SERMONHUNT.COM
Who Do You See? Mirroring God’s Image

This sermon is not really about “rebuilding your broken world,” but is more about how to build your life around godliness and Christ-like living. It is the message that is most often taught at our church. It is a simple exhortation to listen more than you talk, don’t let anger control you, divorce yourself from evil, accept the word of God planted in your hearts, be doers, do what He says, control your tongue, care for those in need and refuse to let the world corrupt you. 

In an attempt to help these early Christians, James writes to them about putting their broken world together. He now shifts his attention to three very practical suggestions regarding ways to live out our faith in every area of our lives.

Living the life of a Christian or Christfollower is really about focus. It is about focusing our attention on the details of God’s word that are intended to bring transformation into our lives. Those of us that are following Christ should be the least static and stale people in this room. Our lives should be in a state of continual change and transformation to becoming more like Christ.

With that in mind, let’s look at James’s words of admonition.

Keep your mouth closed and your ears open

Key word: Listen Accept the Word 

Listening is one of the hardest things we do unless we discipline ourselves. When these words were written there was no New Testament and very few people had access to the Old Testament. Listening to each other and those who were teaching was critical if they wanted to avoid spiritual starvation and impoverishment. As they met in their homes, (there were no churches) they gathered to share the gospel which was oral and not written. 

Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. 20 Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires. 21 So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls. James 1:19-21 NLT

Many of us are non-listeners. Billions of words are produced every second, but only a fraction are truly heard. All of us have had conversations in which we are speaking but the vacant eyes and body language of our listener indicate that they are not hearing us.

The busyness of our lives is one of the main destroyers of our ability to slow down and really listen. Our busyness fills our calendars and substitutes frenzy for conversation and wrecks our relationships. The media in America has found out that our attention spans are brief and in fact have helped make it that way. Watch a typical drama and the last scenes come down to fifteen or twenty seconds.

Our inability to listen can have huge implications regarding the hearing of God’s word. Hearing God’s word was the central issue in these verses.

The devotional prayer of the modern and post modern man is, “Lord speak up you have about sixty seconds.”

o You and I must work at truly listening to others.

o We must limit our exposure to the visual media. If you don’t control your time the media will.

o We must actually pick up and read God’s word for it to make a difference in our lives.

o We most slow down and take time to listen.

o We should prepare for worship on Sunday.

James also suggests that we should be slow to speak. This is nothing more than adhering to the old adage of thinking before you speak. Our mouths get us in trouble more than anything else generally in our lives.

Some of us have learned the hard way that we should speak so much. We open our mouths sometimes just to switch feet so to speak. Being slow to speak will keep us from jumping to the wrong conclusions, being quick to judge others, being quick to offer advice or quick to  say the worst.

James also says we should be slow to anger. When people are allowed to practice anger in church contexts they are totally 100 percent out of touch with the word of God. They may have some bible verses memorized but the word of God is not working in their lives. When people are quick to speak and short on really listening to understand they get emotional and angry of some of the dumbest and non biblical issues. People in churches rarely fight over important biblical truth, they fight over personal preferences.

An angry spirit is never a listening and teachable spirit.

Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. 20 Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires. 21 So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls. James 1:19-21 NLT

There are two reason we are to practice listening lives:

1. Get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives. 

2. Humbly accept the word God has planted in your lives.

There is another admonition that I believe will be very helpful to all of us if we pay attention to it.                                                                                                                          

Keep doing what God wants you do to

Key Word: Labor    

Do the Word: 

 22 But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. 23 For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. 24 You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. 25 But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.  James 1: 22-25 NLT

While we do not teach that you and I should be working for our salvation we should also understand that being a Christfollower is not coasting. Being a Christfollower is a daily walk. It is a relationship that requires effort and attention. 

Every person who has ever been in a relationship with another person should understand that it takes time, it takes attention to details in a word it takes work or labor. This is not a bad thing but just a fact. 

In his book, Improving Your Serve, Chuck Swindoll wrote these words: 

“Let’s pretend that you work for me. In fact, you are my executive assistant in a company that is growing rapidly. I’m the owner and I’m interested inexpanding overseas. To pull this off, I make plans to travel abroad and stay there until the new branch office gets established. I make all the arrangements to take my family in the move to Europe for six to eight months, and I leave you in charge of the busy stateside organization. I tell you I will write you regularly and give you direction and instructions. 

I leave and you stay. Month pass. A flow of letters are mailed from Europe and received by you at the national headquarters. I spell out all of my expectations. Finally I return. Soon after my arrival I drive down to the office. I am stunned! Grass and weeds have grown up high. A few windows along the street are broken. I walk into the receptionist’s office and she is doing her nails, chewing gum, and listening to her favorite music. I look around and notice waste baskets are overflowing, the carpet hasn’t been vacuumed for weeks and nobody seems concerned that the owner has returned. I ask about your whereabouts and someone it the crowed lounge area points down the hall and yells, “I think he’s down there.” Disturbed, I move in that direction and bump into you as you are finishing a chess game with our sales manager. I ask you to step into my office (which has been turned into a TV room for watching soap operas)

“What in the world is going on, man?”

“What do ya mean. . .?”

“Well look at this place! Didn’t you get any of my letters?” 

“Letters? Oh yea – sure we got everyone of them. As a matter of fact we have had letter study every Friday night since you left. We have even divided all the personnel into small groups and discussed many of the things you wrote. Some of those things were really interesting. You’ll be pleased to know that a few of us have actually committed to memory some of your sentences and paragraphs. One or two memorized an entire letter or two! Great stuff in those letters.” 

“Okay, Okay – you got my letters, you studied them and meditated on them, discussed them and even memorized them. BUT WHAT DID YOU DO ABOUT THEM?

