How do we hear from God and proceed?
James starts out in verse nineteen with one of the most popular verses in the Bible. First he refers to the Christians that he is writing to as my beloved brethren. It is comforting to know and understand that a fellow believer in Christ has a Godly affection for me. Then the Apostle says such incredible words of wisdom. He writes be swift to hear, slow to speak and slow to wrath. In a world where people by and large think they know so much James comes in and refutes this by saying be fast to hear but this does not mean gossip.
How many people do you know who are slow to speak? If we can train ourselves to respond slowly people will listen to us more because there is a large amount of humbleness in not knowing everything. The real truth of the matter is we know very little and this should help us to be slow to wrath. I try and love people as much as I can and leave the wrath for God. The Bible does say vengeance is mine sayeth the Lord so this has never been my role as a Christian. The wrath of man will never produce the righteousness of God. We were not made to have wrath in our hearts and at the same time have the love of Jesus Christ in our spirit.
The next statement James makes is phrased kind of strange but in essence he is telling his readers to lay aside all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness and then receive with meekness the engrafted word which is able to save your souls. Since the Apostle is talking to believers in Christ he is writing about the present tense of our salvation in Jesus Christ. There was the past tense (when we became born again in and through the regenerating work of Jesus Christ). There is the present tense of our salvation which means we have to be constantly lead by the Holy Spirit and His empowering work through us as Christians. Then finally there is the future tense of our salvation which is when we will be in heaven with Jesus Christ himself and unable to sin.
James does not stop there because the first part is to receive the engrafted word but we as believers in Christ must then become doers of the Bible which always has to be taken in context. James says do not just become hearers of the word because we will be involved in self deception.
James then compares a hearer to a doer of the word of God. A hearer is like a person looking at his own face in a mirror. This sounds boring and vain but this human being will go his or her own way and forget what manner of faith this Christian has in the Person of Jesus Christ. When we read the Bible or hear a true message of God our responsibility is to allow the Holy Spirit to impart the biblical precepts to our hearts and apply this in our life. Let me quote the original text so you can read the passage and perhaps make reference to it in this particular study of the Bible.
(19) "Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: (20) For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. (21) Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. (22) But be ye doers of the word , and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. (23) For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: (24) For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetheth what manner of man he was." James 1:19 - 24.
To be ready to hear probably for the most part means what does the Bible teach. James may have been referring to the afflictions and temptations that he wrote about in the beginning of chapter one but in combination of being very fast to listen to the word of God. The basic tone of the first part of this chapter is restraining the works of passion if it is in the category of sin. James is urging his readers not to censure God in our problems but to open our hearts to hear what the Holy Spirit is saying to us as Christians.
The church was running into disputes which is obviously differences of opinions that Christians were bumping into each in a bad way among their members in the congregation. This fast to hear was also meant for believers in Christ to listen to all sides so they could be slow to speak. When we do talk there is never to be any wrath in our speech because this does not produce the righteousness of God. In general James is saying keep a guard on our tongues and passions because we can not trust our emotions. Just because we feel something does not mean we have to respond especially if it is sin. It only stands to reason that if we are quick to hear and slow to speak then wrath is not our final result. Love should be our response to God and people.
If our anger is within us there are great reasons for suppressing this bad emotion. The very last thing we want to do is allow our discontent to come out in a theological controversy. Wrath is of man but it goes deeper than this because it stands directly opposed to the righteousness of God. This "Debate" starts out as a cause for God but if the wrath comes out it becomes evident that they are not associated with Jesus Christ or any of His concerns. It is like saying I do not like anyone wearing the color blue but all the while he has blue clothes on his body. He is contradicting himself and if we throw wrath in our disagreements we are contradicting the word of God as true representatives of Jesus Christ. Never try and win an argument because it is an exercise in futility.
It is not just anger that we as Christians are to suppress but other corrupt emotions. We as believers in Christ are to watch and lay aside all of our transgressions of a corrupt heart. If we do not do this we will not be able to follow the precepts of the Bible. Most people would agree that there is a lot of evil in us by nature because that is the way our heart is without the presence Jesus Christ; therefore, we must watch against superfluity of naughtiness. Restraining evil afflictions is good but we must take it one step deeper and cast them from us because sins have to be separated from our heart. This means everything --- outward sins, bad thoughts and speech. It is all considered filthy to God so if we struggle with any of these things at the very least talk to the Lord about your transgressions with sincerity because God is indeed looking at our hearts. He understands there is going to be a struggle in all of His children but consistent earnestly everyday pleases Jesus Christ. If we do our part God will certainly accomplish a good work in us which includes giving us wisdom and making us clean before Him.
We need to ask God to prepare our hearts so we can hear the word of God. In verse twenty one James says we are to receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. The first thing we need to do when we hear the word of God is receive it in such a way where good righteous fruit is produced according to the reality of the gospel of Jesus Christ which is engrafted in our souls. The Apostle James is saying yield yourselves to what the Bible teaches with a submissive temperament because we need to receive the word of God with meekness. If we see faults in our life be patient but with a thankful heart that we have a Savior who can help us correct those sins which tend to haunt us before Holy God. In our hearing of what the Bible teaches we allow the Holy Spirit to point out sins in our souls and become more aware of what happened to us when we became born again in the Person of Jesus Christ.
After we hear we must do because being attentive and applying the biblical promises of the Bible go hand in hand. The worst thing we could do is hear and then walk away living in our own world and eventually falling into a downward spiral in our life. These people will not remember what they learned but self deception will be a the center of their hearts.
James writes about the proper use of the Bible. He compares this to a glass in which a man may behold his natural face. This person sees the imperfections on his or her face but the Bible shows us our sins. The word of God shows us the emptiness in our souls because of the world, flesh or the devil influencing our lives. The Bible inspires us as Christians to go in the opposite direction. Laws get amended all the time but our journey on this earth must also be amended through the ongoing work of Jesus Christ in our lives.
When we read the Bible believers in Jesus Christ need to see themselves in whatever condition we are in at that moment. Be honest because we are to dress ourselves in the righteousness of Jesus Christ by the glass of the word of God.
This is an account in James chapter one of people that do not use the glass of the Bible like they should because in vain these people do hear the word of God but they observe it like glass because they are going away, forgetting their spots and as a result there is no solution for their anxious circumstances. They just made a decision to do their life on their own without God. It would be better if they hear the word of God as they should and use the glass of the Bible to convict them of any sins and get their life right with Jesus Christ.
If you have never come to know Jesus Christ and feel the Apostle James was somewhat blunt to his readers remember he had to be because there was much discard and many broken lives. One thing I learned the hard way is it is primarily through the word of God with an earnest spirit before the Triune Godhead that changes our lives. If your life is in shambles or you just find it very difficult to find true contentment then consider the Son of God. Now may be a good time to accept Jesus Christ into your heart as your personal Savior and Lord by repenting of all your sins and inviting the true Messiah into your life. This will be a decision for your life and eternity. I hope and pray you just made that all important eternal decision.
God Bless you,