Studies in James. Presentation 04. The Structure of the Book. Introduction and Trials in the Christian Life (1: 1-8) Happiness in our Circumstances(1: 9-11) Trial, Temptation and Gift (1: 12-18) Hindrances to Fruitfulness (1: 19-21) Doers and Hearers (1: 22-25)
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Introduction and Trials in the Christian Life (1: 1-8)
Happiness in our Circumstances(1: 9-11)
Trial, Temptation and Gift (1: 12-18)
Hindrances to Fruitfulness (1: 19-21)
Doers and Hearers (1: 22-25)
True Religion (1: 26-27)
Favouritism (2: 1-7)
The Royal Law (2: 8-12a)
Showing Mercy (2.12b-13]
Faith and Works (2:14-26)
Teachers and the Tongue (3: 1-12)
True and False Wisdom, (3: 13-17)
Peacemakers (3: 18)
Defeat Through Lack of Submission(4: 1-6)
Victory Through Submission(4: 7—10)
Judging One Another (4: 11-12)
Boasting of Tomorrow (4: 13-17)
The Misuse of Wealth(5: 1-6)
The Need of Patience (5: 7-12)
Appropriate Responses (5:13-16)
Restoring the Wanderer (5:17-20)
Chap 1v 19-21
We have seen that the Christian is empowered by God with new spiritual life. And we have noted that God looks to see if that life bears the fruit he has empowered it to bear.
James now identifies some of the fruit God is looking for in our lives and the qualities that prevent the development of fruitfulness.
Does it seem strange that James should place "readiness to listen" v19 at the top of his list? Think about what Jesus had to say about this subject: Mk 4.24 "consider carefully what you hear" and Lk 8.18 "consider carefully how you listen".
In both contexts God's Word is referedto. One evidence that God is at work in our hearts is our hunger for God's Word. We give it our keenest concentration.
In some parts of the world people walk for walk for two or three hours in order to hear God's Word. Some people only come to church if they have nothing more interesting planned for the day!
A readiness to listen has other applications. Children sometimes put their hands over their ears when they are being told things they don’t want to hear! Christians can sometimes come to their Bibles or to a service, looking for guidance. They want to know how to behave in a certain situation. But they have secretly made their mind up what they intend to do and if God's Word doesn't match their viewpoint or prejudice then they stop their ears to God's Word
Example: Jonah, "The Word of God came to Jonah..." God addressed Jonah's deafness in the treatment room of the stomach of a great fish.
Jesus took account of the prejudice of many of his hearers when he said, "He who has ears to hear..."
In the midst of Christian work we can often be too busy. There is much to be done and we neglect quality listening time. Note the example of the Lord Jesus – he arose for communion with the father “a great while before day” [Mark 1.35]. How are we to listen? Among other things it will involve a silent waiting upon God, listening for his voice, longing for the Holy Spirit to impress upon our hearts the living truth we need to hear.
In both private and public worship we Should cultivate the spirit of May Grimnes hymn:
Speak Lord in the stillness, while I wait on Thee,
Hushed my heart to listen, in expectancy.
Speak they servant heareth. be not silent Lord,
Waits my soul upon Thee,
For the quickening word.
Secondly, James encourages reticence in speech, we should be "slow to speak". James has a lot to say in this epistle about the dangers of speaking too freely and of the destructive effect of speech.
We read in Proverbs 10v19, "when words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise" and again in 21v23, "He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity".
The Rabbis used to have a saying which went something like this- "Men have two ears but one tongue, that they should hear more than they speak. The ears are always open and ever ready to hear instruction; but the tongue is surrounded with a double row of teeth to hedge it in and keep it within proper bounds."
We treat our speech so casually but God treats it extremely seriously. We need to bear in mind the instruction of Jesus in Matt12.36 "men will give an account in the day of judgement for every careless word they have spoken".
If we printed those words on a card and looked at them every time we were about to speak we would get far better mileage out of our tongues.
But in what way should we be slow to speak?
We should be slow to speak about ourselves!
The mark of a developing character is interest in others. The speech of the Christian should not be self centred, and dominated by a capital "I". We need to show interest in the needs and concerns of others. Our speech should encourage others. We should resist the temptation to constantly speak about ourselves for that reveals a stunted spiritual growth. Boastfulness is never becoming in a Christian. Oswald Chambers, the famous Christian teacher wrote, “The great test of a man's character is his tongue”.
An egotist is a man who talks about himself so much that you don't have a chance to talk about yourself. VANCE HAVNER
We should be slow to speak about others!
Some people are determined to pass a verdict upon every person who is mentioned in a conversation. They give the impression that they know all the facts and that they have a definitive judgement to make. Criticism can so easily cripple fruitful Christian service. When we criticise another we imply that we ourselves are above reproach. To criticise the anger of another implies that we are the essense of self-control, to criticise a man's selfishness again that we are the most selfless of people. It has been said, before speaking ask yourselves three important questions.
Is it true?
Is it kind?
Is it necessary?
Its so easy to thro away critical and unkind words but impossible to control them when they have left our lips.
A woman who was a notorious gossip visited her minister and he took her out into his garden. He had with him a pillow filled with goose feathers. He emptied the pillow and the feathers were blown all over the village. He asked her if she would be able to bring them back. She said it was impossible. In the same way, said the minister, it is impossible to undo the damage done by a gossiping and critical tongue. After that the woman’s speech was much more restrained!
Notice James does not forbid anger. The Bible expects us to get angry, "In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down on your anger” Eph 4.26. It is because anger is such a powerful passion likely to get out of control that James counsels caution. The line between anger and personal irritation is sometimes very thin. There is a very hazy border between defending principles and defending ourselves.
Our anger is seldom a reflection of the righteous anger of God, who is ‘compassionate and gracious and slow to anger abounding in love’ [Psalm 86.15]. Now a blazing, irrational, uncontrolled temper has no place in the Christian lifestyle James is unfolding here. The Christian should at all times seek to bring every part of his life under the control of the Holy Spirit.
James has identified three areas of defilement to be rooted out of the Christians life. He wants to see God's firstfruit, those separated to God, reflect Christ's likeness. He lumps together the matters he had just been discussing under the heading of "moral filth" and exhorts his readers to have a good spring clean. Before work begins
rooms can look superficially but once a damp
cloth is rubbed over the areas the truth is revealed.
That is what James wants to say to his readers.
All is not as clean as you first thought. Do not
spare those things in your life obscure the
likeness of Jesus which the Holy Spirit
wants to produce in you. How does this
cleaning come about? cf.v21... as we yield
ourselves to the word of God which identifies
our condition and which promises us the help of
the Holy Spirit to deal with all that is un-Christlike.