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.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

James 1:19–21, "Speed Limits"

James 1:19–21 says, (NIV) "My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. 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."

When my wife and I were students at Dallas Theological Seminary, I was dropping her off for a class and returning home one morning. This was the time of day when schools were about to start their regular, daily session. I drove a different way back home, taking a side street. I turned into the middle of a school zone speed limit area. I had turned in after I should have seen the first sign that warned me to slow down to 20 mph. A second sign should have warned me, but that sign was partially hidden in the bushes, so I didn't see it. The third sign got my attention. It was a police officer standing in the middle of the road. I thought to myself, "There must have been an accident. Something is wrong. Hopefully there's nothing wrong with the students at the school. I switched lanes to move around the police officer, and the police officer also switched lanes to stand in front of me. He wanted me to stop, holding out his hand. I had no idea what could have gone wrong, but figured it was terrible if it was bad enough to stop traffic between 7 and 8am on a weekday morning in the metropolis of Dallas, Texas. Then I saw the sign on my right that said "End School Zone." I thought, "Great. A speeding ticket." My first reaction was to explain to the officer what happened, that I didn't see the sign. He didn't care, just nodded his head and kept writing. The speed limit was there for the kids' protection. Reflecting later on this, I thought that since I was driving by a school I should have gathered that I should have driven slower.

Like this, there are speed limits posted in life. Whether or not we acknowledge them makes no difference. The consequences for breaking God's speed limits happens no matter what we think about them.

God gives us speed limits for our benefit in James 1:19–21. This is one of those passages where we could read it quickly and get an idea for what it says, but we have to remember it and do it. The problem with God's speed limits for human beings is on our end. We get too emotional sometimes and before our brain has a chance to filter us, something comes out of our mouth that we wish we would not have said.

James pleaded with "my brothers," his fellow believers, not to let that loss of control happen. Later he writes about the tongue in the same way. This follows James' warning in verse 13 not to give into the trial of temptation. Closing ears and opening mouths too quickly is a serious temptation that can damage the Church of Jesus Christ.

James urges us, first of all, that we should be quick to listen and slow to speak (v. 19)

God’s people are quick to listen and slow to speak (v. 19)
“Quick” is used to mean great urgency and haste, as in:
Luke 15:22, “But the Father said to His slaves, ‘quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him,’” prodigal son story Jesus told.
Matt 28:8, Mary and Mary after the angels announced Jesus’ resurrection and they saw the empty tomb, “And they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to report it [the resurrection] to His disciples.”
A good way to rephrase this would be, “be in a hurry to listen. Especially compared to how much you speak.”
The emphasis is on not opening our mouth too fast. God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason.
“Slow” is used in:
Luke 24:25, “O Foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!”
2 Pet 3:9, adjective of it, to mean slowness, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient towards you, not wishing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance.”
James says, paraphrase, “be slow/hesitant to speak and slow/hesitant to anger.”

James’ admonishment was for the audience, spread all over, to do more listening and less talking.
Why? Later on see how speaking mixed with anger would not accomplish God’s righteousness.
Have you ever been in the presence of a good listener? Someone who listens well? There are times in life when the best thing we can say is nothing. There are times in ministry where a ministry of silent presence is all that is needed; all that is allowed.

Here at First Baptist Church, we too have to be careful of this. You (whether here or another church) can fall into the trap of thinking you are the Oracle of Delphi and you gift others whenever you smell a problem by dumping words on them.

In marriage, husbands listen to their wives and then try to solve the problem. That's why wives get frustrated and say, "You're not listening!"

Listening more and talking less is difficult, because our western world of corporate influence believes that talking more and listening less is the way to get ahead. The person who is loudest, more verbally dominant, controlling, harsh, and quickest to open their mouths will get ahead. That's the way the world is setup, and therefore when we live that way we also gain worldly rewards (see last entry. Seek God's gifts, not the world's).

If you obey God here and don't give into the temptation to be the first with the right answer all the time, or the pushy person who uses rage to get his way, but are quicker to listen and take your time when speaking, you will not get ahead according to the world. Count the cost.

Christians should pause and ask, "Am I living for Friday, or for 20years down the road?" You won't get ahead by Friday if you live according to the "ready, fire, aim" motto of the world. But if you are more concerned about 20 years in the future, you should consider what God says about how to get ahead. Start with listening more, and speaking less. Speak in quality not quantity. It's easier on the ears too. People will start to listen to you every time, because they will learn that when you speak you have wisdom, and you don't speak unless you have something valuable to contribute. It takes time to "train" others to identify this, and in the process we get stepped on, but it outlasts the "shoot from the hip" "fast money" because God's way can be done whether 20 or 90 years old. No one can dominate everywhere, all the time, for their entire life.

I urge the reader to think about this because what you start with, you must maintain. "Don't start what you can't finish," (to use an old mantra).

There are a lot of times when someone is speaking and you know what to say before they finish. But if you wait until they finish, sometimes you realize you almost made a terrible mistake, and they didn't say what you thought they were going to say.

