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Faith Obeys

James: A Faith That Works  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Faithful obedience is both the evidence and the exercise of spiritual fitness.

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Introduction

**Stand for the Word**
James 1:18–27 ESV
18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. 19 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.
James
Illust - How many of you know exercise is good for you? How many of you exercise more than once a month?
The Danger of Deception and
I fear that many churches are filled with Christians today content to visit the gym weekly in order to sit and listen to the best way to exercise or to watch others work out (creepy, huh?) Many who talk about working out, read the training manual over and over, wear the workout clothes yet have little spiritual fitness to show for all their time invested.
The Pathway of Blessing and
*Simply knowing the truth about something does not always guarantee the benefits of that truth.

The Powerful Gospel (18-21)

Faithful obedience is both the evidence and the exercise of spiritual fitness.

The Problem of Deception (22-25)

The Pure Religion (26-27)

Controlled Tongue

Loving Heart

Uncompromising Life

**3 ways in which we are to respond to the Word:

Receive the Word

The Gospel Changed Us (18)

James 1:18 ESV
18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
Verse 18 is the statement of truth from which the rest of our passage flows. It is the gospel which changes us and enables to not only hear but do the Word.
3 parts to this truth:
of his own will’ (Pastor Tom) - It all starts with God.
‘brought us forth’ - NIV has ‘give birth’ - is the idea of being born again.
‘by the word of truth’ - The gospel.
‘firstfruits’ - so much here, but can’t go into it. (small amount - shows success of farmer’s work - picture of flourishing and blessing)
James assumes his readers have accepted this as truth. If you’re here and don’t truly know Jesus - maybe you’re religious, but like Nicodemus, you’re not sure you what would happen to you when this life is over, then stop here - nothing past this point has anything to do with you.
Matter of fact, trying to obey God’s Word, trying to find blessing and fulfillment will only frustrate you.
This is the word you need to receive - that none of your religious stuff matters - just like Nicodemus, you need to be born again.
You can’t change the things you do on the outside - your religious actions - and expect it to change you on the inside - your motivations, your affections, your joy - you’re only going to frustrate yourself.
You need to be changed from the inside out - that kind of change only happens when you submit your life to Christ - stop trying and receive the Word of truth.
>> Obedience for you means stop pretending to be a Christian and submit your life to Christ - receive this Word of truth.
Verse 18 is the foundation that James builds on - as the gospel is the foundation of our changed life it is the gospel that is also changing us:

The Gospel is Changing Us (19-21)

James has just stated that the gospel changes us - gives us a new birth - and there is often no better evidence of this internal change than through our reactions and emotions.
‘quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger’ -
James is addressing his dearly loved brothers and sisters - fellow believers - churchgoers and reminding them that hasty speech and anger do not evidence the changing life of the gospel which is the righteousness of God.
I cringe whenever I hear people try to justify ungodly reactions and emotions as an acceptable part of their nature or disposition. “I’m just an angry person,” “Yeah, she’s just like that.” “He flies off the handle now and then.”
It is not ok to be an angry person and react quickly or harshly.
Family, listen: We are no longer identified by our sins:
2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
The Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Letter of James A. Hasty Speech and Anger Do Not Please God (1:19–20)

Emotions are the product of the entire person; and, by God’s grace and the work of the Spirit, the person can be transformed so as to bring emotions in line with God’s word and will.

If the gospel has the power James spoke of in verse 18 and that Paul talks about in 2 Corinthians than
Important to note that not all emotion is sin.
** The gospel is NOT a framework or motivation to simply restrain us from outward sins, it is the power of God to change your heart - your affections - to be able to live and act and react as children of God to display the righteousness of Christ.
James picks these two because they are either the most prevalent
Because of the gospel we are to ‘take off’ the filth of sin and receive (or accept) the ‘implanted word’.
Here lies the key to Receiving the Word - to allow the gospel to change us:
God gives us not only the command to obey but also the power to obey
This is possible because of the ‘implanted’ word
Jeremiah 31:33 ESV
33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Ezekiel 36:25–27 ESV
25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.
Ezek 36:25-2
You have the power to change through the Holy Spirit.
The response then, is not stubborn resistance, it is humble submission (meekness)
** If you cannot name something right now that God wants you to do or change in order to be more like Christ then you are either the Christ or you are not listening.
It is incompatible to claim to have received the Word (gospel) and not live a life that is changing - to not find yourself in a place of needing to obey.
To accept the implanted word means to Obey the Word.

