The Book of James, Part 17:
The Distinctiveness of True Disciples:
We Need to Live It

Review:

Last time we met, we completed the first two of the four "Learnings" from James 1:22-27 where James describes the "Distinctives Of True Disciples".

What is distinctive about true disciples of Jesus?

We focused on how to actually learn from studying the Bible. It is more than just to hear about it or just to read it. It is the process of actually learning what God says and understanding what we need to do about it.

We looked at the "hand" analogy of learning, which includes hearing, reading, studying and memorizing as every increasingly powerful ways to learn combined with the thumb which was meditating on what we have heard, read, studied and memorized.

So far we have dealt with the "Listen":

    1. We Need To Listen

And we have dealt with the "Learn"

    2. We Need To Learn.

My "takeaway" from the last lesson is that there is only one mirror into which we can look to get a true picture of ourselves and our lives. It is the Bible. The Bible is the only standard we can use for our life, not society, not family, not friends, and certainly not the media, Hollywood and public figures.

We still need to deal with:

    3. We Need To Live It, and
    4. We Need To Be Lights

So this morning, we will hit "Living it".

This week we shift in emphasis from knowing God's Word to applying it to our lives. The point that James drives home in this passage is that knowing is not enough.

Author and pastor, A. W. Tozer wrote, "The Bible recognizes no faith that does not lead to obedience, nor does it recognize any obedience that does not spring from faith. The two are at opposite sides of the same coin."

Obedience:

That's what James is teaching here. Obedience is the true measure of faith.

How do we measure greatness? Is it on the basis of accomplishment or position or appearance? We measure greatness by accomplishment.

John Stott wrote, in Authentic Christianity, that "Greatness in the kingdom of God is measured in terms of obedience."

The measure of our maturity as a Christian is not how much you know, it's how much you do, how much let Jesus be Jesus in you.

Jesus also taught that obedience is the true measure of our love for Him:

If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. --John 14:15

He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him. --John 14:21

If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father's who sent Me. --John 14:23-24
Living what we learn is an essential part of discipleship, which is our response to God's Word.

Chuck Colson in his book "Loving God" says "God doesn't want our success; He wants us. He doesn't demand our achievements; He demands our obedience."

    3. We Need To Live It

But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror;  for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does. --James 1:22-25
Here's the core of James' message about God's Word. James would be very comfortable appropriating Nike's motto: "Just do it!"
Someone has wisely observed that far more Christians observe Jesus' birthday (Christmas) than observe His commandments!

Do you know who said this? It was Benjamin Franklin in Poor Richard's Almanac.

James repeatedly drives home the truth that discipleship is expressed by our obedience:

Do not merely listen to the word, and delude yourselves. Do what it says. --James 1:22
One great danger of a failure to apply God's word is that we deceive ourselves.

"Delude" - is from an interesting Greek word, paralogizomai. It means basically "to miscalculate, to reason wrongly". That fits well with what James is saying here - we are reasoning wrongly when we think that just listening is enough to please God. We are kidding ourselves.

That's why it's so important to really know what the Bible says. There are so many wrong ideas about what it takes to please God; there are even a lot of wrong ideas about what the Bible actually teaches.

Verse 22 is addressed to "Yourselves" - Whom do we fool? James says we only fool ourselves. That's important to remember. We don't fool God; we only fool ourselves.

What are some factors that make doing what Jesus says so difficult for us?

Nate Saint was one of five missionaries killed trying to share Christ with a tribe of Indians in Ecuador back in the 1950's. Nate made a great observation about obedience. He once said that his life did not change until he came to grips with the idea that "obedience is not a momentary option . . . it is a die-cast decision made beforehand."

Maybe this truth is more important than we realize in answering the question, why is obeying Jesus so difficult. Obedience is always going to be tough if it's just a "momentary option". Have you, have I, made a decision to obey Jesus or not?

What can we do to develop a lifestyle of obedience to the Lord?

But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does. --James 1:25
James tells us that we gain freedom by looking intently at what God has to say to us. We tend to see obeying God as confining. We think of obedience in terms of what God is going to make us give up. But James didn't see God's Word that way. James describes the Bible as "the perfect law that gives liberty".

Everybody longs for freedom. But for many people its pursuit leads to bondage. Running from God, which many people see as their personal freedom, doing what they want, doing what feels good in fact creates bondage. In fact, this is exactly what the Bible teaches - that disobeying God leads to bondage not freedom.

Henrietta Mears was a well-known Bible teacher who had an incredible ministry based at Hollywood Presbyterian Church. Here is how she explained the freedom that is ours in Christ, "A bird is free in the air. Place a bird in the water and he has lost his liberty. A fish is free in the water, but leave him on the sand and he perishes. He is out of his realm. So, the Christian is free when he does the will of God and is obedient to God's command. This is as natural a realm for God's child as the water is for the fish, or the air for the bird."

...abides by it... --James 1:25
Abides - This is an important word in what James is saying here. It's another interesting word in Greek. The Greek word is parameno. It means literally "to remain beside or near". Paul used this same word when he talked about staying with the Philippians:
Php 1:25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith... Philippians 1:25
Parameno tells us that obeying the Lord must become a lifestyle for us. Someone said that "when God puts a period, don't change it to a question mark." When God commands, we don't question the command, we obey the command!
But one who abides by it, will be blessed in what he does. --James 1:25
So who gets the blessing? No, God's blessing is promised here only to those who obey. This is straight from the teaching of Jesus:
If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them. --John 13:17
As we spend time in God's Word, we need to always be thinking in terms of obedience and application. Here's a word that can help you discover different applications from a passage: RESPECT. Just remember to ask yourself, "R you treating God's Word with respect?" Now leave off the "R" and you have six different kinds of applications to look for in any passage, that will be easy to remember.

Ask, is there...

  1. We Need To Listen
  2. We Need To Learn
  3. We Need To Live It
  4. We Need To Be Lights
Next Week:

...we will study the fact that we need to be lights. We need to live our lives in a manner worthy of our calling as a Christian.