In the last two weeks, we have looked at how to handle temptation, keep the right perspective, and how to persevere through trial. This week we will look at a major key in all of those areas, giving attention to the instruction of Scripture. Making Bible reading a priority in life, but not just reading, but following its instruction. The Word gives us life at salvation. Psalms says the law of the Lord is perfect reviving the soul, it also says the word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. The Bible also guides us through life.
Before we get into this weeks portion of James, let’s lay a foundation from the book of Joshua. Joshua 1:8 AMP “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall read [and meditate on] it day and night, so that you may be careful to do [everything] in accordance with all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will be successful.” If we want to be successful in life, if we are going to overcome temptation, persevere through trial, and keep the right outlook on life, we must give attention to what the Bible says.
James 1:19-27 TLV “Know this, my dear brothers and sisters: let every person be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger— 20 for human anger doesn’t produce the righteousness of God. 21 So put away all moral filth and excess of evil and receive with humility the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. 22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deluding yourselves. 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 looks at himself and goes away, he immediately forgets what sort of person he was. 25 But the one who looks intently into the perfect Torah, the Torah that gives freedom, and continues in it, not becoming a hearer who forgets but a doer who acts—he shall be blessed in what he does. 26 If anyone thinks he is religious and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is futile. 27 Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”
As we go through these verses there are three questions I want us to keep in mind. One, do we love the Word. Second, do we spend time in the Word, and third, do we obey the Word? We need to be quick to hear and slow to speak if we are going to make it through trials. If we are not grounded in the Word, our mouths will outrun our brains, and we will say things we wish we hadn’t. Because of that, James gives the following instructions.
James 1:21-25 TLV “So put away all moral filth and excess of evil and receive with humility the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. 22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deluding yourselves. 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 looks at himself and goes away, he immediately forgets what sort of person he was. 25 But the one who looks intently into the perfect Torah, the Torah that gives freedom, and continues in it, not becoming a hearer who forgets but a doer who acts—he shall be blessed in what he does.”
The first step in giving attention to the Scripture is not to read it or hear it but to lay aside sin. As believers, we have a different responsibility to the Word than non-believers. Which James addresses in these verses. But before we can go there we are told to lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness. As Christians, we know we are not to walk in sin, so the first step, our first response to belief in the Word, is to lay aside sin.
We are told to be doers of the word and not hearers only. But in order to do it, we must hear it. In order to obey, we must know the instruction. In order to follow, we must know who is leading us. How do you receive the teaching of Scripture? Do you look forward to it? Do you enjoy hearing the Scripture taught? Do you enjoy reading it during the week? These are important questions for us to answer.
If we are truly following Jesus, if we are saved, we will have a desire for the Word of God. That is not to say we’ll never struggle in our understanding or we won’t miss a day, but is the desire there? I want to say something that may sound a little harsh, but I want you to give this some thought. If our first response to missing a week of Bible reading is, “it’s okay, I know God isn’t mad at me.” We’ve missed it. This has nothing to do with God being or not being mad at us. This has everything to do with the fact that the Bible is our very life source as Christians, and if it doesn’t bother us to go days without reading it, we have major spiritual health problems. You may read the verse of the day, but that is a very small snack, that is not a meal. Our physical bodies let us know we’re hungry when all we’ve had is a snack. We want food, we want a meal, and we typically stuff ourselves at the first opportunity. Our spirits are no different; they crave the Word. If we aren’t feeling that spiritual hunger, something is wrong, and we need to find out what it is. We need to take time to examine our hearts. We need to evaluate our time. If we have time to watch shows but we can’t find time to read the Word, we are spiritually sick.
Proverbs 4:20-27 TLV “My son, pay attention to my words— incline your ear to my sayings. 21 Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart. 22 For they are life to those who find them and health to their whole body. 23 Guard your heart diligently, for from it flow the springs of life. 24 Put away perversity from your mouth, and keep devious lips far from you. 25 Let your eyes look directly ahead, and fix your gaze straight in front of you. 26 Clear a level path for your feet, so all your ways will be firm. 27 Do not turn to the right or to the left. Divert your foot from evil.”
Give attention, incline your ear, keep your eyes on them, and keep them in your heart. They are life to us. We need to keep our hearts and stay focused. We need to ponder our direction and go the right way. We can only go the right way if we give attention to the Word.
In giving attention to the word, James makes an analogy of a man looking into a mirror, but when he walks away he forgets what he looks like. The mirrors of that day were not the glass mirrors we have today but polished brass that gave a very dim and distorted reflection. That’s what James says hearing the word without doing it is like.
Jesus addressed this issue in Matthew 7:24-27 TLV ““Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house; and yet it did not fall, for its foundation had been built 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 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.”
Hearing the word without obeying it will do nothing for us. In reality, if we make a profession of faith that is confirmed by church attendance but our lives don’t testify to the profession, we prove our profession to be false. We are to look into the perfect law of liberty, which is freedom from sin. We are not to be a forgetful hearers but a doer of the work. This destroys any notion of being saved or kept by works. Jesus, James, and Paul all testified to the fact that grace brings about good works.
What do these good works look like? We bridle our tongue, and we don’t speak ill of people, situations, or God. We visit the orphan and the widow and keep ourselves unspotted from the world. When we give attention to the Word, we will overcome temptation, persevere through trial, and we will live out pure religion. This is what we are called to as believers. I want to close by reminding us of the three questions posed at the beginning; do you love the Word, do you spend time in the Word, do you obey the Word? The only way we will live a victorious Christian life is by giving attention to the Word of God. As James said, receive the implanted Word, and it will produce in your life.
If you need some encouragement in giving attention to the Word, I would suggest reading and rereading the following passages of Scripture every day for thirty days. Mark 4:1-20, Proverbs 3 and 4, Psalm 119, John 15, Luke 8:4-15, and Matthew 13:1-23. I know this looks like a lot of Scripture, it is, so is going to an all-you-can-eat buffet, but we’ve all done it. The only way to develop a hunger for the Word of God is to spend time in it. If you spend time in it and you still don’t have a desire for it, there’s a good chance you don’t really know the author. You may have made a profession of faith but there is no fruit in your life that proves the profession true. I would encourage you to go to God in prayer. Repent of your apathy and sin, ask Jesus to renew your heart and make you clean, and submit to Him as Lord and Savior.
A profession of faith with no fruit that follows is not genuine. That is why Jesus said many will come to Me in that day and say Lord, Lord but He will respond, depart from Me, I don’t know you, you who practice lawlessness. Don’t be counted among that many, make your calling and election sure, and follow Jesus in love and obedience.