by Mike Ratliff
22 But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. James 1:22 (NASB)
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. This compounds drastically if that same party accuses me of something that I did not do. If I am not watchful, careful, and focused correctly these circumstances can seem to snowball quickly and cause me to become full of rage and resentment. I got into a sorta ugly back and forth discussion yesterday with an old adversary online. He is a ‘New Calvinist’ in his approach to discernment ministry. That is, he finds that what we do at CRN as deplorable. Why? We are sometimes very blunt and tell the truth without caring who’s feelings are hurt, et cetera. Of course, he didn’t seem to care how my feelings were being pounded on by his continual haranguing that went on for hours. However, I did back away quietly and prayerfully and asked God to use that discussion to change me according to His will. Be careful what you ask for.
Today we went to our oldest Grandson’s soccer games. He had two in a row starting around 11:30am this morning. I took a camera with a long lens and another with a shorter more wide-angle lens to get some shots of him and his teammates throughout both games. I wandered the sidelines and things went pretty much like they usually do. However, about halfway through the first half of the second game I was making my way around one of the end zone areas to get to the other side. I walked behind the net and made it to the other corner. The ball was kicked past the goal and went about 20 yards past it up against a fence. I kept waiting for the goalie to go get it, but he kept looking at me like I was supposed to go do it. I looked around and no one was moving. The ref was looking at his watch. I walked over to the ball and kicked it back to the goalie who tried to kick it up in the air to catch it but, instead it came back to me. I then picked it up and gave it to him. The ref then started yelling at me that I was not allowed in that area. He said I had to stay on the sidelines and no one was allowed behind the goals during play. I told him I wasn’t. He insisted that I was. I then saw the manager of the facility in the bleachers at the other end of the field and so I went to him and told him what was going on. He said the ref was just interpreting the rule the way he saw it. I told him what happened. The guy said that there was no recourse. I was not going to be allowed to take pictures from the end zone areas as long as that ref was calling that game. If I didn’t like it I could protest to the YMCA office next week. Well I was already in the HOT ZONE and that really put me over the top. I told him that all of my pictures were posted on the YMCA website. I was not down there coaching, which was what they were accusing me of. He said there was nothing he could do. I went over to my wife and daughter and told them what happened. I left the game and went to the car and waited for it all to end. My wife later told me that after the game the ref and the manager were in the bleachers discussing it. I doubt if anything will change. How am I supposed to handle this as a Christian?
Well, holding on to that anger is the worst thing I can do isn’t it? What are we to do?
19 This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. James 1:19-21 (NASB)
Even though my anger is usually directed towards those who I perceive to be rude and inconsiderate or hostile for no good reason, 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.
22 But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; 24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. 25 But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does. James 1:22-25 (NASB)
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.
26 If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless. 27 Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. James 1:26-27 (NASB)
As I read this passage, I am pierced to the heart because of all that has been going on. I must ask God to fill me with His wisdom and help me get control over that consuming anger within. As I have worked on my laptop and Mac and cameras today after we got home I have mediated on it and all these circumstances I would rather not have gone through. 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. All these tests push me in the direction of being controlled by my flesh. However, as soon as I get back to where it is quiet and I can focus on our Lord and who I am in Christ then these truths are made manifest.
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!