“MORE THAN BORN AGAIN”
(A Series on the Book of James)
Westgate Chapel 11/22/04 James 1:19-25
Proposition: The Christian life is more than being born again; it involves listening, doing and examining God’s Word.
- HOW many of you in this room today consider yourselves born again?
- THAT is a term coined by Jesus…long before politicians took it over, or Hollywood made a joke out of it.
- IN John 3, in His dialogue with Nicodemus, Jesus told Nicodemus, the learned and elderly religious Pharisee, “You must be born again.”
- IN other words, being born once does not make you a child of God, nor does it prepare you for the Kingdom of God.
- IT is what happens to your spirit, when it comes to life, as a result of repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.
* Instead of being dead to God, when you are born again, you come alive to a personal relationship with Him.
* Instead of the Word of God being dead to you, it comes alive because it is God, speaking life into your spirit.
- YOU were born the first, with your mother present, usually in a hospital in Oklahoma City, or New Orleans, or Albuquerque.
- AND, if you are a Christian, you can name the time, place and circumstances when you were born again!
- BUT there is a huge misconception prevalent in American Christianity…and it is that being born again is all you have to worry about, and as long as you can remember some point in time when you were born again….then heaven is guaranteed to you.
- IN this brand of Christianity, if that is what you want to call it, there is a lot of talk about grace, the love of God, and forgiveness, and the God of the second and third and fourth chances….and not a whole lot of talk about being transformed.
- SALVATION, in this brand of American Christianity, is nothing more than a ‘get-out-of-hell’ free card.
- AND in the theology that supports this brand of Christianity, the only assurance you need that you are saved is an ‘inner witness’ of the Spirit….and nothing is said much about being fundamentally changed through new birth.
- THE problem with relying solely on an ‘inner witness’ that you are indeed saved is that there are plenty of spirits who would be only too willing to give you whatever assurance you are looking for…and it is not the Spirit of God.
- PAUL says to the Christians of Corinth, that some of them, who were convinced they were Christians, had actually “received a different spirit that was not the Spirit of God.” (2 Corinthians 11:4)
- SO, what is the assurance of salvation that gives us confidence we are sons and daughters of God?
- IT is two fold:
1. It IS the inner witness of the Holy Spirit that we are sons and daughters of God.
2. But it is also the witness of a transformed life.
- THE gift of salvation is a free gift of God’s grace, received through faith and not works (Ephesians 2:8-9)…..that is true.
- BUT if the gift of salvation is genuine….it will be evidenced by transformation in your life!
- THAT is the main point of the epistle of James!
- IT is the reason, as a pastor and elder of the church in Jerusalem, that he wrote the letter.
- IT is the reason for the mirror!
- THERE was a danger, from the inception of the Church of Jesus in the New Testament, that people would believe they were born again, but some of their lives showed no difference.
ii. listen to the word
- SPEAKING of being born again, we left off last week in James 1:18 (page 1196).
“In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.”
- WE learn three things from this verse about being “brought forth”…..or born again.
1. Being born again is the will of God.
* 2 Peter 3:9 says that God doesn’t want one human being to perish, but all to come to repentance.
2. We are brought to the point of new birth by the Word of Truth…the Word of God.
* Romans 10:17 says that faith comes from hearing the Word of God.
3. God intends that being born again raise us up out of the sinful morass of our culture and make us ‘first fruits’, the best of all His creation.
- THEN, in the next 7 verses, James holds up the mirror to show us the normative relationship between the born again, Spirit-led believer and the Word of Truth that saved us.
- THE context of these 7 verses, set up by verse 18, is the relationship between the Christian and the Word of Truth.
- HERE is the first one!
1. THE SPIRIT-LED BELIEVER ATTENDS TO THE WORD OF GOD.
- VERSES 19-20 say,
“This…know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.”
- EVERYONE must be quick to hear!
- JAMES is not talking about hearing our conversations with one another….the context of these verses is the Word of Truth.
- THE Greek word for the word, hear, literally means more than listen. It means to “attend to…to pay attention to”
- JAMES says we must be fast, speedy to “attend to” the Word of Truth.
- AND he identifies two obstacles to attending to the Word of God.’
1. Talking too much.
* Proverbs 10:19 says, “When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.”
* Isn’t it true that we can talk ourselves into trouble….discouragement…unbelief.
* The source of anger is selfish pride.
* And anger is evidence of the absence of self-control.
* And neither one is conducive to attending to the Word of Truth.
- WHO are the Christians whose lives are to be characterized by careful attention to the Word of God?
- EVERYONE, says verse 19.
- SO, James lifts the mirror of God’s Word up to the first century Christians….so they can examine to see if they really are born again, Spirit-led believers.
- AND the image in verses 19 and 20 is of the Christian who is quick to attend to, pay attention to the Word of God.
