Remove the Rust
Passages: James 1:19-27
Calvary Baptist Church of Holland
The Church @ Hamilton
Key Goals: (Know) Understand the role of responsiveness in spiritual growth. (Feel) Feel a desire to be open and responsive to instruction. (Do) Look for areas in our life that need to be changed and change them.
Introduction: I think there are key moments in the relationship between brothers. There is a day with my little brother that I will never forget. I was 16 and in charge. My little brother was about 3 at the time. He was fascinated by anything “shiny.” If a new car drove by, he would say, “I like a shiny one.” I was in the living room when I heard him in the kitchen say, “I like a shiny one.” I thought, “I wonder what he is up to?” So I got up and walked into the kitchen to find my little brother holding a large butcher knife by the blade. He was thrilled; I was terrified. How do you get a shiny, beautiful knife out of the fingers of a 3 year old without slicing them? I’ll never forget that day. It wasn’t fun, but it sure was memorable. I think James had a memorable day like that with Jesus too.
Not long after Jesus began his teaching and healing ministry, huge crowds began to form. Everywhere he would travel, the sick and infirmed would gather around him for healing or even just a touch. They traveled from all over the land of Israel. The crowds grew especially large the closer he got to his home in Capernaum, on the northern coast of the Sea of Galilee. When he reached town, his family came out to greet him. Mary—Jesus’ mother, James—his younger brother, and the others all came out to welcome him home. But they could not reach Jesus because of the massive crowds. When Jesus’ disciples saw what was happening, Luke 8 tells us that they said to Jesus, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see you.” And then Jesus said something that I am sure James never forgot. He answered them, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.” Ouch. I imagine that the statement encouraged the crowd around Jesus, but I can also imagine how James might have felt. I bet he never forgot that day. It wasn’t fun, but I’m sure it was memorable. In fact, I know it was. Open your Bibles to James 1:19-27. James repeats what Jesus said almost word for word.
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21 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. 23 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. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 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. 26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. 27 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 message this morning is very close to James’ heart. He will be teaching us thoughts he learned one-on-one with his big brother. Our series is called “The Rebuild,” and our premise is that this world has a strange way of wrecking our lives, but the book of James has the tools to rebuild wrecked lives. Last week we used the tool of resolve, because rebuilding a life is not easy—it only happens when we decide with firm determination to do it. Resolve allows us to endure steadfastly through trials as God grows us to completion. And if we endure to the end, there awaits us a Crown of life
This week’s tool is a responsive heart. If we are going to rebuild our lives or help others rebuild theirs, a responsive heart is essential. When we talk about the heart (Greek: kardia, see James 1:26) we are talking about the center of the inner life of a person—their soul or spirit. The heart is where we experience feelings and emotions, desires, and passions. The heart is also where we understand, think, and reflect; it is the “seat of our will” as it drives our choices. Hearts can be open—receptive and responsive to change, or hard, calloused, and unresponsive (Heb. 3:8). The only way one makes true, significant, spiritually positive changes in their life is if their heart is responsive to God’s message of new life through Jesus.
There are two secrets to a truly responsive heart:
I. A responsive heart receives the Word (James 1:19-21)
a. With quickness “quick to hear” (19a)
Quickness communicates an attitude of eagerness to take in the Word from every angle. We should desire to read the Word, to listen to the preaching of the Word, to memorize the Word, to study it. The idea is attentiveness with the goal of obedience. Psalm 119:131 says I open my mouth and pant, because I long for your commandments. 1 Peter 2:2 encourages: Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation.
b. With restraint “slow to speak” (19b)
Often in our pride, or even just excitement, we have a tendency to speak before we have a chance to think and take in truth. This is why counselors spend so much time working with couples on communication. Every time we are around the truth of God, he has something for us, but we will never hear it if we are spouting off. Responsive hearts receive truth eagerly, but they also restrain themselves and give it time to sink in. I was talking with a young man this last week and I spoke straight with him about an issue in his life. Just as I finished, he took in a deep breath—like he had a big long sentence to get out—but he held it, slowly blew it out, and said, “Okay.” That young man is farther along in his walk than he knows.
c. With openness “slow to anger” (19c)
A responsive heart is one that has stopped fighting with God and is willing to listen. Look, often the first and most natural response to someone telling us we are doing wrong and need to change is anger. People who are ready to rebuild their lives adjust their reaction time so that anger isn’t the first response. The Greek word for slow can also mean “dull or inactive.” People who really want to change inactivate their anger response when they are confronted with truth. Every married person understands this. Our spouse may, in a super gentle way, tell us something we need to change; if we are not open to change, it becomes a huge issue. But when we are open, that same spouse can bumble their way through telling us what needs to change and we still respond positively.
