18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created. 19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. 22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. 26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
As we continue in the series “The Litmus Test for Life” James now turns from talking about promises in the midst of problems to taking us through the Bible test. This is not a test of Bible trivia or a Bible drill, but the test of what to do with God’s Word. It’s here in the Bible test that we are confronted with two questions, the first of which is:
- Are you receiving God’s Word?
Most of us take this verse: “be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry” out of context. We forget that the context is God’s Word. So, we try to apply it to our everyday relationships without first implementing it in our relationship with the Lord. But we will never successfully apply it to our other relationships until we start putting it into practice in our relationship with Jesus. Some of us don’t listen to our spouse, or our kids hearts because we are disconnected from the heart of God. So how do we hear the heart of God:
A. By Listening
James reminds us that this is more than just looking at the Word, it is listening to the Word. Sadly, many of us never really listen to the Lord. We don’t come to talk to God we come to tell God. We make it about our wants not His Will. So, we talk to God as if He is a Genie there to do our bidding. But you will never really listen to and learn from the Lord until you see Christ as the one in charge. Why do we dominate the conversation, why do we seem to do all the speaking because we have never really submitted to His Supremacy. As a result, very few of us ever really respond to God’s Word, because we have never received God’s Word. But God in His wisdom did create us with 2 ears and only 1 mouth. There are two Greek words that are translated receive. One of them simply means to reach out and grasp, to receive to yourself. That’s not the word James is using, the word he uses means to welcome the Word. Not to reach out and take, but to open up and receive. It’s like a present you don’t just receive it you unwrap it and use it and enjoy it. The difference between taking the Word and receiving the Word has to do with receptiveness. Most of us are trying to take the Word instead of trust the Word. James is reminding us to receive the Word with meekness. He’s not saying just to reach out and take the Word, because you’ll never get it that way. That’s the problem with some of the pastors going into ministry today, they think that they can just go to seminary and study scriptures, that they can reach out and take. But you’re going to have to open up your heart and welcome the Word. This is not just about filling your head with knowledge but filling your heart. We are not just listening to gain knowledge but to know God. It’s not about information but transformation. We need to implement something called, Active listening. This is where we listen to and receive what is being said instead of just responding to how we feel about what was said. Unfortunately, many of us instead of engaging in active listening are caught up in Reactive listening, where we listen to talk not to learn truth. We respond to how we feel about what was said instead of the facts. So why would we bother to listen to the Lord, Verse 18 tells us, “He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession.” We need to listen to God’s Word because it gives LIFE! Perhaps you have been told that you “should” read your Bible, so you conclude that the Bible is something you should read based on obligation not obedience. Our motive becomes to prove that we are good and make God happy. But James words should be a wakeup call for the church: We read the Word because it is the very source of life, not a check in life. It’s not rule based but relationship based, it’s not a duty but a delight. God’s Word is like oxygen for our lungs or water that quenches our thirst. It’s food for the soul. If we are going to listen to the Lord James says we have to stop talking and start trusting. Most of us are slow to listen to the Lord because we are quick to speak. How much of your communication with Christ involves listening to the Lord and how much telling the Lord? Is your prayer life dominated by your words or His? It is one thing to have facts about Jesus, it’s another thing to have faith in Jesus. It’s the difference between knowing about Jesus and knowing Jesus. It’s one thing to hear the Word of God, it is quite another thing to welcome the Word, to receive the Word. Are you opening up and receiving the Word?