- (HOLD UP MIRROR) How does your life compare to that image?
iii. do the word
- LET’S move on, with James to the second image in the mirror of verses 21-22,
“Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. 22 But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.”
- BEING a born again Christian is about more than hearing the Word of Truth.
- HERE is the second principle from our passage for today.
2. THE SPIRIT-LED BELIEVER DOES THE WORD OF GOD
- LIKE you take off a garment that is soiled and smelly…put aside anything and everything in your life that defiles or is dark, evil.
* Conversations that are off color.
* Friendships that defile you.
* Entertainments….TV, movies, internet sites, reading material.
* Places you go.
* Things you buy.
- BY contrast, in a spirit of humility (recognizing who you are compared to God’s holiness) take hold of the Word implanted in you when you were born again.
- RECOGNIZE that you are nothing without Him!
- REALIZE that you can do nothing of any eternal value in this life without Him.
- REMEMBER that He made you. He called for your conception and birth.
- HE has redeemed you and you are His…lock stock and barrel.
- IN humility take hold of the Word and DO IT!
- HIS Spirit in you is able to accomplish obedience in you!
- IF you are not doing the Word, and just listening from time to time…you have deceived yourself.
- DECEIVED yourself about what?
- THAT you are born again!
- “WELL, pastor, I have the witness of the Spirit that I am a Christian.”
- MEANS nothing…unless you are a doer of God’s Word.
iv. examine the word
- SO, let’s review.
1. THE SPIRIT-LED BELIEVER ATTENDS TO THE WORD OF GOD.
2. THE SPIRIT-LED BELIEVER DOES THE WORD OF GOD
- HERE is #3!
3. THE SPIRIT-LED BELIEVER INTENTLY EXAMINES THE WORD
- THERE is nothing casual about the Spirit-led believer’s relationship to the Word.
- LET’S read verses 23-25,
“For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; 24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. 25 But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.”
- HERE James directly references the mirror.
- HE says that if you just hear the Word, and nothing changes in your life, it is like looking at yourself in the mirror, and when you walk away you forget “what kind of person you are.” (verse 24)
- IT is only be being a doer of God’s Word that you discover the kind of person you are.
- HOW do you get to be a doer?
- BY looking intently at the Word.
- THIS is more than a casual relationship with the Word of God….it is a careful examination, in Bible study and meditation, considering the ramifications for your own life.
- WHY is it the “perfect law”?
- BECAUSE it is a living Word….not dead letters on the page.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1)
- THAT is why James calls it the law of liberty….because it is the Son who will set you free.
- THE change that the Word brings into our lives is not the disciplined observance of an external law….but rather the power to transform found in a living relationship with Jesus, who is the Word of God.
- BUT that kind of relationship is not forced on us by God.
* He is not going to speak if you are never silent and attentive in His Presence.
* He can’t help you if you are hardly ever in His presence.
* He is not going to take second place to some idol in your life.
* He is not going to walk in intimacy with you if you are holding on to the filthiness and wickedness of the world.
* He will not reveal Himself to the casual Christian.
- THERE are way too many Christians today who pop into the Presence of God when it is convenient, when they can fit Him into their priorities.
- THEY take a quick look into the mirror of God’s Word, but are off to the next shopping trip, the next golf game, the next sports event, the next business appointment….and are surprised when they don’t have a clue the kind of person they are.
- A.W. Tozer, who by the way, never had more than 400 people in his church….because the bar was too high for most.
- A.W. Tozer said that revival would never have a corporate expression until it was intensely personal in the lives of the Christians in any church.
- AND, he said, anyone could have personal revival if they got intentional with God.
- LET me tell you what he meant by intentional:
1. Get thoroughly dissatisfied with yourself. Complacency is the deadly enemy of spiritual progress.
2. Set your face like a flint toward a sweeping transformation of your life. Timid experimenters are tagged for failure before they start.
3. Put yourself in the way of the blessing. It is a mistake to look for grace to visit us as a kind of benign magic, or to expect God’s help to come as a windfall apart from conditions known and met.
4. Do a thorough job of repenting. Do not hurry to get it over with.
5. Make restitution whenever possible.
6. Bring your life into accord with the Sermon on the Mount and such other New Testament Scriptures as are designed to instruct us in the way of righteousness.
7. Be serious minded. You can well afford to see fewer comedy shows on TV. Unless you break away from the funny boys, every spiritual impression will continue to be lost to your heart, and right in your own living room.
8. Deliberately narrow your interests. The Christian life requires that we be specialists.
9. Begin to witness.
10. Have faith in God.
- LET’S get the mirror up Westgate Chapel, and each of take a long, attentive look, until we find our lives transformed by a living relationship with a Living Word.
- AND the world will see that what we have is the real deal.