James 1:22-25 A Lenten Look

James 1:22-25            A Lenten Look                                                           WC McCarter
Today is the first Sunday in Lent. We do not formally observe this time in our tradition, but some of us have found it appropriate to consider a Lenten look this morning. Maybe some of you are observing the full period of time until Easter, but at the very least we will think about it today. Lent is a time for fasting, prayer, and reflection into one’s own life. How long has it been since you really took a long, hard, deep look at your own condition? I hope that you will as we take a look at James 1 this morning.
READ Scripture- This is the Word of God
Deceiving Yourself
One who only hears the word and thinks that he is comfortable is sadly mistaken. Even if you affirm what you have heard, even if you tell yourself that you believe the facts in your mind, it is not enough on its own. Genuine belief is doing something with the message you have heard. We must respond to the message. Don’t get me, or James, wrong. Hearing is important. Listening is important. It is the first step, but if you do not do something with the message you are only deceiving yourself. How dangerous it is to be one who deceives himself!
There have been times that I have looked into the mirror and seem some type of blemish or issue that needed to be tended to, but in my laziness or whatever we away and told myself it wasn’t that bad. “Maybe it will go away on its own” or “I’ll take care of it sometime.” Have you ever found yourself doing that? Of course, this is a great illustration of those who only hear and do not do anything. Yet, it is only an illustration because when we are talking about hearing and doing the word of God, we are talking about eternal things.
Doers of the Word
In verse 21, James instructs believers to receive, or accept, the implanted word. Now, in verse 22, he better explains what he means. To accept the word of God is not merely to hear it or even to acknowledge it, but to do it. James is building on the history of Jewish teaching and even upon what Christ Jesus has already said. He encouraged in Luke 11:28, “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”
We must renounce the things of the world. Are we to hear the word of God and yet continue to pursue the things of this present wicked age? Of course not. We must repent of all things contrary to the commands of God and seek His kingdom and righteousness whole-heartedly. Someone who consistently refuses to obey the word of God is someone who has not accepted it in the first place.
James was apparently writing to those who were Torah-minimalists. They wanted to do the bear minimum to get by in their religious life. They heard the Gospel and affirmed its facts, decided that they liked it and thought that they were done. They thought they could here and then continue life the way they always had. James teaches that thinking like that is deceptive, dangerous, and as far from the truth as one can become.
Perfect Law
James talks about the “word of truth,” the “word,” and the “perfect law.” What James is showing us in so many words is that the Word of God is whole. It is complete. “If we want the benefit of the ‘gospel,’ the word that brings us into God’s family, we must also respond to the ‘law,’ the word that commands and instructs us” (Moo, 97). “If one wants the benefits of its saving power, one must also embrace it as a guide for life” (Moo, 90).
The Gospel message is liberating. It frees us to live for God without fear of condemnation. It was the apostle Paul who said, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Who do not walk in the flesh, but in the Spirit.”
Conclusion and Application
1) Give yourself a reality check today and often. Ask yourself the tough questions.
2) Do not be forgetful of the Scriptures. Spend enough time in them and apply yourself to the point that they will make an impression on your soul.
3) Blessed are those who seek God’s righteousness and act when they learn they do not meet up to it.