by Mike Ratliff
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (James 1:22 ESV)
The visible Church in our time has been compromised for the most part by human philosophy and has succumbed to the pressure from the world to not emphasize God’s truth as absolute. Professing Christians who discount the Word of God as absolute truth are actually placing their intellect, their beliefs, and the counsel of their own hearts above the Word of God as it relates to authority and truth. It is one thing for an atheist to denigrate Christians, the Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, God the Father, and the God the Holy Spirit. That is almost expected and should not surprise us. However, when the majority of professing Christians demand the right to behave contrary to what the Word teaches about Christian behavior can God’s judgment be far behind?
Those in the rebellion have believed a lie. They are deceived. They do not know God’s Word and their leaders never preach the Law of God with the Gospel so to them the fact that their behavior “used to be” considered sinful is now seen as relative. This has resulted from a protracted famine of hearing and doing God’s Word.
I have confession to make. I have a very low tolerance for people who are inconsiderate and my anger over that compounds drastically if the guilty party is also incompetent. If I am not very careful, I can become full of rage while driving to or from work in rush hour traffic. Oh, I do not act out that rage, but I do sin horribly in my heart at times over the blatant selfishness exhibited in how some drive. Couple that with a very strong sense of justice and it creates a circumstance that makes my commute each way something to be dreaded. As I was walking after lunch today, I prayed about this post. I asked for direction in choosing a topic along with wisdom and discernment in putting it together. However, as I tried to cross the street next to the building in which I work to enter the walking trail, I was forced to take evasive action when a fellow in a great deal of hurry to exit the parking lot next to me refused to wait for me to cross.
My first reaction was rage and resentment. As I walked around one of the ponds on the trail I actually pictured me confronting that driver. Well, I stopped right there and asked God to forgive me. Then I asked why I struggled so with this. Then the picture became very clear. This anger is the product of my old man. That part of me that is unredeemed still exists. It is full of pride. It wants “to win” at all things. It will never submit to anyone. When that resentment and rage overwhelm me it is that old man within who is doing this. However, when that happens it is all my fault because I am not denying myself nor taking up my cross. It is only as I do this that I can deny strength to my old man. Interestingly, the more time I spend in God’s Word, studying it, meditating on it, and praying before the throne of Grace the less problem I have in this area. But, those circumstances that trigger it can happen at any time. What are we to do?
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. (James 1:19-21 ESV)
Even though my anger is usually directed towards those who I perceive to be rude and inconsiderate, it does not produce the righteousness of God no matter how “right” I am. The goal is to be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger. The only way we can do this is to receive with meekness the implanted Word. When we are saved, God implants His Word in our hearts. However, we often walk through each day as if it isn’t even there. What we must to do is submit our wills to God’s in all meekness, memorize the Word, and therefore bring it to life within us. When we walk through each day this way, we become doers of the Word.
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 who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. (James 1:22-25 ESV)
Hearing God’s Word, but not acting upon it is a form of self-deception. The more a professing Christian does this the deeper their spiritual blindness becomes. On the other hand, those who hear God’s Word and in all meekness submit to it, the brighter becomes God’s light within. The Christians who do this perseveres in God’s truth. Perfection is for eternity. In this life, we must still deal with that unredeemed part of our hearts that hates the light and loves self. If our old man gets his way then we will be that one who forgets the truth, but if we deliberately seek to put our old man to death by denying him what he wants consistently then we will be blessed and become doers of God’s Word.
If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. (James 1:26-27 ESV)
As I read this passage during my morning devotion today, I was pierced to the heart. I asked God to fill me with His wisdom and help me get control over that consuming anger within. Then after eating lunch I had that episode trying to cross the street. That started the fires of anger in the furnace of my heart, but God was in control. He caused me to stop and repent of it. He caused me to see clearly the line that I had crossed and why. I then put it together with this passage. When we are doers of the Word we walk through this life as Christ would. We are giving and merciful and the filthiness of this world has no part in us. However, as soon as we cross that line into self-righteous anger we cease being doers of the Word and are, instead, controlled by our flesh.
I cannot say to any reading this that I have this conquered. I do not. I am a work in progress and I hate my sin, but the tests and trials by fire never cease with me. This is walking in repentance my brethren. This is working out our salvation with fear and trembling. Let us pray for one another that we do not fall away and become discouraged in our repeated failures.
Oh Lord, help us to be doers of your Word and not hearers only. Help us to walk in meekness and self-denial as you burn away the dross within. Oh be glorified in us Lord!
Soli Deo Gloria!