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2019-03-31 James 1:22-25 Treasuring The Word (2): How To Learn

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TREASURING THE WORD (2): HOW TO LEARN (James 1:22-25) March 31, 2019 Read James 1:22-25 – A father noticed one day that his teen-age son was reading one of his older sister’s mags and asked, “Son, why are you reading that girl’s magazine?” The boy replied, “It’s got an article that tells women where to meet men. I need to know where I’m supposed to be so I can be sure to be there.” That boy was reading with a purpose, to learn. He intended to do something about it – not just a hearer, but a doer! And that’s exactly how to read God’s Word – with the intent to DO! Our series is “Treasuring the Word” from Jas 1:19-26. Last week we saw how to Listen (vv. 19-21) – Readily, Reverently, and Repentantly. Today we go deeper – how to Learn the Word. Learning is more than compiling info! True learning involves doing – doing with our body what we’ve learned with our mind. For example, you could read a lot of books about hitting a baseball. You’re now informed. But, go stand in against Clayton Kershaw. You’ll find your book learning won’t take you far. You learn to hit by hitting – call it, information in action. Learning requires both – in hitting, and in the Word. W. Tozer said: “So wide is the gulf that separates theory from practice in the church that an inquiring stranger who sees both would scarcely dream that there was any relation between them. Someone who heard the Sunday morning sermon and later watched the Sunday afternoon conduct of those who had heard it would conclude that he has been examining two contrary religions. Too many Xns want the thrill of knowing right, but won’t endure the inconvenience of doing right..” That’s pretty convicting, isn’t it? So how do we make sure it is not us – that we’re not just theory but practice – not just receiving, but responding -- not just listening, but learning? Three things. I. The Learner Sees the Word as Liberating Why do we not always obey the Word? Jonathan Edwards answers: We always do what we want to do – always. Sometimes we do hard things, yes – things we’d rather not do. But we do them bc we want to for some greater good. We go to work, not because it’s fun, but because we see the greater good of caring for our family. So we want to work. We always do what we most want to do. If you think about it long enough, you’ll realize he’s right. 1 So why do we not always obey the Word? Because we don’t want to. And why don’t we want to? Bc some disobedience looks more attractive. We believe in general, God has our best interests at heart, but with regard to this thing, we know better. But v. 25 challenges that thinking big time. 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.” Blessing is for the doer of the Word. “Looks into” = peers intently -- someone bending down to get a close look at the ant crawling on the ground. Jas is saying, “Closely examine this perfect law. Understand every nuance and word. Know it inside and out.” Okay – but what is this “perfect law” – the Ten Commandments, the Torah), what? “Law” has several meanings depending on the context. In this context, it refers to the whole of Scripture. Jesus used it that way in John 10:35 when he said, “Is it not written in your Law,” but then He quoted from Psalms (the Writings) not the Torah – using “Law” to speak of whole of Scripture. That’s what the context here demands where Jas is talking about the “word” throughout. Jas and Jesus both imply every part of Scripture is normative for us – not just the commands, but the examples, the promises, the poetry, the wisdom literature, the metaphors. Everything in the Bible impacts every part of us. In Psalm 1, the blessed person delights “in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” To be shaped by the Word is to be made whole, happy, complete – like James says this person “will be blessed in his doing.” Jas notes 2 things that help us treasure the Word. First, it is perfect – pristine, sufficient and comprehensive. We can trust it. It doesn’t go out of date, doesn’t make mistakes. David says, Psa 19: 7) The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; 8) the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.” Who wouldn’t want to claim the promises of the Word. We rob ourselves of so much when we neglect the Word. It’s perfect for what we need. Paul picks up the same theme. II Tim 3:16-17: “All Scripture is breathed out by God (perfect) and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17) that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” Complete! Whole! The Word equips us for life – both this and next. It’s perfect for what we need. 2 And not just perfect; it is the “law of liberty.” We see God’s commands as restrictive, confining, limiting and coercive. In fact, they are just the opposite. God’s Word sets us free. It is liberating, not