Growing in Obedience to the Word

Dr. Steve Viars September 1, 2019 James 1:16-27
Outline

Ephesians 1:3 - Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ…

The mission of Faith Church is to glorify God by winning people to Jesus Christ and equipping them to be more faithful disciples

Colossians 1:28 - We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.

Key questions as we read:

1. What is the main theme or the “big idea” of this passage?

2. Does the information in verse 16 “go with” the previous verses (1-15) or the ones that follow (17-27)?

3. What are the main verbs that help us trace the overall argument the Holy Spirit is seeking to make to us?

2 correct ways to respond to biblical truth

I. Receive the Word God Planted in You

James 1:21 - …in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.

A. Because of the power of deception

James 1:16 - Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.

B. Because of the fundamental goodness of God

James 1:17 - Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.

C. Because of the nature of our salvation

James 1:18 - In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.

1. It was the exercise of His will

John 15:16 - You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.

2. God’s Word was an essential aspect of your salvation process

Romans 10:17 - So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.

1 Peter 1:23 - …for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.

Romans 10:15 - Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!”

3. With a view of the harvest that is to come

James 1:18 - …so that we would be a kind of first-fruits among His creatures…

D. By learning to control our anger

James 1:19-20 - This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.

E. With humility and a thirst for holiness

James 1:21 - Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.

Jeremiah 31:33 - “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”

1 Corinthians 11:25 - In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”

II. Act on the Word which Leads to Blessed Liberty

A. Beware of “gaposis”

1. The danger of “merely hearing” – v. 22

2. The possibility (likelihood?) of being deceived – v. 22

3. The possibility of forgetting – v. 24

B. The joy of obedience

1. This is something you have to prove

James 1:22 - But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.

2. The importance of looking intently

James 1:25 - But one who looks intently at the perfect law…

3. Believing God’s Word brings true freedom

James 1:25b - …the law of liberty…

4. In anticipation of blessedness

James 1:25 - 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.

C. With delightful practical results

1. a bridled tongue – v. 26 (cf. 3:1-12)

2. a compassionate heart – v. 27a (cf. 2:1-13)

3. a holy life – v. 27b (cf. 3:13-18)

- so here’s a question to start off our morning together…how’d you look?...

- when you first woke up this morning and looked in the mirror…how did you look?...

- and how does that compare to what we see right now?...

- wouldn’t it be fun if we had done a little secret experiment…where we took a picture of the first image that appeared up in your mirror this morning and then we showed them on the power-point screens at our various campuses this am?...

- I wonder if some people would be totally un-recognizable…

- now I realize there might be a few people who would say – what I saw really couldn’t be improved upon…

- those in my generation might remember the Fonz on Happy Days who was known for having that reaction in the mirror…”heyyyy” … as if to say, how could this get any better?...

- but I think most of us would say…this morning I concluded that at least a bit of work needed to be done…so there’s some level of difference between here and now…

- have you ever been out somewhere and walked by a mirror and realized you forgot to address something you saw in the mirror?...

- it’s crazy what you remember from college days but one of my friends loved to tell the story of how on one my first mornings on campus…several of us were walking to breakfast one morning and he looked over and said – do you realize you still have shaving cream in your ear?...as if that’s really something I should address before going down to breakfast…

- and as the years went by, that story grew from a little dab of shaving cream in my ear…to an earful…to the entire side of my face being covered with a full can of shaving cream…you know how college stories go…

- but we’ve probably all been there – where we go by a window that shows our reflection and we say…I was in such a rush this morning I forgot to…hopefully whatever fits into that blank wasn’t too awfully embarrassing…

- the point is pretty obvious – we all believe – to one degree or another…in spending an appropriate amount of time looking at our appearance in the mirror…and then also spending an appropriate amount of time doing something about what we see…

- and while there are extremes on both sides on that discussion…

- the point is still an important one…

- so why am I raising this topic this am?...many of you know already – it’s because this is the same metaphor God uses in His Word to describe the way you and I relate to the Scripture…

- with that in mind, please open your Bible to James 1…page ____ of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you…

