How genuine are you? – James 1:19-27
By Pastor Lee Hemen
September 29, 2013 AM
Sadly, some Christians look genuine; but on close examination, they do not measure up. They talk a lot about how much they love the Bible. They may brag about how they have memorized Scriptures. They may claim to believe the Bible from cover to cover. They may itemize how much time they spend daily in reading it, taking notes on it, and doing research. They may declare they are qualified to teach Bible classes or even to challenge others’ biblical interpretations, including those of their pastors. The real test of loving the Bible, however, is none of these. Regardless of how much people say about the Bible, none of it matters if they do not live by it.
What makes a believer’s faith genuine? In the case of manuscripts, carbon dating and chemical analysis of the inks used in them can help determine their age. Manuscripts can be compared with earlier verified discoveries to match identifiable characteristics and materials. Some prove to be genuine and add to our knowledge of the Bible; others are counterfeit and useless. Again, how can we tell if a believer is the real deal or not? James gives us some great advice in this area. Let’s discover what he shares…
How closely does the image you project as a Christian match who you know yourself to really be? We all want to think we project Christ, but do we truly display Jesus in our actions? Far too many Christians have little Bible knowledge. They misunderstand biblical teaching and misapply it to their lives. Some believers know a great deal about the Bible but fail to accept its truths and act on them. How can we live genuine lives in Christ in our world today? James writes that…
I. We need to accept God’s Word! (1:19-21)
1. James immediately writes, “My dear brothers, take note of this!” Take note of what? James wanted his readers to focus on what was most important in their lives, that which the world sees first! It is a command that signals the importance of what follows. James addressed three commands to each of these believers, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry!” With their Old Testament background, these believers quickly would pick up on the emphasis in the word “listen.” Listen means more than taking in sound waves, it means acting on what is received. Like when my mother would ask, “Are you listening to me?” She did not mean simply hearing her voice; she meant doing what she asked! The second command is that believers are to be “slow to speak.” James is cautioning his readers against acting too hastily with their rash mouths. My dad would tell us, “Think about what you are going to say before you say it.” James’s third command is that believers should be “slow to become angry.” The Greek word translated “angry” means “wrath”—a deep, seething animosity. Why is it believers can excuse the dirt the world hurls their way, but become embittered over a fellow believer’s perceived slight? Christians are not to harbor hatred for others, especially fellow followers, or have a desire for vengeance because of perceived wrongs. James knew that a believer’s “anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” His answers was, “Therefore, get rid of all moral filth (literally shabbiness) and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.” He is conveying the sense of being teachable. The implanted word refers to God’s gospel message. What evidences are you giving that God’s Word is implanted firmly within you? If we were saved by faith, are we reflecting that faith to the world around us? We need to be genuine and accept God’s Word!
EXAMPLE: Sometimes, Christians can reflect a truly shabby attitude toward others, especially fellow believers. Being ungracious, demanding, near-sighted, and wanting only what we can get out of a relationship whether it is a church or individuals. When we are open to the truths of His Word, we can know how to live as God wants. We will focus on obeying the Bible’s teachings without chafing under its demands. We will engage in a determined process to remove the shabby impurities from our lives. As we study God’s Word, we will nurture its truths in our lives in preparation for everlasting life with Him. We need to, but more than that, the world needs us to be genuine and accept God’s Word!
James knew that only the person who acts on the basis of the Word of God will be blessed. He teaches that in being genuine…
II. We need to act on God’s Word! (1:22-25)
1. James was concerned that believers persevere in living out God’s Word. He tells them, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” The phrase refers to believers who hear the Word taught, read, or preached and then put it into action in their lives. “Merely listen,” describes someone who hears the words of Scripture without really listening to them. That person takes no actions as a result of hearing the Bible read and taught. A person who believes sitting through a presentation of God’s Word as an end in itself is delusional, which is tragic! One who is content to only listen to God’s Word and then take no action has no clear, precise, lasting perception of who they are. James drew an illustration from everyday life to drive home this point. The mirrors of that time were made of polished metal—bronze, silver, copper, or tin. He writes that, “Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.” Can you imagine such a thing, and yet Sunday after Sunday there are those who participate in fine sounding worship and sit in pews listening to great sermons and do nothing with what they hear! It has no impact on their spiritually shallow lives! James compared this person with someone looking at his own face (literally, “the face of his birth”) in a mirror and forgetting immediately what he looks like! As we would say, “He looked and never gave it another thought.” Such a person neglects to do the spiritual grooming the mirror reveals. In contrast James wrote that “the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this” and gives careful attention to the perfect law of freedom, “not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.” The Greek verb rendered “looks intently” has the idea of stooping forward to examine something closely. When we give careful attention to God’s Word, we will act on what we’ve looked intently at! Just listening to God’s Word is never enough, we need to be genuine and act on God’s Word!
