We have spent the past three weeks talking about trials, temptations and why they matter to our holiness. Then, we come to verse 19 and from the surface it seems like James takes a sharp left turn and goes in a completely different direction. Except, he doesn’t. James knows what it’s like for religious people to go through trials and overcome temptations and still not make an impact in their circles of influence. James knows that Acts 1:8 doesn’t happen easily. It’s almost like James knew that churches in our country would be satisfied with Sunday school classes, small groups, youth groups, worship services and sending checks to missionaries. It seems like James watched the religious people of his day and sends us a message that living in the Christian bubble isn’t enough.
Today, I have three questions for us. How do our lives reveal who God is? How do we respond to what God has done for us? How does our church reveal who God is to the community? The essence of our next verses in James asks the question, how are we re-gifting Jesus?
We could probably camp out on these verses for multiple weeks and pick it apart form several angles because there is so much in these verses. I think as we walk through James 1:19-27, we will find three opportunities for re-gifting Jesus.
Scripture Text: James 1:19-27 (ESV)
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
Our conversations give an opportunity to re-gift Jesus
Scripture Text: James 1:19-21 (ESV)
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
Verse 19 begins with sound instruction regarding our necessity to have the last word and our need to be right all the time. You know the type of conversation that James is talking about here; it’s that conversation when your heart rate increases before the conversation begins. It’s that conversation when something bubbles up inside of you and makes you ugly. It’s that conversation when you know you’re right and you’re going to prove you’re right regardless of the cost. These conversations happen in our homes, at our jobs, at school and, yes, even church business meetings. They happen almost everywhere we turn. Except, we’re supposed to be different. We’re supposed to re-gift Jesus in our conversations. James gives us three ways to re-gift Jesus in our conversations.
First, “let every person be quick to hear”. This phrase has two meanings. The first meaning is attached to the previous and requires us to be receptive to the voice of God speaking into our lives. It requires us to spend time daily in the Bible and in prayer. The second meaning is that we are to remain quiet long enough to consider what has been said. We should not respond until we have given ourselves time to process. The two actually flow together. If we spend time daily in our Bible and we remain quiet long enough to consider what has been said, we will be receptive to the voice of God in our lives. When those things happen, they become contagious in our conversations with people. The better we become at listening to God’s voice, the easier it becomes to listen to the voices that come out of body.
When you think it’s too hard to hear God’s voice or you don’t know what God sound like or you don’t have time or whatever excuse you want to throw in there, remember this – you already know how to be receptive to the voice of the gods of your life. James 1 tells us we need to learn how to be receptive to the voice of the God of the universe. This is the only way that will be able to accurately reveal who God is to this community.
Second, “let every person be slow to speak”. Psalm 46:10 puts this phrase into perspective, “be still and know that I am God”. Being slow to speak goes hand-in-hand with being to quick to listen. You cannot do one without the other. The practice behind “slow to speak” is not to stop talking. The practice forces us to carefully engage in God’s thoughts so we can accurately re-gift God when he provides the opportunity.
Third, “let every person be slow to anger”. We all know the people that have the ability to blow up quickly. Generally, we don’t like to be around those people because they make us uncomfortable. We are often surprised when a quiet person blows us. We are even more surprised when that person brings up the list of things he/she is angry about. In a few short moments, influence, integrity and reputation can be compromised. The type of anger our text describes in an agitation of the soul. It’s internal. It’s like the hot coals at the bottom of the fireplace. Under the right circumstances, a very small amount of coal starts a forest fire.
You might know this type of anger because it’s living inside of you. For whatever reason, you have chosen to hang on to it. If that’s you, I’m sorry that you were hurt so badly. If that’s you, I’m sorry that things didn’t end up the way you hoped. If that’s you, I invite you to leave it at the cross. Your ability to re-gift Jesus depends on it. Verse 20 says that anger in our lives does not achieve the righteousness of God. When we choose to hold anger, we will never accomplish the mission God has set before us. When we choose to hold anger, this church will be handicapped.
These things matter because God cares about our holiness. Verse 21 rips apart a little bit more, “put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word”. James tells that we are to “put away” anything that is impure or defiles us. James tells that we are to “put away” all evil intentions. James tells us that we are to “put away” any leftovers of sin that was once part of our lives. James tells us that carrying that stuff limits God’s ability to place his Word into our lives. Colossians 3 is compliments this verse well.
There is an old Viking tradition that best represents “put away”. Rather than describe, I want to show it to you.
I speak at a camp every summer and I use that tradition on Thursday night. I call it a sin funeral because its time for us to burn what is holding us back and start being the person that our Father has always known we would become. This week, I want to challenge us to find some alone time and have a sin funeral.