- our church’s theme this year is Growing what God has given…there is a sense in which our church family walks around in a perpetual state of awe of God’s blessings…

- certainly starting with the eternal blessings we enjoy in Christ…Ephesians 1:3 - Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,

- hopefully all of us would say that if Christ was all we had, Christ is all we need…

- we are blessed people…

- we could also make a list of material blessings as well…and yes, at different levels…but most of have much…

- but then there are all the friendships that God has given…when you become part of a church family…you can know dozens if not hundreds of people…it becomes a very important part of what God has given…

- then we have an incredible heritage, in our case, or 55 years of men and women living for God, and standing for truth, and serving others in our community and around the world…

- we have a sacrificial group of missionaries we support and love and pray for regularly…

- but then there’s a marvelous array of ministries…

- the bread and butter ministries that take place week in and week out as we try to reach others for Christ and facilitate growing Christlikeness…

- there are all these seasonal ministries that occur on certain days or weeks as special times in the year…all of that falls under the list of growing what God has given…

- then there’s large ministries like our school that just started our 22nd year with a record enrollment…and what I like about that is that we didn’t tear down public schools or home-schools or other private schools to build ours…but it’s amazing what God has given us…

- our counseling center and all the associated training programs are seeing unprecedented opportunities for impact for Christ and expansion…Pastor Pena and I will be in the country of Bolivia in a couple of weeks to speak at a conference and at some churches and surveying the needs and opportunities there…and that’s just illustrative of places all over the world various members of our church family have been able to serve this year…

- Vision of Hope for women and Restoration for men are seeing solid gains and there is a greater openness for gospel-centered, faith based biblical counseling approaches to addictions treatment even among secular foundations and service providers than ever before…[the point is that this theme is coming alive in all sorts of “pinch me, it’s hard to believe this is happening kind of ways…”]

- I had the privilege to speak at the Kick Off of Purdue Bible Fellowship last Friday and introduced that group to some of the high culture worthy of a university education…feel free to ask any of them what Red Molly said to James…and they’ll all be able to tell you…it was a great experience…

- but it allowed me to reflect on the days when this church prayed and fasted and wept over the possibility of having a platform on which to display the glory of God’s grace to the campus and residents of West Lafayette…and now it is an exciting ministry center…

- we have plenty of work to do at the NCC but it is incredible what has already been accomplished…

- tons of exciting ministry opportunities…along with financial stability where the center has met or exceeded its operating budget…which says a lot, humanly speaking, about the great job Josh Greiner did in crafting those initial projections and the fabulous job Rod Hutton, Joey Wright, Sarai Maria, and Christian Aprea are doing in managing that ministry…

- along with our capital campaign where our people continue to give just as they committed…to the point that we are now within $400K between what remains to come in and what we would have to raise to have that 16.5M project debt free by the end of next year…

- the point is – God has given us much…would that be the understatement of the day?...and like any good steward…for God’s glory, we want to grow what He has given…

- now this fall, we’re doing a verse by verse study of the book of James…

- we’re calling this Growth Essentials…because all of this activity has a purpose…our God-given mission is The mission of Faith Church is to glorify God by winning people to Jesus Christ and equipping them to be more faithful disciples.

- or to quote the way the apostle Paul said it to the church at Colossae - Colossians 1:28 - We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.

- so far in our study, we’ve talked about…

- Growing in Our Response to Trials – 1:1-12

- Growing in our Response to Temptation – 1:13-15

- this morning we’re thinking about Growing in our Obedience to the Word

- this is where that “what you do after looking in the mirror” thing comes in…

- now as I read this passage – I would encourage you to consider these questions:

- Key questions as we read:

1. What is the main theme or the “big idea” of this passage?

- the challenge here – if you want to call it that…is that James raises a lot of different topics…but there is definitely something that ties all of this together

2. Does the information in verse 16 “go with” the previous verses (1-15) or the ones that follow (17-27)?

3. What are the main verbs that help us trace the overall argument the Holy Spirit is seeking to make to us?

- read James 1:16-27

- so we’re talking this morning about Growing in Our Obedience to the Word

- and with the time we have remaining, let’s consider 2 correct ways to respond to biblical truth.

