Live Like You Believe It
I have been stuck on the phrase, “live like you believe it,” for the past month or so. Our Sunday School lesson spoke to this truth so strongly this week, that I just had to share.
James is a wonderful book. It is practical and it is clear. James 1:18-27 is a very clear passage that reminds us that we are to walk the talk and that our lives must display that we love Jesus.
In James 1:18, we read that God, “begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” God gave us new birth upon our salvation, that we should be the best fruit of all of His creation. Literally, we are born to be the best that God has made; therefore we need to live like the best. Let’s go through this passage verse by verse and see what it says about living as God’s best.
19 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:
Verse 19 is some good advice, but it’s also a commandment! The human, earthly, desire is always to be heard. When we are acting selfishly, we try to be heard and not to listen. But this practice of not listening is destructive – because we force others to listen to what we have to say, instead of hearing their hearts. As those who are God’s best, we need to be good listeners who keep our own thoughts to ourselves and who are slow to react. Our reaction to not being heard, unfortunately, can be that of anger.
20 For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.
Wrath and anger do not work to further bring about the kingdom of God, but wrath brings about the opposite – it destroys His kingdom. When we believe that what we have to say is more important than what anyone else has to say, we are setting ourselves up to get angry – and that anger will be a quick tool of the devil to destroy the relationships God has built up around us. So … we’re called to be God’s best, to be listeners who refrain from anger – those who build up God’s kingdom on earth.
21 Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.
We’re asked to lay apart from ourselves, filthiness (any kind of immorality or sin) and any extra disobedience or mischief, because we need to receive (with humility) the engrafted, or implanted, Word of God (which has the power to save souls). So literally, we need to move out the bad in our heart to fill it with good. Now, once the Word is in our heart, it takes root and grows. When a branch from one variety of apple trees is grafted to another variety, it will grow as if it had always been there. In the same way, when we make room for the Word in our lives, it has the power to grow in our hearts.
So … we lay aside sin and receive God’s Word to clean us up on the inside. As we read in our next verse, the Lord means for this “cleaning up” to show on the outside.
22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.
This verse could also say, “deceiving only yourself.” When we don’t act like saved people ought to act, people notice. We may think that we only notice, but people see what we do. And people watch those who follow Jesus. And people keep track of what Christians do. And people don’t forget what those they watch have done. It may be sad, but it is true. We are watched individuals, as those who love Jesus. So … we need to do what the Word says and live like we believe it.
James gives us an illustration to make sure that we get this.
23 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: 24 For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.
Those who hear the Word of God, but don’t live it, are like a man who looks at himself in a mirror and sees who he is and who he is meant to be, and just walks away. He ignores what he saw and forgets who he is. This is what we are if we forget that we are called to be God’s best.
25 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.
But the man who looks upon himself, as one who has found the liberty of salvation, and continues to live in that salvation, will not only hear what the Word says, but also do what the Word asks. This man will be blessed in what he does, both in this life and in the life to come.
After this illustration, we are given two specific examples of how we are called to be “doers” – one example for how we handle our self and one example for how we deal with others.
26 If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.
Our tongue is a powerful thing. James 3:4-10 tells us, “ Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth. Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.”
If we cannot control our tongue, we need to make sure that we have truly turned over our heart to the Lord, that the Holy Spirit can sweep through us and help us to lay aside that sin that we read about in verse 21. Our tongues are strong, but they have both the power to build up and to destroy. This is a power that we need to be mindful of, especially as those who follow Jesus.
27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
In our second example, we see how we are to treat others. We are to visit the fatherless and widows – that means to meet their needs both physically and spiritually. We are called to spend time with those who struggle, to listen to their hearts, and to love them with the love of Jesus.
Lastly, we are asked to keep ourselves unspotted from the world. If we learn anything as we walk this Christian life, we need to see that the devil will try to foul us up. The devil will try to cover us with spots …. with the spots of the world. And those “spots” will keep us from displaying the power of God in our lives. So, friends, this passage is a true “rubber meets the road” lesson. It is clear and it is direct. Our goal in this life is to be “unspotted” and living and acting as God’s best. Remember, you are the best that God created – live like it!