It is good to be back in chapel, seeing each of you here in the chapel and all of those who are joining us on live stream, it is good to be here. My dad loves gardening. He has, since I was a little kid, all of our backyards were always full of plants, full of vegetables. It’s amazing. All the work he would do. I was just talking with Dr. Allen about our parents and he’s my dad’s 80 years old. And still every time I go back to Alabama to visit him, the backyard’s completely rearranged. He’s moved every plant that he had, he loves it. He has the proverbial green thumb. I picked up the proverbial black thumb. I’m like Charlie Brown and a Christmas story. When he put the ornament on the Christmas tree and it killed over and he says, I kill everything I touch. The only thing I’ve been successful at growing so far is the grass in my yard. That’s the only thing that I can look at and think that’s kind of growing well. And I don’t think I have much to do with it. My dad though, he’s just been really good at garden. You could say in some ways I’m a hearer of taking care of plants. And my dad’s a doer. I’ve read up on it a few times, but never been able to
Accomplish it. Jesus told a parable one time,
A man who went out to sow seed and it fell on different types of ground and produce different things. Some of the seed was on hard ground and just got snatched up, some was on ground and began to grow and got choked out. Some was on shallow soil, but some fell on good soil and began to grow. And I think Jesus’s brother James, when he was writing the section in James chapter one that we’re going to look at had that parable somewhere in the back of his thinking, as he talked about the implanted word, have your Bibles turn to James chapter one. As we look at verses 19 to 27, there’s an old nursery rhyme that asks the question, Mary Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow? And I think James is asking something similar. He’s saying Christian, Christian, how does your garden grow?
And his thesis is pretty clear. It grows by receiving the implanted word, but he goes into detail in this passage on what it means to receive the word and what it does it mean to receive the word back up one verse to verse 18. As we begin, as we work through James and chapel, we always want to make sure we’re aware of where we have been in a book before we head to the next place. Verse 18 of James one says this by his own choice God’s choice. He gave us a new birth by the message of truth so that we would be the first fruits
Of his creatures.
He gave us a new birth by the message of truth or by the word so that we would be the first fruits of his creatures. And that moves into our section today. So read along with me, it says this my dear brothers and sisters understand this. Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to and slow to anger
For human anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness, therefore ridding yourself of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent, humbly receive the implanted word, which is able to save your souls, but be doers of the word and not hearers only deceiving yourselves. Because if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like someone looking at his own face in a mirror for, he looks at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what kind of person he was. But the one who looks intently into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres in it and is not a forgetful hero, but I do, or who works. This person will be blessed in what he does. If anyone thinks he is religious without controlling his tongue, his religion is useless and he deceives himself pure and undefiled religion before God, the father is this to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained from the world. Father, I pray as we open your word today that you would open our ears to hear and then move our hands and feet to action, to be doers of what we hear. May you be glorified and its in your son’s name we pray. Amen.
James starts with the thesis of receiving the implanted word. He says it there in verse 24, 21 receive humbly the implanted word, which is able to save your soul salvation in the new Testament runs in three tenses. This justification, this past salvation we have been saved. There is the present salvation that we are being saved. And then there’s a future salvation. We will be saved when Christ returns or when we die. All three of these are noticed in scripture. And I think James here speaking about that middle, one of what it means to be saved rich becomes evidence for the past salvation of justification. James is worried in his book about how we show the fruit of the implanted seed. Paul often is worried about how we get that fruit, how we get the implanted, see what happens at the beginning of salvation. We need to let both of them James speak in his terms and Paul speak in his terms and not confuse the two, but his thesis is clear.