Obey the Word (22-25)

We come to the central message of the book of James.
James 1:22 ESV
22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
Remember, it is God who calls us to obey
Remember, it is God who calls us to obey
ILLUST - difference between hearing something and understanding something. Anyone with kids understands - kids can hear you without understanding you. The difference usually comes out in whether they obey you.
I fear many of us in the church today suffer from what I call ‘sermonal deafness’
It’s where we can go week to week hearing from God, even taking notes, shouting a few amens, and effectively, by the end of that same week, there has been no measurable change in our lives.
** How have we made an actual change in our lives for the purpose of knowing God more based on the Word that we heard from pastor Tom last week?
If the answer is ‘none’ then we are the ‘hearers only’ and we are deceived.
The problem with deceiving yourself is you don’t know you are deceived.
Deceived:
Into thinking we are growing spiritually.
into thinking that the word we hear is actually making a difference.
To hear the Word of God but not obey makes hearing the Word of God worthless. I’m not diminishing the importance of hearing the word, of Bible study, sermons, etc. But knowing what to do and doing it are two very different things.
If you’re here today or your listening to this message, I highly doubt that hearing the Word of God is the problem.
ILLUSTR - It’s foolish to add more weights if you haven’t lifted the bar the first time. In the same way I sometimes wonder if it is foolish for us to continue to add more Bible studies and sermons when we haven’t obeyed the ones we’ve already heard.
We believe that both hearing and doing are important:
LABs
Life Groups
James follows his statement with an illustration - He says the person who only hears what God is saying but doesn’t obey is like:
James 1:23–24 ESV
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.
James 1:23 ESV
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.
In ANE people generally did not know what they looked like. We look at ourselves eight times a day on average.
Mirrors were made out of polished bronze or silver - still blurry and rare.
On the rare occasion you could see your reflection you might look closely at yourself but soon you’d forget how you look.
= ‘Sermonal memory loss’
BUT, in contrast:
James 1:25 ESV
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.
the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty and perseveres, he will be blessed.’
Hearing + Doing = Blessing
Unlike the person who looks into the mirror, walks away and forgets what he looks like, the blessed person continues to look (intently) into the Word of God is blessed.
More than that - James says to obey brings freedom - this is what he means when he talks about looking into the ‘law of liberty.’
Sounds a bit counterintuitive to have a law (which sounds restricting) bring freedom.
This is the beauty of obedience. When we obey what God is calling us to do we are liberated because we are actually doing that which will flourish us.
“Men and women are free when they want to do what they ought to do.”
— Alistair Begg
Psalm 119:97 ESV
97 Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.
This isn’t legalism - I obey to keep from or to get.
This is blessing
Psalm 1 ESV
1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. 3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. 4 The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. 5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; 6 for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
There is a statement often attributed to the American evangelist DL Moody - actually given to Moody by Henry Varley, a British revivalist who had befriended the young American in Dublin,
“The world has yet to see what God can do with a man fully consecrated to him. By God’s help, I aim to be that man.”
What could God do if this were the cry of each of the hearts of us at Granger MC? What would the world see if we were a church fully consecrated to him?
The fact that we have to imagine it says we have some work to do - some Word to receive, some Word to obey.
The mighty works of God through his people only happen with people who receive the Word and obey.
ILLUST - story of Namaan.
He received the Word, but the miracle miracle would not happen until there was obedience.
The Word seemed crazy to Namaan but it wasn’t until obedience that God’s power was evident.
Disobedience brings:
The danger of deception
The stench of hypocrisy
A worthless religion
**What is the most recent thing God has asked of you and how did you respond?
The third and final way we approach the word is to:

Live the Word

Here James gives three pictures of what it looks like to live the Word:
It’s foolish to add more weights if you haven’t lifted the bar the first time.

Controlled Tongue (26)

I love this - James says if you think you are a good, moral, churchgoer - a religious person, but you can’t control what comes out of your mouth - your good deeds and church going is worthless.
Pure religion - religion that actually means something has a controlled tongue.

Loving Heart (27a)

Meaningful religion is lived out through a loving heart.
'visit’ or care for orphans and widows - not when it looks good but in their affliction.
Why these two groups of people?
1) God’s heart is tender toward the weakest and most helpless of society = obeying God.
2) These two groups represent groups of people who are unable to give anything back. To enter into the affliction of a widow or orphan requires a selfless act.

Uncompromising Life (27b)

Living the word in obedience requires a life that is uncompromised from the world.
Notice James says ‘unstained’ form the world not far removed. This is a life that is an influencer and not influenced.
>> How’s your speech? When was the last time you loved someone in a way that didn’t gain you anything?

Conclusion

After Sermon on the Mount:
Matthew 7:24–27 ESV
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
Please hear these words of Jesus - If your life is built on a routine of hearing the words of Jesus - going from sermon to sermon, Bible study to Bible study, devotional to devotional with no step of action to obey - your life is in danger of destruction.
Listen, I want you to be encouraged.
If, however, when you hear what God is saying to you and you respond in obedience, there is nothing on this earth that can shake you.
Questions to end with:
Are you a Christian?
Not asking:
Were you born into a Christian family?
If you check ‘Christian’ under the Religion box on a survey? or If you had a camp experience one time or attend church regularly?
Have you experienced the new birth of the gospel yourself?
How’s your speech? How’s your anger? What has changed in your life in obedience to where God is calling you?
What is it that God is asking you to do that you know you must simply obey? You’ve been building a castle of sand and it just keeps slipping.
Write down what God is saying is the next step in obedience.
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