See part 1 for the introduction to this series.
We have looked at Remedy 1 Have a right view of God,
and Remedy 2 Constantly remember the Gospel
And this leads neatly into the third remedy
Remedy 3 Get a right view of yourself
The third step in our recovery programme is
threefold: we need to hear God’s Word and humbly accept it and then act on it.
Look again at James 1:19-22:
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 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. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
So the first step: Listen to God – hear His word of truth. We must be quick to hear what God is saying, and slow to speak. 2:1 ratio. Because, as we saw last week, when we start speaking, we stop listening.
There are many voices fighting for our attention out there. The media, our families and friends constantly at the end of our arm on our phone… But the one we listen to most attentively is the voice in our head. Our inner conversation with ourselves. Think back to the last few weeks’ posts. Were you willing to listen? To let God speak to your heart? Or was there a lot of arguing going on inside your head?
Oh, that’s not me! But it is her…
Oh, that’s not fair! I’m not that bad…
Oh, that’s taking it too far!
We have to stop arguing against God’s word of truth, the Word of Jesus and hear it as truth, God doesn’t lie.
Then the second step: We have to humbly accept that word:
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. (James 1:21)
Do you see the contrast?
Throughout, James has been challenging the pride and arrogance we show in our daily lives. The obvious antidote will be humility. And this isn’t play acting – false humility. This is honest acceptance of God’s verdict on me as described by James 1:21 – that actually my life is full of moral filth and evil.
The biggest step we will take in the war against our vain pride is to accept that we are proud, that even the good we do, we do largely because we choose to do it for our own glory. So even when we think we are being humble, that usually makes us feel proud!
It will take a big dose of ‘humbleness’ to accept God’s word that we cannot save ourselves, that by God’s perfect standard we are morally bankrupt. When we truly believe this we will fling ourselves on his mercy.
So: We are to hear his word (v19), to humbly receive his word (v21),
and then step three we are to act on his word.
Do you remember our spinach incisor incident earlier…?
But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom and continues in it – not forgetting what they have heard but doing it – they will be blessed in what they do. (James 1:25)
As we’ve seen, God’s word shows us His character and nature.
But it’s also His perfect law that shows us His perfect goodness. It’s the law that shows us how we should live,
but it’s also the law that brings freedom– because it also shows us
how we can be set free to serve Christ and others instead of ourselves.
Someone has WISELY said, True humility isn’t thinking less of ourselves
it’s thinking more about Christ and his people.
There was a Christian band years ago called The Dive. They had a brilliant simple lyric:
Be a slave to God
on that day
a perfect paradox –
Jesus sets you free.
How we can be set free from proud religious box-ticking?
How we can be really happy in this life – really blessed – instead of temporarily gratified by our selfishness?
Become enslaved to God’s law of love. Receive the word of truth with meekness, humble yourself, pushing aside your pride, and let the Father transform you into the likeness of his son. This willingness to be enslaved to God’s perfect law of love – this is true freedom. It allows Christ by his Holy Spirit to transform us from the inside out – a total heart transplant.
Remember we saw that the disease of double-mindedness shows itself in the way that we proudly think it’s up to us, who we choose to love. Well, the most radical change in us as we submit to God’s law of love is that we will start genuinely loving others – whoever they are.
But what does that look like in reality?
James very simply points us to what he calls the royal law:
If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself,’ you are doing right. (James 2:8)
Now, real “God copying” love is not sentimental – and we get that, don’t we?
When we ‘love ourselves’ we don’t kiss the mirror (anymore!) and whisper sweet nothings to ourselves, do we! (Do we?!) No. We just get on and care for ourselves. We wake, we wash, we remove gorilla’s-armpit-sensation from the mouth, we inject caffeine, we look after ourselves. It’s natural!
Well, that is how we will treat everyone if we obey the royal law of love. We don’t need to wait till we feel the warm fuzzies for people at church. We will just get on and care for each other in practical ways.
James tested our understanding of faith in 2:14-26, didn’t he?
Well, the Christian who is hearing and receiving God’s word of truth will not be content to sit and ponder it in their armchair. They will act on it.
- They will demonstrate their saving faith by their acts of compassion and care for others
- They will be hospitable
- They will be generous with God’s money he has entrusted to them
- They will care for the weak and vulnerable around them
- They will treat all Christians, whoever they are in the world’s eyes, with the same respect and honour befitting a child of the King
That is faith in action.
Next week, more self-examination in remedy 4.
Ann Marie Thomas is the author of four medieval history books, a surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science fiction series Flight of the Kestrel. Book one, Intruders, is out now. Find out more at www.annmariethomas.me.uk and follow her at http://eepurl.com/bbOsyz for monthly newsletters.