Step Towards Transformation
James 1:19-27 New King James Version (NKJV)
19 So then,[a] my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath;
20 for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
21 Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
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.
26 If anyone among you[b] thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless.
27 Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.
James 1: 17 Says, All good gifts around us are sent from heaven above…”
In order to receive every good gift from God, we must prepare ourselves to hear God’s Word, especially in times of trial. When we prepare ourselves to hear God’s Word, it will give us a fresh start in life.
Illustration; Most of us, probably all of us looked in the mirror at least once this morning. Some of us stood in front of the mirror for some time. We want to look our best. So at least once a day we stand before a mirror and review the way we look. If we need to adjust something… and we usually do, we straighten out our clothes or we comb our hair… all because the mirror tells us we need to.
The word of God is a mirror that the Holy Spirit uses to enable us to see ourselves as we really are. It is not like a mirror. It is one. When we look into God’s word the view we get is HOW GOD SEES US. Not how our friends see us or how we see ourselves. How God sees us.
But here’s the problem. The problem is that most of us don’t actually read it. The truth is we hold the very word of God in our hand. And it is a mirror. The Bible allows us to see ourselves as we really are.
So How Do We Get The Most Out Of WORD? James says we must be open to God’s Word. Let’s face it, many people are not. Here’s how he says to do that.
(1) Concentrating Our Attention [Verse 19a]: James says we must be quick to hear the Word of truth. James is not talking about just physically hearing the words; he is talking about listening.
Illustration: Have you ever said to someone I don’t think you are hearing what I have to say and they respond, oh I hear you, I just don’t agree. You can hear His Word and still not understand it.
(2) Controlling Our Tongues [Verse 19b]: I have had to learn to keep my mouth shut until the person speaking has finished what they were saying. Oh, and it also helps to actually listen to what they are saying
Illustration: I remember one Wednesday evening at the Bible study when Pastor Ruth was teaching and I thought she was explaining something wrong. I jumped in and in front of everyone started “discussing” the correct interpretation of the passage. As it turns out she was about to explain the correct meaning of the Scripture but I had already jumped to a conclusion and my conclusion was wrong. Do you know what happened when we got home? Nothing. She never said a word but I knew that I had hurt her feelings and had embarrassed her in front of the group.
Let’s face sometimes we talk too much. There is a reason God gave us one mouth and two ears. We need to listen more than we speak. James says we must have a controlled tongue. God has given us two ears, but one tongue, to show that we should be swift to hear, but slow to speak. God has set a double fence before the tongue, the teeth and the lips. I like that…think of your teeth and lips as a double fence guarding what may come out.
I don’t know about you, but I have found my mouth can open up quickly before my mind has fully processed what I am saying.
Illustration: A good example of someone who could not control his tongue is the apostle Peter. He had no problem telling anyone what was on his mind or how he felt. That got him into trouble on more than one occasion. For example , In Matthew 16:17-23, he first spoke for God when he said that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God, but moments later he spoke for Satan and Jesus had to rebuke him by saying, Get behind me, Satan!”
We are not quick to hear as James tells us to be. Instead we are quick to speak.
(3) Containing Our Anger Or Cultivate A Calm Spirit. [Verse 19c]: James says we should be “slow to anger.” In other words, we need to calm down. We are to be slow to become angry.
But Jesus got angry! Jesus was angry when the temple, His father’s house, was being turned into a den of thieves yet He showed endless humility during His “trials”, beatings and crucifixion.
The Lord God was angry with the people of Israel. The Lord God was feeding them each day with manna and sustaining them but it was not what they wanted and His anger was aroused against them.
We notice that when James distinctly says, “man’s anger” we realize that not all anger is sin. James said, “be slow to anger” not, “don’t ever become angry”
Human anger he calls it
This is the anger James is teaching us about.
Why do we need to be “slow to become angry?” Because, we need to make sure that we are becoming angry for the right reasons. Notice that verse 20 specifies what type of anger it is that “does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”
Illustration: I use to be a very angry person and I would bottle up my anger, and like a tea kettle…all of a sudden I would start to blow. Now for many years I know God has given me victory in that area, however it is one area of my life I need to review daily and bring it to the cross.