EXAMPLE: I remember reading about how missionary Lottie Moon impacted the lives of the Chinese people. One man told her the secret to her success, “We have had a lot of people come and tell us about Jesus, but you showed us Jesus!” Studying God’s Word is incomplete until we translate it into our lives with actions that are in accord with its truths. Participating in weekly Bible study classes are important because we learn from the example of others applying God’s Word in how we should live. Personal reading and studying of the Scriptures are also essential to our spiritual growth. However, just studying God’s Word is never enough, we need to be genuine and act on God’s Word!
Believers can deceive themselves into thinking they are religious when in reality their religion is “useless.” By applying God’s Word, they give evidence their religion is genuine. James writes that in being genuine…
III. We need to apply God’s Word! (1:26-27)
1. James gave practical aspects of following Christ to warn against self-deception. “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.” A person, who “considers” himself religious, without controlling his tongue, is self-deceived. The word “religious” conveys the sense of outward pious acts, such as almsgiving, praying, fasting, and attending worship. These acts are good, but they are not enough. A person can diligently perform all external religious requirements and consider them self spiritually sound, but be completely wrong. James knew that “a tight rein on his tongue” meant “to guide with a bridle,” “to hold in check,” “to restrain” one’s run off of the mouth! A person with consistently undisciplined speech but thinks he or she is religious is self-deceived. The word “himself” in the NIV really is “heart” and was considered a person’s center of intellect, will or choice, and emotions. At the center of one’s being; the supposed religious person is tragically in error. No matter how industrious we are in performing religious acts, if we are not disciplined in our speech; our religion is useless and empty. Such pseudo-religion produces nothing of lasting effect; it is worthless. It might allow us to feel good, but it cannot facilitate spiritual growth and refined character. However, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” Many interpreters have taken the words pure and faultless to mean “clean” and “unsoiled.” The Greek term rendered pure, however, can mean “genuine.” The word faultless can have the sense of being unimpaired, thus effective. True religion has an effect on the outcome of one’s life. Widows and orphans were representative of the poor, helpless, and defenseless people. Christians who read or heard James’s words were aware of the Lord’s concern for all needy people, not just financially but more importantly those who were impoverished spiritually. James’s positive portrait of genuine Christianity depicted personal moral purity. Believers are to keep themselves from being stained (polluted) by the world. Moral purity is evidence of a genuine relationship with Christ. Genuine believers apply the Word of God to every aspect of their lives!
EXAMPLE: When people did not live as they said they believed a seminary friend of mine would say, “Their spiritual slip is showing.” I am amazed at how easily some Christians today acquiesce themselves and their faith by fooling themselves into thinking God will excuse anything. Sexual relations before marriage, defiance to biblical obedience, and a stewardship of selfishness are just a few of the spiritual aberrations some willingly accept as “normal.” When we apply God’s Word to our lives, we will exhibit genuine Christianity. We will discipline our speech and our lives to make it constructive. We will be personally involved in ministry to those in need both spiritually and financially, and we will strive to maintain moral purity in a permissive society. Genuine believers apply the Word of God to every aspect of their lives!
1. When we are open to the truths of His Word, we can know how to live as God wants.
2. Studying God’s Word is incomplete until we translate it into our lives with actions that are in accord with its truths.
3. When we apply God’s Word to our lives, we will exhibit genuine Christianity.
This article is the copyrighted property of Lee Hemen and may not be edited or redistributed without his written permission.