Letting The Word Slip Through Your Ears?

Text: James 1:22-27

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

The Apostle James comes against hypocrites in today’s Epistle Reading.  He is confronting Christians who are hearers of the Word but not doers of the Word.  In other words, he is trying to expose that there are individuals that say that they are Christians and act like Christians, but in reality, they are not Christians.  Instead, they are hypocrites. 

Now, let me caution you right now.  As you consider today’s Epistle reading, your mind may drift to other people that you know who fit James’ description.  In other words, I caution you from letting your mind shift the Epistle Reading away from your ears towards someone else.  You see, it is easy to hear a sermon and then think,

“Wow, this is good, I hope Johnny and Susie are listening.” 

Yes, when you hear a sermon and begin thinking about someone else needing to hear it, you are then not hearing it for yourself, which means that you become the very thing that you are condemning. 

So, James is confronting individuals that say that they are Christian – those who are merely hearers of the Word and not doers of the Word.  These are individuals who range from individuals called CEO Christians (Christmas and Easter Only Christians) to individuals that attend every function of the church, give tithes, serve on boards and walk the straight and narrow, yet the Word has not been received by faith. 

Yes, James is confronting individuals who are just hearers of the Word and not doers of the Word, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Some are not very involved in the church, and others are very faithful attendees of the church.  Some think they are Christians, but deep down they know that they do not believe what is being taught from the Bible.  They roll their eyes at the Bible when it doesn’t agree with their opinions.  They even dismiss the teachings of the church as too dogmatic and old fashioned, yet they hide their disagreement and pretend to be one of the church family.  Yes, they are hearers only of the Word and not doers of the Word. 

There are also individuals who hear the Word and agree, for the most part, but the Word never goes any farther.  They listen, perhaps and even enjoy what they hear, they think it is true, but then 5 minutes after these individuals hear the Word they forget it, leave it, and forsake it.   Yes, they are hearers only of the Word and not a doer of the Word.

So, the disturbing question for you to ponder right now is, are you a hearer of the Word only and not a doer?

But what does James mean when he says that you and I are not to be just hearers of the Word but doers too? 

It is easy to jump to the conclusion that James is calling everyone not only to hear but to perform some good deed or some Christian action along with hearing. However, this is not what James is confronting in our Epistle reading.   What James is confronting are individuals who merely hear the Word, and then the Word does not take root.  James is talking about people who hear the Word but hear it without faith. 

So, what this means is that to be a doer of the Word means that the Lord has His way with you by the power of His Word.  It means that what the Word says will happen, actually does happen.  For example, to be a doer of the Word means that you will experience repentance of sins from God’s Word of Law and faith in Jesus from God’s Word of Gospel. 

Dear friends, the Word of God is not dead.  It is living and active.  The Holy Spirit through God’s Word of Law brings about repentance of sins.  The Holy Spirit through God’s Word of Gospel brings about Faith.  The Word does something to you.  To be a doer of the Word is to be one that not merely hears the Word and then nothing happens.  To be a doer of the Word is to hear the Word and have the Word invade you.  To be a doer of the Word is to be one who experiences conviction of sin and faith in the Gospel.  To be a doer of the Word is to possess living faith! 

Keep in mind that scripture says that to do the will of God is to believe the Gospel.  We also think of the Philippian Jailer who says, “What Must I Do To Be Saved?” And Paul and Silas respond by saying, “Believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.”

So, dear friends, you are a doer of God’s Word, when you believe the Gospel.

Put another way, here is the main problem.  Can you imagine looking in the mirror, seeing who you are and then 10 minutes later forgetting who you are, what you are about, and what you do for a living?  Can you imagine taking a good look in the mirror and then 10 minutes later you forsake your whole history, your whole life story, your career, your vocation, and your memories.  That is crazy.  People who forget who they are after looking in a mirror are those that we would classify as having a severe case of Alzheimer’s.  People who forget who they are after looking in the mirror are individuals who may have amnesia, short-term memory loss, or are in need of medical help.  It doesn’t make sense.  However, this is what so often happens regarding Christians and the Word, and this is what James is confronting. 

Dear friends, too many times we will hear of our sin and God’s forgiveness towards us.  We will hear about the price that Christ paid on the cross for us. We hear that the blood-stained cross of Christ pays for every single sin that we have committed – that in Christ the wrath of God has been satisfied. And then, 10 minutes later after the Divine Service, the circumstances of life, our jobs, our projects, and the things of the world enter in, resulting in the message of God’s Word vanishing.  Puff!  Gone!  It is lost and forgotten.  The Word becomes disconnected.  It goes in one ear and falls out the other.  This is what it means to be a hearer of the Word only. This is the way of hypocrisy.   This is what is concerning to the Apostle James in our Epistle reading. 

You see, the original readers of the Epistle of James were like a husband who hears his wife when he is watching football, but nothing of what she says is absorbed, heard, or understood.  The readers of the Epistle of James were like children who hear mom yelling to come and eat but then are entirely sidetracked by beating level 8 on the video game Halo.  The readers of the Epistle of James were like wives who were pondering the words of their husband only to be distracted by a 30% off coupon to a fashion store.  To just hear the Word is like someone who looks in the mirror and then forgets how they look.  There is no lasting memory, nothing lasting about it.  It results in hypocrisy.  This is James’s concern.  So, James is, in essence, shaking things up calling us to take a good look in the mirror to not only hear but also to believe what the Word says about us.  The Word of God is not dead, which means that faith should not be dead.  And if there is no faith, well… that is not because of the Word but because of the person.    

So, dear friends, listen up today!  Do not let God’s Word slip through your ears on to the floor.  Repent of your apathy towards God’s Word. Repent of your hypocrisy.  Repent of your indifference, laziness, coldness, disinterest, and unresponsiveness towards God’s Word.  Repent and hear what God’s Word has to say about you.  Repent and hear God’s Word that is especially for you: 

The Lord has chosen not to leave you in your predicament of sin. 

You, who have ears, hear something profound: 

God was not content to let you slip into hell.  

Listen, dear Saints:

From eternity, God had a plan, and that plan was to send the God-Man, Jesus Christ to come, live, and die – for you.

Yes, hear:  

Jesus took the sin of the world upon Himself on that cross, which includes every single one of your sins.  And on that cross, Jesus absorbed the wrath of God on account of your sins.   

And so, you who once were spiritual orphans are now adopted as children of God.  You who were once dead in trespasses and sin have now been resurrected to life.  You who were guilty of sin are now justified and declared innocent of sin. 

Oh, dear Saints, may God the Spirit continually grant us ears to hear!  May He continually grant us faith to hear that our sins are forgiven and that we have life and salvation in Christ.    

May God the Spirit continually give us faith and assurance to know that Jesus has done everything necessary for our salvation, and in so doing, we will not be mere hearers of the Word, but doers. 

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

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