You can’t keep anything. You have to give it up to god. As one person put it: “You brought nothing into this world and you sure ain’t taking nothing out.”
Illustration: I heard the true story of a family who were angry about everything. It seemed like their house was a warzone every day, with yelling and screaming being the course of life for them. One day they decided to go to church. They were so moved by what they experienced, they came back week after week and eventually became Christians.
But they still yelled and screamed at each other at home. Realizing this wasn’t healthy they went to the preacher asking if he could help. He scheduled a time for counseling with them and they sat down in a classroom with a long table. Given the enormity of their problem, the preacher began to ask probing questions to see if he could get a handle on the issue.
It seemed that the family was in a constant state of conflict with everyone mad at everyone else. The dad would get mad at the wife for burning the food, or nagging him all the time or questioning his time being out with his friends. She was angry at him for dropping his clothes in the middle of the floor and not helping out around the house. The kids would be angry with each other over various things. One daughter was mad at her sister because her sister would borrow her dresses without permission and then throw the dress on her bed.
The situation was so tangled and laced with anger that the preacher wasn’t sure what to tell them… so he prayed. Then, it was like a light bulb went on in his brain. He passed out pens and blank papers to each of the family and asked them to write down everything they could think of that made them angry with their other family members. For the next few minutes everyone wrote furiously on their sheet of paper. Then the preacher said “Everything you wrote represents a ‘right’. The husband thinks he has a right to not be nagged. The wife believes she has a ‘right’ to have him pick up after himself. The sister thinks she has a ‘right’ to have her sister not only ask to borrow a dress, but to hang it up when she’s finished. “Once you became Christians you made Jesus the Lord of your life. That meant you turned all of your ‘rights’ over to Him. You don’t have any rights any longer… but you haven’t learned how to give those rights to Him completely.
“So, what we’re going to do is pretend that the center of this table is an altar to God, and we’re going to put your ‘rights’ that you wrote down on your papers onto that altar and offer them back to God. Now, that’s easier said than done because you’ve spent a lifetime building your sense of entitlement in life and you’re not going to unlearn that attitude in a single day. So, what we’re going to do is, you’re going to have daily meetings at the dining room table and ask around the table if anyone has gotten angry at someone else that day and you’ll talk about how those ‘rights’ need to be resubmitted to God all over again. Mom, you’ll be the secretary and you’ll right down what is discussed and how your family handled it. Next week, we’ll get together and talk about what happened at your family meetings.”
It took a few weeks, but before long the family changed their attitudes. The daughter recalled a day when she saw one of her dresses crumpled up on the bed… and she picked it up, thanked God for her sister, and rehung the dress in her closet. The father came home to a meal that had been burned, told his wife that he loved her and that he was so grateful she committed to cooking the meals for the family. The wife told of seeing her husband’s clothing on the floor, picking them up and putting them in the hamper, and thanking God she had a husband who supplied for the family. In time, warfare was replaced with kindness and peace.
You can’t talk with a person when they’re angry. I know. I’ve tried. They won’t listen. Right? We can become so upset that we just block out our capacity to hear it. And this is especially true with God’s word. There are things God wants to tell you that will make you very uncomfortable. And when we are angry, we shut Him out. We often shut everyone out. What we are thinking about is the person we are angry with and how we are going to get even. We feel resentment. Bitterness. And all of these are barriers to communication. We need to calm down so we can hear.
(4) Cleansing Our Lives Of Sin [Verse 21]: We must produce a Clean Life. James tells us to “lay aside all filthiness; he says we must get rid of all moral filth.
Illustration: There is an interesting word here in the Greek. The word for “filth” that is used here comes from a root word in Greek that means “ear wax.” Can we talk about ear wax for a moment? Because it really is a great word picture. We can’t hear when our ears are full of wax. When they are we reach for a Q tip. Harvard school of medicine says that’s actually the worst thing we can do. They say that when we use it we are actually pushing the wax in further. It makes a great point. Most of us use the wrong tool to improve our hearing.
James says that we get rid of anything that we know of in our lives that keeps us from hearing God. Because until you do you won’t be able to hear what He has to say.
