Doers of the Word
This week, Radiant Church’s Lead Pastor Keith Welton preached on James 1:19-27 for his sermon entitled, “Doers of the Word.” Below, you can listen to his sermon, watch our whole service, and use the outline for a reference.
Missed last week’s sermon from Pastor Welton, entitled “Resting in the Sovereignty and Goodness of God”? You can listen to it and watch the whole service here.
Have you ever been so engrossed in doing something that you didn’t hear someone tell you to do something? There are times we are playing a game as a family and I get a text or email, and I glance at it, and then a few minutes later people are laughing because I have completely missed that its my turn.
As a parent there have also been times when the kids had friends over and were doing something they should be doing, like wrestling in the living room, and I would tell them to stop but they wouldn’t, and so I would have to raise my voice to get their attention. Once they heard me I would say, “Come over here,” and they come, and I would say something like, “If you keep wrestling in the living room, you are going to break something important, so don’t do it. And sometimes I would see that they are looking at me but it is not registering in their minds. I can tell they are still thinking about how am I going to get him back. There would be times I would say, “Do you understand what I just said?” and they would nod yes, and then I say then why didn’t you do it? Did they really hear me???
If we are going to do what somebody says we have to make sure we hear them. And once we hear them we have to follow through on what they told us.
The same thing is true of God. We can be so busy with other stuff that we don’t really hear him. We don’t really pay attention and so we never really change.
Living for God requires hearing what he says and doing it, being “Doers of the word.”
We are reading the book of James today. This is the half-brother of Jesus. He was a leader in the church. And he tells us what we need to do to change so that we are doers of the word, and not just hearers.
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant 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 who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. 26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. 27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
Lets look at a few things that lead us to be doer of the word:
The Call to Change.
I point this out as a challenge and also an encouragement. Are you happy where you are now? Are you content? If so you are complacent! You have not arrived at perfection so you should be eager to change. If you are eager to change, longing to change, then hear this, it is possible to change. Don’t feel hopeless. God provides what we need to change. But also know it will take work.
V. 21: “Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness”
Take off those things, like taking off a shirt that is dirty. You take it off and lay it aside. This is what we need to do with what is spiritually dirt.
Get rid of filth and evil. Those are very broad words there. Filthy language, vulgarity, anything that goes against God’s commands. We can be polluted by the world. Things like anger, filthy language, hate, unforgiveness, harshness pollute us.
We can change. Put those away like an outdated shirt and we can put on the new life that God calls us to.
The Pathway to Change.
If you desire to change and experience more of God, then note this shows us the place of humbly receiving the word of God. That is the pathway, that is the means.
We are to humbly receive the word. Receiving the word is qualified with humbly. Humbly receive the word planted in you with soft hearts, or receptive hearts. If I were to take a seed and plant in a rock, that seed would be rejected. The rock is hard. You cannot get the seed into it. Hard hearts reject God’s word. They don’t allow it in.
The word is to be inside us. We saw that in Psalm 119 “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”
The word is able to save you. That is good news. It can save us from a hard heart. It can melt the stone and become soft and caring again. The word can be resisted. It is resisted and James is trying to change their attitude toward it.
The first verse talks about being slow to speak and quick to listen. Proud people always want to tell you what they know and tell you what they need. Proud people want things their way, and they want it now. “I am not interested in what you need, I want you to do this now.”
We can go to God with proud hearts that tell him what we want, when we want it, how we want it. We tell him, demand and we are not even thinking about receiving from him. We must hear it, receive it. We often are filled with pride, spiritual pride. I know that. I have done that before. I took a class on that. I have a degree in that. It doesn’t mean I am living it out. Knowledge has puffed me up.
Proud people don’t like to talk about what they don’t know and what they are not doing. Admitting that you need to do something is hard for a spiritually proud person. Can be great at serving others, helping them know things, but can you admit to where you need God to help you? You must be humble and genuine. We need to hear it, and contemplate it.
It’s not enough to merely assent to the need to change. There must be a change. It’s not enough to want to be more loving. Be more loving. Someone might say, “I’m really praying about being more loving.” Well why aren’t you doing it??!!
God wants to transform our lives. A caterpillar goes through a transformation. It begins as a bug, goes into a cocoon and comes out something else. Change means that there has been a change. It was one thing and now it is another. We were one way and now we are another.
The foolishness of hearing God’s word and not changing is equated to one who looks at their face in a mirror and then walks away and forgets what they look like. (verse 23)
“…who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror.” The word intently means to study and examine it. It’s not a casual glance. It’s really looking at it. Like a lady carefully looking to see if her eyeliner or blush is right.
When you read the Bible it leads you. It tells you what you look like and how you ought to look. And it gives you the motivation to live it out.
This verse talks about how the man “Forgets” and for us that might mean we talk ourselves out of changing. “It’s not that big of a deal. I’ll do it another time.”
It’s possible for people to be deceived. We hear the word, but we don’t do it. We can hear it, know it, and not follow it. We deceive ourselves. His religion, worship is useless. It is having no effect on him. Religion can be on our lips but far from our hearts.
“You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that–and shudder.” (Jam 2:19 NIV)
James 1:26 “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.”
He causes someone to have misleading or erroneous views about themselves.