Dr. Rascher, a professor of mine at Moody Bible Institute, used to minister among Native Americans in the U.S. and Canada. He shared with us that in one tribe where he ministered, when you were with an elder, especially as a newcomer, you would never speak first. You let the elder speak. He said that as a newcomer he sat next to the elder to talk, and waited for him to speak first. He waited for a long time. For hours and hours he sat, before being spoken to, and if he had talked he would never have gained access into the community in order to share Christ with them.
People have misconception: More words means more is accomplished.
If you have a problem keeping the mouth closed, this verse was written for you! Proverbs 10:19, “When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise.” Let he who has an ear hear!
Lee Iacocca was a busy man running the Chrysler Corporation. Even so, he knew the value of taking time off: “I’m constantly amazed by the number of people who can’t seem to control their own schedules. Over the years, I’ve had many executives come to me and say with pride: ‘Boy, last year I worked so hard that I didn’t take any vacation. ‘ It’s nothing to be proud of. I always feel like responding: ‘You dummy. You mean to tell me that you can take responsibility for an $80 million project and you can’t plan two weeks our of the year to go off with your family and have some fun?”[1]
Is reading the Bible a necessary part of your day or does it have a low priority in your life? George Mueller, after having read the Bible through one hundred times with increasing delight, made this statement: "I look upon it as a lost day when I have not had a good time over the Word of God. Friends often say, "I have so much to do, so many people to see, I cannot find time for Scripture study.? Perhaps there are not many who have more to do than I. For more than half a century I have never known one day when I had not more business than I could get through. For 4 years I have had annually about 30,000 letters, and most of these have passed through my own hands. "Then, as pastor of a church with 1,200 believers, great has been by care. Besides, I have had charge of five immense orphanages; also, at my publishing depot, the printing and circulating of millions of tracts, books, and Bibles; but I have always made it a rule never to begin work until I have had a good season with God and His Word. The blessing I have received has been wonderful.”[2]
Application: Slow down! No one says at the end of their life, “I’ve spent too much time with family. If only I could have had more time to do my work!” Many say, “I should have spent more time with my family and friends!” Slow down!
A hurried, stressful life leads to hurried, stressful responses, which leads to hurting, stressful relationships.
Listen: first to others in conversation, but there is another audience that requires ever believer’s attention. We’ll come back to that in a minute.

Secondly, we should be slow to anger, because it accomplishes nothing for God (v. 19b–20)
A person’s anger does not work out God’s righteousness. It hinders it.
James told them to be slow to anger, because man’s anger does not accomplish the righteous life God desires (v. 19b–20). Same word for “slow” meaning “be slow/hesitant to anger”
James commanded God’s people not to be quick to get angry.
Sometimes people are quick-tempered. Hot headed. Get angry fast. React fast. Can’t change their mind once they march off with a head full of steam!
James says, “That should not happen except once in a lifetime, and not even then if you can help it.” Why? For “man’s anger does not accomplish the righteousness of God.”
People in the Bible who lashed out in anger and did not accomplish God’s righteousness:
1. Adam and Eve quick to speak and anger in blaming
2. Abraham quick to have an offspring through Hagar instead of waiting
3. Jonah leaving for Tarshish instead of Ninevah b/c quick to anger!
4. Peter taking a sword and cutting off Malchus’ ear b/c he was quick to anger!
All of us are in one of two schools of anger management:

or Twain. Thomas Jefferson said, “When angry, count to ten. If very angry, count to 100.”
Mark Twain said, “When angry count to four. If very angry swear.”[3]
James dealt with people in his audience who from time to time had lost control of their temper. James says that our anger does not accomplish God's desires. Our desires don't always accomplish God's.
We get an idea in our minds sometimes and then it suddenly blurts out. Sometimes people don't say everything they're thinking, but they let it build up until finally it explodes. Being slow to anger doesn't mean being slow to lose one's temper, but it means being slow to have a temper at all.
I think that there is a dangerous idea in Southwest Wisconsin. We have different problems than I came into contact with in Dallas, but we have our own problems to deal with. We sometimes get to the point where we think we have grown up already, whether through confirmation or through a process in our church, and think we have learned everything there is to know.
The Christian life is a process of constantly seeking new ways to be more like Christ.
When we are upset, we need to think about two things: 1) What we say, and 2) the Way we say it.
If we say something to a person in anger it is different than if we say it calmly. Sometimes people can't hear us because of all the emotion that is coming out.
Anger can become such a monster that it overrides the content of our words and destroys relationships, as we seek to massage our feelings and hurt and give someone a piece of our mind (which we cannot afford to lose).
James says, "Don't do that. You will not accomplish God's mission on earth."
Once again, what feels good is not always healthy, and not always godly.
Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.
If you master these, you will be pleasing both to God, and everyone you know.

What does James say next? After saying to be quick to listen and slow to speak, and slow to anger, and telling us what NOT to do, James tells us what TO DO.

