Genuine Faith: Hearing and Doing God's Word

Flesh on Faith: The Letter of James  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Brief Greeting…then...
Tonight we will jump back into our study in James and will be in chapter 1, verses 19-27…so go ahead and turn with me there.
Tonight we will be talking about the proper response to God’s word…specifically in being hearers and doers of the word.
Sermon Intro
But before we go to our text, I want to tell you a story...
Use Parable of the two sons: Matthew 21:28-32
FCF: Why do we often struggle to apply God’s word to our lives? Why do we struggle to be doers of God’s word? Oftentimes, we respond wrongly to God’s word by being slow to hear, quick to speak, and quick to get angry…why is this the case?
Sermon Idea: our text tonight will answer these questions and this is the important truth we will learn tonight, that genuine faith consists of hearing and doing God’s word.
Scripture Intro
In verses 1-18, James gave us the right response to trials. Now, piggy backing off of the theme of God’s word from vs 18, in our text for tonight, he tells us the way we are to respond to God’s word.
So, if you have not already, turn with me to James 1:19-27 and lets study this passage together

1. Receive God’s Word Humbly (vs 19-21)


James begins by saying, “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.”
James first addresses his audience once more as “beloved brothers.”
It is important that we see that he is addressing this letter to people who were already Christians.
He is not telling them what it takes to bring one into a relationship with God. Rather, he’s telling them what a life transformed by the word of truth will look like. The new birth that God gives will issue in a life of obedience.
Next, James lists three commands, that every person should be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.
In doing so, he sets the stage for the first way we are to respond to God’s word…by hearing and receiving God’s word with meekness.
But in the middle of verse 19 and 21 James gives a wrong way to respond to God’s being quick to get angry.
James tells us not to be quick to speak or get angry because our anger does not produce the righteousness of God.
What James is saying is that anger, in most cases with the exception of righteous anger towards sin, does not produce behavior that is pleasing to God.
Being quick to speak and get angry is the wrong response to hearing the word of truth. Instead of trying to defend ourselves with many words and be quick to get angry when we are confronted with God’s word, The right response is to first to hear and then to receive the implanted word.
Look at verse 21… “Therefore, put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.”
Verse 21 essentially provides the solution to our misplaced speech and anger…repentance from sin and faith in God’s word.
The implanted word communicates the word of truth that has been planted and engrained in a believers life when they are born again.
This is the word that has “brought us to life” from verse 18.
Essentially, what this means is that believers who have been brought to life by the word of truth must continually respond in obedience and receive this word in their hearts that will be able to save them and deliver them from the judgement to come.
To give an analogy, the implanted word is not like our kidneys but more like oxygen. Both are implanted in us but we do not receive anything from our kidneys…however, we must receive oxygen. Oxygen gives life and in giving life, it makes us breathe, and in breathing we receive oxygen.
In similar fashion like oxygen, we can see how the external word of God, that we hear through reading, studying, and listening is united to the implanted word of God that has brought us to life.
“Receiving the external word replenishes the power of the implanted word, and the implanted word creates the hunger to receive more of the external word.” -John Piper
James says that receiving the implanted word will Save our souls. Just as we need oxygen to survive, we need to continue to receive the external word.
Saying that we do not need to receive the external word through reading, studying, and hearing is like saying we do not need to breathe.
This may be a possibility for someone who is spiritually dead, but for those that have been brought to life through the word of truth...this is an impossibility!
Which begs the question....if you are completely fine and normal going about your life without receiving the external word of God, have you truly been born again? If you never have a desire to read God’s word or study it, or hear it, does the implanted word dwell within you?
So we must receive the implanted word…
However, before we can receive the implanted word, we must dig out the roots of filthiness and abundant wickedness that remain in our hearts.
Filthiness and wickedness refers back to the evil desires that entice us to temptation and sin that were mentioned in verses 14-15.
Just as a plant cannot grow in bad soil, the implanted word cannot grow and transform our lives if their remain the weeds and bad roots of our evil desires.
James commands us to “put them away” and can resemble the practice of taking off and putting on different clothes.
Once we have put away these filthy and wicked desires through confession and repentance, James commands us to receive with meekness the implanted word.
To receive God’s word, you must release the filthy and wicked desires you are holding onto and take hold of God’s word, making it an integral part of your life.
James calls us to do this with meekness, which means we must humble ourselves through repentance from sin and submit our life to the word of God and allow God’s word to influence all parts of our lives.
So, James calls us to receive the implanted word not through getting angry and defending ourselves in pride, but humbling ourselves through confession and repentance of our wicked desires, and submitting our lives to the Lordship of God and His word.