“Do? Uh – we didn’t do anything about them.”

Of course we can’t imagine such a story being true until you put it in the context of people applying the word of God to their lives. 

 22 But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. 23 For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. 24 You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. 25 But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.  James 1: 22-25 NLT

James says if you listen and don’t obey it’s like glancing at you face in a mirror. You see and walk away and conveniently forget what you look like.

There is a story from the last century about a missionary out in the bush that hung a small mirror on a tree in order to shave. The local witch doctor happened by and curiously looked into this strange glass – and seeing her hideously painted features she jumped back! Immediately she began to bargain with the missionary for the mirror. The man declined but to no effect. Finally realizing that the witch doctor would not be put off, he let her have the mirror – whereupon she threw it to the ground, breaking it into pieces, shouting, “there . . .it won’t be making ugly faces at me anymore!”

Is this how we handle the truth of God’s word at times?

James finishes out this great first chapter of his letter by a timely word that we certainly need to hear in these days.

Keep yourself protected from outside influences: 

Live and Love   Be the Word

What is the standard that you use to measure your connection to God?
 
What do you use to measure your relationship and credibility as a Christian or Christfollower?

The word religious here denotes outward worship. If we carry a bible and are somewhat familiar with it, if we read the “right books,” if we attend church regularly, sing the right songs, apparently listen, and especially if we give, we can easily deceive ourselves into thinking we ar properly and adequately religious.

To combat this dangerous thinking James offers three final penetrating dimensions of authentic faith that are acceptable to God.

 26 If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. 27 Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.  James 1:26-27 NLT 

1. Control of the tongue

James words on this cut like a knife through hot butter!

According to R. Kent Hughes, James compares the tongue to a powerful, rearing horse which will take off on a wild ride if the reins are not kept taut. If you’ve ever sat on 1,500 pounds of restless bone and muscle and then hung on at a full gallop, you have the idea. There are actually people who consider themselves religious (they are proper in their worship) but who have galloping tongues, and thus are in a state of perpetual self-deception. In fact, James says their actions are worthless!

What a spiritually terrifying statement!

Jesus Himself addressed this in Matthew 12:33-34:  

33 “A tree is identified by its fruit. If a tree is good, its fruit will be good. If a tree is bad, its fruit will be bad. 34 You brood of snakes! How could evil men like you speak what is good and right? For whatever is in your heart determines what you say. 35 A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. 36 And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak. 37 The words you say will either acquit you or condemn you.” NLT

If you really want to follow Christ the bible says we are to avoid some things coming out of our mouths:

 Filth:   “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths.” Eph. 4:29

Lying: “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor.” Eph. 4:25

 Gossip:

More than anything James is saying avoid most is an uncontrolled slanderous tongue – carping, critical, judgmental of others. Sometimes it is whispered, sometimes inferred, and sometimes shouted.  He is not saying that we all won’t have a struggle controlling our tongues but he is warning those who have developed the habit of unbridled speech.

I don’t often quote John Calvin on anything but listen to these centuries’ old words:

“When people shed their grosser sins, they are extremely vulnerable to contract this complaint. A man will steer clear of adultery, of stealing, of drunkenness, in fact he will be a shining light of outward religious observance – and yet will revel in destroying the character of others: under the pretext of zeal . . .but it is a lust for vilification. This explains. . . .the bloated pharisaical pride that feeds indulgently on a general diet of smear and censure.”

2. Care for the unfortunate

26 If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. 27 Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.  James 1:26-27 NLT

Orphans and widows were the most helpless people in Jewish society, their distress coming from their desperate need for food and clothing. You and I can’t avoid this biblical mandate.

“What makes you think I want all your sacrifices?” says the LORD.

   “I am sick of your burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fattened cattle.

   I get no pleasure from the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.

 12 When you come to worship me, who asked you to parade through my courts with all your ceremony? 13 Stop bringing me your meaningless gifts; the incense of your offerings disgusts me!

 As for your celebrations of the new moon and the Sabbath and your special days for fasting— they are all sinful and false. I want no more of your pious meetings.

 14 I hate your new moon celebrations and your annual festivals. They are a burden to me. I cannot stand them!

 15 When you lift up your hands in prayer, I will not look. Though you offer many prayers, I will not listen, for your hands are covered with the blood of innocent victims.

 16 Wash yourselves and be clean! Get your sins out of my sight. Give up your evil ways.

 17 Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.”
Isaiah 1:11-17 NLT

3. Refuse to let the world corrupt you!

Today’s world is increasingly polluted. There is nothing about the majority of what we are exposed to that is godly or encouraging to our walk with Christ.

We have to take charge of our own spiritual growth and tend to our spiritual needs as we would out physical needs.

On the eve of the holiday season this is a timely admonition. Many of us will gather in our homes and other places with family and friends to celebrate God’s goodness at Thanksgiving. Next Sunday we begin our Advent observance and we do that to allow us to stop and think about the advent of Christ it earth. We may find ourselves invited to parties or dinners during this season sitting with people, engaging in conversations and interacting socially.

I would like to challenge all of us as we prepare to wind down another year, to heed these words.

This year try to listen more and talk less. “You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak”

This year try to let go of the anger, “and slow to get angry.”
 
This year make it your goal to get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives. So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives,

This year accept the word of God into your hearts. “humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts.” 

This year determine to do God’s word. “But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says.

Today refuse to let the world corrupt you. 

Let your life be conformed to the image of Christ. As we enter this Advent season let us take on the nature and holiness of our Lord. 

Drama

“God created man in His image and then man returned the favor.” – George Bernard Shaw.

Benediction: I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13 NLT



2009/11/22