He wants us to receive the implanted word. Know, this first of all, that nobody of their own effort of their own ability can bring life to themselves. Spiritual life doesn’t come from within us that we conjure up our workup. It comes from the implanted word. James is clear because he heard the parable of his brother who said a SOA, went out to sow seed. The sower is Jesus. And he says, I’m spreading the word. The word is what is implanted in someone that brings life that is able to save. It’s not something we work up in ourself. It’s from outside of us, but once the seeds been planted, Jesus’ parable in James. His argument here does say that we have things to do. We don’t need to let the cares of this world. Choke out the seed. The word that has been planted, we have to tend the garden and he gives us some evidence, some ways to think about that.
He says, first, let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak. Slow to anger for human. Anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness. Quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger. We live in a time. And many of us suffer from this I myself, that we want to be quick to speak. I know I do. I want to say what I have to say as soon as I can. If I’m in discussion with someone, if I’m in a debate with someone, I want you to hear what I have to say. And even while you’re talking to me, I’m not listening because I’m thinking of the next thing to say. James says, we need to be slow to speak, but quick to listen, faith comes from hearing and hearing from the word of God. James is pointing us to listen to what God is saying before we get so eager to explain our own position and slow to anger because human anger doesn’t produce God’s righteousness.
The righteousness he speaks of here has to do with the way we behave, the way we act. We’ll see in chapter three, James talks how peace and gentleness brings a harvest of righteousness. James is saying that our human anger doesn’t bring about the righteous behavior that God is looking for. And we know this to be true. There is righteous anger. By the way, James is saying, be slow to anger. There is a place to be angry at the sin and injustice in the world to rise up within us. This sense that that’s not right, that that is unjust and to respond to it. But if we’re quick to anger, what happens is as that righteous anger, Wells up, it gets attached to it. All of our sinfulness and our actions come out, not as God’s righteousness, but as human anger and unrighteousness mingled with some righteous attitudes, we see this going on in our nation right now.
Unfortunately, if you want to see it on display every day, constantly turn on Fox news, MSNBC, CNN, every one of them almost all the time are quick to speak, slow to listen and quick to anger. And we asked, does that do anything to help? The answer is no. For the most part. And James says, we ought to be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger. And then he tells us to put away all moral filth and prevalent evil. I do like this about my yard. I liked not having weeds in my yard. My neighbor has weeds in his yard. And so I fertilize and I get my sprayer out and I spray right down the line. And when I back out, I tell my daughter, look at that yard. Look at that clean line of green that way. And then look at those weeds. There it is. No weeds, weeds. I like that in my yard, but it takes work. Right. I go into my backyard and I don’t have to do anything. If it doesn’t rain for three days, weeds are growing immediately. And right after it, rains, weeds are growing up naturally in my backyard, I have to constantly fight to get rid of the weeds in my yard. James tells us to put away all the moral filth and evil that is so prevalent in our lives that wells up from within us. We’ve all experienced that in our Christian life. If we want to receive the word, we need to be quick to hear the word flow, to speak our own thoughts, slow, to get angry and begin to put away the moral filth that we see in our lives to put aside that language of putting away has the image of taking off clothing and laying it aside. Paul uses this. The writer of Hebrews uses this phrase. Peter uses this same phrase, but James moves on from his thesis of receiving the implanted word, to explain how that happens. He wants to let the implanted word grow. He wants to talk about the difference between hearing the word and doing the word. We have a fascinating situation in our country today when it comes to food and we plant seeds, so food can grow so we can eat it. C S Lewis once wrote. And I remember as a young guy reading this, he said that dealing with humanities over active sexual appetite, he said, what if you went to a country and you found a place, we could gather a group of men in a room slowly, raise a curtain. And someone slowly lifts a tray up and there’s a pork chop and everyone is fascinated by it. Then they quickly closed the curtain. Wouldn’t you think that their appetite for food is like over actualized? It’s it’s been put into hyperdrive little, see us Louis know that we would create that very thing called the food network. Now, how many of you are fans of the food network? Raise your hand. Don’t be ashamed. Don’t be ashamed. There you go. There’s a lot of us. We like watching Guy Fieri go to his diners, drive ins and dives. We like watching iron chef. As people compete to create food that no one,
You just watch them make it. And I imagine if you’re like me, you watch food network and you never go. I’m going to actually cook the thing they’re cooking. We just watch them cook. We enjoy watching them cook. And James tells us in verses 22 to 25, that if that’s who we are with God’s word, something’s wrong with us. Look what he says, but be doers of the word. Not hearers, only deceiving yourselves, because if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he’s like a man who like say like someone looking at his own face in a mirror for, he looks at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what kind of person he was. But the one who looks intently into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres in it is not a forgetful here, but a doer who works, this person will be blessed in what he does.