burdensome. Jesus says in John 8:31-32, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32) and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” The truth doesn’t restrict; it frees. “How can that be? The Word has a lot of restrictions.” True, which we think of as bondage. Freedom to us is no restrictions. But that’s a fallacy! A better definition – and biblical -- is that we are free when we are released to be what we were built to be. Take a fish. He’s got gills to extract oxygen from water. You can’t do that; I can’t do that, but he can. And, his fins propel him in water -- but neither gills nor fins work on land. Throw your fish on the sidewalk and say, “There – exercise your freedom. Take an hour doing whatever you like.” Did you set him free? No. Unless the fish is restricted to water, it loses its freedom. Freedom is the ability to do what you were made to do – to fulfill your destiny – not to do whatever you want at the moment. So God’s restrictions set us free, bc they align perfectly with who we were built to be. Prov 4:12) There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” If we live without God’s truth, we destroy ourselves eventually. The Word frees us from that. Young people, the restrictions of the Word free you. Ever been to the Royal Gorge? How would you like to drive that bridge without restrictions? Death on both sides. Safety in the middle. Even if you don’t hit the barriers, it’s good to know they are there. So with the “perfect law of liberty.” It’s the only thing that will never steer you wrong! Grasping that truth will change your life. The mark of a God-changed heart is that you begin to love to hear God tell you how to live. You trust Him. You know He’d never steer you wrong. You see His Word as the path of freedom. II. The Learner Sees Self as Lacking 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. “Natural face” = face of his birth. The Bible reveals who God in His holiness is: Heb 12:29: “For our God is a consuming fire.” And it reveals my birth face – the nature with which I am born: Jer 17:9: “For the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick; who can understand it?” That deceitful heart is in complete and total rebellion against God. In Christ, I get a new nature. But that old birth face is still there. And the Bible reveals where I’m coddling it. Heb 4:12: “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning 3 the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” The Word is a mirror showing me where my heart is still following the old me instead of the new me. But if I just see the problem, say, “That’s too bad,” and walk away, then 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.” A hearer who is not a doer is self-deceived. He ignores what the Word shows him -- like a guy on the way to a gala who looks at himself in the mirror – sees his hair all messed up, food in his mustache, grease from his work, says, “Well, that’s just me,” and goes on to the party without making any changes. Why would someone do that? Some don’t really look. They just take a passing glance, figure all is well and move on. Spending time in the Word to them is just a duty to be performed; they barely look. So they miss most of what’s there and forget the rest. They are like medical students of Sir Wm Osler who once pointed to a bottle of fluid from his desk and said, “This bottle has a sample for analysis. By tasting it you can determine the disease the patient suffers.” And he dipped a finger into the fluid and tasted it. Then he asked the class to do the same. It seemed unconventional but every student bravely poked his finger into the fluid to sample the contents. Retrieving the bottle, Osler said, “Now you will why I stress details. Had you been observant you would have seen that I put my index finger into the bottle, but my middle finger into my mouth. With a little strychnine, I could have killed you all.” So the Bible will reveals the sin that is destroying us – but only if we dig for it – not just give a passing glance. Others might say, “The mirror’s flawed. I don’t believe it” -- easy to do in Jas’ day. Glass mirrors weren’t invented until the 14th century. Before that they had polished metal mirrors that lay flat on a table and were out of focus at best. You could look intently at your face, but still walk away saying, “I don’t believe what I saw in that mirror. It’s not clear.” Many treat the Bible that way. “I hear what it says, but it’s out of date – doesn’t fit 21st century life. Isn’t relevant to me. Gives a flawed image.” This is like the missionary in a backward country who shaved by a small mirror hung on a tree. The local witch doc came by, looked at the glass and was appalled by the hideously painted features on his face. He began to bargain with the missionary for the mirror and would not give up until a trade was made. Then he took the mirror, threw it to the ground, breaking it in pieces and said, “There -- it won’t be making ugly faces at me anymore.” That’s us when we stand in judgment of the Bible, deciding what’s relevant and what’s not. Refusing the truth that we don’t like, rejecting the change that would be too intrusive. 