Proper 17 (B), August 31, 2003 James 1:21-25
It's 6:30 in the morning. You awake to that most usual and
unfriendly of sounds — the buzzing of your alarm clock. You lay there
for a minute as reality rescues your mind from the night's dreams.
Then, slowly, you sit up, turn your body and rest your feet on the
floor. After another 30 seconds of intense debate between morning
deadlines and your warm, comfortable bed, you decide to get up and get
Standing in your flannel pajamas you walk over to the mirror in
your bathroom and notice that there's a lot of work to be done before
you're ready to enter civilization. So you walk over to your desk and
grab your keys and your purse or wallet and head out the door to work.
Is there something wrong with this picture? You weren't supposed
to look in the mirror and leave for work! You were supposed to do
something about it. At least take a shower and comb your hair, but do
That's the same response the apostle James is looking for in
chapter one, verses 23-24. To open your Bible for morning devotions,
personal study, or at church on Sunday, look at what it says, and do
nothing about it — that's like a man who looks at himself in the
mirror and just walks away. Our understanding of God's word must
bleed over into application. We need to be "doers of the word, and
not merely hearers who delude themselves."
I. Receive the Word (v. 21)
The apostle commands his readers to receive the word implanted in
them. But notice the assumption before the imperative: ". . . putting
aside all filthiness, and all that remains of wickedness, in humility
receive the word implanted in you." In Christ we've been given a new
nature. As Paul says in Romans six, we're no longer slaves to sin but
to righteousness, and we're to give our body's over to obedience as
instruments of righteousness.
That means putting aside the deeds of the flesh, especially as we
prepare to look into God's word. We are to have an attitude of
repentance and humility as we receive this word implanted. This is a
necessary element of being doers of the word.
II. Don't Be Deluded (vv. 22-24)
We're also to avoid the delusion that an increase in facts makes
us spiritual. You can read your Bibles every morning and evening,
memorize a myriad of references, come to church every time the door's
open to hear the word taught and preached (and you should!), but if
you're simply gaining information and not obeying what you hear, then
Just like waking up in the morning and ignoring what you look like
and heading off to work, those who look into the word of God and
don't apply it to their lives are deceived. Don't be deluded; be a
doer of the word!
III. Look Intently (v. 25)
"But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of
liberty, and abides by it, this man will be blessed in what he does."
In his commentary J. Ronald Blue describes what it is to look
intently: "The intent and sustained look with a ready response is the
key to spiritual strength and continued maturity. The word for ‘looks
intently into' literally means ‘to stoop down' in order to have a
good close look."1
When you peer into the living word of God do you look intently? Do
you expect that you will be challenged by the Spirit of God to
actively obey what you hear and read?
We must come to the word
with ready humble hearts, avoiding the delusion of merely gaining
facts, and looking intently with the desire
to obey. That's what it means to be doers of the word.
1 J. Ronald Blue, "James" in The Bible Knowledge Commentary (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983-1985).
Sermon brief provided by: Jonathan Kever, Preaching.