Hearers and doers. James talks about a man who looks at a mirror and James’ day mirrors weren’t as clear as ours are as burnished bronze, but you have to look intently and kind of see what you look like. And then you walk away and you do nothing. So I imagine if you looked in the mirror, Tyler Sykora. It looks in the mirror this morning and he’s got broccoli in his teeth, cause I’m sure you can healthy in the morning. Tyler, he’s got broccoli in his teeth and his hair’s out of place and he’s got smudges on his face and he sees it and knows it. And then he turns away and he just walks into the president’s office. Looking like that, unaware of what was there, having seen it. That’s the image that James is giving us someone who hears the word, but does nothing with it.
They forgotten what he has seen. He hasn’t worked or acted on the thing that he noticed about himself. The word reveals things to us about ourselves. And sometimes it’s hard to hear. It’s hard to accept because it challenges us. And it shows us the broccoli in our teeth and the smudge on our face and the misplaced hairs. And it challenges us to change, change those things. James says, though, don’t be like people on the food network who simply watch people cook food, but cook food, be a doer of the law he talks about. But the one who looks intently into the perfect law of freedom, I have to pause here and wonder what is the perfect law of freedom we’re going to see in James two? I don’t know who’s preaching this passage. So if I’m wrong here, they will correct me. Indeed. It says this.
If you keep the Royal law prescribed in the scripture, love your neighbor as yourself, you are doing well. But if you show favoritism, you commit sin and are convicted by the law. As transgressors for whoever keeps the entire law yet fails. In one point is guilty of breaking it off. Or he who said, do not commit. Adultery also said, do not murder. It’s obvious. James is talking about the old Testament. And he now says the one who gazes into the perfect law. He’s not rejecting the old Testament and talking of something else. He’s talking about the old Testament and it’s right use. Paul does the same thing. The old Testament law has two functions going on in the new Testament. I think one is that was given to exacerbate sin in the life of Manatee to reveal our sinfulness. And so the sinfulness of sin is shown, but it takes the good law.
And with it kills us, go read Romans five through eight and you’ll see this. But that doesn’t mean the law is bad. The law is good. And when we peer into it correctly, we understand the law and the way Jesus explained and how Jesus fits into it. Not as our way to be self righteous, to grow a seed of life within ourself, by our own effort. But as God’s story of redemption to us, then we peer into that law and we do what it says. James says we will be blessed, but that peering into the law takes work. Gardens don’t grow overnight. My dad’s yard did not get to the state it’s in overnight. He worked in tutorials, but know this, that all the work he did, he did not cause a single plant to grow. He simply tended the growth that was already in the plant.
Paul says it this way in Philippians two. So then my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling for it is God who is working in you enabling about to desire and to work out his good purpose, work out your salvation because God is working in you. My dad would work in his garden and in his yard and plants would grow. But the growth was already in the plant. The implanted seed of the word gives the growth, but we are to be doers of that seed. There’s a danger in seminary that we like to be hearers. We do. It’s like food network, but we’re going to call it theology network.
