“But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.” ~ James 1:22
Both the meaning and the application of our text are fairly straightforward. In summary, it tells us that we should do more than simply listening (or just reading) God’s Word: We should put it into practice, i.e., we should OBEY the Word of God.
However, we would like to turn the spotlight on two parts of this passage for more examination. Specifically, we will explore two related questions:
- What exactly is the deception caused by not applying/obeying God’s Word when we hear (or read) it?
- What does this passage tell us about God’s blessing(s)?
1. The Deception of Hearing without Obeying
In the Bible (i.e., the Word of God given to guide Believers) places the emphasis for Christian living on actions. It is true that Believers are saved by God’s grace alone through faith alone (Ephesians 2:9). However, Christian living does end there: we are saved to do something: we are saved to fulfill God’s purpose for our lives (Ephesians 2:10).
Jesus put it this way:
“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.”Matthew 7:21
“And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?”Luke 6:46
The deception of disobedience is that it is enough to simply hear/read God’s Word or that it is enough to just acknowledge God. But Jesus clearly shows that He is far more interested in our obedience to the Word we have heard/read.
“Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” ~ Matthew 7:19-20
It is not enough to just have faith. Rather, the faith that we have must be transformed into obedience. The great amount of energy an electric power company has in store has no use to a community unless it is transmitted to that community. The knowledge we have acquired regarding God’s Word is useless unless and until His Word is activated in our lives through our obedience. Likewise, simply acknowledging or simply believing in God is insufficient, for even demons believe in God.
“Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.”James 2:19
Believing in God is the crucial starting point. However, if we have allowed ourselves to be deceived by our disobedience, then we must consider, we must question, the validity of our own salvation: As we saw earlier: “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven…” ~ Matt 7:21a
Moreover, we are instructed as follows:
“Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?”2 Corinthians 13:5
The faith that saves, is the faith that makes us available to obey God.
To be clear, these passages do not argue for sinless perfection or perfect obedience as the standard of salvation. For example, we know that Peter denied Christ and that Jonah ran away from delivering God’s message.
Rather, as our text shows, the question is whether we remember what we looked like in the mirror of God’s Word and whether we will do something about it. In other words, the child of God cares deeply about God’s Word and what it reveals about his state. The child of God wants to be transformed into the image, the full stature, of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 4:13-14).
Conversely, those who do not care about applying God’s Word to their lives demonstrate that they have no genuine desire to become Christlike. They are willing to cry “Lord, Lord” but are uninterested to do the things which Christ, The Word (John 1:1-3), says to do.
How important is it to you/me to serve God as Christ did?
What do we want?
We want God’s blessings!
When do we want them?
We want them now!
Our text identifies who are blessed and what God blesses:
“…But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.”
God blesses the one who is both a hearer and a doer. And God blesses the doer’s deeds. In other words, God blesses the one who is living according to God’s will for his/her life.
“Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. ” ~ John 15:8
One may also think of it this way: Are God’s blessings available to those living outside of God’s will? Are God’s blessings available to those who have no intention to obey His Word?
Clearly, God’s intends to bless our acts of obedience to His Word.
To the extent that we are not living in obedience to God’s Word, we should be careful about claiming His blessing on our actions. Indeed, it is possible to claim blessings that do not originate with God.
Make no mistake, God is merciful. But God is also righteous and cannot tolerate sin/disobedience, much less bless it.
“If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me”Psalm 66:18
Jesus made it clear, it is our fruit that identifies us as His disciples or as pretenders (Matthew 7:18-20). Moreover, God’s will is that every Believer bears much fruit (John 15:5-8). But it is impossible for us to bear good fruit when we fail to apply God’s Word to our lives.
“But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”Matthew 13:23