James 1:19-21 ESV
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
Listening to One Another
If we were all to follow this good counsel, at all times, imagine how much better we would all communicate with one another. If we truly listened to what people say, not just with our ears, but with our minds, and with our hearts, giving them our undivided attention, showing genuine interest in what they want to communicate with us, imagine how much less frequently we would have misunderstandings. I still am a work in progress here.
When I was in college 50 years ago, I took a class in communication. I think it was an English course. The main thing I learned in that class, which I still have to remind myself of, at times, is that communication does not take place until the speaker speaks, the listener responds with what he thinks he heard, and then the speaker responds back to acknowledge a “Yes,” or to clarify any misunderstandings so that the listener truly heard the speaker.
Too many times we listen halfheartedly, for many reasons, but often it is because we are distracted or our minds are somewhere else. So, we have to consciously be aware of when we are not fully listening, and then we need to engage our minds and our hearts in what the other person wants to communicate with us, and we need to put away all distractions.
For, all too often people walk away from conversations deciding what the other person said or intended, and then sometimes that turns to anger, and that then turns to bitterness. For, they misunderstood, and they made a false judgment, and they decided something that wasn’t true, and then they treated that other person badly, as though it was true. And, many relationships are ruined because of lack of good communication where we truly listen and we respond to make certain we heard the other person correctly.
Nonetheless, this doesn’t mean that we have to listen to obvious or known lies or to abusive speech. And, righteous indignation is sometimes called for in the case of someone repeatedly using abusive language or repeatedly telling the same lies over and over again. For, God hates lies, and we should, too, but we should not assume lies unless they have proven to be lies, i.e. we have to be careful that we don’t falsely accuse others.
Listening to the Lord
We especially need to be quick to hear and slow to speak when God is speaking to our hearts through his Word, or through his Spirit living within those of us who are his by faith in Jesus Christ. And, we should never get angry with the Lord, though sometimes we have, or we do, usually because of misunderstandings about who God is and how he works in our hearts and lives, and with regard to wrong thinking with respect to his sovereignty.
We need to have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to us all day and every day, too. For, too many people compartmentalize their relationship with Jesus Christ, and they feel they have done their duty if they give him a segment of their day, or one day a week. But, the Lord wants us 24/7 with our all on the altar of sacrifice laid, our hearts does the Spirit control (1).
So, before we can be doers of the Word, we need to be good listeners, but not just with our physical ears, but fully engaged with our hearts and our minds to hear what the Lord wants to say to us, and with willing minds and hearts to obey what he is teaching us.
Anytime we are reading the Word, we should ask the Spirit of God to speak to our hearts individually to make certain we are listening to it, and doing it, before we talk with others about listening, too. Yet, I’m not saying we have to have arrived, but that we are daily listening when prompted of the Spirit, and we are not quenching the Spirit’s voice by refusal to listen and to obey.
James 1:22-25 ESV
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 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. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 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.
When it comes to truly listening to the Lord, doing what he says will follow as a matter of course. For, we don’t just listen with our ears, but listening involves a desire to hear and to understand and to obey. Listening involves so much more than just hearing words, but it has to do with hearing the heart of God, too, and caring deeply about what he wants to teach us.
For, scripture teaches us that Jesus’ sheep (his followers) listen to his voice, he knows them, and they follow (obey) him (Jn. 10:27).
So, it is possible to hear the Word of God but to not truly listen to it, because we are not fully engaged in it with a desire of our hearts to understand what it says and to obey our Lord. Our minds may be engaged, but our hearts are not, and that is why it does not result in obedience. For, we listen intellectually to gain knowledge, but we don’t really hear God’s heart because we aren’t really listening, because we are distracted with other things that have our attention more than God’s Word does.
So, we need to not just be those who hear with our ears, but we need to be those who are truly listening to the Lord, to hear his heart, so that we can truly do what his Word teaches us. And, then we need to put that Word into practice in our daily lives, not just talk about it, and not just hear it with our physical ears, or strictly with our minds. For, God has called us to be doers of the Word, who put the Word in practice in our daily lives.
Yet, there are many people who like to fill their minds with all kinds of knowledge, including the knowledge of scripture. But, when the scripture speaks deep into the recesses of their hearts, and points out sins, or exposes their secret sins, and calls them to obedience, they walk away and willfully forget totally what the Lord just showed them about themselves. They also block out of their minds what he showed them concerning what they need to do in the way of obedience to rid their lives of those sins and to walk righteously before their God. And, then they will pretend ignorance.
Some people who profess faith in Jesus Christ don’t like this word “law,” for they associate all “law” as something bad that is to be discarded. But, that is not what scripture teaches. Yes, we are no longer under the law in the sense that we don’t have to obey all of those Old Covenant rules and regulations. But, scripture is also clear when it says that faith upholds the law. For, the true spirit of the law is that we love God with all our hearts, and that we love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Love is the fulfillment of the law.
Yes, we do not have to follow all those Old Covenant regulations, for we are under the New Covenant, but that does not mean we don’t have to obey Christ’s commandments. Scripture makes it clear that we do. For, his commandments to us don’t have to do with legalism or with following a bunch of rituals or ceremonies, but they have to do with righteousness and holiness and changed hearts and lives, and they have to do with us being free from our chains of sin to now be bond-servants of righteousness (See: Rom. 6:1-23; Rom. 8:1-17; Eph. 4:17-24; Tit. 2:11-14; Gal. 6:7-8).
So, this law, which is the perfect law, which is the law of liberty, we are to follow, for it liberates us from our slavery (bondage, addiction) to sin and it empowers us to live holy lives pleasing to God. For, this is why Jesus died, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness, and that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us (See: 1 Pet. 2:24; 2 Co. 5:15, 21; 1 Co. 6:20; Tit. 2:11-14; Eph. 4:17-24; 1 Jn. 1:5-9).
James 1:26-27 ESV
If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. 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.
The whole point of this section of scripture, I believe, is that true faith in Jesus Christ is not some intellectual acknowledgment of Jesus Christ and of what he did for us in dying for our sins. It is not some emotional decision we make at a church altar. It is not some words we repeat after someone else after which we are congratulated that we are now part of God’s family and that heaven is guaranteed us and that nothing can take it away.
True faith in Jesus Christ, which is God-given, and which is divinely persuaded, submits to the Lordship of Christ, and it walks in obedience to his commands, not in absolute sinless perfection, necessarily, but as a matter of course, as a matter of practice (lifestyle). True faith in Jesus Christ, thus, results in action. Our faith is proved genuine by what we do, in other words, in obedience to our Lord and in following him in his ways.
True faith in Jesus Christ is not words only, in other words, but it is in action and in truth. It puts our feet to where our mouths are. It listens to Jesus, and it follows (obeys) him. Again, this is not saying we will never fail in this, but it should be what we practice. For, if what we practice is wickedness and unrighteousness, then scripture says we don’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ, and we don’t have eternal life with God (Lu. 9:23-25; Rom. 8:1-17).
Song: “I AM” (based off multiple scriptures):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RCXSKgh8z5E with lyrics
Saturday, May 25, 2019