In the previous episode, we talked about believing the word and speaking the word. In this episode, we explore the challenges and opportunities of doing the word, which is a focal point in The Book of James. These four questions help us examine how we are acting out our belief system: What are our words doing? What are our actions doing? What are our resources going to? Are we enjoying all things richly?
The Bible sets us free
I want to know how I can be free. And that’s what this Bible tells us. If we’ll see it. If we’ll spend the time to look into it and see it, it sets us free.
Free to, what? Free to be complete in the design that God made us. Because if we do that and we’re a doer, then we’ll be, what? Blessed in what we do.
God made the world to work a certain way. If we serve others and seek their best, there’s always a price to pay. You’ll get taken advantage of. You’ll be asked for more. You’ll be expected to do that. Well, so? You’re still blessed if you’re willing to see it for what it is.
The alternative is to say, “Well, I’m going to get my share. So now I’m pitted versus you.”
And where’s that going to end up with? Everybody in the world is pitted against everybody else in the world. So we’re all cannibals. We’re just eating each other.
Well, who wants to live in that world? Right? We want to be blessed.
Verse 26. If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless.
So, you can say believe, speak, do, stare intensely, receive with meekness this implanted word, realize that I’ve got problems, that I’m selfish, I’m self-centered. I’m going to take this other-centeredness that Jesus wants me to have. I’m actually going to do that. I’m going to speak it. I’m going to do it.
Or, you can say you’re doing but not actually do it. You can justify yourself. See, this is my list. I’m keeping my list. And then you just deceive yourself. And that is useless. To be saying you’re doing but not actually doing is useless.
Now, are we talking about going to hell? Do people go to hell for being useless? If they do, we’re all going to hell, right? How many of us are not useless at least some of the time?
What we’re talking about is whether we are going to be blessed—life, or whether we’re going to be useless—death, cursing. Whether we’re going to have a fulfilled life. You know, crown of life. Heir of the kingdom. Or whether we’re just going to be like, “well, you were alive too.”
That’s what we’re talking about. It’s a huge deal.
Test number one: What are your words doing?
And the way we can check and see how we’re doing, the self-examination we can use to see, you know, how am I doing? Am I actually believing, speaking, doing, or am I just kidding myself?
See how you’re doing with your tongue. Remember, the whole point of how you get away from this inside sin and set it aside and bring in the word comes from verse 19.
So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath;
Learn to listen. Learn to see what others see. Even if you don’t agree with them, you’re at least stepping aside from yourself and seeing another perspective other than yourself.
Learn to set self aside and see what others see.
If you can’t bridle your tongue, then you’re not slow to speak. If you’re not slow to speak, then you’re not listening. If you’re not listening, you’re not setting self aside. So all you’re doing is justifying.
See how that works? It’s an easy test. What are my words doing? Can I listen? Am I always the one who has to talk?
And here I am up here doing nothing but talking, and no one’s saying anything. So, I’m probably done for!
We’re going to be told later, don’t many of you teach because you have a higher standard. I take that very seriously. That worries me. But, also, we know, if you know what’s good to do and don’t do it, that’s a sin too. So I’m kind of hung out. Pray for me.
But, you know, look at your tongue. How are your words doing? Are your words creating blessing in other people?
You know, Jesus spoke the word, and the whole world was made. And when we believe in him, apparently, according to verse 18, he speaks the word again, and we have a new creation inside of us. And what he wants us to do is speak words that create life in our spheres.
But what we’re more oriented towards because we have this problem inside of us, this self-centeredness, is to speak words that focus attention on ourselves. That’s what more comes naturally, right? To speak words that get us what we want. To speak words that help us deceive ourselves that we’re in control of things that we can’t control. Like circumstances.
I think I mentioned this before. I’m seeing this headline everywhere: So-and-so faces uncertain future. “Well, yesterday, we knew what was going to happen in the future, but today we don’t know anymore.” Really? There’s some self-deception in that, don’t you think?
Does anyone actually know what the future is going to be? No. We don’t know. It’s easy to deceive ourselves.
If we believe, speak, do God’s way, we get blessing. Heirs of the kingdom. Crown of life.
If we believe, speak, do what the world says, we are useless. Useless to who? Well, it’s not useless to our sin nature. It’s very functional for our sin nature. It’s useless to God. Because he’s speaking of religion here. That’s useless religion. It’s a religion. You’re still believing—believing in self. It’s just not going to create much that’s worth any good.
Here’s test number two. Verse 27.
Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.
Well, first is what are your words doing? That’s test number one. How am I doing? Am I receiving with meekness the implanted word? Or am I kidding myself? Am I deceiving myself?
Number one is, what are your words doing. Evaluate in your daily life, what are your words doing? Do they come fast and create division and destruction? Well, if they do, probably not doing okay. Go back to the mirror. You haven’t been putting on your make-up right. Let’s go back just do some business about, what’s that word?
Are your words creating life and peace? To the extent they create problems, is it because you’re putting truth into the situation and seeking someone else’s best interest, and it only comes back at you?
Well, that’s a good thing.
Am I willing to take that risk of separation for something that’s good? It takes some judgment here. Takes some shrewdness. Some self-examination.
That’s number one.
Test number two: What are you actually doing?
Number two is, what are you actually doing? Are you talking about doing good, or are you actually doing good? Are you campaigning for other people to do good? “What’s wrong—You know, there are orphans in the world. We’ve got to raise taxes! Those rich people—they’re not giving enough money! What’s wrong with them?”
Is that you doing something, or is that complaining because somebody else doesn’t do something? Right?
