Monday, April 27, 2009

James 1:22–25, "Hearing and Doing the Word."

First, let me apologize to those who have checked and not found anything new. I hope that there is enough meat to last the occasional busy season, as this blogging is fun for me, but it is subject to the needs of the service (to quote Russell Crowe in Master and Commander). With Palm Sunday and Easter, and sick kids, and hospitalized relatives, along with the needs of the local church, many irons have fought for the fire. Yet, my apologies and I thank you for engaging. I hope that your time will always be well spent on this blog, not because of me, but because of to Whom I am pointing the reader. Be blessed, and I hope you can meditate well on not just hearing God's Word, but doing it . . .

. . . James 1, read verses 22–25, "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror, and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does."

Have you read a disclaimer recently? The sign on a paranormal psychology meeting room read, "The meeting has been cancelled today due to unforeseen circumstances." I read another one, which explained on a rice cereal box that due to shifting during transport the amount on the label might not be what is inside. In other words, "It's not our fault!" Have you ever bought a 3/4 bag of potato chips? Why pay the same for less, especially half of the product? Have you ever found that in your walk with Christ, following Jesus, you have to give a disclaimer? You say, "I'm a Christian, but . . ." Or, "I know, I know, but I'm still a Christian." "I'm still saved, even though . . ."

This comes after James told us to have joy during trials, persevere, try and mature through trials, and if you lack anything ask God for wisdom and He will give it. When you pray and ask for wisdom (or anything else), pray in faith that God is good and will do what is best for Himself and then for His people. James then wrote not to worry about rich oppressors because their wealth would fade, but to persevere for the crown that doesn't fade. Seek (v. 17 following) good and perfect gifts, which are all from God, no matter where they originated. Verses 19 through 21 James warned of "Speed Limits."

Last time, we saw how James urged us to be in a hurry to listen, not just to others, but most of all to God in receiving the Word planted in us. Now James adds to that. See how James is building actions and steps in a staircase of practical theology? It's like a Master saying, "Very good, very good. Now that's you've accomplished that, move up to the next level."

So, James says now, "Don't just merely listen to the Word (which is a good thing) . . . Do what it says."

Wow. Think about the difference and the bridge he's asking us to cross there. The Bible contains some hard sayings, such as Jesus' command in Luke 6 "love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, pray for those who persecute you." James does not say "Quote Scripture," "Teach the Bible," or "Make your own translation." He says, "Do it! Do it! Do it!" (remember Nike? Just Do It?).

First, God’s people don’t just hear His word.
The Christians should have heard the word, but not JUST heard the word, (v. 22b–24). A “hearer” is “one who hears.” In 1 Timothy 4:13, Timothy was instructed by Paul to “devote yourselves to the public reading of Scriptures.”
Read Rom 2:12–16 (READ IT) Especially Rom 2:13, “For it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified.”
What is James teaching? This: The question to ask is not "Are you into God's Word?" But:
IS GOD'S WORD INTO YOU? Has it made it's way into your lifestyle?

As Tony Evans said, "When I'm cut, let me bleed the Bible." Let it be like the Gatorade commercials, "Is it in you?"

A boy watched a pastor working in his wood shop. The boy stared as the pastor worked, and in the midst of his frustration the pastor turned and asked, "What are you staring at?" The boy replied, "I just want to know what a pastor says when he hits his thumb with his hammer." I know all Christians say, "Amen. O darn, O brother."
For you, reading, is God's Word in you? Could people point to evidence that you follow Jesus?
There is the word, "And" in Greek at the beginning of this sentence, verse 22. It is as if James is saying, "And another thing . . . make sure when you listen to the Word, you do what it says."
We will see in verses 23–24, an illustration of what not to do. There are 3 verses on this and 1 verse on what TO DO. Emphasis on what not to do.
Look at James' illustration, in verses 23–24. A picture of a man looking into mirror at natural self, forgetting what he has seen.

