Step Towards Transformation
Sunday Sermon given by Pastor Melwyn on April 12th, 2015.
Everyone seems to have their own special ritual… their own special routine… to get them going in the morning.
Maybe you have a cup of coffee before you start the day.Maybe you make your bed as soon as you get up,….. maybe you jump right into the shower.Others have to brush their teeth before they can do anything else.
Some start their ritual the night before;Putting coffee and water in the automatic coffee maker …. laying out the clothes they will wear the next morning.
But some part of everyone’s morning ritual …..is coming face to face with the mirror.
Most of us probably get our first glance at ourselves while we are still pretty scary looking.Our eyes have that bleary, dazed look.Our hair is sticking out in strange places.And even normally clean-shaven guys ….have some scruffy overnight growth on their face to deal with.
Facing our mirrors first thing in the morning is NOT that pleasant …. of an experience.
Mirrors are very honest little things. They do not compromise. Mirror, Mirror on the wall who’s the fairest of them all. Real mirrors do not lie.They do not gloss over our defects and tell us we are better-looking…. than we really are. They show us every wrinkle ….. every gray hair. In fact, …. the better the mirror, the more flaws we will see.
So why do we all have mirrors …. in our bathrooms?
Well,….. because as unpleasant as it may be to confront our own faces first thing in the morning,
We know ….. if we do not take a look at ourselves, ……and make some minor …… or in some cases major adjustments, …. the rest of the world is going to see …..that morning face!
So, …. It is better to “face” the truth, ….and make the changes…. So we can set free ourselves from those flaws.
Christ said, “then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32).
22″But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; 24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.”
James moves from speaking about receiving the word to obeying the word. Possessing the Word of God, even in our hearts, is not sufficient; there must be a resolve and determination to do what it says. “Acceptance of the Word must be followed by persistent obedience to the Word. Hearing must be followed by active obedience; otherwise the hearing is useless”
What James says here about obedience is one of the most well known statements in the Bible. He writes, “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” The church isn’t a class whereby we sit and listen to the Word of God, admiring it as a literary masterpiece, and then get up and go our own ways without having our lives changed. The Word of God is to be fleshed out; it is to be practiced. And if it isn’t, then something is wrong. In fact, James says if we hear it without doing it, we are deceived.
The verses break up naturally into three divisions: (1) A Command – “Be doers of the word…” (2) A Warning – “deceiving yourselves,” and (3) An Illustration – “he is like…”
The command is twofold; one is positive and the other negative, but both are imperatives.
a] Positive – “Be doers of the word.” There isn’t anything complicated about this command. Whatever the word instructs us to do we are to do. We may ponder it, digest it, discuss it, and analyze it, but in the final analysis, we are to do it. Someone has said, “One step forward in obedience is worth years of study about it.”
Let’s pretend that you work for me. In fact, you are my executive assistant in a company that is growing rapidly. I’m the owner and I’m interested in expanding overseas. To pull this off, I make plans to travel abroad and stay there until the new branch office gets established. I make all the arrangements to take my family in the move to Europe for six to eight months, and I leave you in charge of the busy stateside organization. I tell you that I will write you regularly and give you direction and instructions.
I leave and you stay. Months pass. A flow of letters are mailed from Europe and received by you at the national headquarters. I spell out all my expectations. Finally, I return. Soon after my arrival I drive down to the office. I am stunned! Grass and weeds have grown up high. A few windows along the street are broken. I walk into the receptionist’s room and she is doing her nails, chewing gum, and listening to her favorite disco station. I look around and notice the wastebaskets are overflowing, the carpet hasn’t been vacuumed for weeks, and nobody seems concerned that the owner has returned. I ask about your whereabouts and someone in the crowded lounge area points down the hall and yells, “I think he’s down there.” Disturbed, I move in that direction and bump into you as you are finishing a chess game with our sales manager. I ask you to step into my office (which has been temporarily turned into a television room for watching afternoon soap operas).
“What in the world is going on, man?” “What do you mean ?”
“Well, look at this place! Didn’t you get any of my letters?”
“Letters? Oh, yeah—sure, got every one of them. As a matter of fact … we have had letter study every Friday night since you left. We have even divided all the personnel into small groups and discussed many of the things you wrote. Some of those things were really interesting. You’ll be pleased to know that a few of us have actually committed to memory some of your sentences and paragraphs. One or two memorized an entire letter or two! Great stuff in those letters!”
“Okay, okay—you got my letters, you studied them and meditated on them, discussed and even memorized them. BUT WHAT DID YOU DO ABOUT THEM?”
“Do? Uh—we didn’t do anything about them.”
God intends for us to be doers! Paul told the Philippians, “The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:9).