We like to hear people talk about doctrine. We love to hear professors speak of them. We like it. When iron professor Harrison and iron professor King and iron professor Madson all begin to do that thing. And we would love to see them maybe pitted against each other and have debates. And we can watch and say, who had the best? If you watch iron chef ever on food network, two or three chefs make food and then two or three people eat that food and everyone else just watches them. Eat seminary is a dangerous place for that type of thing. You feed yourself on the word and you’re taking it in and take it. And you enjoy it. If you don’t, you probably won’t last long here. If you don’t enjoy talking about God’s word and absorbing God’s word, you probably won’t last long, but there’s a lot of people who enjoy food network who never cook anything. All they do is watch and they never even eat the things that the cooking on that they get through watching food network and they’re eating Velveeta cheese and Cheetos. Not the fancy food they’re making on the food network. Here at seminary we have a danger of that becoming what you do because you’re so absorbed in the taking in of God’s word that are we cultivating, what’s going on? Are we being doers of the word? You see our theology that you create. Isn’t meant to be a museum set piece that you can go and stare at that you work so hard. Those of you in your doctoral studies, you’re going to write this dissertation. It’s not there. So people can stare at it like a painting in a museum and seem intelligent and go, Hmm,
I am impressed. I want to stand at a distance and look at the work you did. The blank space on the blank canvas impressed me. This man knows what he’s doing. I’m not talking about go to Nelson Atkins and walk around. You’ll see all of the people staring at art, looking intelligent, all you’ll see people like me, just walking past, trying to find the suits of armor. And I’m impressed by what this guy has created. What this lady has created in their writing. Yes, this is good. That’s not what our theology is. Our theology is a tool belt full of tools meant to be used in construction of the church Kingdom. And if you are just simply gazing at theology and doctrines, you’re doing it wrong. Kevin Vanhoozer has a great book called the drama of doctrine. He says it this way to paraphrase doctrines are meant to be done. And until you doing them, you haven’t completed them. Simply writing up what you believe is nice and helpful and good. And you need that. But if you’re not doing what you believe, you’re not doing what the Bible wants you to do. Doctrines are not there just to be gazed at that’d be employed and used to advance God’s Kingdom. There’s a difference between hearing and doing. And then James leads us into the question of what’s that growing in my garden in verses 26 and 27, when I was a young guy, I lived out in a small town in Georgia. And so I could easily get away from the house and go wander through the woods and all those things. And there’d be a lot of occasion, especially in the spring time, in the summer, you’re walking around and there’s some fruit laying around. Berries, and you can just pick them and eat them. Now as an eight year old, what do I know? I’m just eating, whatever it looks, you know, like food. Luckily I didn’t die, but there’s a lot of things that look like fruit that aren’t fruit. I was looking up on the internet, you know, doppelgängers for fruit. And I found the, there is wild grapes. And then Canadian moon, see grapes, Canadian moon, see grapes will kill you wild grapes won’t but you can barely tell the difference between the two. And James gives us a test here to ask and find out if we’re actually growing poisonous fruit in our garden. If we’re growing poisonous food and are growing and we’re deceiving ourselves thinking that we’re not, he says it this way. If anyone thinks he is religious without controlling his tongue, his religion is useless. And he deceives himself.
