Able to Save Your Souls
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.”
Jesus said that his sheep listen (adhere; pay attention) to him, he knows them, and they follow (obey) him. So, if we want to follow Jesus Christ with our lives, we have to listen to what he says, and then we have to do what he says to do (Jn 10:27).
People oftentimes will get angry over things because they didn’t really pay attention to what was being said. They weren’t good listeners, and they jumped to conclusions before they heard everything that was said. Or else they already had their minds made up.
Sometimes it is because they are holding on to sin in their lives and so they are feeling guilty, or they just don’t want to be reminded that what they are doing is wrong. So, when they hear a message that confronts them in their sins, they will get angry.
But as followers of Jesus Christ, we should have died with Christ to sin, and we should have been reborn of the Spirit of God to newness of life in him, and we should no longer be under the control of sin. And now we should be walking (in practice) according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh.
And daily we should, by the Spirit, be putting to death the misdeeds of the body, and we should be walking in holiness and righteousness, in submission to the Lordship of Christ over our lives, and in his power and strength. And we should be walking in obedience to the Word of God.
For, our salvation from sin depends on us dying with Christ to sin and us living to Christ, and to his righteousness, and us no longer living to please our flesh as a matter of habit (practice). For, if we make sin our practice, we will die in our sins. We won’t inherit eternal life with God.
[Lu 9:23-26; Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-17; Gal 5:16-21; Eph 5:3-6; Gal 6:7-8; Rom 2:6-8; 1 Jn 1:5-9; 1 Jn 2:3-6]
Be Doers of the Word
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.”
There is a difference between hearing and listening. We can hear the Word of God taught with our physical ears, and yet shut it right out at the same time. Listening, on the other hand, involves us paying close attention to and considering what is being said, and it has to do with us heeding (obeying, following) what is being said, too.
But we are not to be those who hear the Word taught but who do nothing to apply the word to our daily lives. We can have all kinds of book smarts, and have memorized Scriptures, and perhaps have even gone to Bible college, but if what we learned was not applied to our lives, it was useless.
Now, some things that we hear and learn are useless to begin with, and they shouldn’t be applied to our lives, because what is being taught is not the truth, for it is the adulterated, not the pure word of God. So, we need to make certain that what we are hearing is the truth, so we don’t end up obeying the lies, instead.
But if what we are hearing is the pure word of God, taught in its proper context, and tested against the teachings of the Word under the New Covenant to make certain it is truth, then we need to pay attention to what is being taught, and we need to do what it says, not ignore it.
So, what is the “perfect law”? It is the gospel of Jesus Christ – the gospel taught by Jesus Christ and by his New Testament apostles, in context, in entirety, not a half-truth diluted and adulterated gospel created in the minds of humans who wanted to excuse away their sinful practices.
For, the perfect law is also the law of liberty. And what is that? It has to do with our deliverance from our slavery to sin. And it has to do with our freedom to now walk according to the Spirit and no longer according to the flesh because we are now free from the control of sin over our lives.
So, we are to persevere in this perfect law, which is the law of liberty. And we are to not be hearers only of the Word of God, but we are to be those who do what it teaches, who put the word into practice in our daily lives. And if we do this, we will be blessed of God in our doing.
Religion that is Worthless
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.”
There is a lot of stuff out there called “religion,” or called “church,” or “faith,” which is worthless. For, it is man-made, and it does not conform to God’s moral standards or to his righteousness, but it makes up its own standards, or lack thereof, and it charts its own course, not of God.
The whole point of what is being said here is that our faith, if it is genuine, will produce results in keeping with repentance and righteousness and love for others. This is not saying that all of us must visit orphans and widows. God has gifted us and equipped us and called us all in different ways.
But it is saying that we should be unselfish people who care about others who are in need, and who do not turn away from those who are needy while we feed our own flesh and then claim how righteous we are. But God will put the people in our paths to whom he wants us to minister. We just have to listen and obey.
Basically, an orphan or a widow are considered people who can’t care for themselves, at least that was the case in this culture at this time. So, this is about helping the helpless whoever they are, as God places them in our paths, and he leads us in how to help them.
We are also to bridle our tongues so that we don’t speak evil, but good, and we are to keep ourselves unstained from the world. If we do not do this, but we are still living by the flesh, doing what the world does, and the words we are speaking (in practice) also are not honoring to God, but to our flesh, then our religion is worthless.
For, we are called to be God’s holy people, living lives separate from the world and unto God, being not hearers only of the Word, but being those who are doing what our Lord says. We are to be his sheep who listen to him and who follow him and who do what he says for the praise of his glory, and for his honor. For, he is our Shepherd who gave his life for us to be free.
The Lord’s My Shepherd
Lyrics by Francis Rous (1579-1659)
Music by Jessie Seymour Irvine (1836-1887)
The Lord’s my Shepherd, I’ll not want;
He makes me down to lie
In pastures green; He leadeth me
The quiet waters by.
My soul He doth restore again,
And me to walk doth make
Within the paths of righteousness,
E’en for His own name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk in death’s dark vale,
Yet will I fear no ill;
For Thou art with me, and Thy rod
And staff me comfort still.
My table Thou hast furnished
In presence of my foes;
My head Thou dost with oil anoint,
And my cup overflows.
Goodness and mercy all my life
Shall surely follow me,
And in God’s house forevermore
My dwelling-place shall be.
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