“How to Receive God’s Word”
INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of James 1.19-21
James 1. Do you find yourself unable to pay attention? Do you have a hard time concentrating on things you know should mean a lot to you?
“The average human’s attention span is… oh look, a bird!” So begins a news article. The author continues …
According to scientists in a study in Canada by Microsoft the age of smartphones has left humans with a much shorter attention span. After studying 2,112 participants, the results conclude that the average human attention span has fallen from 12 seconds in 2000 and now to 8 seconds.
Well you may ask… “What about goldfish? What’s a goldfish’s attention span?” Good question, I’ll tell you about goldfish. They have an attention span of 9 seconds, 1 second more than the average Canadian.
What’s funny about this is that in this article there is a photo showing a man sitting near the edge of his sailboat missing a humpback whale surfacing two feet away in front of him because he was glued to his phone. The moment was caught during an actual whale watch in California. The photographer said he had about five photos of whales with this sailboat in the background, but the guy never got off his phone in any of the pictures.
Unfortunately, this is how many Christians are treating the Word of God today. People today have a hard time concentrating on really important things and when people have a hard time concentrating in general, the word of God doesn’t have a rich dwelling in their heart, either.
We need to take heed to the Word of God. That’s James 1:18-21. Let’s read these verses …
James 1:18–21 18 In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures. 19 This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.
You’ll notice in the first verse that we’re told to be quick to hear. Quick to hear what? The word of God. That’s the focus of these verses. In verse 18, when you are brought forth by the word of truth… You’re not done with the word. No, verse 19, you need to be quick to hear it and verse 21 you need to receive the word implanted. So, clearly the context is receiving God’s truth, His word.
TRANS: So I’d like to preach on “How to Receive the God’s Word.” And in this passage, we have five ways to receive the word of truth. We’ll spend most of our time on this first one …. so, first, be quick to hear the word of God. I would argue this is mainly talking about the public reading and preaching of the word of God.
Quick to Hear
EXP: Verse 19….This you know my beloved brethren…or better … take note of this, listen to this, pay attention, wake up and hear this … Be quick to hear! …. To hear God’s Word!
EXP: keep in mind, James is writing his letter before Paul wrote any of his letters. Much of receiving God’s word at this time was through with listening.
And Jesus was constantly calling people to pay attention to His words.
Luke 8:18 18 “So take care how you listen; for whoever has, to him more shall be given;” … and on another occasion Jesus said …
Luke 9:44 44 “Let these words sink into your ears; for the Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men.”
In Revelation He says multiple times, “He who has an ear, let him hear!”
APP: But in general, people today are not listeners.
Michael Fabarez in his book Preaching that Changes Lives said this: “The average preacher has spent thousands of hours reading, attending classes, learning biblical languages, and honing skills in order to communicate the life-changing Word of God in an effective way. The average congregation, on the other hand, has received little or no training on how to listen to and integrate the sermons they hear each week . . . There are no seminars, workshops, or conferences designed to prepare [the] audience on how to receive the life-changing messages proclaim[ed] week after week. This is amazing when you consider that the Bible gives more instruction on how to receive God’s truth properly than it gives on how to proclaim it properly. God is very concerned with how preachers preach. But we tend to neglect His concern with how listeners listen.” We need to be listeners; to be quick to listen to the word of God. When someone speaks of God’s word, your ears should perk up.
But What keeps you from listening and being able to pay attention?
For one, you maybe weren’t taught to listen.
In your growing up years, did you learn to listen? You were taught to read, write, arithmetic, maybe even speaking, but were you ever taught to listen?
Two, you may have some physical things going on…maybe you’re too busy, tired, or sick.
ILL: Maybe you’re overcommitted. Our family consists of at least 3 Bearenstein bears fans. There’s one story where Brother Bear and Sister Bear get really excited about all the extracurricular activities they are doing… Horseback riding, baseball, soccer, computers, you name it. They are so busy they made a huge schedule and put it on the wall.
One night they all have nightmares about all the different activities they are going to do the next day, except for Mama Bear who doesn’t sleep at all that night. And they wake up the next day and they begin running around the house trying to get everything so they can run out the door, and finally when my Mama Bear starts the car, it won’t start. The kids are screaming and Mama Bear breaks down and weaps… This is not a life that is conducive to receiving the word of God.
You say yes to everything … yes to work, hobbies, kids, friends, …to everything but God, His Word, and your spouse. So husbands come home exhausted, wives are frustrated, kids are upset, and nobody has energy to talk and nobody has the ability to listen. You breathe in the same house and scarf at the same table but at different times and you never communicate. You’re family isn’t learning how to communicate with each other if this is the case.
And so now, what is this when it comes to the Word of God preached? When your heart is rushed around all weak, this time right now is probably the most quiet time you have each week … but your heart has been spent all week and now you have nothing left. Perhaps you have too much pressure. This is not a life conducive to listening to God’s Word preached. Learn to say “no” for the sake of the spiritual life of you and your family.
TRANS: A third reason you may not be quick to listen to God’s Word preached is because of an intense focus on visual media.
We are an extremely visual culture. Today we are so dependent on visual stimulation to get us to concentrate on anything. Why focus on a meaningful thought generated from black letters on a white page when you can see constantly moving colors on a 65 inch screen TV? Wow, look at that! Whoa!!
You can see a little of Satan’s plan …psst…”get people to focus on what they see more on what they hear … and when they hear something, it has to be real loud and have a driving beat … that way they’ll be numb when they hear God’s word.” The Word preached doesn’t have a loud driving beat, so it might sound boring!
If you can move a whole society away from listening and reading, you will effectively hinder the progress of the gospel.