Let me read that again, because this is a rapid test about our piety. When James talks about religion here says our piety, How we live out our faith. We need to be cautious. As a side note in our day and age, there has been a lot of talk about, I love Jesus, but I hate religion. And then someone reads this passage in James and goes, Ooh, I don’t know how to take that. What they tend to be saying, I think is I hate hypocritical, religion. I hate people who are hypocritical about the religion, but James who uses this idea of the practices of our faith. He says, if anyone thinks he is religious, if he’s pious, if he’s being authentic in his faith without controlling his tongue, his religion is useless. And he deceives himself. I went to the hospital the other day to visit a guy who had been admitted. And when you go in these days through the hospital, you have to check in. And the first thing they do is they scan your forehead with the rapid, read thermometer. So they know right away. If you can go in or not, this is a rapid test for piety. What’s coming out of your mouth. James again gets this from his brother, Jesus. He was dealing with ceremonial washings. He said, it’s not what goes into your mouth. That defiles you. It’s what comes out your mouth, that defiles you. Cause the mouth reveals the heart. Simply take a tongue test to see what the temperature of your tongue is. We’re going to see later in James, that the tongue is set on fire by hell. What is your tongue’s temperature is what James is asking. And he says this, if you think you’re religious, if you think you’re pious and you can’t control your tongue, you’re deceiving yourself. And your religion is useless. What are the words that come out of our mouth? How do we respond at home? Cause there’s where the question becomes, right? Cause here in seminary, we all have a governor on our tongue. If you don’t know what that is, governors used to be put on cars, which would slow them down. I wish they still had those. I put one on my children’s car, but I got my daughter a Prius. So it kind of has a governor built in, but a governor would keep you from doing a hundred. You can only do 50, whatever the governor said that we all have governors on our tongues. When we’re around kind of close friends, maybe acquaintances, people that we work with, we just, I got an act. I got to behave. We get home though, right? What is my speech to my wife and to my kids? What does my speech in those times when life gets really, really difficult when it’s not easy, when I’m not thinking about it, that reveal something about your heart. About my heart. You see weeds grow from seeds in the yard and the seeds are very deep. And it’s when the yard gets distressed. That those weeds begin to grow.
And in our own life, James is saying, if you can’t control your tongue, then your religion is useless. It’s a simple test. It’s not the only test, but it’s a very easy one. He told us to be quick, to hear, slow to speak, ask yourself, what is your speech reveal about your religion? But he doesn’t leave it say with a negative. He turns and says, here’s a positive test of what it means to be pious. Have you received the implanted word? Is your garden growing in a way that God would be pleased with? And he says this pure and undefiled religion before God, the father is this to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained from the world. Two quick tests. Do we look after orphans and widows? And we keep ourself unstained from the world. I think orphans and widows here stand in for all of those who are less fortunate, who are suffering. I remember when I was living in Texas, working as a student pastor at a church, been there many years by five years. And the guy who was pastoring, the church had probably been pastoring two or three years, highly intelligent guy. We both love to talk theology and wrestle with these doctrines, but he also exhibited this verse perfectly. And he did it in a situation that actually captures both. We had one of my youth whose mom was passing away from cancer. Her husband had left her. So she was in effect a widow. She had two kids who assumed to be orphans and Daniel Sweet. The pastor. I had went over to their house and in that night it was obvious. She was going to pass away. Family was there. They all had taken all the beds. They were around aunts and uncles and they told him, Hey, you can go.
You can go. We’ll let you know what happens in the morning. He says, I’m not leaving. I’m going to stay here. And he got a blanket and he laid on the kitchen floor all night while this widow died and our kids became orphans and his theology was put into practice and he lived out his piety and all the talks we had had over doctrines and beliefs were played out in the reality of caring for widows and orphans. Dr. Duesing told a story in his message about a man who jumped into a hole to help someone because he said, I’ve been there before. And I’m telling you students jump in the hole with the people you serve. If you are not willing to suffer with your people, you are not worthy to be a pastor to those people. If you are more concerned with being impressive in the pulpit than you are with caring for your people, please stay out of the pulpit.
You will be an insult to what this thing is about. We have to care for our people. For the least of these among us, you need to be willing to suffer with them. And then James says, keep yourself unstained from the world. Friendship with the world is enmity to God. He will say, we have to get rid of all the sins that entangle us. He’s already said put them off. But if you want to be stained with the world, it’s like this you’ve put on Christ. You put on the suit, right? None of us, maybe Dr. Allen does cuts grass in a suit. Maybe he does. He probably has a grass cutting suit, but maybe not. But we put on a nice clothes. We put on Christ. Here’s the deal. If you want to go wallow in the sins of the world, you can’t take off Christ and put on your dirty clothes. It’s like putting on work clothes over your suit to go cut the grass in the yard and get it dirty. If you’re going to go wallow in the sin of the world is a believer. You’re going to wallow in it, clothed in Christ.
