Sermon series: God Speaks - part 3

  1. God Speaks . . . and We Can Trust His Word

  2. God Speaks . . . and We Must Obey His Word

  3. God Speaks . . . and We Must Interpret His Word

  4. God Speaks . . . and His Word Guides Us

Scriptures: James 1:19-25

Connection to unit theme

We are under the authority of the Word of God because we are under the authority of the God who gave it. One day, every knee will bow in acknowledgement of God's supreme rule and reign over all. As followers of Christ, one way we show our submission to God is by our submission to His Word, not only by acknowledging its truthfulness, but by walking in obedience to the truth it teaches.

Introduction idea

As a church family, we are focusing these last four weeks of our "God Speaks" series on the Word of God and our response to it. Last week we looked at how our response to the Word of God demonstrates our trust in the God of the Word. In today's message, we will consider how our submission to God demands not only our acknowledgement of the truth of His Word, but also our obedience to all it teaches.

I. Our obedience to God's Word begins with active hearing (vv. 19-20)

After getting his hearers' attention with "Know this," James follows with a present imperative (a command calling for continuous action), which, if over-translated could read, "Let every person keep on being quick to hear . . . " The two other actions they are to keep up – avoiding talking too much and avoiding reacting harshly in anger – both impair one's ability to hear clearly. Further, they are to "receive with meekness the implanted word" (a command), in part, by "putting away" (a participle) all filthiness and wickedness. Doing this is similar to having their spiritual ears cleaned, making sure they are actively leaving the vestiges of their old sinful lifestyle that would hinder their hearing of the Word of God.

James is not implying that his readers can work toward sinless perfection, causing them to hear the Word of God in a manner that is completely unhindered by their sinful nature. He is, however, making clear that they will be better prepared to hear and receive the truth of the Word if they are active both in listening to the Word and in removing any known spiritual hindrances.

Application: Do you regularly position yourself to hear the Word of God clearly? Do you allow the Word of God to speak to your heart, rather than simply talking or reacting in anger? Do you walk away from those practices that keep you from hearing?

II. Our obedience to God's Word requires ongoing action (vv. 22-24)

Lest his hearers think active hearing is enough, James gives another ongoing command at the beginning of verse 22: "keep on being doers of the word." A person can listen to the best pulpiteers, the best radio teachers, and the best Bible study leaders every week, yet dishonor God by disobeying the truth they have heard. The end of such a practice, James says, is self-deception. As one commentator so aptly put it, "The growing numbers of sermon-sippers who flit from one doctrinal dessert to another like helpless hummingbirds are deceiving themselves." How frequently you listen to the "sermons" playlist on your iPod is not the measure of your submission to God and His word.

Ultimately, our true submission to God and His Word is not demonstrated by the amount of time we spend listening to God's truth but by the degree to which we live in obedience to it. God has given us His Word as a mirror that shows us an accurate reflection of who we are. Our response to seeing that reflection, having responded in repentance and faith to Christ, should be gratitude for God's grace and obedient submission to His rule. Jesus said those who are truly in relationship with Him and who truly love Him will obey what He commands (John 14:15).

Application: Perhaps you have heard the equation: Stated Belief + Actual Practice = Actual Belief. If that is true, what does your current obedience to God's Word say about the degree to which you believe it? Does the way you live your life demonstrate consistent, active submission to God and His Word through a lifestyle of ongoing obedience?

III. Our obedience to God's Word results in promised blessing (v. 25)

Will an occasional glance into God's Word and a half-hearted attempt at living in obedience to what little we have read suffice for a life submitted to God? Certainly not! James says his hearers should "look into" the law of God, a word that gives the idea of "stooping down to get a close look." They are to look into the "perfect law, the law of liberty." God's law does not bring oppression, but true freedom, true liberty. Freedom under God's law is not freedom to do what I want, but a freedom to do what I ought – having been set free from the bondage of sin (see Romans 6). There is no greater freedom than man – God's creation – living in obedience to God's will and plan. To do so is to live according to the purpose for which we were created.

So what is this promised "blessing" that comes as a result of obedience? Does our obedience to God's Word promise material blessing and prosperity? No! In fact, read Job. Read the New Testament accounts of faithful Christ-followers who suffered persecution for their obedience, rather than receiving material blessings. So, then, what is the blessing? The greatest blessing of obedience is the delight a child experiences knowing that his obedience has resulted in the honor and joy of a delighted parent. Our blessing is the honor God receives through our obedience.

Application: Do you find delight and "blessing" in knowing that God is honored and glorified through your obedience to Him? To do so is a mark of true submission to God.

Conclusion idea

For the one who has not trusted Christ as Savior, the first act of submission is to repent and, by faith, trust in Christ as the only Savior. For those who are Christ-followers, we show our submission to God by obeying His Word and experiencing the blessing of honoring our Father.

Randy Mann is minister of education and evangelism at Wake Cross Roads Baptist Church, Raleigh, North Carolina.