Fairmeadow Community Church of The Nazarene
August 29, 2021
  • When We Walk With The Lord (Trust And Obey)
  • Professional Hearers...

    Spies are always seeking to listen. Using specialized equipment spies spy on each other and try to figure out what attacks are being planned in the near future. Some are in vans, some out under the stars, some sitting in a normal cubicle but these specialists are all doing the same thing: listening. Listening for code words or anything that sounds important. If they catch evil plans in the works, they can help prevent the deaths of innocent people.
    But imagine for a moment that these special workers lost sight of their purpose. What if they sat there listening, hearing all sorts of important information that could save or change lives forever, what if they even took notes…but then simply did nothing with the information. All that effort, all that life-changing information, listened to, compiled and collected. But then everyone just goes home at the end of the day as if it’s enough just to collect the information.
    Perhaps they think, well, if I actually see someone who needs this information, I will be sure to tell them. Then, it just so happens that they see this person walking past. Well, lots of other people were listening to the same conversation. Several of them know this person also. I’ll just leave it to one of them to do it.
    Perhaps some of it pertains to their own life. Urgent information that calls for critical response. An attack from the enemy is imminent. But they just go to the movies instead.
    NO there wouldn’t be much use for a Bureau of Professional Listeners would there?
    James 1:17–27 NIV
    17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created. 19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 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 someone 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 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. 26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
    James is an interesting book written by someone with a unique perspective. There are several theories of authorship but I’ve always leaned toward James the brother of Jesus as the author. First of all, I think this is what the people who chose it for being in the Bible believed at the time. Second, I read turns of phrases and emphases that are like some things Jesus said. As if the person writing had in fact overheard Jesus speaking.
    The other thing I see in James is that he brings out all the things that Jesus emphasized that turned the everyday teaching of the time back to the long term themes of Scripture. To clarify: sometimes Jesus sounded much like any other teacher because some things God has made clear from the beginning and anyone could get them right. James doesn’t repeat a lot of those things. He focuses on things the Pharisees tended to miss...
    James was practical and he was living in a time when the world was changing so fast. Paul was a person who tended to try to ride that wave, the walk the knife’s edge in finding where God was working in new ways, but avoiding the sinful tendancies of the world. James feels called more to sound the alarm to God’s people to wake up and remember the stuff everyone else was starting to forget.
    James is not impressed by the glory of the Roman system. James doesn’t want to see powerful people getting special treatment. James wants to see the poor being treated well. He’s not a social climber. And why should this surprise us after he saw Jesus take on the proud and lift up the humble?
    James is also has a lot of practical spiritual wisdom. He emphasizes that we have a role in our spiritual progress. There’s stuff we do to act on what God has done and is doing in us. James lets us know from beginning to end that we need both. He has been accused by some of pushing works righteousness but it’s not true. James is writing about faith that actually leads to life change. Jesus didn’t say: I am come that they have a one time spiritual experience and otherwise live mediocre lives just like they were before.... He said he came to bring life to the fullest, John called it eternal life.
    The people James is writing to were possibly of a Jewish background in palestine and probably Jerusalem. Social change was bringing rioting and revolt. The rich were seeking to dominate the poor. James definitely takes sides with the poor who were being pushed out. But he also draws clear lines that anger and violence are not God’s ways. Revenge is not the goal. Justice and salvation are the goals. Stern words rebuking the rich are found, warning that God will take action if they continue to oppress.
    So with all this background we come to the passage we read today...
    So I think James starts out reminding us where to look for what we need:
    James 1:17 NIV
    17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
    God always leaves the light on for us so we don’t need to fear the darkness around. Neither do we need to fear when a source of income dries up. Everything good that flows into our lives comes from God, so we should be grateful. We should look to God to keep providing for us and not get distracted by interruptions and surprises.
    When we remember to look “up” we remember who we can trust. When our trust in God is high then we stop doubting those around us quite so much. Whether it’s a family member, a spouse, a neighbor, a church member, or the government, let’s remember God is the biggest power in our lives. Worrying, anger and distrust don’t help us live godly lives. Jesus also said it: render to caesar that which is caesar’s and to God that which is God’s. Never worship those in power. Always worship God in spirit and in truth.
    James 1:20–21 NIV
    20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 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.
    And now James really starts to meddle:
    James 1:22–24 NRSV
    22 But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. 23 For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; 24 for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like.
    Remember the Bureau of Professional Listeners I described earlier? Too often the church is full of such people. Preachers who like the sound of their own voice. Church members who like to attend religious events. Oh we like the experience of certain music or the sermon. Or as a preaching mentor of mine quoted: We laugh, we cry, we feel religious, we go home.
    This must have been going on in James’ community of believers. Professional listeners. Love the feeling as they hear the Word proclaimed. But they are enjoying it in like a snack. They aren’t taking it in for all it’s worth and letting it take root in their lives.
    So friends coming to church or watching online does us very little good if we make the same mistake.
    Be doers of the Word. Put into action what you have heard or learned. Sometimes it’s something tangible to write down: stop swearing when nobody else is around. Stop gossiping about others as soon as they are out of earshot. Or, Don’t be angry so much: forgive, move on, let love dominate my relationships. These you can feel convicted about, write them down even. It makes you feel like something has already happened. But just picture James standing there with his arms folded shaking his head, LOL. Nope. Big nothing has happened yet until you actually do it! OK, ok you could convince him that it’s good you listened and were challenged. It’s good that you intended to change. But you’re not gonna talk him out of this important truth: the real power of it, the whole point of it is that you actually do it. Until you do, discipleship hasn’t happened. Obedience hasn’t happened. It’s just a little religious feeling. A little religious feeling will not get you to heaven or change this world. Be doers of the Word.
    And now James would remind us it’s extremely important to look only at your own life at this point. If you’re tempted to think about someone else’s failure here you are doing it 100% wrong. That’s a defense mechanism, don’t give in to it. Look at your own life. Listen to God. This is not a drill. This is as real as it gets. So do it.
    Why don’t we do what we say we are going to do? We have a thousand excuses. We have watched some episodes a show from british television called Lark Rise to Candleford about life a hundred years ago in England where a small poor village and a growing town nearby help each other get through times and learn from each other along the way. Twister is an old guy who means well but just never seems to get it right. Twister has a thousand excuses why he can’t do the thing he said he would do. Some of the best ones you’ll ever hear. He will make you laugh out loud with these excuses, but it drives his wife nearly out of her mind dealing with such a man. He’ll have a revelation from the Bible or from a speech he hears or just a wise comment someone makes. He’ll vow that he’s a changed man. He loves that initial feeling that he’s saying he will change. One episode he says it feels like I’m walking with the angels… But it always ends up the same.
    Any money that ends up in Twister’s pocket will end up being spent at the pub. Don’t be like Twister. He’s fun loving but he wasted nearly every opportunity to improve his life. He’s often overwhelmed with soul-crushing regret. Because he doesn’t do what he says he will do. Don’t just be a hearer, but be a doer of the Word.
    Another way you could say this: be a disciple. The book we just went through: Way, Truth, Life was taking us through Scripture to look at how the grace of God helps us move from far away from God to walking closely with God on our way to the fullness of God’s kingdom: literally heaven on earth some day. God works in our lives to nudge us to live out God’s work. Today’s passage reminds us that often it is the Word of God that unleashes the grace in our lives. IF we hear it and do it. Acts of piety and mercy. Work out your own salvation, for it is God who works in you. It’s both.