At this point, it would be good if you have a mirror nearby to look at yourself, and make sure your hair is in place; there's no food in your teeth; no zits or blemishes. We use a mirror to check up on ourselves. We ask "Is my hair okay? Do my clothes match? How do my clothes look on me? Did I miss a hair while shaving? Is there food stuck in my teeth?" We use a mirror to make sure we look okay, right?

What if someone noticed his hair was messy, there was food in his teeth, he hadn't shaved, he had the crusty stuff in his eyes from just waking up, and then he walked away? People would be looking at him saying, "What happened to old so-and-so?"
(Get this) When we read God's Word and close it before asking, "What should I do about what I've just read," we have done just that. We will walk around and as James says, deceive ourselves.
What DO you hear and remember? A lot of influences are going into your mind through your eyes and your ears. Do you have thoughts and memories about:
1. Music lyrics
2. Language
3. Violence
4. Sex and sensuality on TV, Internet
5. Abusing and mistreating others through speech and violence?
The four most major influences in your life are:

1. The God we worship (whether or not that being/thing is the true, living God. This can be idols, sports, drugs, music, etc).
2. The family who raised you (mainly parents, but also siblings and extended family).
3. The friends we associate with.
4. The books we read.
The word “blessed” appeared in v. 12 and here only in James (2nd of 2 times). In verse 25, James emphasizes of “blessed is the man who perseveres through trials for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life.” He says, "he will be blessed in what he does," referring to the man who doesn't forget what he finds when he examines his life in light of Scripture.
What we do defines who we are.

What do you do? What do you do after you read or hear God's word?
A hearer only is not a person who will receive the crown of life; thus not a person who is a doer of the Word, and not a person who has been saved! Followers of Jesus follow Jesus.
At this point, you should read Matthew 21:28–32, five verses, but a loud story. Pause and read it.
Now, after reading that (did you read it? If not, please do so), Who did the master’s will?
If you think you’re going to heaven because of a prayer prayed once upon a time, and you hear God’s word week by week and do not follow it, I think it is very possible that you are not saved. If there is no fruit, then God is not in you, and you need to repent of your sin and ask Jesus to come in and save you. The idea that following Jesus is praying one time is a hearer-only theology.
Some in James’ audience were making this mistake, and he had to correct them. When God’s people forget what they have heard, they drift into ungodliness, such as James’ “hearers” did.
Have you ever known someone who really committed themselves to reading and doing God's Word?
I read of Dr. Louis Evans, Pastor of Hollywood Presbyterian Church, had both the Old and New Testaments memorized. He would challenge the college group to memorize verses. They would discuss many of these verses. He would teach them how to study the Bible and how to teach and preach the Bible. Once he challenged them to memorize all of 1 Corinthians 15. The following Sunday he recited the whole chapter (58 verses) by heart, and then preached on it.[1]
What is the application (what should the "doing" be)? Do whatever it takes to read, listen to, hear, and remember God’s word.
Memorize book and chapter of God's Word (book and chapter, chapter and verse if you can, but book and chapter). Have a regular reading time in God’s word. Everyday I read an Old Testament passage, New Testament passage, and most times translate for myself afresh from Hebrew or Greek to see it come alive. Make observations and applications, and try to live it out. I pick the verse that applies most to me, and try to remember it the rest of the day, applying it.
When we study God's Word, we should do at least 4 things. This is not in the sermon version, but only in this blog. The four things are four questions. This can take 4 minutes for beginners, and even four hours if you are persistent. The questions are:
1. What does it say?
2. What does it mean?
3. What am I doing?
4. What should I do?

