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 a 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 in heavy 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 some trips across the city to be dreaded.
As I was driving home from a shopping trip today with my wife Ina, it was during “Rush Hour.” We were on one of OKC’s turnpikes. The speed limit in the city limits is 70 MPH. I had my cruise set on 70 and we were doing just fine except for people who kept passing me then slowing down causing me to have to speed up to pass them and get back up to cruising speed. This happened several times. The worst thing though was as we went through a toll gate I had to get in the left lane because of drivers without Pike Passes were getting back on in the right lane after they had paid with coins. When I did that a fellow in a white car zoomed up and got on my bumper and would not back off. I was stuck behind a pickup and could not get over because of traffic and so we went on for miles like that. I was boiling mad with rage and resentment until I could finally get in the right lane just a mile or so before our exit.
As I got home I 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 overwhelms 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?
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, 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 each of us must to do is submit our will 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 persevere 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 as I put this post together, 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. I then reviewed what had gone on in that “trip” with my anger and resentment and I prayed again for God to forgive me cleanse me of this knowing that God is in control. He caused me to regret the whole thing 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.
Soli Deo Gloria!