Third, James told them (therefore) to receive with humility the word planted in them, which can save them, getting rid of all moral filth and evil that is so prevalent, (v. 21)
Therefore, “therefore/for this reason,” (ask “what is it there for?”)—referring to quick listening and slow speaking and slow anger.
James tells them another path to take: receive God’s word, getting rid of moral filth and evil.
"With Humility!" Not proudly, or with arrogance, but serving the person who angered us and serving God by humbly receiving the word planted in us.
Being slow to anger involves having humility, as well as being quick to listen and slow to speak.
v. 21 says "Accept the word planted in you," or in some translations "receive."
What is James saying? We are supposed to be quick to listen to others in conflict, but most of all who are we supposed to listen to?
Listen to the Word of God which is inside you, follower of Jesus. Listen to the "Word" that "became flesh and dwelt among us." Receive by reading Scripture, following Jesus.
Once again, James uses conception terminology, like above where James had said (verses 13 and following) to be careful that evil desire doesn't conceive and create sin, which gives birth to death. Instead, here James says to be impregnated by the Word of God.
Try this: When we're upset, instead of giving into anger, seek other possible outcomes by reading God's Word, the Bible. Do you have verses about anger? Here's a great passage for those who have problems with anger management.
Ephesians 4:25–32, (NIV) "Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 'In your anger do not sin.' Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according tot heir needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."
However, getting rid of moral filth and evil are a secondary step.
The command here in v. 21 is “receive” the word planted in you, and the "dependent clause" is getting rid of moral filth and evil.
So then, the main verb in verse 21 is our accepting of God's word. It's like if I were going to the store to pick up groceries and my wife calls and says, "While you're going to the store, can you pick up eggs and milk?"
Here is an important point: Part of my receiving God's word is my getting rid of all evil and moral filth! Look quickly at "lay aside."
“Put off” is “lay aside,” used in Heb 12:1, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."
1 Pet 2:1, “Therefore, put aside . . .” names specific sin. This phrasing in James was common language for getting rid of sin. He tells the hearers this phrase in a summary of all kinds of various evils: uncleanliness or vulgarity and abundance of evil. Implied above in the “therefore” is that these all came from slowness to listen and quickness to become angry and speak.
So here is another important point: Instead of my anger leading to the righteousness of God, what can I do that leads to God's righteousness? Listening to the Word of God.
My anger won't get rid of moral filth and sin; it will only add to it. James says that there is excessive evil within his audience. It needed to be rooted out! My talking when in sin will not help in this.
If you're reading this, why not follow what James teaches?
Someone is asking, “But wait! What about the people who make me mad? How can I listen while they’re angry, and I’m not supposed to get angry?
Someone else is saying, "I don't get mad. I get even!"

God doesn’t want us to get even; He wants us to get better. We can only get better through getting into His Bible.
A friend of mine, Sherry, worked with me years ago in a ministry for youth in the Chicagoland area. She told us once that she, as a nurse, was bandaging a man who had been in a fight. She looked his shirt and it was a promotional shirt for the ministry we were a part of. She had our attention. Before finishing working on him she told the man, "Don't you dare wear that shirt again until you change your ways."
We need to put aside all the sin in our lives or else we look like the man who got into a fight with his Christian T-Shirt on.
I urge the reader to accept God's Word, be quick to listen, and quick to obey it. Sometimes when we are with others we also need to listen. If you're the wisest person, then forget this part. But for the rest of us, we need to read God's Word.
Bernard of Clairvaux has good to say about humility, which applies to having the ability to listen. The proud or arrogant won't listen. Let's be listeners.
Humility will save you from consequences of rash, unrighteous anger. Bernard of Clairvaux, monk in 12th Century AD wrote about humility: “So long, then, as I am not united to God, I am divided within myself and at perpetual strife within myself. Now this union with God can only be secured by love. And the subjection to him can only be grounded in humility. And the humility can only be the result of knowing and believing the truth, that is to say, having the right notions of God and of myself."[4]
Humility will save you from rash, unrighteous anger.

i. We should be quick to listen and slow to speak (v. 19)
ii. We should be slow to anger, because it accomplishes nothing for God (v. 19b–20)
iii. Receive with Humility the word of truth which is inside you
Look finally at the parable of the sower in Matthew 13, especially verses 16–23. It's about listening. He who has an ear, listen to the Word of God.
Not only should we listen to and receive God's Word, but Jesus is the Logos, or Word made flesh. First, before listening to anything else, you must hear Jesus and believe He is Who He says He is. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, that He died in our place and came to life again, confessing sin to Him and repenting of it, and the Bible says we are saved from our sin.
[1] Taken from Originally from Lee Iacocca, An Autobiography by Lee Iacocca & William Novak, Bantam, 1988, quoted in Lifeline, Summer, 1997. My late beloved Dr. Harold Hoehner would not approve of this footnote for citing second level sources. So I leave it partially to show the loss of losing him a few weeks ago to a heart attack. I would not be where I am if it were not for him and his investment as the second reader for my Master's Thesis.
[2] Taken from Originally from Counter Attack, Jay Carty, Multnomah Press, 1988, pp. 155ff

[3] Charles R. Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart, (Nashville: Word Publishing, 1998), 33.
[4] Swindoll, s.v. humility.