Luke 6 is the end of the classic Sermon on the Mount and in his closing he says what he had preached is all fruitless until you become doers of the Word of God
Luke 6:46-47 (KJV)
God’s ways are so simple. He is simply saying I am going to show what someone is like who hears and does what he hears. Wherever you are at in your spiritual growth when you start doing something that is foreign to you you may stumble around at it. It will feel awkward and you may think you can’t do it but we all start growing on a kindergarten level.
Luke 6:48 (AMP)
48 He is like a man building a house, who dug and went down deep and laid a foundation upon the rock; and when a flood arose, the torrent broke against that house and could not shake or move it, because it had been securely built or [a] founded on a rock.
This passage is saying that the storm is going to come to everyone. The man that has become a doer of the Word of God whatever that level is the storm will not shake it or destroy it.
Luke 6:47-49 (MSG)
Jesus is teaching us here that if we don’t start implementing The Word of God in our lives when the storms come we won’t win.
Also read , John 14:21 (KJV) Mark 4:20 (KJV) James 1:21-22 (KJV) James 4:6-7 (AMP)
James 1:21-25 (AMP)
God’s grace empowers us to be obedient and not to live contrary to The Word of God but God’s grace empowers us to be a doer of The Word of God.
The following is an example in the bible of a man that was a doer of The Word of God
Luke 5:2-7 (KJV)
This would be considered a 30, 60 or 100 fold return by receiving The Word or being obedient to The Word of God or being a doer of The Word of God. This is part of the blessing that comes to people who really let Jesus be Lord by living a life of obedience to His word and being a doer of it. God has a way of blessing His people.
We open the door for God to bless us by being doers of The Word of God.
Jesus once said, “Blessed are they who hear God’s word and keep it” (Luke 11:28). Those who keep or do God’s word are those who have received it.
b] Negative – “And not hearers only.”
James does not mean to minimize the importance of hearing. There can be no doing without hearing. In fact, the doers of the Word are the best hearers. What James opposes is hearing “only.”
There are three categories of people:
God wants us to hear in order that we might do. “The most attentive and the most frequent hearing of the word of God will not avail us, unless we be also doers of it. If we were to hear a sermon every day of the week, and an angel from heaven were the preacher, yet, if we rested in bare hearing, it would never bring us to heaven.
Too many people in churches today are auditing the class. They hear the sermons but they don’t do anything about it. But the Bible is not meant to be studied for information sake only. Faith leads to action! Christianity is not meant to be audited.
There are many books which you can read to gain information, knowledge, intellectual stimulation, spiritual inspiration, amusement, or entertainment. But the Word of God is different, and this is probably the reason it is not as popular as other books: it demands action… You can read history, but it asks nothing of you. You can read literature, but there are no imperatives, no declarations, and no explanations, although it may have a lesson to teach which may or may not have been in the mind of the author. You can read science, but it makes no demands on you whatsoever. You can read a cookbook and it gives you a recipe, but it does not say you have to cook. There is no demand that you mix up a batch of biscuits or that you make a chocolate cake. However, the Word of God is a command. It is a trumpet. It is an appeal for action.
“He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36)…”
2] The Warning – “deceiving yourselves”
The person who hears God word without doing it deceives himself. That means he lies to himself. It is bad enough to be deceived by others but worse to deceive ourselves.
Nothing is quite so bad as when we deceive ourselves. Self-deceit is the worst deceit.
A man was looking for a job and he noticed that there was an opening at the local zoo. He inquired about the job and discovered that the zoo had a very unusual position that they wanted to fill. Apparently their gorilla had died, and until they could get a new one, they needed someone to dress up in a gorilla suit and act like a gorilla for a few days. He was to just sit, eat and sleep. His identity would be kept a secret, of course. Thanks to a very fine gorilla suit, no one would be the wiser.
The zoo offered good pay for this job, so the man decided to do it. He tried on the suit and sure enough, he looked just like a gorilla. They led him to the cage; he took a position at the back of the cage and pretended to sleep. But after a while, he got tired of sitting, so he walked around a little bit, jumped up and down and tried a few gorilla noises. The people who were watching him seemed to really like that. When he would move or jump around, they would clap and cheer and throw him peanuts. And the man loved peanuts. So he jumped around some more and tried climbing a tree. That seemed to really get the crowd excited. They threw more peanuts. Playing to the crowd, he grabbed a vine and swung from one side of the cage to the other. The people loved it and threw more peanuts. Wow, this is great, he thought. He swung higher and the crowd grew bigger. He continued to swing on the vine, getting higher and higher—and then all of a sudden, the vine broke! He swung up and out of the cage, landing in the lion’s cage that was next door.
He panicked. There was a huge lion not twenty feet away, and it looked very hungry. So the man in the gorilla suit started jumping up and down, screaming and yelling, “Help, help! Get me out of here! I’m not really a gorilla! I’m a man in a gorilla suit! Heeelllp!”
