Peninsula Community Church
February 17, 2013
James – Actions Speak Louder Than Words
James 1:21-25 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For 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. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
This morning we are going to look at an important topic. In this passage, we find that James issues a challenge for believers to live out their faith in a practical way because we are called to put into action what we hear. In the passage, James presents two types of Christians. The first is the one that hears the word but forgets and fails to properly apply the Word and the second is the one that hears and makes a proper application of the word.
To bring some analysis to this lets examine two hypothetical people. The first person is the one who hears and forgets what he has heard. This person has grown up in the church. They have memorized Scriptures. They have studied the Bible and in their adult life they have continued to attend church, faithfully. They are involved in Sunday School, Bible studies, Seminars and conferences where they discuss biblical stories and they ponder deep theological questions. This person is often an avid reader of Christian books and Christian literature. In some denominational settings this would be the person who has received all of the attendance awards and Bible memorization certificates. In many ways, this person seems to be a godly individual, but when their life is reviewed more closely, there is a disconnect between their appearance and who they are in real life. In the real world, they exhibit poor morals. They are dishonest and have been caught in several lies on the job. It is not unusual to see them carry spare parts and supplies off the job that they will use for their personal business without having proper clearance to do so. They also tend to get angry and fly off the handle with little or no provocation. They tend to exhibit a prideful and self-centered heart. They also tend to look out for number one and show little or no concern for others. They show up at church on Sundays, and they can share and discuss many insights from the Bible, but the day-to-day routine of their life seems unaffected by the Word.
The second person is the one who hears and takes action. This person is similar to the first in certain respects. They are committed to a church body where they learn from God’s Word and where they discuss it with others. They also love to talk about the stories of the Bible and they wrestle with deep theological issues. They read Christian books and magazines to gain a greater understanding of the Bible. The difference, however, is that this person’s life, in their day-to-day routine, is profoundly affected by the Word. They are not perfect. They still struggle with selfishness, impatience, and apathy, but they are not content to let their life remain as it is. You see they are striving to live according to the Word. They understand what it means to experience the joy of obeying the truth of God’s words and His commands. They trust God’s promises and they desire a greater understanding of God’s word so they can grow even more. Therefore, they read the Bible, not as a topic for interesting discussion, but as a guide for their daily life. The fruit of this exercise is very evident. The result is that they tend to be more patient and compassionate. They know how to exercise restraint in what they say. They look out for the needs of others and as we spoke about last week they are quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger.
Perhaps the difference in these two is that one cloaks themselves in the word whereas the other devours the word and allows it to transform their life.
For those who have children, you may have experienced something like this in your family or perhaps as a child you were the guilty party. Do you remember telling your child to do something? Then they would head off to play, only to forget what they were supposed to do. The whole time they assured you that the task would get accomplished. They had every intent of doing what you had asked them to do but they forgot. They became distracted and missed an opportunity to obey their parents. This is the confrontation we face when we do this with God’s word. Rather than being hearers, God expects us to be doers. That is, He is calling us to a walk of obedience. We hear, we listen and we obey what we have heard.
In this passage, James uses the word picture of a mirror to illustrate what he is communicating. In those days, they did not have the kind of mirrors we have today as they would have used a polished piece of metal as a means to reflect their image. In my preparation for this message, I thought about the role that mirrors play in our lives. The first thing I considered was that the main purpose of a mirror is to reflect the outward appearance. Every morning, I check myself in the mirror to make sure that my teeth are brushed properly. I check to make sure that my hair is in place. I check to make sure that my clothes match and they everything is in place. I do this so that I can have a proper presentation of myself and so that I will diminish any embarrassing moments.
Another thing about mirrors is that by using a mirror, I begin to understand more about my outer man. As a result, I know that I have blue eyes. I know that my hairline is receding and that my hair color which use to be brownish blonde is now more of a salt and pepper. But when you look in the mirror you make those adjustments but you don’t take the mirror and hold it up all of the time to check yourself out. There is no need to do this as you trust the reflection and the changes you make. Secondly, we would be amiss if we took a look at ourselves but failed to make the adjustments to correct the areas needing change. How foolish would it be to see a problem and not correct it. For example, maybe it is a cut on the face after shaving or a bit of shaving cream left under the nose. Perhaps it is a spot of dirt we missed while taking our shower. Regardless of what issue we might find, we correct the issue, we don’t leave it.
The purpose of the Word is to reflect the inward appearance. It is the reflection of Christ that we see in the word which becomes our model for life. Rather than just outward adjustments, the word of God reflects the inner changes of character and soul that must occur. It should be noted that I believe this is the reason that James talks about the implanted word of God. The Word God cannot be a superficial experience, it must be digested and consumed. It must become a part of the fabric of your life so that the Word becomes the guiding force of your life that is directing your steps and your actions. In verse 21, James commands us to “receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” The word is the means by which we are born again (verse 18), and it is also the means by which we live the Christian life (verse 21).
As we look at this passage, we see that James is saying that the one who hears the Word but does not act on the word is deceiving themselves. There is a difference between analyzing and discussing the word and making an application of the word into one’s life so that it impacts who one is and how they are to live. The only way to truly receive the word is to receive it humbly. We can’t put ourselves over the word, but we must humbly put ourselves under the word and submit to its authority in our lives.
Let me close by sharing a couple of scriptures that highlight and confirm the message that James is communicating.
Titus 1:15-16 To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.
John 3:36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.
Romans 2:6-11He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality.
1 John 5:2-3 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.
So may it be that we put into practice what we gain from God’s word. Like the lottery, you have to be in to win it. And, you have to be in the word to allow it to change our lives.