I. Receive the Word God Planted in You

- this part of the book falls into 2 very clear sections logically…verses 16-21, and verses 22-27…

- part of what we have to keep in mind that the controlling verb for the first section is at the end not the beginning…and everything else spouts off of that…

- now you might say – why is that important?...

- it’s because we believe in expository preaching here…

- so here’s what doesn’t happen...our pastors don’t decide what we want to talk about and then find a Bible verse to support it…

- that’s called eisegesis – reading your ideas into the text or making God’s Word say what you already wanted it to say…

- that would be contrary to everything that is being taught in these verses, by the way…

- so if you are interested in exegesis, or expository preaching…you believe the Bible was inspired by God…

- and by definition…we believe in the verbal, plenary, inspiration of the Bible…

- not just that the overall thoughts or concepts are inspired…but that every word, to the same degree…is inspired by God…

- if that’s the case, we want to give careful attention to things like sentence structure, overall argument, etc…

- so following that approach – the key words for the first section are in verse 21 - James 1:21 - …in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.

- we’ll talk more about exactly what that means when we get there in the passage…but that’s the point James is driving for…

- if you know Christ as Savior and Lord, He -- as an act of his grace and in partial fulfillment of a delightful covenant He made in the OT—has planted His Word in your heart…

- your job is to create a heart that’s like good soil…

- where the seed of His word can grow in your heart and life in a way that proves to you and everyone else around you that you are truly one of His followers…

- now let’s go back and trace the flow of thought…why should we “receive the Word God has planted in you”?

A. Because of the power of deception

- I asked you as we were reading to consider whether verse 16 is tied to what has already been said of what comes after…

- James 1:16 - Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.

- what’s your answer?...

- you could probably make the argument that the answer is “both”…

- we can certainly be deceived during a time of trial – that’s why we are invited in verse 5 to ask God for wisdom when trials occur…with the attendant promise that he will give it to us liberally without chiding us for it…

- we can also be deceived during a time of temptation…in fact, that’s why James compared our own lusts to bait a fisherman uses…it’s all about deception…

- in this case, self-deception…

- so you could say – well, verse 16 is a summary warning to what he already been discussed…

- but there is no question that it is also connected to what follows…

- how do we know that?...

- so what’s the point? – the degree to which you put effort into receiving the Word God has implanted in you…is directly connected to the level at which you trust your own heart…

- or to put that another – the more you believe in the power of deception – even self-deception – the greater motivation you’ll have to dig into the Word of God…

- just “trust yourself” or “do what comes naturally” are words that will take you right over the cliff and destroy your life, your family, and your testimony…

B. Because of the fundamental goodness of God

- this is where verse 17 fits into the discussion…

- James 1:17 - Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.

- the challenge with a number of these verses is that we quote them, or use them as isolated ideas without paying attention to their context…

- and I’m not saying that’s entirely wrong – this is wisdom literature and much of this reads like pithy statements in Proverbs…

- but in this case, the contextual connections are important…

- what helps us during times of trial…reflecting on the fundamental goodness of God…

- what helps us during times of temptation – reflecting on the fundamental goodness of God…

- what motivates us to cultivate the kind of heart that receives the Word of God He has implanted in us?...reflecting on the fundamental goodness of God…

- every time we ignore the Word of God – we are making a statement that we do believe in essential goodness…at least in the sense that we are disinterested in learning more about it…

- for those who were here this summer for our study of bitterness…that was Naomi’s problem…she believed in God’s sovereignty but she did not believe in his goodness…

- which is why when hard times came – she advised her daughter’s in law to go back to their people and to their gods…

- there was an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal this week about how those who are younger in our country have less interest in patriotism, religion, and _________

- and the social commentators are coming out and blaming that [assuming you thinks the stats are bad] on all sorts of things…usually their pet soap boxes because after all, all facts are interpreted facts…

- but one question we could ask as individuals, and families, and as a church is – does our commitment to receiving God’s Word demonstrate to those around us that we understand the real danger of self-deception, and we truly believe in the goodness of God in a way that forms a two pronged motivation in our hearts?...

