Blessed are the Doers of the Word
19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.
22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.
- I talked last week about God testing and Satan tempting us using the same circumstances that we would refer to as trials.
13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
- I noted at the end of the sermon that the whole issue with temptation is rooted in the problem of human desire. We are tempted when drawn away and enticed by our desire.
- It was also noted that the issue with temptation was not found in the good things that we are inevitably drawn to. The problem is found in our very heart. We need to know and submit to God’s standards for our lives!
- James in this next section gives us an example of how that desire drags us away. He uses anger as an example of human desire that must be regulated by obedience to God’s Word. How can we manage our desires in a God honoring way? Let’s look at anger and see what James tells us that applies to this issue!
- Anger as an Issue Related to Desire
- Sources of anger
“What ‘makes’ people angry?”
- threatened or attacked
- frustrated or powerless
- like we’re being invalidated or treated unfairly
- like people are not respecting our feelings or possessions
- fear and anger are attached physiologically! There must be personal regulation if we are to be in control of ourselves. And this is a real struggle.
- There is a real physiological response! Don’t ignore that. Fight or flight: flight- fear versus fight- anger.
How does James tell us to manage our feelings of anger? Verse 19 I see this as a call to discipline our communication! Respecting and honoring others in the way that we communicate!
Quick to listen: This will cut anger off before it gets rolling! Seek to understand why another person is acting the way that they do.
Slow to speak: Just because you feel better when you vent does not mean that you have done a good thing. What happens if everyone does this? Remember, when we vent our anger, we often add to its strength.
Slow to become angry: So a source of anger would be the opposite of this:
Slow to listen and quick to speak.
Imagine if you combine these attributes among several in a group, you can stir up a lot of anger very quickly. This points out that much of what makes people angry is a result of poor communication.
Imagine you are mad at your spouse and because of that you act out. You may slam stuff around, be sullen and quiet, express irritation at little things that are not the issue. Those responses do not resolve anger and they will often add fuel. How then is this to be resolved? It is easy for people to get on each other’s nerves.
We need to be able to respectfully express our grievances with humility.
Others will need to be slow to speak and quick to hear with us! Surely we will also need to be this way. Unless we are never annoying.
The Bible gives us an example of handling this negatively very early on!
- Cain as a negative example
In the person of Cain we have an example of God directly warning someone to manage their anger and of a complete failure to do so.
Genesis 4: Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. 3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. 4 And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, 5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.
6 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”
Cain can’t resolve his competitive attitude toward his brother. He is angry that God did not receive his offering and did his brother’s!
The Scripture says that his desire desires to have him! People get angry and do things that they do not want to do. Have you ever done that? This is why James calls God’s law the law that gives freedom. When we obey God’s Word we are free to act in righteousness.
The solution that Cain comes up with is to kill his brother. We would not do this, but we would treat our brother as less than created in the image of God! (Gossip, slander, envy, jealousy)
Matthew 5: Whoever is angry with their brother! Manifestations of anger:
Contemptuous: good for nothing idiot!
Judged as less than: you fool.
Ask yourself: Why are you angry? Do what is right. Do not allow the anger to drive your behavior.
85-90% of people who are murdered are murdered by a family member or friend. In Russellville, it’s more like 100%.
- God’s righteousness is always the goal
The anger of man does not produce the righteous behavior that God desires!
Justified revenge is not ok
Selfish retaliation is not ok
Unforgiveness is not ok
Gossip or slander is not ok
“Wrestling with flesh and blood” is not ok
Allow God to do the jobs that are His!
- Judgement/ Condemnation
- Retribution/ Revenge
- Look to Jesus:
Hebrews 12: 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
God’s goal for people is for their repentance, not their condemnation!
In our own lives, what can we do to manage our desires in a productive way? We are not condemned for feeling a certain way, but often we naturally act on our feelings. How can we be different?
- Overcoming the Drive of Desire
21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.
- Identify evil moral failures
We are going to use the Word of God to identify desires and actions which do not fit His righteous design for our lives!
When we think about moral failures, it seems we think about sexual behavior. It fits the definition, but there is much, much more. Consider the end of Romans 1:
v.29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity.
They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy.
- Do not practice what is evil
If you find yourself acting in an evil manner toward someone, apologize. And stop acting that way. Love your enemies, pray for those who despitefully use you! Do not rehearse actions in your mind that God will not approve of in action. Set your mind on loving your neighbor!
Again from Leviticus 19: 17 “‘Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in their guilt.
18 “‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.
- Do not hate your neighbor
- You may rebuke your neighbor
- Do not seek revenge
- Do not bear a grudge against your neighbor
- Love your neighbor as yourself
- Love others as Jesus loves you
My neighbor’s dog barks at me a lot. What do I practice?
- Humbly accept the Word implanted in you
There are things in our lives below the surface that come out from time to time. Anger seems like this sort of thing!
Let’s get the Word of God saturating our minds so that we are thinking about how to apply what God says about how to live to every situation! This needs to be our habit! And it is rooted in having our minds saturated in the Word of God!
I Thes 5:16-18
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
- Rejoice always. Always!
- Pray continually. Continually!
- Give thanks to God in all circumstances! All the time!!!
These actions will dissolve much irritation!
Do you want to fight against anger in your life? Start here!
The word implanted in you, when we humbly submit our behavior in obedience to it, will save us! Obedience to God’s word will give us life!!!
III. Be Honest About Your Obedience
- Knowing what the Bible says will not save you
If you look in a mirror and then forget what you see when you go away, what good was looking in the mirror? The Bible is the mirror.
Hebrews 4: 12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
If you don’t act on what Scripture says then the purpose of the communication is frustrated. Imagine this in a marriage. Your spouse complains that they cannot communicate with you. They write you a note asking you to do something. You read the note, you might even memorize it showing that you are committed to the communication process. But you do not do what the note says. Guess what?! You have a bigger problem than communication.
- Knowing is meant for doing
You cannot do without knowing. But you can know without doing.
So, the pathway to life is not found in being able to tell people what is in the Bible. Knowledge proceeds obedience. Obedience is the goal, not knowledge.
The pathway to life is found in doing what the Bible says!
- Blessed are the doers of the Word
25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.
Blessed are those who look intently into the law and do what it says! Another beatitude!
So, two weeks in a row, a beatitude from James:
- Blessed are those who endure under trials.
- Blessed are those who do the Word.
These two definitely go together!