Then, respond to question #4. If you do that, it's amazing how much you will grow spiritually.
The problem comes not when we know what we should do; the problem comes when we need to leap, dive, jump in; when we put action behind what we know we should do.
A person might read this and think, "But I'm mostly good. I follow Jesus in 99% of my life. I just want a little portion to myself."
Here are some scary facts about what would happen if 99% were good enough:
Michael Pinto wrote in, May 19, 2000, some scary things that might happen if 99% were good enough.
- 466,750 annual takeoffs and landings of commercial airplanes in the U.S. could end in tragedy (but hey, 99% of the time . . .)
- a light curtain on a power press, which averages 200 pieces an hour, could cause 16 lost fingers a day of the operators (if it operated correctly 99% of the time).
- the safety trainer who is only accurate 99% of the time would seriously jeopardize the lives of 20 construction workers per year. (but hey, 99% of the time everyone would go home at the end of the day)
We try to reason with God like this, don't we? "God, I'm obeying You 99% of the time?" While a lost world suffers without their Savior, and we fail to deliver the most important news that could save lives, we rest in our "mostly" obedient status. (but hey, 99% of the time . . .)
Another source ( has a posting that has calculated that if 99% were good enough (based on popular, average surveys. FYI, snopes is designed to correctly research false Internet facts and disprove them, so this is "99%" accurate, and even allowing for a margin of error lets us see the danger of being only 99% accurate--ironically):
- 12 newborns will be given to the wrong parents daily
- 114,500 mismatched pairs of shoes will be shipped this year
- 18,322 pieces of mail will be mishandled every hour
- 2,000,000 documents will be lost by the IRS this year
- 2.5 million books will be shipped with the wrong cover
- 2 planes landing at Chicago's O'Hare airport will be unsafe every day
- 315 entries in Webster's dictionary will be misspelled
- 20,000 incorrect drug prescriptions will be written this year
- 880,000 credit cards in circulation will turn out to have incorrect cardholder info on their magnetic strips
- 103,260 income tax returns will be processed incorrectly during the year
- 5.5 million cases of soft drinks produced will be flat
- 291 pacemaker operations will be performed incorrectly
- 3, 056 copies of tomorrow's Wall Street Journal will be missing one of the three sections
But hey, if we're 99% good, that's good enough, isn't it? Think again, follower of Jesus. He deserves nothing less than 100% doing what He says.
I think it's important to pause and explain why it is so important for a follower of Jesus Christ to regularly read God's Word. Why listen to this book?
When we say we believe the Bible is the inspired word of God, and we have God’s words recorded, we understand that happened over 2,000 years. We acknowledge that occasionally as copier A passed onto to copier B, then onto C and D, etc. possibly B or C didn’t cross a “T” or dot an “I” that D saw, and then he corrected it. The looking back to find the closest to the original documents as we can and study them is called Textual Criticism. IMPORTANT: this is why the church has always held a collection of manuscripts going back as far as possible, and why we specify we believe “in the verbal inspiration of Scripture complete and without error in the original manuscripts.”
Is our English Bible reliable today? Absolutely! Because pastors and theologians have been keeping records for thousands of years, we have the Bible as it was given to God’s people. How do we know for sure that the Bible we read today is reliable? How do we know it is the Bible as God gave it to men?
I'm glad you asked.
Let's look at a summary of answers on the Old Testament:
Until the 1930’s, when the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, our earliest manuscripts of the Old Testament were copies from around 900AD. Now we have copies from 125 B.C. (1,000 years earlier!). We also know that a Greek version of the Old Testament between 250 and 150 B. C., was copied by 70 men in Alexandria Egypt. We have the first five books of the Old Testament copied and preserved from the 4th Century B. C. by the Samaritans (Samaritan Pentateuch). We have Jewish translations into foreign language during their time of exile from the 6th Century B.C. I have read portions of the Babylonian works by Jewish rabbis from the 6th Century and on (very difficult, but it’s there!). Finally, if those works are considered authentic, then we must trust their references to history that show us all the way back to 1,400 years before Christ when Moses compiled the first 5 books, and 2100 years before Christ (Abraham).
What about the New Testament?
We have much more evidence for the New Testament. Compare it to the other historical documents of the same period. Of the major historical documents written around the time of the New Testament, we have the following with their oldest manuscripts and number of them:
1. Livy (59BC–17AD). The oldest copy we have is from the 4th Century AD, 27 copies survived.
2. Tacitus (AD56–120).The oldest copy we have is from the 9th Century AD, 3 copies survived.
3. Suetonius (AD69–140). The oldest copy we have is from the 9th Century AD, 200+ copies survived.
4. Thucydides (460BC–400BC). The oldest copy we have is from the 1st Cent. AD, 20 copies survived.
5. Herodotus (484BC–425BC). The oldest copy we have is from the 1st Cent. AD, 75 copies survived.
We have over 5,700 Greek manuscripts (papyrus and other forms) of the New Testament! Within 100 years after it was written (2nd Century AD) we have manuscripts. We have older and more manuscripts than any other historical document of that era. Over 10,000 in Latin, and more than 1 million quotations from the church fathers and others.[2]
God’s Word is more reliable than any other historical document of that time!
God’s Word should be heard, and done, especially by those of us who claim to follow Him.
We need to do what God says in His Word!

