Preachers and teachers want to make a difference. They learn all the best techniques and work hard at their craft. There is, however, a part of the process over which the preacher has no control. That is the attitude of the hearer. Sometimes the failure to communicate rests solely on the speaker, while other times the problem is a stubborn audience. James is well aware of these problems. To make way for the word, we must…

I. Listen! (James 1:19-20)
We must be quick to listen. He who is listening is learning. If someone is not inclined to listen, even a shout becomes a whisper.

We must be slow to speak. How many of us have uttered a word and wished we had censored it? This shows a lack of discipline. In addition, constant speaking inhibits the ability to receive information.

We also must be slow to anger. Controlling anger allows us to listen to unpleasant truths. The things we hear about ourselves are often unpleasant. When we are angry, our thinking is out of balance; our reasoning is undependable.

II. Receive! (James 1:21)
Hearing, enjoying and appreciating the Word is not enough. We must accept it.

This involves the right preparation. “Get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent.” Nurturing sinful thoughts makes it difficult to accept the truth of God. While the Word helps us eliminate these harmful attitudes, a repentant heart is essential for the process to begin.

We need the right attitude. James says we must “humbly accept,” meaning we need to let God’s Word rule over us, not us rule over it. If we accept only the teachings of the Bible with which we already agree, then where is the authority of the Bible?

We do this with the right expectation. One reason we stand humbly before the Word is because of its power—the power of the living God to convict and save.

III. Do! (James 1:22-25)
If we accept the Word, the final proof is what we do with what we have learned. James declares, “Do not merely listen to the Word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what is says.” Many who claim to live under the authority of the Word never have put what they know into practice.

God’s Word is an instrument for self-evaluation. James describes a man who looks at himself in the mirror and immediately forgets what he looks like. A photo or painting can fool you, but a mirror tells the truth. We don’t go to the mirror to find out what is right. We go to the mirror to find out what is wrong and needs to be changed. If the part in our hair is crooked, or we have food stuck between our teeth, we correct it. See this picture of futility—a man running back and forth to the mirror, unable to make any changes because of his forgetfulness? Instead, he should “look intently.”

James then changes his figure of speech and describes the Word of God as, “The perfect law that gives freedom.” God’s Word is a liberating force. Law and freedom seem contradictory to us, but there is no freedom without a law that protects or provides it. Traffic laws enable us to be free to drive safely. What if everyone decided to interpret the red light for him or herself? The result would be utter chaos. What if a football team arbitrarily decided a touchdown would be 100 points? The freedom to play the game depends on the laws.

In Glad Tidings, James Kallam tells of a young book salesman who was assigned to a rural area. The young man approached a farmer seated in a rocking chair on his front porch. “Sir,” he said, “I have here a book that will tell you how to farm ten times better than you are doing it now.” The farmer replied, “Son, I don’t need your book. I already know how to farm ten times better than I’m doing it now.” Perhaps we know more about the Christian life than we put into practice. That won’t happen if we listen, receive and do.

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