But if you do that enough, you may want to ask yourself, am I even clothed in Christ? Because as foolish as that would look for Dr. Allen to be pushing a lawnmower in a suit, and we would think what’s wrong with you. It looks more foolish to be wallowing in sin, clothed in Christ. There’s the test. Here’s what piety looks like: Avoiding the sin. That’s in your life and caring for widows and orphans. So a quick recap and some application that I want you to take from this message. One is be quick to listen and listen intently to the word of God and to do it. I always like preaching in chapel. Cause I get to say this. You should read your Bible and read it a lot. This is the primary source for all of you doing research papers right now to your Christian life. Everything else you read in this seminary, everything else you read is a secondary source. This needs to sit on every textbook. You have stack them up. I see some of you students stack up your textbook for the semester and put it on Facebook. But on Twitter, put it on Instagram. Actually not on Instagram. I’m on Instagram. My daughter was freaked out. I had 300 followers and zero posts. So I feel like I’m doing pretty good, but you stack up all your books and say, look at what we get to read. I just encourage you to put the Bible on top of all those it’s assigned by default in every class, put it on top, read this intently, read your textbooks, intently. Talk about the word, listen to podcasts, listen to sermons, absorb yourself and all of that. And then do what it’s saying. Don’t just hear and enjoy hearing. Don’t be a food network. Christian who simply watches and enjoys watching for the sake of watching. We have a lot of those. We need those who are going to get out and cook in their Christian religion who are going to make it happen. Second, take a tongue test to see your heart’s condition. Here’s what I want you to do. Find the person you’re closest to this week and say, give me an honest assessment of my speech. Give me an honest assessment of the words that come out of my mouth.
Are they destructive? Are they helpful or hurtful? What’s the, the balance of the scales. We’re always going to say things at times that we would regret that does reveal something about us, but asking others. What do you see when you hear my speech? Is it plants and fruit or is it weeds? What’s coming out more than not do that? Quick test is to ask yourself, have you deceived yourself about your piety? Your speech can reveal it. And lastly suffer for and with your people. Your piety is not measured by your evangelical popularity. James says nothing about your Twitter followers. He says nothing about the number of likes you get on your posts. He says nothing about the size of your congregation or your church’s budget. None of those things are what he’s talking about. He’s talking about suffering with those who hurt walking with those who hurt.
It’s not easy. Many of us who are in seminary, we enjoy being by ourself. We like reading books and being left alone. And it’s hard at times to say, I need to go care for people. I work here and I pastor a church and there are times when I just want to read this textbook. I just want to read this thing and talk about this doctrine. But I have to go suffer with someone in my church and do I go well, I’m excited about that often I don’t, but I have to check myself and say, is
Another doctrinal discussion more important than just sitting by the bedside of someone who’s dying? It’s not, that is pastor your people shepherd them through their joys and through their pains, through the hurts, they’re going to experience be there with them, get in the hole, even if you’ve never been in the hole and you don’t know the way out, you jump in there with them. And you just sit there. You said I’m going to be with widows and orphans in their affliction and their pain and their suffering. There’s the test. If your piety is true. James wrote this about caring for the least of these, about the Royal law of loving others. And I think he got that from his brother. Jesus, who said those same things? Well, you pray with me father. We pray that we would be doers of the word and not just hearers father, that I would be a doer.
I love hearing your word. I love talking about your word. I love teaching your word father help me not to be a theology network Christian who hears and hears and never does. Father help me to, to do in my Christian life, to bring about the righteous acts in this world that you want us to do to bring healing to those who are hurting or the help us to be quick to hear from you and to hear about you and slow to speak and slow to anger. Father help us to attend our garden so that it grows with the fruit of the spirit and not the weeds of the devil father. We love you. I pray for these students, for the professors who are here for all who work at this seminary, that we would be a light to those around us. We would be comfort and hope and love and the refreshing breeze of your spirit. It’s in your son’s name, we pray amen.