(5) Submissive To God’s Word. [Verse 22-25]: Simply Hearing God’s Word has no lasting value. When we open the Bible, we must plan to do what it says. The Bible is more than a book to carry to church. It gives its readers a way to follow the heart of God and the footsteps of Jesus. God wants us to go beyond merely hearing the word to obeying the word. Casual hearers simply glance at the highlights of God’s Word and continue on their way like tourists. Careful believers mine God’s Word and find new, life-changing treasures. The Bible must have a continuing effect on the life of a believer.
Many Christians are filled with biblical knowledge and facts, but they fail to put that knowledge into godly living. Their spiritual heads get fatter and father while their spiritual bodies waste away because they are not being used, just like a human body gets loose or wastes away when it’s not used. James refers to them as being deceived. They have deceived themselves by hearing the word but not applying it in their daily lives.
He says in [verse 22]:: “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” James tells us that if we want to be blessed it will not happen by just hearing the word… we will be blessed by “doing the word.” So if you expect to be blessed by just listening on Sunday mornings you won’t be…you will be blessed when you respond to it. That is the basis upon which you will be blessed. If you’re not willing to do the word, don’t expect to be blessed by the word.
There Is A Difference Of Hearing And Listening. Hearing Is The Reception Of Sound; Listening [Obeying] Is Meaning Given To That Sound.
Illustration: Let’s play ‘Let’s Pretend’. 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 a new branch office gets established. I make all the arrangements to take my family and 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 directions 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 and 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. 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 asked 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 yes! Sure! I got every one of them. As a matter of fact, we have had a letter study every Friday since you left. We have even divided the personnel into small groups to discuss many of the things you wrote. Some of the things were really interesting. You will 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.”
“OK. You got my letters. You studied them and meditated on them; discussed and even memorized them. But what did you do about them?” “Do? We didn’t do anything about them.”
How Do We Avoid Deception? Look up and believe that God is telling you the truth. What He offers is better than what this world offers, whither I FEEL LIKE IT OR NOT. Whether my heart likes it or not. Whether I want it or not. It takes a while for my wants and desires to line up with God’s wants and desires, and that starts to happen when I engross myself in His word. James says in [verse 23-24]: that person is like a man who looks in the mirror, sees what he needs to do to improve himself and then says, “oh well” and then walks away.
Illustration: They [The Deceived] are like the African princess that Who lived in the heart of the jungle and for years. This daughter of the tribal chief had been told by everyone that she was the most beautiful woman in the entire tribe. She had no mirror to look in so she was convinced she was beautiful. One day an explorer was traveling through that part of Africa and the princess was given a mirror as a gift. For the first time in her life she was able to see her own reflection. Her immediate reaction was to smash the mirror on the nearest rock. Why? Because for the first time in her life she knew the truth. What other people had told here all those years didn’t matter anymore. She saw for the first time that was she wasn’t beautiful after all. .
You see, mirrors don’t lie. When you look into the mirror, you see the truth. And too often we do nothing about it. The word of God is like a mirror to show you the truth. You can get mad and even break the mirror but you won’t change the truth.
In [verse 25]:, James speaks of “one who looks into the perfect law of liberty.” You will notice that he is not simply talking about someone who just glances at God’s word. He is talking about someone who looks intently. They examine what the word has to say. Study it. Research it. The word means to “stoop [down] and gaze into.” It is the same word that was used to show the way Peter, John, and Mary stooped down to look into the empty tomb on Resurrection morning. They weren’t just taking a casual glance. We are not to GLANCE, we are to LOOK IN TO and there’s a huge difference.
Illustration: Tim Keller tells the story that his brother-in-law would never wear his seat belt in the car. I rebuked him for it. Then one day he picked me up at the airport, and he had it on. I asked, “What happened? What changed you?” “I went to visit a friend of mine in the hospital who was in a car accident and went through the windshield. He had two or three hundred stitches in his face. I said to myself, ‘I’d better wear my seat belt.'” “Did you not know that if you didn’t wear your seat belt you would go through the windshield if you had an accident?” “Of course I knew it. When I went to the hospital to see my friend, I got no new information, but the information I had became new. The information got real to my heart and finally sank down and affected the way I live.”
