Last week we saw at some length that the main difference between a trial and a temptation was the source. Trials come from the Lord, and the purpose is to strengthen, to make sure our faith.
To endure these trials ensures the crown of life (see v.12). On the other side, the temptations we face come from other sources; either Satan or our own sinful nature. We saw that sin becomes a reality when we allow the process of being tempted to gain a foothold. The process as we saw it was the same for Eve in the garden, as for us today...we see it in verses 14,15:
Desire is the drawing card, the fruit looked good to Eve.
Deception is the lie; it promised much good without stipulating the cost. Disobedience is the turning point where thoughts become deeds,
spawning forth in sinful actions.
Death is but the final result.
We can look at that in one of two ways:
A. "I didn't ask to be born. God put me here, so it's His fault I'm like I am. Let me alone, I'm going to take as much from this life as I can grab." We call this the Grossness of Presumption.
B. "God put me here, and He knew I couldn't stand alone, so He died in my place on Calvary. I owe Him everything." This we call the Graciousness of Perception. It is a spiritual sight that sees the love of God which gives good gifts (v.17), and responds with the heart: Yes, Lord!
In verses 19, 20, James speaks a truth that resounds like a thunderclap. "Listen...Hear...Understand!
Human beings are much more likely to wag our tongues than perk our ears. James admonishes us to keep the mouth closed and listen to the Lord's instruction; then we will be prepared to do His will. The principle we get from this is found in verse 20: If the wrath of man (his own pride and selfishness) does not accomplish the righteousness of God, then the opposite does.
In order to please God you must do His will...His works. Anything less won't do! But that's hard, you say! Ah, not so hard, just alien to our human nature. James said we must be swift to HEAR. You can find out the will of God by being teachable, having an ear, and a heart for the things of God. Roughly translated that means the heart for God will find the body in God's house at the appointed times.
The ear for the spiritual things will find itself engaged in Bible Study. The soul that belongs to God will want to be close to the heart of Christ. My friend, the heart of Christ is found in close proximity to the Bride He loves, the church. James said, "Be swift to hear...you be teachable". It means more than attending...it means attention to the things of God.
In verses 21-22 James gives us the whole design for Christian living. For a majority of us these are familiar words. Perhaps today our hearts will be more teachable to receive the meaning as we allow the Lord to teach us. James says in verse 21 we must remove things that hinder. He says to "lay apart all filthiness". Two words in the language of the Bible give a picture. To lay apart means to strip off frantically, as you would undress if you'd just fallen in a swamp.
The word filthiness is "rupos"; the word could be translated as "ear-wax". The picture is a man quickly unstopping his ears, so as to hear better. Why? To receive clearly, distinctly the Word of God, which is able to save a soul. Make no mistake...the apostle recognized what we also know: Many people never receive Christ, or grow in spiritual things because they choose so! They stop their ears to the truth! You've heard the comments: The preacher is too loud/soft...He gets too personal....I don't like that kind of music...He talks too much about money. People who never get past human things have no appetite for spiritual things. They really don't know what they want, they just know they want different from what they're getting. The problem is carnal appetites that overwhelm a malnourished spirit.
Notice the word "engrafted". James says to receive the word. It is common when making grafts of fruit trees that the branch splinter that is cut into the base tree is covered at the wound with moist dirt or clay. It supports the shunt for a while. In time the clay is washed away by rain and wind. What remains is the engrafted branch. The Word of God is like that. The pastor/teacher is more like the clay. Sermons come and go, and so much of it is washed away. But if you have a heart for God, receive the Word...for it alone will bear fruit in you. Don't worry so much about the kind of clay...Receive the word! It is able to save you and bear fruit, never the clay.
And now look at the most quoted verse of the book... "Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves." Doing and hearing are the pieces of the puzzle of God's Word. Without either, neither makes any sense. That is why there are so many miserable Christians in the world today. They center on one piece of the puzzle to the exclusion of the other.
Allow me to fit the puzzle together today. We have been talking about truth (i.e.: the trials we endure lead to the crown of life, we are responsible for our own sin, God only gives that which is good for us). That is truth, and most of us will agree whole-heartedly. We are hearers/understanders" of that Word!
Bravo! But how many are DOERS today? Have we taken responsibility for our own sin before God and said "Yes, Lord, I am a sinner, and I ask your forgiveness."?
Have we allowed the pressure of doing to follow the hearing in all areas of our daily living?
* We hear the word: "the tithe is holy"...We receive the word, but do it?
* We hear the word: "and ye shall be my witnesses..." We receive that word too...but do it?
* Again we hear the word "be ye holy, for I am holy"...the word is true, we receive it. But do we do it?
This tube of toothpaste has the potential of keeping my teeth clean. But unless it is squeezed it will only ever have potential, never reality. The truth of God's Word is like that in me and in you. If we receive the Word, all is well and good. If it stops there we have stayed in the tube and accomplished nothing.
Verse 22 is our pressure this morning. Like salt in the shaker, we are only possiblities. Christians in the pews are only potential healers and caregivers of Christ's love.