4 Still others see the truth, but think it’s for someone else. Like the hillbilly who uncovered a mirror while plowing one day. Having never seen one before he said, “Interesting. I never knew Pappy had his picture taken.” To safeguard his treasure, he took it home and hid it away in the loft, unaware his wife saw him. Wondering what he was hiding, she retrieved the mirror, looked at it, and said, “So that’s the old hag he’s been running around with!” That’s the one who reads the Word but sees a picture of someone else! But it’s not someone else! It’s you; it’s me. And seeing demands action. Otherwise, we’re the one who sees themselves in the mirror but forgets about it the minute they turn away. Jas says, those who hear but don’t do are “deceiving yourselves” (22b). The true learner sees himself as the one who is lacking, and determines to do something about it. He comes to the Word expecting to change – looking for the character flaws and signs of the old nature that need to be weeded out by the power of the HS. The learner loves to hear God tell him how to live rather than ignoring God. He treasures the Word rather than arguing with it. He’s not like the bow-hunter whose 10-year-old daughter came home one day with an arrow she found in the woods and told Dad, “I figured it was yours. There’s no deer on the end of it.” That’s like a Xn who knows all the facts, but has no change to show for them. They’re a hearer, but not a learner. III. The Learner Sees Obedience as Lifechanging This passage is so clear. 22) But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves….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.” Not blessed in knowing; blessed in doing! Great that you know the difference between amill and pre-mill; that you can recite the Ten Commandments; that you know Reformed theology chapter and verse. Great! But has it changed your life? Has it made you more loving at home, at church, at work? Has it impacted your relationships with family, friends and fellow-workers? Has it affected your temper tantrums, critical spirit and the grudges you bear? Has it changed your life? That’s Jas’ question. That’s God’s question! We learn by doing. Knowing is great, but without lifechanging follow-through it only brings greater condemnation. One of the most challenging verses in the Bible is John 14:15) “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. So, do we – keep them? We sing, “Oh, how I love Jesus,” but do we obey His commandments? Or do we look into 5 the mirror of the Word and walk away unchanged. Then we are self-deceived. Learners love to hear God tell them how to live – and then love to obey. When I used to teach seminary, most students took classes for credit. But it was possible to just audit the class. Auditors didn’t take exams, write papers, do homework or recite in class. They didn’t do anything; they just sat there. Except – I required that if they audited, they had to take the final – just as an experiment. The results were predictable, right? They always had the worst scores. They didn’t learn because they never had to act. Hearers, but not doers. We don’t want to be mere auditors of the Word; learners are doers. They see that while knowledge is interesting; obedience is lifechanging. Conc – Suppose you work for me in a fast-growing business. I have to travel overseas for months and leave you in charge. I write regularly and give you direction and instruction, spelling out all my expectations. After months away, I return and upon my arrival at the office, I’m stunned. Grass and weeds have grown up. Windows are broken. The receptionist is doing her nails, chewing gum and listening to disco. Meanwhile the carpet hasn’t been cleaned, baskets are overflowing, and everyone seems to be on an extended break. I find you in your office playing a video game with the sales manager. I ask, “What’s going on, man?” You reply, “What do you mean?” I say, “Well, look at this place. Didn’t you get my letters?” “Letters? Oh, yeah – all of them. We had a letter study every Friday night – divided into discussion groups. Some of your stuff was really interesting. Made a lot of sense. Some of us have even memorized whole sentences and paragraphs. Great stuff.” I say, “Okay, okay. So you got my letters. You studied them, meditated on them, discussed them and memorized them. But – what did you do about them?” “Well, I guess we didn’t do anything about them.” Useless, right? Just like the Word – until we learn by doing. It’s the instruction manual from the Creator who made us – but useless, until we do what it says. It is not just truth – it is truth to live by. We must treasure it as such. Let’s pray. 6
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