“All those government programs, they stink. What’s wrong with that?” Okay, fine. Well, what are we doing? What are we actually doing? Are we doing something? Or are we just complaining?
You can’t fix all the problems in the world. But how about the Samaritan that’s laying in the road right in front of you? Are you doing something about those? Are you actually doing something? Or are you just complaining? Are you just pointing fingers? Which is it?
Test number three: Where are my resources going?
Well, there’s another self-examination, right? Where are my resources going?
Go look at your checking account. This is a good self-examination. Where is my money going? How much of this am I spending on me? I mean, you’ve got to stay alive, so maybe two categories: Me stay alive, me indulge, others. Do that exercise. See how it comes out. Do that exercise. That’s a great self-examination.
You know, what am I actually spending my efforts on? How many of these things I’m doing are blessing other people? How much of my eating out budget is because I’m sharing with other people? Or how much of it is because I’m just—some other reason that’s self-indulgent.
No one else can figure this out for you. This is not—go to someone who’s judging you and ask them what you want to do. That’s legalism. That’s going back under the law again.
There are no rules for this. If you start making rules—“Well, if I do this, then I’m okay”—well, now you’ve gone back under legalism again. That’s not it. That’s not what we’re talking about.
We’re talking about self-examination and going to the word and going to Christ and saying what do you want me to do? Where do you want me to put these resources? Me. Where do you want me to put them? Where do you want me to put my time? Where do you want me to put it?
What words should I be saying? Everything I have is something you gave me. I want to invest it wisely. What do I do?
Test number four: Are you enjoying all things richly?
You know, the Bible tells us God gives us all things richly to enjoy. This is another good evaluation. Your money. Your time. Are you enjoying it?
If you have stuff that you’re not enjoying, stop! Stop doing that! Whatever it is. And do stuff that you enjoy.
God made us to delight in doing his will. Maybe you’re doing stuff that he didn’t wire you to do, and you’re doing it because of guilt. God doesn’t ask us to do stuff because of guilt. God asks us to do stuff cheerfully. Because that’s what we want to do.
And he gives us the desires, if we ask, he’ll give us the desires of our heart. If we don’t ask amiss. We’re going to see that before too long too.
Test number five: Whose system am I following?
And then look at, is this me, or is this the world? Whose system am I following right here? Whose system is this really? Because we’re going to see this before too long as well.
You can’t choose the world and God. There is no fifty-fifty mix. This is oil and water. And there’s no emulsion. If you’re in the oil business you’d know what I’m talking about. You can’t get the two to mix. It’s one or the other. It’s life and death.
Moses didn’t say, “Choose this day life and death, or there’s a middle path.” He said there are two ways to go. And he’s speaking to the elect of Israel, who God has chosen. There’s no, “Are you going to be Israel, or not?” There is, “What are you, as Israel, going to do? Are you going to be faithful or not faithful?”
Everybody’s wondering what happens when you get to the part about demons believing and all that kind of stuff. It’s going to take a little while to get there. But let me just give you a little preview because this is something, another theme, that goes all the way through the book.
Look all the way over to 2:26. Because this is a picture we can put now and repeat all the way through. And we’ll end on this.
For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
He wants us to do, right? Believe, speak, do. And what does he want us to do? He wants us to do things that are consistent with what we believe. And he wants us to evaluate and say, if what you’re doing is not what you were hoping to come out with, then maybe you ought to test what it is you’re believing.
You know, believing in Jesus makes us a new creation, but it was the word of God that made that happen, not our actions. Now what we want to do is stare into that mirror and true our actions up with what God has called us to do so we can be fulfilled and blessed.
So, body without the spirit is dead. So here we go: Body. Let’s just take me. I suddenly gasp and grab my heart and fall down on the ground and turn blue and stop breathing. And everybody says, man, that’s a bummer because Tim is dead.
Now we have a body without the spirit. Where did my spirit go? Somewhere else, right? It went to heaven. So everybody says Tim’s in a better place.
Now, does anybody come and say, “It’s too bad that body doesn’t exist anymore”? Anybody going to say that? Is it still right there? It may not be doing anything, but it’s there. The body’s still there. The body’s without the spirit. And it’s dead.
Now, if somebody came in and said, “Tim, get up and dance,” what would you think? They’re kind of crazy, right? Why? The body’s dead.
Do dead bodies exist? Yes. Do they dance? Not unless something really weird’s going on, right? No. They don’t move. They don’t do anything. They’re just dead. They still exist.
As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead.
So faith is like a body. Does it exist no matter what? We’re believers, right? We have faith. We have faith in God. We have faith in Christ. We have faith. That faith—there’s nothing that can take that faith away.
The question is, is it doing anything? Is it alive? What makes the faith stand up and walk and dance? Doing stuff! Believe, speak, do! The faith is dead if it’s not doing something.
So, this is a unified theme all the way through. He doesn’t suddenly go off in chapter 2 and go off into some tangent. All the way through this book he’s saying, look, I want you to see with reality. Your difficulties you have, those are just circumstances. Those aren’t the problem. The problem is inside.
How do you fix that? Receive the law of liberty and make yourself free from sin. Free from the world.
How did you do that? Speak it. Do it. What is that doing? Is that making you a Christian? No! It’s not making you a Christian. Jesus’ word did that. He spoke it.
What is it doing? It’s making you fulfilled to where you can fulfill this royal law, where you can be the person who loves your neighbor. And that’s fulfilling what God made you to do. And that’s the blessing. And that’s going to lead—not only to blessing in this life—but to win the crown of life. And to receive the heirship of the throne of God.
There are amazing rewards for doing this. And not doing it just makes you useless and broken and devastated. Don’t do that.
We’re going to get the same message all through James.