Discipleship, From James

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My dear brothers and sisters, understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for human anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness.  Therefore, ridding yourselves of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent, humbly receive the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. Because if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like someone looking at his own face in a mirror. For he looks at himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of person he was. But the one who looks intently into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer who works—this person will be blessed in what he does.
-James 1:20-25

James is written to church people who don't believe they have to serve.

James was Jesus' brother.

His letter is for Christians, and is about God's wisdom in our new humanity.

When we listen up and slow down in our talking and our angry reactions, then how do we live? 

We listen to the word and then do the word.  And before we can listen, we need to repent.

Remember that Jesus' message was, "Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand!" 

The gospel is "Repent", and, that means, "Come as you are", and not, "Get cleaned up first".

After you have come, because you have repented, you will continue a lifestyle of repentance from your old life, and shed it.

Repent means change course.

"Therefore, ridding yourselves of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent,"

We all need to get washed, over and over.  Sanctification is an ongoing process.  Salvation is an event and a process.

"Humbly receive the implanted word, which is able to save your souls."

Humbly

Being saved should not make you proud.  Neither should being loved, knowing stuff, or being successful.  Pride leads to falling and God resists the proud, but gives grace to humble.

False humility is when you brag about your cred.  Virtue signalling is not humility.  Humility is when you go low.  You are smart, attractive, and talented; but you stand down until it is your turn and then you bring everything you have and shine.

This is how or why James can say, "Rid yourself of the moral filth and evil that is so prevalent", so that you can hear the word of God, and so that word can take root in your soul and save you.

After telling us to listen better, James says that listening is not enough. 

We can go hear teaching, watch it, listen to it, on podcasts or other media, read books, and even go to school.  We can get a theological degree, a masters, even a masters of divinity, or a doctorate; and be deceived, if we only listen, but do not do the word.

Deceiving yourself

We are deceived, if we hear the word, but do not do it.  My theory is that most people who are deceivers are themselves deceived.  They do not even know they are deceivers and would be taken aback by the charge.  They see themselves as good.

We have always had deceived believers.  Sounds like a contradiction.  I say, "Unbelieving believers", or "Christian in name only".  It is personal.  I am deceived if I only hear the word, but do not do it.

James gives this word picture of a person who sees themselves in the mirror, then walks away and forgets what they look like.  Why and how does this happen to us?  I think that when we stop repenting, stop humbling ourselves, we simply cannot have the word growing in our lives. 
"Humbly receive the implanted word, which is able to save your souls."
If we have problems with our ground, the seed will have problems germinating and growing.  It is that simple.  The people who first heard James say this were probably very familiar with this, but we who are not all farmers have to think about it.

I planted and replanted a lawn this year and and acutely aware of what it takes to get a seed to germinate and flourish.  I had to go through a process of rototilling twice, with many stops, to untangle weeds and remove hundreds of small rocks.

When I originally read up on planting, I noticed one important piece of advice: Don't skip the tilling.  I have seen neighbors plant seed on hard ground, and it did not work.  Jeremiah 4:3 says this very thing, "Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns."

The thorns, rocks, and weeds are what we need to rid ourselves of, strip off, so that we can "receive the implanted word which is able to save our souls", says James.  James is speaking to believers who need to do something before they can grow spiritually.  We need to rid ourselves, strip off. "all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent".

All means all.  It is not selective.  Christians who dabble in immorality short kill their salvation.  It's like trying to plant seeds among rocks, thorns, and weeds.  It simply does not have the chance to grow.

Remember that big theme is how to live, and the theme in this section of James is trials.  The aspect of trials that James is focusing on here is still listening.  A big part of discipleship is listening then doing.  First you have to learn to listen and then you try to live out what you heard, and you do it in Christ.

If you are living in sin, and what I mean is living sinfully, either as a double life or because you simply do not yet know any better; the residue of that sin is going to plug up your ears.  You will not be able to hear the word of God, that saves you; says James.

Again, James is not addressing non-believing, pre-Christians; but church people.  Each of the NT letters were written on the occasion of church problems.

My backyard is mine and I belong to God.  Think of my back yard as my life.  To grow grass, I had to clear away the weeds, rocks, and vines.

James is saying that a believers life is live that.  They come to God through Christ and get saved.  They belong to God, but they must deal with their own life in order to grow in God, grow in salvation.  Moral filth and evil that is so prevalent must be strip off, gotten rid of by us; if we want to grow.

James is saying, "Now that you are a Christian, you have a whole new set of problems", and his letter is a "how to" book for the Christian life, full of advice.  And his advice is not a list of options, but commands.  James says, we must do these things or forget it; it won't work.

James does not offer group hugs or enabling codependency.  No validation of victimhood, or giving people a pass because life has beat them up.  James is not harsh, even though he might seem that way to the walking wounded; but he is true.

If you are an addict or been set free from an addiction in the past, you know that sobriety does not work, if you continue even with small maintenance doses of your 'medicine'.  You are either on the wagon or off the wagon.  Somebody who is sneaking their poison, while on the wagon, is really fooling themself and anyone who does not know.

Imagine a person, an addict, who is in a crisis in their life and they seek out and begin to see a counselor, a therapist.  Some will say to them that they can not help them unless they get sober first.  And if they can not get sober, that becomes the primary issue, because it is going to block any growth that the counselor is going to help the person with.

This is exactly what James is saying here.  He is saying that it won't work unless you work it.  He is saying that you must cut things and ways out of your life, for Christ's life (the word) to grow in you.

How does this work in the church?  We don't get into other people's business unless they invite us, like an  accountability partner relationship.  We are not called to control people, but encourage them and guide them.

James is talking about negative influence that is like mud in our ears or the tangles of cancer, that must be stripped off, made rid of, and cut off and cut out; so that we can live.


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