Worthless. devoid of force, truth, success, result (A. V. uniformly vain): universally, h` qrhskei,a, James 1:26; useless, to no purpose. Exodus 20:7, do not take the Lord’s name in vain.
Do not misuse the name of the LORD your God, because the LORD will punish anyone who misuses His name. (Deu 5:11 CSB)
Are we being shaped by the word? People are great at telling others what they need to do. “Don’t be so judgmental. Don’t be so harsh.” Are you loving others? There is a time to correct others. But we do it with humility and patience. Not anger. No self righteousness. Not perfect but sincere. Not perfect but striving. Not perfect but making progress.
Let me say this, our culture has a disdain and confusion about the church because they have seen people profess faith in Christ and do terrible things. This passage helps us understand that. There are people who are deceived. There are people who have quit listening. There are people who just don’t care. I understand why some people would be confused.
But let me also say this. Jesus offers those people forgiveness and hope that they can truly change. His word can save you from anything. It can save you from judgmentalism. We come to church not because the people around us warrant our faith, but because the one who lived a perfect life and died for our sins warrants our worship. But don’t let the wrongs of others keep you from doing right. Kids, just cause someone hit you doesn’t mean you should hit them back.
The Depth of Change
Also our attitudes and internal desires. Change goes deep.
Friends who are fixing up a house: It’s easy to repaint things. But if you have rotten wood you have to get that out you can’t just paint over. James reminds us that we need to push deep for change of our thoughts and attitudes.
“What is the source of the wars and the fights among you? Don’t they come from the cravings that are at war within you? 2 You desire and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. You do not have because you do not ask…” (James 4:1-6 CSB)
As believers we want to go deeper to understand what is going on inside of us. What am I believing or not believing? What’s going on inside my heart? What’s going on inside my hearts spouse? He came home angry. Why? Did I do something wrong- is it his expectations. Did something happen at work and he is scared?
“The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.” (Pro 20:5 ESV)
Takes relationships deeper. Make them more significant.
- The Power for Change
“But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” (Jam 1:25 ESV)
Law and freedom don’t usually go together. Laws and oppression typically do. But laws do bring freedom. The Declaration of Independence is a legal document establishing that each person has the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That law provides life and freedom. How much more so is God’s word? It delivers us from lies of the enemy, the enslavement to human approval. It is perfect. Our constitution is imperfect and temporal. It will fade away at some point. His word perfect and enduring.
There is a powerful change when you know the character of God and the love of God and the wisdom of God that you no longer look at him and his word as hindering your happiness but rather actually as the means to happiness and fullness of life. Talk about transformation: when serving God goes from drudgery to a joy.
His law brings freedom. How life was meant to be lived.
Thomas Chalmvers, a puritan pastor in 1780-1847, wrote a sermon called “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection.” In it he talks about we can change by recognizing sin and love for the world as detrimental. And it is. But he says the true way to change is to see that God is infinitely more worthy of our devotion and service. We have something better to live for.
Stop hitting your brother. Stop taking things from your brother. That is bad and going to end in me being punished. Versus, I want to honor God and loving my brother is a way that I can do that. We go from being religious wet blankets that suffocate all the fun out of things to people who are excited about life and the opportunities before us because of what God has done for us. It energizes us!
It makes an ongoing relationship. When we see that Jesus changes us through his word and that we are in process of that change and that in his word we find a path of freedom and beauty, then Jesus goes from one who not just saved us in the past, and not just one that promises to one day deliver us from all things (which are hugely important), but he also becomes one who is working in us now, whom we have a relationship with and are experiencing him.
[Such thinking, “Jesus is simply reduced to our rescuer, who deals with God’s wrath for us and guarantees our future, effectively limiting his work to the past and future, and stripping the richness out of our relationship with and present experience of God.” 218, NSB. Gary Miller
*We will never be perfect. This effort to hear and do drives us back to Jesus.* Not trying leads to complacency.
We want to create intentional conversations on this. Go deep with people. Here at Radiant, we have Discovery Groups. Some of my favorite times in our group has been after we have talked about it and we spend time talking about how we need to respond to this. It gets personal. I start talking about things I’m not doing. But it has challenged me to grow. To hear other guys talking about where they need to be patient with their kids, their wives, or be more generous, or take a step to share with someone how God is working in their life.
*Take time to reflect on God’s word.* To examine your life. Where you need to step out in faith. Where you need to trust God. Where you need to experience the freedom and life God has for you rather than bondage and death.
Wake up to what God wants to do in your life.
How does this shape me? How could it shape me. What I am doing that may need to be challenged? Are there actions that need to be changed? Is there thinking that needs to be changed?
What do you hear God telling you to do? Will you do it? The danger in ignoring God’s word is that once you do it, it becomes easier to do the next time.
What is one thing that you may need to do this week? Change in increments. Stretch one bit at a time.
We will never be perfect. We will never be perfect doers. But we ought to be intentional doers. We ought to be making progress. Sometimes we listen for new ways of understanding God, the world, ourselves. That information is good. But we also ought to find ways of doing the word. When you listen to a message do you think about where you need to change? Some good advice a mentor gave me was to listen, reflect, and find the one biggest way the word challenges you and do that. Sharing your faith. Being present for Bible study. Showing love to a person you don’t really like. Participating in service.