them to say the things they say.  Ask for God’s wisdom every day to really listen to and understand people and where they’re coming from.  And the Holy Spirit of God who lives in all believers can reveal people’s heart to you so you really understand them.

And be slow to anger.  There are times for righteous anger.  Remember, Jesus got angry when He saw the money changers in the Temple desecrating His Father’s House while cheating people out of their hard earned money.  However, we need to be slow to anger, because our anger is rarely as righteous as Jesus’.  And human anger does not bear good fruit like God desires.  Instead, it creates wounds and dissention and damages relationships.  It clouds our judgment and can even damage our health.  So put away anger and learn grace to be patient and stay calm so you can listen and understand people and be quick to forgive.  This is what followers of Jesus do.

James 1:22-24 (NLT)
But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. 23 For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. 24 You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like.

When we look into the mirror, what do we see?  I don’t know about you, but I see a sinner saved by the grace of God.  God’s Word says we are saved by God’s grace.  It’s not because of the good things we do.  It’s a free gift from God through Jesus Christ.  We don’t deserve to be forgive and saved from Hell, but—in God’s loving grace—He sent Jesus to save us anyway. 

So when we look in the mirror, we should see someone that God loved so much He sent His Son to save us—to even die on the cross for us.  So we see someone who is precious to God, but who also has some serious flaws who needs saving and it is a salvation that cost God dearly.  So don’t forget that face—the face of a precious child of God bought by the blood of Jesus.

And don’t forget how you still have some things to work on—not to earn God’s love, but because of God’s love.  God already loves you completely and unconditionally, but we know we have some flaws we want God to heal in us.  So listen to God’s Word in the Scripture and let the Holy Spirit empower you to do it.

There are so many ways I fall short of God’s Word it can be overwhelming where I should start.  Thankfully, James gives us a couple places to start—some things everyone can work on.  First of all, he says:

Slide – James 1:26 (NLT)
If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless.

I love how straight forward James is.  He puts it so well.  Controlling your tongue—learning when to be quiet, when to speak, and what to say and how to say it—is something we all need to learn and something we all can learn.  It’s harder for some than others, but it is something we can learn and should learn.  You see, a lot of time in church, people want to worry over some deep theological question or some mysterious and obscure story in the Bible.  When what we really need to do, most of the time, is pretty simple.  Learn how to control your tongue.  

Now, some will say they just can’t do it.  But you can if you really focus on it.  And you can if you will invite the Holy Spirit of God to come in and take control of your tongue for you.  If God can creae stars that are trillions of light years away, He can control your tongue.  However, a lot of people just don't want to submit their speech to the Lord.  But James says, that's what we need to do.

And James gives another simple thing we can do—show compassion.  He says:

James 1:27 (NLT)
27 Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.

In New Testament times, orphans and widows were the most helpless and vulnerable people in the world.  They had almost no way to make it in the world—no way to earn a living, support themselves, or protect themselves—aside from the compassion of people willing to help them.  So what James is talking about here are the most helpless and vulnerable people.

When we look around today, who do you see who are the most helpless and vulnerable people?  Widows and orphans are still on that list, but there are many others too--the elderly, the foreigner among us, and anyone else who is vulnerable who will not be able to make it if someone does not sacrificially step in to help them.  James says, pure and genuine religion in the sight of God is caring for them.  And you don’t have to be a Bible scholar to do that.  You don’t have to have all the answers.  You just have to have compassion in your heart and a willingness to do something.

So let me summarize everything for you.  And I want you to practice these things this week.
What can you do this week to practice these, because we want to be doers¸ and not just hearers.

  1. Listen More, Speak Less - Will you practice listening more and speaking less this week?
  2. Control Your Tongue - Will you invite the Holy Spirit in to start taming your tongue?
  3. Practice Compassion - What can you do this week to help the helpless, give hope to the hopeless, and protect the unprotected?
I challenge you this week to be doers of the Word, and not hearers only who deceive themselves.

No comments:

Post a Comment