Verse 20 tells us why openness is so important: for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Very few angry people change. If you are bitter or angry with God about your circumstances or things that happened in your past, your ability to rebuild your life is greatly hindered. Ditch the anger! It is not going to accomplish in you the righteousness that you need. Instead, 21put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
d. With meekness “receive with meekness” (21)
The not so subtle message of this verse is this: if we are going to rebuild our lives, we need to tear off the whole dirty mess of wickedness we have been involved in and start listening to the Word and the godly people around us who have been trying to help us. The Greek word translated “meekness” has the idea of “strength in submission” or “strength under control.” The word was used of Alexander the Great’s horse (Bucephalus) which was powerfully strong, but totally submissive and responsive to the master’s touch. A person of meekness can be very strong and yet completely submissive and sensitive to the Lord’s command.
II. A responsive heart activates the Word (James 1:22-27)
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 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. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.
A person who listens to truth but doesn’t activate it in their lives begins a self-deception process. It is an internal conversation that goes something like this: “I should probably remove that sin and change…someday.” Or they just begin suppressing the guilt and inner voice of change. Verse 24 specifically describes a “hearing-only person” as one who sees what they need to change but they look away and quickly forget. I can watch all the YouTube videos I want on how to rebuild an engine, but it will never get done unless I activate what I know. A doer of the Word is a person who hears truth, hears the gospel, and activates what they hear in their lives. They by faith receive it, they internalize it, they let it sink in and affect their desires, their passions and their will. Then they begin making new choices and actions based on these transformed desires and will. James gives us three examples (these are not all-inclusive, we could give more) of what it looks like to be doers of the Word:
a. Doers activate self control over areas of their lives that were once unchecked (26)
If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Have you ever said something mean or ungodly and immediately wished you hadn’t—and then said, “I didn’t mean that?” Counselor Paul Tripp suggests a more biblical response would be, “Please forgive me for saying what I was really thinking.” We say wicked things because we think wicked thoughts. Doers of the Word are thinking and reflecting on God’s Word and actively brushing away evil thoughts and intentions, which activates self control in areas that were once unchecked. Doers change their heart, which then bridles their tongue.
b. Doers activate self-sacrifice where there was once self-centeredness (27a)
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction. James could have also listed the sick, the shut-ins, those in prison—they are mentioned in other places (see Matt 25:31-46). This is just an example of how a believer who activates the Word of God in his life begins to change from a self-centered person to a person who sacrificially cares for others. Selfishness is the antithesis of the gospel message. Even though she was Catholic, very few people doubt the authenticity of the faith of Mother Teresa. Why? Because she spent 68 of her 80 years building orphanages and homes for children and adults dying of HIV/AIDS, leprosy, and tuberculosis in the slums of Calcutta, India. Millions of Hindus’ first encounter with Jesus was seeing how Mother Teresa love the sick and dying. Mother Teresa: doer of the Word.
c. Doers activate holiness where there was once immorality (27b)
…and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
Put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness.” (1:21) This gets to the very heart of rebuilding our lives. The whole reason you and I need to rebuild anything is because of sin—either our sin, the effects of our sin, or the sin of others. Broken relationships, anger, addiction, sexual sin, revenge, gossip, bitterness, slander, abuse—all of this flows from the caustic effects of sin in our lives!
Do you want to rebuild? Remove one key area of disobedience from your life. Search your heart. What is the one area of sin that you don’t need to hear any more information about, you just have to deal with? Be a doer! Remove it, repent of it, and activate holiness where there was once immorality. Is your heart responsive?
Community Group Discussion
1. As a group, read through James 1:19-27. What are the concepts and phrases that jump out or are easy to remember?
2. The passage mentions “hearing.” Discuss what hearing means beyond the mechanical process of our ears.
3. Discuss your understanding of “receptiveness.” What about “critical thinking?” Is that useful too?
4. Discuss a time in your life when you were decidedly unreceptive to God, his Word, or correction. How did you get through it?
5. Discuss how hearing but not doing leads to “self-deception?”
6. Discuss meekness. What do you understand “receiving with meekness” to mean?
7. How does a person who has lost their desire to listen and do the Word of God recover it?
© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to use and reproduce this material in any format for spiritual, non-commercial purposes. We only ask that you do not alter the content in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. Please include the following statement on any distributed material: by Paul L. Davis. © Calvary Baptist Church of Holland.
 All Scripture quotations are taken from the ESV.
 Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich, eds., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964–), 612.
 James Strong, Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon (Woodside Bible Fellowship, 1995).
 Peter H. Davids, The Epistle of James: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1982), 94.
Bucephalus was Alexander the Great’s horse and is considered by some to be the most famous horse in history. https://www.ancient.eu/Bucephalus/