James 1:16-18 ESV
“Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.”
Our God does not change! He is the same yesterday, today and forever. He is holy, righteous, and good. He is loving, kind and merciful. He is gracious and forgiving. And, he is just and the judge of all mankind.
His moral standards also have not changed. He still demands holiness, righteousness, faithfulness, purity, integrity, and love for him and for our fellow humans. And, His message is still “Repent of your sins, obey my commandments, and submit to me as Lord of your life.”
Also, since salvation is a gift from God, as is the faith to believe, and repentance, too, and since God and his moral standards do not change, then faith in Jesus Christ and salvation from sin will be in line with God’s holiness and righteousness, and with our Lord’s desire that we be free from our slavery to sin so that we will be free to be slaves to his righteousness.
So, we should not be deceived into thinking that we can believe in Jesus, be saved from our sins, and that God is okay with us continuing to live in our sins while we ignore his commandments, and while we refuse to bow to him as Lord. That attitude is just so contrary to his divine character and will for our lives, and it contradicts the teachings of Jesus and of the apostles, too.
For, Jesus died on that cross to deliver us from our slavery to sin. He died that we might be crucified with him in death to sin, and be resurrected with him to newness of life in him, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (Rom. 6:1-23; Rom. 8:1-17; Eph. 4:17-24; 1 Jn. 1:5-9).
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.”
We need to be quick to hear God’s Word speaking to our hearts, and slow to voice our own opinions on matters of importance. We will get ourselves into trouble when we are too quick to react in the flesh, and we don’t stop first to listen to the Holy Spirit’s gentle whispers to our hearts. We must remember that once something is said, it is out there, and we can’t take it back.
There is so much that is going on in this world right now, or that is being purported as going on, and much of it is leading people toward outbursts of anger. I hate lies with a passion! I hate seeing people being lied to and deceived, too. But I must be so careful not to react in my flesh, and to be careful to let the Lord lead me in what to say. I can’t say I do this perfectly, though.
We must guard against sinful anger, anger that stems from our own selfish hearts, from bitterness of spirit, from hate, or from unforgiveness and pride. And, even if our anger is righteous, we must still guard our hearts so that we don’t sin in our anger – so we don’t say something in anger we will regret saying, or that is said in a hurtful way to others.
Now, I am not saying that we have to say only sugar-coated things or that we should avoid talking with people about sin and repentance so that we don’t offend them with the message of the cross of Christ. I am also not saying we shouldn’t confront sin in sinful humans or that we shouldn’t confront lies of the enemy, expose them, and counter with the truth.
What I am saying is what the Word of God is saying here, and that is that we need to die to our sins so that we can live to Christ and to his righteousness. Therefore, we need to put away from ourselves, by the grace of God, ALL FILTHINESS and RAMPANT WICKEDNESS, and we must receive with meekness the implanted word, WHICH IS ABLE TO SAVE OUR SOULS.
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.”
Amen! This is like my friend Annie’s song, “Anniversary Song.” One of the lines says, “But then God opened up my eyes and made me realize, love is not what you feel, it’s what you do.” Amen!
Love for our Lord is to obey him. If we say we love God, but we don’t obey him, then we don’t really know him, he doesn’t know us, and we don’t really love him, after all (1 Jn. 1:5-9; 1 Jn. 2:3-6; Jn. 14:23-24; Rom. 6:16).
So, why must we be doers of the word and not hearers only? Because Jesus came into this world to save us from our wickedness, not just to forgive it. He died that we might die with him to sin and live to him and to his righteousness. Jesus shed his blood for us on that cross to buy us back for God so we would now be his possession, and so that we would glorify God with our lives (1 Pet. 2:24; 2 Co. 5:15, 21; 1 Co. 6:19-21; Rom. 6:1-23).
Jesus called us to be a holy people, set apart from the ungodly world, and set apart to him, being conformed to his likeness. He called us to be holy, in fact, in ALL OUR CONDUCT. He died to eradicate sin from our lives, not to just cover it over. All throughout the New Testament we are instructed to put sin away from our lives and to follow our Lord in obedience.
The Bible is not just a book we read for intellectual advancement or out of curiosity or so we can win theological arguments. It is also not something we read as a religious practice or to make an impression on others so that they will think we are good people. The Bible, particularly the New Testament, was written for us who believe in Jesus so that we will do what it says, not so we can puff up our minds with a bunch of head knowledge.
So, again, love is not what we feel but what we do. Love for God is obeying his commandments. Love for others is also obeying his commandments, for his commandments instruct us to love others, and in how to love others.
Oh, to Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer
Lyrics by Thomas O. Chisholm, 1897
Music by W. J. Kirkpatrick, 1897
Oh, to be like Thee! blessèd Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.
Oh, to be like Thee! full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wandering sinner to find.
O to be like Thee! lowly in spirit,
Holy and harmless, patient and brave;
Meekly enduring cruel reproaches,
Willing to suffer others to save.
O to be like Thee! while I am pleading,
Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love;
Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling,
Fit me for life and Heaven above.
Oh, to be like Thee! Oh, to be like Thee,
Blessèd Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.
*Caution: This link may contain ads