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Listen, Do, Practice
Today is our third message in our series from James. So far, we have looked at the first 18 verses of James and seen a number of interesting things.
Today we will be looking at verses 19-27 and the title of my message is “Listen, Do, Practice”. These are three words that are in our reading today and will form my three main points.
James 1:19-27 – Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. 20 Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires. 21 So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls. 22 But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. 23 For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. 24 You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. 25 But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it. 26 If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. 27 Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.
As I said there are three main points I want to bring out today. These will finish off James chapter 1.
1. Be quick to listen
James 1:19 – Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.
This is another point great James makes in this series of faith and action. Be quick to listen and slow to speak.
One of my Pastors used to say to me regularly to me that we have two ears and one mouth, so we should listen twice as much as we speak. This was great advice that has helped me a lot over the years. Two key reasons my Pastor used to say when we listen properly, we hear what the person is saying and it shows the person is of value to us.
Several years ago, when I worked at the hospital we had to do some cultural awareness training to teach us how different cultures communicate. One that grabbed me was the Aboriginal culture. We had an Aboriginal member of staff who explained the term silent conversations. This is where they speak and leave space for the other to process and think about a response.
He explained it is vital for Aboriginal people to be able to think about what was said and how it impacts them personally, their family and community before they respond.
I really think we can all learn a lot from Aboriginal people and the way they communicate. Silent conversations have a lot to offer. For many people, giving people time to think or respond how they want is a lost art.
As James says in verse 19 it can save a lot of stress too. He says quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to become angry. When we listen correctly, we are less likely to misunderstand what is being said and be upset or offended. As James tells us getting all fired up and angry doesn’t really help God’s Kingdom purposes (v20). As we know, in some cases it can even set it back.
So let us remember James words – be quick to listen.
2. Be doers of the Word
James 1:22 – But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.
Another great piece of advice from James. Don’t just listen to the Word, put it in to practice.
In our reading today, James also says if we don’t put the Word into practice we are like a person who looks in to a mirror and goes away and forgets what they see. In the Greek, this is not a passing glance in the mirror. The Greek word kat-an-o-eh’-o means to look intently, to behold, to consider, to discover. It is talking about an in-depth look and then forgetting what we see. If we look into the Word and then forget what we see, there is no chance of us putting it into practice.
Putting the Word into practice is a recurrent theme throughout the Bible. One example is when Joshua was about to lead the people into the promised land. God said to him, “Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do (Joshua 1:8).
Jesus echoed this idea of putting the Word into practice in Luke 6:46-48, “Luke “So why do you keep calling Me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say? 47 I will show you what it’s like when someone comes to Me, listens to My teaching, and then follows it. 48 It is like a person building a house who digs deep and lays the foundation on solid rock. When the floodwaters rise and break against that house, it stands firm because it is well built. 49 But anyone who hears and doesn’t obey is like a person who builds a house without a foundation. When the floods sweep down against that house, it will collapse into a heap of ruins.”
From the examples of James, Joshua and Jesus, we can see just how important it is to be doers of the Word. James says we are fooling ourselves if we don’t, but if we do we will be blessed. In Joshua, it told him that Joshua will only be successful if he obeys the Word. And Jesus says we will be like a person who builds their house on a strong foundation.
Just before I move on to my last point I want share a memory from Bible college. For our New Testament class, we had to memorise 100 verses for the final exam. Two of my friends we proudly stating that they had memorised 85 and 87 verses respectively. They asked another friend how many and he said, “I know James 1:22”. He went on to say it is important to know lots of Bible verses and it will help us pass the exam, but it is more important to put the verses we know it into practice. It really brought home to us it is great to know a lot of Bible verses, but it is even better to know them and put them into practice. It is where the rubber hits the road.
Today let us remember to not just be hearers of the Word, but let us put it into practice.
3. Be someone who practices pure religion
James 1:26-27 – If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. 27 Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.
In this last section James gives us three ideas of what expects from us who want to practice pure religion. It is not so much a definition, but some examples.
The first example is controlling our tongue. James uses the term “fooling yourself” for the second time in this passage. The first time it talked about not doing what the Word says. This time it is about controlling your tongue. Controlling our tongue is so vital for our witness as a Christian. Our words carry so much power. They can build up and encourage, or they can tear others down. They can be used to praise and worship our wonderful God, or they can be used to gossip about others. They can be used to share our faith with others, or they can be lie and tell crude stories. It is just so vital if we want to practice pure religion to control our tongues.
The second example is the look after orphans and widows. Verse 27 says in their distress. In the KJV it uses the word affliction. It means to look after those who are going through trials and struggling. It is more than a visit, but a caring for and really looking after their needs. This is even more emphasised when you consider there was a good chance a window or orphan in NT times would mean homelessness or much worse. One reason why I think this is considered pure religion is because often these two groups of people can do anything to repay you. It is one way help – us to them.
The third thing that James talks about is not being polluted by the world. As Christians, we know that the world around us has a way of pressing in on us. It tries to mould us and shape us into its image. For us as children of God to overcome the world, we must keep standing firm when all seems against us. When we are tempted to follow the worlds systems of doing things, we overcome when we follow God’s principles. We overcome the world when we continue to set our hearts and minds on things above. We overcome the world when we stay strong in the Word and remember that “every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith” as it tells is in 1 John 5:4.
The kind of “religion that God our Father accepts” is the kind that exerts a positive influence on one’s life. Pure religion is both internal and external. Internal in the way that is penetrates our hearts and minds and brings about real and lasting change. It is also external in the way it changes the way we live. It lives a life of holiness before God and a life that truly loves and cares for others.
Pure religion means to control our tongue, to care for orphans and widows and to stay pure in the midst of a polluted world.
This is the final message in James chapter one. We have seen a number of real and practical things that can help us put our faith into action. Today we saw…
By Dave Quinn
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