Monday, August 13, 2012

Three Commands, Two Images

Three Commands, Two Images

Intro.: I am afraid that I, like too many pastors, make Christianity seem more theoretical than practical.
  1. I really do like theology – If I can find a good theology book at a decent price, I will try to put into my library – either by putting it on my computer or on my bookshelf.
  2. It is easy for me to get caught up in theoryology, if you will, of my faith.
  3. But in doing so, I am making a big mistake – you see if the Christian faith is not practical, if it does not make much use to be Christian.
  4. Scripture comes in various genres – some books are history, some are poetry or other kinds of writing, some are prophesy, and some are letters. James is a letter.
  5. And as a letter two thing make it stand out from other New Testament books.
  6. First, there are many who think it is the first book of the New Testament to be written.
  7. As such, it may reflect the teachings of Jesus in such a way that we need to listen closely to what the author is saying.
  8. Second, James, more than any other book, blends the theology of our faith with the living it out.
  9. Today, that statement becomes very clear.
Read: James 1:19-27
T.S. James 1:19-27 has three commands – commands that will help us be obey God.

  1. Command #1: Know
    1. The command is know that you, no we, are to be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.
(Ill.) About 15 years ago I completed a degree in counseling. I have never formally used the skills – but I remember learning one thing during those two years. The most important skill that a counselor has is listening and helping the client know that he or she has been heard. The counselor's most important job is not advice, it is listening. That is where James begins – be quick to listen.
    1. But then it gets interesting – if I am going to listen, I have to slow down – and that is where James takes us.
      1. Quick to listen
      2. Slow to speak
      3. Slow to anger
    2. If I am moving too quickly, if I am thinking too quickly, my ability to listen is disrupted. My response will be my response, my response will be from my gut – rather than listening.
    3. James has it exactly right – if I am going to be quick to listen, I have to slow to speak – keep quiet so I can hear. And don't let my emotions get in the way of what I am hearing – be slow to anger.
  1. Command #2: Receive
    1. Receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
    2. A bit later, John would write to some of the same audience that James was writing to -”Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. (Rev. 3:20 NIV84)
    3. When John began his gospel, he wrote, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
    4. When we turn our lives over to Christ – something happens. Jesus becomes part of us – he is the “implanted word which is able to save your souls.”
    5. I think it interesting that James includes the word “meekness” with the saving of our souls.

  2. (Ill.) When I attend Red Wings game, standing outside the stadium are two men who take turns doing some sort of preaching. They will stand and yell at the fans waiting to enter the stadium. Their message is okay, but its delivery shows very little signs of meekness.
    1. We must be willing to live out our faith, we must be willing to share our faith, but it must come with a spirit of humility, with a spirit of meekness.

  3. Command #3: Be
    1. Be - doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
    2. There are two sides to obedience – the first is one to hear what God wants. That part is easy -
      1. Go to church
      2. Read your Bible
      3. Listen to Christian radio or TV
      4. Read Christian books
      5. all types of ways to know what God wants.
    3. James never says we are not to listen – what he does say is that we are to doers of the word, and not hears only.
(Ill.) Vance Havner was a fairly well known conference preacher in the middle of the 20th century. He once observed, “You have not really learned a commandment until you have obeyed it. The church suffers today from Christians who know volumes more than they practice.”i
    1. Mearly hearing what God wants does not get it done, we must also obey what he wants of us.
  1. Illustration #1: A Mirror
    1. James has more to say about this topic. He has two illustrations that help emphasize the importance of what he is saying.
    2. James tells us that the person who is a hearer only is like someone who looks into a mirror and then forgets what he or she saw.
(Ill.) Important to understand that glass was not used in the manufacture of mirrors for several more centuries. Mirrors from the 1st century were made of polished metal – and like most metal mirrors today, it gives a distorted reflection. Paul once wrote, “Now we see in a mirror, dimly.” Paul, too, understood the problem. When a person looked into a mirror, they got an idea of they looked like, but because the image was distorted, no one wanted to remember what that reflection looked like.ii
    1. he person who only hears the word – and does not obey – has missed the point, and forgets what they have heard.

  1. Illustration #2: The Word of God
    1. James then describes the person who is a hearer and doer of God's will.
    2. This person is different, because he or she has heard and remembered what God has said. He has looked into God's word to see what he or she is like.
    3. The word of God is not meant to pin us down, but to free us to serve God. No longer locked into doing what others want, we are free to do what God wants.
    4. Someone has pointed out that “True freedom comes as we live the truth.”iii
Conclusion: Where do you want to see yourself?
  1. In a dim mirror that only gives a dull reflection – that you want to forget?
  2. Or in the word of God that will allow you to see yourself as God sees you?
  3. The choice is one we each have to make.
iVance Havner quoted in Morgan, R. J. (2000). Nelson’s complete book of stories, illustrations, and quotes (electronic ed.) (588). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
ii“Mirror”. Nelson’s new illustrated Bible dictionary. 1995 (R. F. Youngblood, F. F. Bruce, R. K. Harrison & Thomas Nelson Publishers, Ed.). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.
iiiMinneapolis Tribune quoted in Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times. Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc.

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