- this summer we had several opportunities to have all our family together…you probably did to…

- and our oldest grandson made a fascinating comment somewhat out of the blue as he was listening to all the conversations unfold – he said, boy, God and the Bible are really important around here…

- James goes on to explain this…it’s…

C. Because of the nature of our salvation

James 1:18 - In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.

- that is a loaded statement for sure…

- who initiated the salvation process?...

1. It was the exercise of His will

- that means God has a plan and a purpose for redeeming each one of us…

- isn’t that amazing to stop and contemplate?...Jesus said…

- John 15:16 - “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.

2. God’s Word was an essential aspect of your salvation process

- Romans 10:17 - So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.

- 1 Peter 1:23 - for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.

- this is why 2 verses earlier than the one we just read, Paul told the Romans…

- Romans 10:15 - …Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!”

- you want to continue to receive the Word of God because of the role it played in bringing you to Christ

- [develop briefly – your story]…

3. With a view of the harvest that is to come

- James 1:18 - so that we would be a kind of first-fruits among His creatures

- we mentioned in the first message that this book was written less than 20 years after the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ…

- and if James had to warn people 20 years removed to receive God’s Word…what do you think he would say to people nearly 2000 years removed?...

- so who knows where we stand in the “first-fruits” sequence of things…but there is no question about this…receiving God’s Word into our hearts and lives makes it far more likely that someone else in our sphere of influence will choose to do so as well…

- then what about verses 19-20?...stand-alone or part of the overall argument?...

D. By learning to control our anger

- there’s no question that what these verses say in and of themselves about anger is important and valuable…

- but I am convinced the primary point has to do with the way people like you and me respond especially to those aspects of Scripture that rub us the wrong way…and let’s face it, if we’re honest – that’s true of a lot of the Word of God…

- which is why we are instructed…

- James 1:19–20 - This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.

- how is this logically connected to what has already been discussed?...

- because it is very easy to become angry during a time of trial?...(is that true)…

- and it’s very easy to become angry when God condemns something in His Word that I am lusting for in the moment…

- we don’t like it when God’s Word gets in the way of the party we want to throw to celebrate and act on all our illicit desires…

- so we start arguing and justifying and scheming…instead of being quick to hear…

- quick to hear what?...the word that has been implanted in our hearts…

- you know, I love being a pastor…and it is a special privilege to serve at our church…

- but one of the interesting dynamics of serving at this pointy in history is the amount of pressure from outside and sometimes even inside the church to abandon biblical truth in some way…

- there are those who like us to stop talking about how God created the world and take that out of the statement of faith our church has had for 55 years…

- or stop talking about truths like the virgin birth or Christ’s miraculous life or the exclusivity of the gospel…

- and sometimes people can get angry and threatening about ideas like that…

- well, I know what the vast majority of our church family wants…fidelity to the Word of God…all of it…we’ll never be ashamed of the gospel…

- another way that plays out is in marriage…

- and it happens on a couple of different fronts…one is people who have no intention of being God’s kind of spouse by any reasonable standard at all but who believe their spouse is stuck with their lack of godliness because of the Bible’s prohibition on divorce except for the very limited grounds of sexual sin or desertion on the part of an unbelieving spouse…

- in fact, I believe some people actually take advantage of the fact that their spouse is a Christian and they behave, by commission or omission, in ways that would never be tolerated by an unsaved spouse…

- and we are coming to the conclusion that we have to act more decisively in such situations because that approach to marriage is patently unjust and unchristian…

- and almost always, people get angry in such situations…so be it…

- the other side of that is people who have very little respect for their marriage vows and want to walk away for all sorts of reasons…

- I would encourage you to read a blog post a couple of years ago entitled “10 Common but Illegitimate Reasons to Divorce” by Tim Challies

- we have to decide – are we a church family who will receive in our hearts and lives what God’s Word says on this subject…

- another area has to do with our church’s doctrinal statement…it’s not very long…but part of our heritage is a group of people who were sent out from Kossuth Street Baptist 55 years ago – to start another like-minded church in a new area of town…

- and I was recently reviewing the program they printed for the dedication for their brand new building – and it listed out very specifically the biblical truths that motivated and grounded their efforts…

- and every word in our statement of faith matters…that’s why we still distribute it as part of the packet we give men and women at Intro to Faith…

E. With humility and a thirst for holiness

James 1:21 - Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.