    Hear, be moved by Grace. Do, be changed by grace.

    Let’s say this together. Hear, be moved by Grace. Do, be changed by grace. Let that be your phrase for the week as you seek to do what you’ve heard today...
    James 1:25–27 NIV
    25 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. 26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
    If you’re hearing from God and doing it you won’t be flying off the handle in rage or gossip. You’ll realize two things:
    Like looking in the mirror first thing in the morning you’ll realize you’ve got some things to work on in your own life.
    You’ll be busy caring for others and helping them in their distress. Less time to sit around being angry or resentful, forgetting God is the one taking care of you and helping you take care of others.
    Keeping oneself from being polluted by the world. That’s a tough on these days. Avoid the angry cynical stain of the world on your outlook by Listening to the Word and Living out what you hear in service to others. Don’t let facebook or tv news give you your agenda. Love one another. Forgive. Take care of others in need. Watch the load lift off your shoulders. Every good and perfect gift, everything you need comes from God your father who is full of light and not shifting shadows.
    Live like it’s true. Let’s say that again: live like it’s true.
    By grace through faith, you can what? DO it. You can be doer, not just a professional listener.
    There’s plenty to do around here. Plenty of room to reach more people. God has given us a clear mission. Are you a doer this morning?
    In a few minutes we will be coming to the table of the Lord in communion. We will dismiss our online friends before we do, but first, Let’s pray together...
      • James 1:17–27NRSV

      • James 1:17NRSV

      • James 1:20–21NRSV

      • James 1:22–24NRSV

      • James 1:25–27NRSV

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