The lion quickly pounced on the man, held him down and said, “Will you SHUT UP! You’re going to get both of us fired!”
For whatever reason, you could be like this guy, trying to be something that you’re not
3] The Illustration – “if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like…”
How can I tell if I am in the hearing camp and am not a doer of the Word?
James provides us with an illustration that makes the matter plain. He says, “If anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; 24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.”
James uses two examples in his illustration. One is of the hearer only and the other is of the hearer who also does.
a] The Bad Example (23-24).
“If anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. “
The one who hears without doing “is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror” (NIV).
Mirrors in ancient days were not like today’s glass mirrors, but they did enable someone to get a good look at himself and in so doing, see what grooming needed to be done.
What does a man see when he looks in the mirror? He observes “his face.” The expression James uses literally means “the face of his birth.” James Ropes calls it “the face that nature gave him.” The mirror doesn’t lie. It tells the truth. What he sees it what he looks like.
Kent Hughes tells a story of a missionary out in the bush hanging a small mirror on a tree in order to shave. The local witch doctor happened by and curiously looked into the strange glass—and seeing her hideously painted features she jumped back! Immediately she began to bargain with the missionary for the mirror. The man objected, but to no effect. Finally, realizing that the witch doctor would not be put off, he let her have the mirror—whereupon she threw it to the ground, breaking it to pieces, shouting, “There … it won’t be making ugly faces at me anymore!”
The mirror James is talking about is God’s Word. When we look into God’s Word we see ourselves as we really are. That is good because that is supposed to lead us to Christ and then on to be like him. But some are satisfied with looking in the mirror and thinking we have accomplished all that God requires.
But what happens to this man? After seeing himself in the mirror he “goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.” Out of sight, out of mind. Sometimes when we see ourselves in a mirror we want to walk away and forget what we look like (hair blown, double chin, bald head, wrinkles, etc.). But it is a great tragedy to walk away from looking in God’s word and forget what we saw. The person who does that has failed to respond to the word. And he gets no benefit from the word either.
Mirrors speak to us. They say “wash your face,” “comb your hair,” “shave that stubble,” or “brush those teeth.” After looking into the mirror we are supposed to do what it told us we should do! If we don’t, then the mirror is of no practical benefit to us.
And the same is true of God’s word…
b] The Good Example (25).
“But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.”
James now refers to God’s word as “the perfect law of liberty.” The “Law that gives freedom” seems like a paradox. Law seems to imply restraint and therefore a lack of freedom. Not so with God’s Law. His perfect Law provides true freedom. “Hold to My teaching,” Christ said, “then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32).
There are three sorts of dogs in the city:
All men seem to be like one of these three dogs. The masses are utterly lawless when it comes to the authority of God. They are dominated by sin, and “sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4). And then, there are many who are like the dog on the leash—they have law, but no liberty. These are legalists in the religious realm. The cheerless Pharisee is the representative of thousands who, “being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God” (Rom. 10:3). But the Christian who knows the truth of New Testament deliverance is like the third dog. He needs no chain but is guided by his Master’s eye and his Master’s voice
James closes with a beatitude: “this one will be blessed in what he does.” Doing God’s Word is the key to blessing and happiness. “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them” (John 13:17).
In contrast is the man who looks into the word of God and who habitually reduces it to practice. His contemplative, meditative gazing has practical results in his life. To him the Bible is the perfect law of liberty. Its precepts are not burdensome. They tell him to do exactly what his new nature loves to do. As he obeys, he finds true freedom from human traditions and carnal reasonings. The truth makes him free. This is the man who benefits from the Bible. He does not forget what he has read. Rather he seeks to live it out in daily practice. His simple childlike obedience brings incalculable blessing to his soul. This one will be blessed in what he does.
Theoretical knowledge of spiritual truth is never commended in Scripture. In fact, it is discouraged and condemned.
I read about a man who died at the age of 63 without ever having had a job. He spent his entire adult life in college. During those years he acquired so many academic degrees that they “looked like the alphabet” behind his name.
Why did this man spend his entire life in college? When he was a child, a wealthy relative died who had named him as a beneficiary in his will. It stated that he was to be given enough money to support him every year as long as he stayed in school. And it was to be discontinued when he had completed his education.
The man met the terms of the will, but by remaining in school indefinitely he turned a technicality into a steady income for life—something his benefactor never intended. Unfortunately, he spent thousands of hours listening to professors and reading books but never “doing.” He acquired more and more knowledge but didn’t put it into practice.
This reminds me of what James said: “Be doers of the Word, and not hearers only” (1:22). If we read the Bible or listen as it is taught but fail to put to work what we have learned, we are as bad as that man with his string of degrees. His education was of no practical benefit to anyone.
Hearing Must Be Matched By Doing To Be Blessed