Monday, April 27, 2009

James 1:16-27


The second subject James deals with is what pure religion or pure faith ought to look like. 16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. 17 Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. 18 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. 
God is not to be regarded as the one who causes our problems, but He is the source of all that is good. AND, He has brought us (believers in Messiah Jesus) forth by the word of truth so that we might be an example among what He has created. Now James sets forth what kind of truth we are to follow.

Although religion is not a wonderful term today, James is using this term to describe "people of faith". He lists four basic elements of pure faith (religion), because people of faith are people of God's truth.

FIRST-Prepare yourselves to receive the word of God's truth. Be quick to hear. Be slow to speak. Be slow to anger-(the anger of man doesn't achieve the righteousness of God). Put aside all things that might distract you from receiving God's truth.

19 This you 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. 21 Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.

SECOND-Prove yourselves to be doers of the word. 22 But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. 23 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.

NOTE that when a person is not careful to be a doer or one who applies the word, he deludes himself. Since we live in a world of information bombardment, it is too easy to be merely hearers who delude themselves. The delusion works like this. Just by hearing something, you believe that is enough-even feel like you have embraced this truth, might even share it with others. Just from hearing and agreeing with what you have heard, you may begin to think you have already done it, but you are a hearer only who has deluded himself. It's too easy to take a quick look into the mirror of truth and forget what it said. BUT if you look intently into the truth of God, apply it, not forgetting what you read and actually do the word you have just read or received, THEN you will be blessed in whatever you do!

This follows Jesus' teaching in the Sermon on the Mount when He says, 24 ``Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 ``And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. 26 ``Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 ``The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell-and great was its fall.'' Matt 7:24-27 Just hearing the word of truth without acting upon it sets you up for destruction!

NOTE the tension between hearing and doing faith; it's the same as the tension between faith and works. We'll deal with this in more detail later, but the best statement on this subject that will suffice for right now is: Faith alone saves, but the faith that saves is not alone. Genuine faith will be accompanied by works that prove out your faith.

THIRD-Put a lid on your tongue. 26 If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man's religion is worthless. NOTE how powerful the tongue is. Your tongue can cause deception in your own heart and make your pure faith worthless.

FOURTH-Pay a visit to the orphans and widows in their distress. 27 Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

NOTE how simple the demonstration of pure faith really is in the sight of God. Orphans and widows are at the heart of God. By paying attention to these who have lost their loved ones you may find the secret to keeping yourself unstained by the world and its values. God's heart is always with the needy and the broken and not in the large rallies and events or huge book promotions.

I view it as a CSI fellowship. God's heart is in the covert (underground and quiet), the subversive (revolutionary, against the tide of the normal) and the indelible (permanent marks on the lives of men and women-marked with a mark from God's own heart). I think God honors a CSI kind of fellowship. Try it out and see!