Hearing God’s word by receiving it with meekness is the first step in displaying genuine faith.
So how should this truth change the way we live? How should we respond?
We must not be quick to speak and get angry, but instead be quick to hear and receive God’s word
We must put away and remove anything in our hearts that would hinder us from receiving God’s implanted word.
We must receive the implanted word with meekness through humbling ourselves in confession and repentance of sin and submit our lives to the word of God.
So, genuine faith consists first of hearing God’s word through receiving it with meekness.
Next, James tells us that we need to not only hear the word, but also obey the word. Look at verse 22: “But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”

2. Be a Doer of the Word, Not Just a Hearer (vs 22-27)


Verse 22 makes clear that it is not enough to simply hear and read God’s word, genuine faith requires that we also obey God’s word.
James is speaking against a false idea of hearing God’s word…this person does not receive it with meekness, but simply hears it audibly.
For if we think that genuine faith is simply hearing God’s word only, James says we are deceiving ourselves.
We may think that because we “hear” God’s word regularly, we are right with God…for example…by going to church regularly, reading God’s word daily, memorizing scripture, and even teaching his word to others through bible studies. But despite all these examples of merely hearing God’s word…if we never obey it then we are deceiving ourselves.
Jesus gives us this same truth in the sermon on the mount from Matthew 7:21-27, which says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
Paul repeats the same message in Romans 2:13, by saying, “For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.”
Therefore, don’t kid yourself into thinking that merely hearing the word is enough to save you…you must respond rightly through repentance, faith and obedience.
Next, James provides a vivid analogy to further illustrate the difference between one who only hears the word vs. one who hears and obeys God’s word.
“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.”
James compares the one who only hears the word with a man who looks at himself in a mirror but then goes away and does not make any changes to his appearance.
He looks at himself intently but at once forgets what he looks like when he leaves. Mirrors in James’ day were not very common. Only the rich had mirrors…so James’ audience would see what a privilege of looking at yourself in a mirror would be.
For us today, it would be like you getting an opportunity to have a one on one conversation with one of the most successful people in your field to give you wisdom on how to accomplish your goals in life.
Yet, imagine that after this person told you all the things you needed to fix and correct in your life to accomplish your goals, you immediately forgot what they told you and never made any changes…that would be crazy right?
James says, do not do this! Instead, be like the man who looks into the perfect law and perseveres in it.
James first compares the man looking at a mirror with the privilege of looking into the law of liberty, which refers to the Old Testament law that is now understood through the Gospel of Jesus.
But the contrast comes in how the man responds to the word…unlike the man who looks at himself in a mirror and at once forgets…the man who looks into the law of liberty PERSEVERES, he abides and remains in the word…he does not forget what he has read and seen and the changes he needs to make in his life…but instead, he acts on what he has read…he is does the word.
James says the one who obeys the word will be blessed in his doing. Don’t miss this…notice where blessing and freedom comes from…from submitting oneself to the implanted word and then obeying the law that brings liberty…that brings freedom!
We often equate the law with slavery or something that confines us…but James says that true freedom comes through obedience to the word of God.
Alec Motyer puts it this way: “True freedom is the opportunity and the ability to give expression to what we truly are. The law of God is the law of liberty because it safeguards, expresses and enables the life of true freedom into which Christ has brought us. This is the blessing of which James speaks (25), the blessing of a full life, a true humanity. Obedience is the key factor in our enjoyment of it.”
So, genuine faith responds rightly to God’s word by hearing and receiving it with meekness and putting it into practice through obedience.


Our response to this truth must be to not forget God’s word when we read it…to not let it go in one ear and out the other…but to persevere and abide in his word.
We must seek to be like the man in Psalm 1 who does not just read God’s word once in the morning and then forgets what he has read…but meditates on it throughout the day and all through the night.
We must ask questions of the text when we read each day and seek to live out these truths through the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.
Some questions we can ask are:
Is there a command or exhortation for how we should live?
What does this biblical principle mean today?
What would the application of this verse look like in my life?
What difference does this make in my life?
How can this biblical principle help me in my walk with God?
James actually helps us see three clear applications of how we can seek to be doers of the word in verses 26-27.
“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.”
These are the three tests of true religion and genuine faith that we talked about when we went through the introduction last month that are the thesis of the letter. These commands were specific to James’ audience but also should be seen in our lives as believers today.
James tells us that those who have genuine faith, who are doers of the word, are those who control their tongue, care for the helpless, and pursue personal holiness.
But, please do not see James listing a checklist of things we must do to be saved or right with God. We must remember that we cannot obey these commands in our own strength and we are not saved by these things.
We are saved from the word of truth that has brought us to life from verse 18, and we will have the strength and ability to walk in obedience to Christ as we receive the implanted word with humility, as we remember and meditate on it constantly.
By responding to God’s word rightly through receiving it humbly, and remembering it constantly...our hearts will be transformed...we will have the ability obey his word wholeheartedly...and we will be blessed in all that we do.
So how are you responding to God’s word right now in your life?
Are you slow to hear God’s word and quick to get angry and defend yourself when confronted with your sin? Or are you quick to hear his word before you speak, and in humility receive and welcome his truth into your life?
Does his word simply go in one ear and out the other? Do you listen and read his word, see your sin and disobedience, but yet not change anything? Or do you study and remember his word and then respond in repentance and faith by seeking to obey his word out of love for him?
Can people see the practical fruit of repentance and faith in your life by the way you speak to others? By the way you care for the less fortunate? By the way you pursue holiness and purity? Or do your words and actions sound and look just like the world?
Maybe tonight you have seen that the faith you claim to have is false, its not genuine, and you have never been brought to life by the word of truth…tonight you have the opportunity to respond in repentance and faith in Jesus for the first time.
If this is you and you need to talk about making this decision, please come and find me or one of the leaders after we close. We would love to walk you through how to make this decision to follow Jesus.
We have all been challenged by God’s truth tonight, I pray each of us would respond rightly to God’s word and receive it with meekness and then obey all that he commands us. Don’t simply hear his word tonight…but act on it, do what he is commanding you, for if you do this, you will be blessed.
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