- you have to make an interpretive decision here – but I don’t believe James is talking about receiving the word to describe the first time a person repents and believes…nor is that the aspect of salvation he’s alluding to…

- he just called them brethren… which I suppose you could say is just a Jewish man referring to Jewish people…

- but the commentators I trust the most believe this is part of the ongoing process of Christian growth…especially when you are facing a trial or temptation of some kind…

- I mentioned earlier that this hearkens back to a beautiful covenant recorded in the book of Jeremiah…so along with the Abrahamic covenant, and the Mosaic covenant, and the Davidic covenant…Jeremiah tells us about the New Covenant…

- Jeremiah 31:33 - “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.

- there’s lots and lots about this that we could say that time just doesn’t allow for this am…

- but remember – an essential aspect of the instructions we’re given as we observe the Lord’s Supper is when Christ said – 1 Corinthians 11:25 - In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”

- that’s what James means when he speaks about “the Word impanted”…

- one of the marvelous benefits of knowing Christ is that he writes His Word on our hearts…and now we have to decide for all the reasons James has stacked up in this passage…if we are going to receive it…if we are going to embrace what He has said in His Word as our own belief system…

- so, how can you tell if that’s happening?...whether we take the time to look in the mirror…and then take steps to correct any problems we see…

- that’s the second key verb in the passage…

II. Act on the Word which Leads to Blessed Liberty.

- the sad truth is – you and I can be like “Christian Fonzy’s”….

- another way you could say this is…

A. Beware of “gaposis”

- my friend Randy Patten coined this term…

- and it originated back in the days when pastors would sit on the platform before they spoke…

- and Randy’s wife Cindy would warn him about the gap from the top of his socks to the bottom of his pants leg…where everyone could see his bare leg…

- Randy coined that term into the gap between what we say we believe and the way we are living every day…

- that’s why James warns us about:

1. The danger of “merely hearing” – v. 22

[- if time allows – could discuss the issue here of being an auditor in a class]

2. The possibility (likelihood?) of being deceived – v. 22

3. The possibility of forgetting – v. 24

- can I ask you how you would evaluate yourself in this area?...

- what about those who have heard the gospel over and over but never really embraced it for yourself?...

- Christian friend – how are doing at the matter of not just hearing God’s Word, but doing it?...

- is it possible that you doubt God’s goodness in that area and that becomes your excuse not to obey?

- have you proudly made yourself a judge of God’s Word instead or humbly submitting letting God’s Word judge you?...

- do you become angry when you hear certain biblical subjects discussed?...

- how is your attitude and posture toward Scripture impacting the rate of your growth?

B. The joy of obedience

1. This is something you have to prove

- James 1:22 - But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.

- the word literally means – keep on striving to be…

- and we certainly don’t mean by your own strength and power…but if you know Christ and His Word has been implanted in your heart – it’s your privilege and responsibility to prove it…

2. The importance of looking intently

- James 1:25 - But one who looks intently at the perfect law…

- why was I walking to breakfast with shaving cream in my ear?...

3. Believing God’s Word brings true free

- James 1:25b – the law of liberty

- what a fascinating juxtaposition of words…

4. In anticipation of blessedness

- James 1:25 - 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.

- deep down in your heart, do you believe that this am?...

C. With delightful practical results

- he concludes this section by raising topics that will come up again later in the book…

1. a bridled tongue – v. 26 (cf. 3:1-12)

2. a compassionate heart – v. 27a (cf. 2:1-13)

3. a holy life – v. 27b – (cf. 3:13-18)

- [develop – aspects of fall readiness ministries that facilitate this kind of growth]


Dr. Steve Viars

Roles

Senior Pastor - Faith Church

Director - Faith Legacy Foundation

Bio

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and three grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video