What do you do when you look into the mirror in the morning? I glance at the mirror every morning. Sundays I look a lot longer. Saturdays, not so much. On Saturdays I’m not really looking very hard. James describes here a man who LOOKS INTO the mirror and sees that things are out of place and does absolutely nothing about it.
(6). Finally, James Says We Must Practice Pure/Faultless Religion. [Verse 26-27]:
When there is a need for mentoring… for leading… for guidance of one who has no one to guide them… it is incumbent upon the church… the believers to step up and be that ‘father’ figure… be that leader/mentor who will help them to find their way!
We have several in our fellowship who have lost their husbands to death, but also others who have lost their husbands to other things, such as disease or infidelity…Today there are many ‘widows’ who feel alone and separated because of their situation… they NEED us to be there for them!
James is calling believers to be there for those in need… the orphan who has no one to lead or guide them AND the widow who feels alone and separated from the world…Pure and undefiled ‘religion’ is meeting their needs… it is stepping up and mentoring one who needs guidance… it is stepping up and letting a widow know they are NOT alone, through your actions, not just thru your words!
Pure and faultless religion is a delicate balance between the positive and the negative. Genuine faith denies the self, takes risks, loves others and always seeks to please God.
Our actions speak louder than our words, and a relationship with a living God calls for us to do something. We need to get our hands dirty and get into the filth of human pain and sadness while at the same time not allowing that same filth to contaminate us. Failure to help those who need our help means that we risk becoming defiled and impure. Everyone God sends our way is really seeking his listening, compassionate heart at work through us.
Before a relationship with Jesus religion and religious deeds are heavy. They are burdensome. They are frustrating.
Once you have a relationship with Jesus through salvation and surrender your life to Jesus in sanctification by loving Him with all of your heart and all of your soul and all of your mind and all of your strength the doing is miraculously transformed into being?
No long doing but being. And that is freedom!
Many sinners spend their lives trying to live their lives in hopeless desperation because that is what sinners do. That is not the way God created them but that is the path of sin and rebellion against God that humanity has chosen.
When He does that all of the good things a person was doing before salvation out of a vain duty become acts of worship and the newly transformed, born again Christian lives in freedom and the enabling presence of Christ!
That my friends is the awesome transformational power of Jesus and that is the true religion that James is writing about!
If we want to help others, we can start by being good listeners. They need solutions that can only come by listening carefully with an open mind and an open heart. We must listen to others in the same way that God listens to us.
Let me ask you…what is instrumental in you visiting someone? Legs to take you! The foot bone is connected to the ankle bone and the ankle bone is connected to the leg bone. So really, your feet!
Romans 10:15 says, And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!
Look At Yourself In The Mirror – How Beautiful Are Your Feet? Are you carrying the Gospel to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the uttermost parts?
Conclusion: I can’t say what God may have said to you during this message. It could be many things.
What will you do? Will you respond or will you just walk away from what he is saying?
Maybe you don’t like what you see in the mirror/God’s word. Many times I don’t. But it doesn’t make sense to just neglect it because we don’t like it.
Illustration: I get a lot of junk mail, don’t you? A lot of it I don’t read. I throw it away without even opening it or if I do open it I just glance; I don’t gaze. But have you ever gotten a love letter? I suspect every one of us has. I think that the one-time people read a letter carefully; for all its worth, is in when they’re in love. They look at every word. They read it again and again. They keep it so they can read it again tomorrow. Bible is God’s love letter to you. So why not read it? Just read it.
1) Have you:Received the Word? It will be evidenced in a change of actions. Your life will say to all I reject sin. I’m laying down the sin that is strangling out Christ. It will also change our attitudes.
2) Do you Practice the Word? Are you a forgetful hearer or a faithful doer? Is God’s Word the mirror for your life? Are you living the Word by doing what it says?
3) Are you Sharing the Word? Do you have a phony religion? A tongue that is killing people and infecting others. Or do you have a Pure religion? A heart for God and for others
4) Is there a sin in my life for which confession and repentance is needed?
5) What can I model and teach? What does God want me to share with someone?