Verse 25 says, "But." He will contrast what he has just said.

The second and final major point to make is this: Not only should God's people hear His Word, but God’s people are doers of the Word
The Christians should have done the word (v. 22a, 25)
The word for “doer” means “one who does what is prescribed.”[3]
Like looking into the perfect law of freedom.
Compared in James with looking at oneself versus looking at God (previous verses).
Just like looking into the mirror exposes physical flaws, so God’s word is a better mirror for checking ourselves for flaws: spiritually, physically, mentally.
“he who looks into;” “look into” is “to bend over for the purpose of looking, with the focus on satisfying one’s curiosity, take a look.” It was also used in:
John 20:5, “And stooping and looking in, he [John] saw the linen wrappings lying there, but did not go in.”
John 20:11, “But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping, and as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb.”
Luke 24:12, “But Peter got up and ran to the tomb, stooping and looking in, he saw the wrappings only, and he went away to his home, marveling at what had happened.”
It is always used to describe someone focusing, taking a very good, close look at something. It meant tunnel vision, or rapt attention. This is how followers of Jesus should treat God’s Word. Focus, intent, anxiously expecting to have something to walk away with that will change the way we live.
When was the last time you opened the Bible, read it, thought about it, and said, “aha!” You went away seeing something needing correction and were changed! You were a doer of the word!
Psalm 19:7, “The Law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul”
Those who did the work would be blessed in their doing
James' phrase in verse 25 for “perfect law,” is the first time James uses “law.”
James 2:8, “love your neighbor as yourself,” fulfills the “royal law” (King’s Law)
James 2:10, “whoever keeps the whole law and stubmels in just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.”
Jesus said, Matt 5:17, “I did not come to abolish the Law and the Prophets, but to fulfill them.”
Jesus gave a new law—the law of freedom. It involves hearing and doing, and blessing for workers. The perfect law that gives freedom is to bind oneself to the law of God, "perfect, reviving the soul."
How are you doing in this area?
The reason you should be a doer is seen if you go to Atlanta Georgia, and eat at The Church of God Grill. One person was so curious about the name of the restaurant, that he asked one of the servers how they picked it. The reply was that once upon a time that building and location was The Church of God. Then they started serving fried chicken. Eventually the fried chicken attracted many people, and they served it with every service. The church died out and gave way to serving people friend chicken. But, they liked the name, so they kept it.

Can you imagine one day driving to Darlington and seeing, "The First Baptist Church Grill"? "The First Baptist Civic Center," or "The First Baptist Recreation Park"? Or how about your church if it isn't Darlington? May it never be! Never!
Let's practice what we read, and hear God's Word. Then, before closing the Bible, pledge ourselves to answer the final question, "What should I do about it?"
If you're reading this and I'm writing in a foreign language, it might be because the Holy Spirit is not with you, which would be because you have yet to trust in Jesus Christ for salvation. Acts 16:31 gives the answer to the question, "So what do I do about how Jesus died to pay for my sin on the cross? So what if He came to life on the third day? So what if it was prophesied to happen that way? What does that mean for me?" The answer is "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved."
Do that first, becoming a doer of God's Word. Then continue, as James says, "Do not merely listen tot he word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says."

[1] Charles R. Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart, And 1,501 Other Stories, (Nashville: Word Publishers, 1998), 52.
[2] Darrell L. Bock, Daniel B. Wallace, Dethroning Jesus, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2007), 51.
[3] BDAG, s.v.

No comments: