In the last two weeks we have looked at how to handle temptation, keep a 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 NKJV “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” If we want to be successful in life, if we are going to overcome temptation, persevere through trial, and keep a right outlook on life, we must give attention to what the Bible says.
James 1:19-27 NKJV “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does. If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from 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 NKJV “Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will 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 NKJV “My son, give attention to my words; Incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your eyes; Keep them in the midst of your heart; For they are life to those who find them, And health to all their flesh. Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life. Put away from you a deceitful mouth, And put perverse lips far from you. Let your eyes look straight ahead, And your eyelids look right before you. Ponder the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established. Do not turn to the right or the left; Remove 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 NKJV “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on 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 hearer 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, 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, 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.