Practice What is Taught (James 1:19-27)

Practice What is Taught (James 1:19-27)

Prepared and Preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH

What do we think of someone who teaches one thing but then does something entirely different? We might call them a hypocrite, wouldn’t we? We may lose respect for them. What does the world think of people who claim to be Christians, yet their lives are filthy? What would you think? Imagine with me for a moment that you are a non-Christian. You have gone to church a few times in your whole entire life, yet you have Christian friends, or alleged Christian friends. You observe these friends: they don’t seem to care about the orphan. They don’t care about the homeless. They don’t care about the poor. They talk pretty poorly about all your coworkers, at least when their backs are turned. They talk badly about their spouse. These Christian friends get angered pretty easily and when they get angry watch out.

What would you think?

Would you want to be a Christian?

Would you want anything to do with Christianity?

My theme:

Over the next few minutes, we are going to look at James 1:19-27 and I intend to show that James challenges his listeners that true Christianity means letting Scripture soak deep within you and a Christ like lifestyle flow out of you. True Christianity is two-fold: inward and outward—listen to the Scriptures and let it take root and then live the Scriptures.

Let’s read James 1:19-27:

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. 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.

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.

In this passage I see the main point a few verses into the passage. The main point is in verses 21-25:

Main point:

21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.[1]

The main point concerns the Scriptures, the Bible. So, take a note of that and we will come back to it. But first let’s talk about verses 19-20.

  1. Verses 19-20 are a specific way to live out the Bible’s instructions. 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. 
    1. Be quick to listen
    2. I know you have heard as I have. God gave us two ears and one mouth. Needless to say, “listening is very important.”
    3. How many times would arguments be simmered if people could listen to one another? Not just listen but take each other seriously. How many marriages have I seen that could be helped by honest, humble communication? We must be listening and slow to anger.
      1. I have talked with many people who have had marriage issues that go back to communication, and I am not perfect at this either.
      2. I think that listening equals humility. I am not saying everyone who listens is humble. I am talking about really listening. Not listening because you just don’t like to talk. But listening because you care about the person talking and you are interested in what they are saying.
    4. The text also says to be slow to anger. When we are not listening carefully it is easy to jump to conclusions and become angry.
    5. My grandmother used to tell me, “Steve I don’t get mad, dogs get mad. People get angry.” Anger puts you in a position to more easily sin and I believe that is why James says we need to be slow to anger.
    6. See verse 20: when we are angry, we are not becoming righteous as God desires.
      1. God desires righteous living. Do you? Do you? What does it mean to be righteous? Righteous means right-living. Right-living could be called “set apart” living, even holy living.
      2. God wants us to live holy lives. God wants us to be Godly. So, start praying for it and start trying. We don’t preach about holiness nearly enough. Well, we need to.
    7. Verse 21 starts to move into the center of this passage. The center is what I would consider the main point and the main point concerns Scripture. 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. 
      1. In the NIV verse 21 starts with a “therefore.” When you see a “therefore” you must always find out what it’s therefore. It is an inference, an application. James had just written about the righteous life that God desires and now he will take it a step further.
        1. Basically, James says to get rid of stuff that is not right. Get rid of moral filth and evil. Now James could have made a nice list of all the things that we’re to get rid of, but he would probably miss one, so James just uses a couple nice summary words.
          1. Every one of us needs to get rid of a few things in our lives, including myself. What do you need to get rid of?
            1. What is the moral filth in your life?
            2. Is it your thought life? Is it your lust, pride, language, things that you look at on the internet?
          2. What is the evil in your life?
          3. Evilness doesn’t necessarily mean that you are using Ouija boards and chasing witchcraft.
          4. It just means excess badness.
            1. Let’s pray: Lord, I think right now is a great time for us to pause and confess where we fail and ask for your help. [I am going to give you several seconds to confess and to ask God to help you]
            2. When we pray God forgives. 1 John 1:9: If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. But we must try to move forward. How? That is in the rest of the verse and the next few verses.
          5. Accept the Word. How do you accept the Word? We accept it humbly. There is no other way to accept the Scriptures than in humility. Why? The Scriptures convict us, but we can’t be convicted when we have pride. That pride stands in the way.
            1. Now am I sure that James is talking about the Bible? Yes, later on James will talk about the law and just by the context I am sure that he is talking about writings that are considered Scripture. For them it was the Old Testament and probably some early church writings which would develop into our New Testament.
            2. James also says to accept the Word implanted in you. The Word must get rooted. You see, we can read the Scriptures but that is not enough. They must sink down and take root in us. Again, this happens through humility.
          6. Last in this verse James says the Word can save you. Salvation is in God’s Word.
          7. In verse 22 James goes into the analogy. Don’t only listen to the Word, do what it says. Don’t be hypocrite.
          8. But do you know the Word? How important are the Scriptures to you?

I read a true story in a book by Ravi Zacharias. Zacharias is a Christian writer and speaker who writes about defenses for Christianity. He writes: 

During my ministry in Vietnam in 1971, one of my interpreters who traveled with me was Hien Pham, an energetic, devoted young Christian who had worked very closely as a translator with the American military forces, purely as a civilian, with no official or military responsibilities. He just knew English so well that he was able to be of immense help to them in their linguistic struggles.

         By virtue of that same strength he also worked with the missionaries. He and I traveled the length of the country and became very close friends before I bade him good-bye when I left Vietnam to return home. We were both very young, and neither of us knew if our paths would cross again. Within four years Vietnam fell, and Hien’s fate was unknown.

         Seventeen years later, in 1988, I received a surprise telephone call that began with, “Brother Ravi?” Immediately I recognized Hien’s voice. We got caught up with our pleasantries, then I asked him how he managed to get out of Vietnam and come to the United States. I was not prepared for the story I was about to hear.

         Shortly after Vietnam fell to the Communists, Hien was arrested. Accused of aiding and abetting the Americans he was in and out of prison for several years. During one long jail term, the sole purpose of his jailer was to indoctrinate him against the West— and especially against democratic ideals and the Christian faith. He was cut off from reading anything in English and restricted to communist propaganda in French or Vietnamese. This daily overdose of the writings of Marx and Engels began to take its toll on him. One of the books he was given to read pictured the Communist man as a bird in the ironclad cage of capitalism, throwing itself against the bars of “capitalist oppression” and bloodying itself in the process. Yet still it continued to struggle in its quest for freedom.

         Hien began to buckle under the onslaught. Maybe, he thought, I Have been lied to. Maybe God does not exist. Maybe my whole life has been governed by lies. Maybe the West has deceived me. The more he thought, the more he moved toward a decision. Finally, he made up his mind. He determined that when he awakened the next day, he would not pray anymore or ever think of his Christian faith again.

         The next morning, he was assigned to clean the latrines of the prison. It was the most dreaded chore, shunned by everyone, and so with much distress he began the awful task. As he cleaned out a tin can overflowing with toilet paper, his eye caught what he thought was English printed on one piece of paper. He hurriedly washed it off and slipped it into his hip pocket, planning to read it at night. Not having seen anything in English for such a long time, he anxiously waited for a free moment. Under his mosquito net that night after his roommates had fallen asleep, he pulled out a small flashlight and shining it on the damp piece of paper he read at the top corner, “Romans, Chapter 8.” Literally trembling with shock, he began to read:

          And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?…

… Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?… No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,  neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 8:28, 31, 32, 35, 37-39)

         Hien wept. He knew his Bible, and he had not seen one for so long. Not only that, he knew there was not a more relevant passage of conviction and strength for one on the verge of surrendering to the threat of evil. He cried out to God, asking for forgiveness, for this was to have been the first day in years that he had determined not to pray. Evidently the Lord had other plans.

         The next day, Hien asked the camp commander if he could clean the latrine again. He continued with this chore on a regular basis, because he had discovered that some official in the camp was using a Bible as toilet paper. Each day Hien picked up a portion of the Scripture, cleaned it off, and added it to his nightly devotional reading. In this way he retrieved a significant portion of the Bible.

  1. The Scriptures are so important. Learn them and then obey them.
  2. Look at the example of someone who doesn’t follow the Scriptures teaching. This person is like one who looks in a mirror and forgets what he looks like. Has that ever happened to you? I doubt it.
  3. The Scriptures reveal your spiritual state. A mirror tells you to comb your hair and the Scriptures tell you to comb your relationships. Do what It says.
  • Verses 26-27 are a conclusion to this passage about following the Scriptures and in following the Scriptures you can live as pure and holy.
    1. Keep a reign on your tongue. Our words matter. Words can be very hurtful. Ask a teenager. It’s true. How many of you have been hurt by words? How many of you have hurt others by words?
    2. Then verse 27: look after the needy, the lowly. These are people who are helpless. The orphan is a child who can’t take care of himself or herself. The widow likely can’t work because of the children and lack of education.
    3. Lastly, don’t be polluted from the world. This goes along with verse 21. When we become Christians, we confess and God saves us from this moral filth and evil. Don’t let it keep polluting you.

So, how are you doing? Are you studying the Scriptures? More than studying, are you letting them soak in? Then is your life an outflow of the Scriptures? The Christian life gives liberty because we are set free from our bondage to sin. We no longer owe our debt to sin, yes; but more than that we are not slaves to sin for life.

But some of you are still in bondage to sin. You never have given them over to Jesus. I invite you to this right now.

Please everyone close your eyes and bow your heads. With no one looking I ask you to consider where you stand with God. If you were to die today are you sure you would meet God in Heaven?

You know that Jesus died to set you free from sin. He died so that you can be sure. For those of you who are not sure please raise your hands:

Now say this prayer with me:

Dear Jesus, I recognize that I have sinned. I have done wrong. I recognize that you came and lived a sinless life and died on the cross to pay for my sins. I recognize that You rose again. Please come into my life and forgive me. Please help me not to give in to sin. In Christ name Amen.

If you said that prayer please tell someone and please tell me.

Let’s pray again

Closing song.


[1] The Holy Bible : New International Version. electronic ed. Grand Rapids : Zondervan, 1996, c1984, S. Jas 1:21-25

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