And so today it’s hard for people to listen to an exposition of God’s word, a real exposing of God’s word in the text. One author noted 34 years ago in 1981…
It’s no wonder Johnny becomes bored unless he sees the preacher from a different camera angle every three seconds. He also misses the close-up shots of the pastor’s face dissolving into a wide-angle view of the choir; the instant replay when the preacher makes a particularly telling point (repeated in slow motion from two or three different camera positions, of course), and the break every ten minutes …for a word from [our] sponsor. In short, the pastor is up against some stiff competition.
Pity the poor pastor who has to try to convey the Word of God in mere words and who has to wean the flock from milk before being able to present the “strong meat.” On TV each night the “strong meat” of the world is readily accessible in just about any strength one cares for! And it is all served up in a way that requires no hard work or diligent study to comprehend, just sit and watch. It isn’t surprising that the sermon comes off second best in comparison with what Johnny has just seen on TV.
That was 34 years ago. What about today? Because our media is so fast, videos, text messaging, Facebook… We’re digesting so much of our information in such short snippets so it’s not outrageous to think that our brains have adjusted to that pace, and demands it. That’s why many preachers today are using a lot of visual media today … But it sure is difficult to compete with real-to-life dinosaurs and explosions every 5 minutes.
As one author jests … “Now kids, to help us learn about the pyramids, Johnny is going to come in and run over a history book with the Batmobile.” [crash sounds!] That’s not preaching. Preaching simply exposes the Words of God and if our minds and hearts … and the minds and hearts of our families are more tuned into the sights and sounds of this world than to preaching, you might say the preacher has a problem, but really it’s our hearts that have been practically rewired by the technology of this world…which is actually going on, btw. TV, Internet, and movies, mobile phone usage…all the studies say our brains are being rewired.
And this isn’t to mention the spiritual dimension that you face everyday.
Your unique evil desires, Satan’s demons…the fleshly responses in your heart and those you live and work with…The prospect of being quick to hear the Word of God is stacked up against you. What are you doing to over come it?
How do you get better at listening to God’s word?
How to encourage good listening habits
One, work at listening every day. Watch people, look at them, don’t interrupt them, receive what they’re saying and respond to it. Engage people in conversation.
Two, create an environment in your home for good listening. This is going to mean less visual media. Often people and families are watching something when they should be talking and listening to each other. If you create a listening habit in your home by actually talking about something …some idea, some issue, something that happened… If you create that kind of environment, you are influencing your family’s ability to listen.
ILL: I remember my dad constantly saying when I was growing up…” Look at me when I’m talking to you.” … and dad if you’re listening to this … I love you …ahem …
Three, study God’s word. Practice responding to it everyday. Follow Scripture’s train of thought. Our Sunday service is designed for listening to … and engaging God’s word and responding to it. How many of you have caught on that the Bible verse I read at the beginning of the service almost always has something to do with the sermon? Are you listening?
Four, prepare for the Lord’s day. This takes getting to bed at a good time on Saturday night, proper eating and drinking habits, getting a pen out and taking some notes…
George Whitfield in a sermon addressed listening to God’s Word. He gave many points on how to get the most out of the sermon. And one of them was to come to the service prepared to hear the word of God. Not to come out of curiosity, but from a sincere desire to know and then to do your duty as a Christian.
Give heed to the things that are spoken from the word of God. Turn back to Ezekiel 33 … I want to show us something….and it’s this … There is a great danger among God’s people today not to take heed to God’s word… to view the sermon merely as a song and dance…as a source of entertainment … not to something that demands your life. Ezekiel 33…verses 30-32…
Ezekiel 33:30–32 30 “But as for you, son of man, your fellow citizens who talk about you by the walls and in the doorways of the houses, speak to one another, each to his brother, saying, ‘Come now and hear what the message is which comes forth from the Lord.’ 31 “They come to you [speaking to the preacher Ezekiel … they come to you] as people come, and sit before you as My people and hear your words, but they do not do them, for they do the lustful desires expressed by their mouth, and their heart goes after their gain. 32 “Behold, you [the preacher] are to them like a sensual song by one who has a beautiful voice and plays well on an instrument; for they hear your words but they do not practice them.”
Brethren this ought not to be! Whenever you listen to God’s Word, you must be prepared to respond to it: whether it’s in your devotional time or when you’re listening to preaching.
ILL: A story in mind … true story … a preacher preached on how to get over a particular sin giving very specific advice…and it wasn’t but a month or two later … that a man casually said in a group of men including the pastor …that he was having trouble with this exact sin… no doubt the pastor wanted to ask him, “Brother, did you listen to God’s word on that? Are you responding to that word?”
TRANS: Back to James 1 now … Be quick to listen to God’s Word and respond to it. Take these things to heart in order to create an environment in your heart and in the hearts of your family to respond to God’s word.
But also be slow to speak.
Slow to Speak
James 1:19 19 … everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak
EXP: Think before you speak. Think about what you’re going to say, then say it. Again, remember James’ readers. This is in a small church setting and the picture may be a Bible teacher pastor speaking and then someone just interrupts him and starts spouting his opinion on doctrine of the Christian life … Be careful that what you speak about God’s word is true and right and be slow to speak.
James will say later that we should not be many teachers because teachers receive a stricter judgment.
And so James is warning us to be slow to speak because you can’t listen to God’s word if you’re talking.
Proverbs 10:19 19 When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, But he who restrains his lips is wise.” Restrain those lips!
Proverbs 15:28 28 The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, But the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.” Don’t just spout of, ponder how to answer first.
Proverbs 17:28 28 Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise; When he closes his lips, he is considered prudent.” A man who spouts all the time is not generally considered wise.
Proverbs 29:20 20 Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.
ILL: Look, you have 2 ears and one mouth for a reason. Listen twice as much as you speak. Be slow to speak, quick to hear.
Being slow to speak gives you a mindset of listening to God’s word.
APP: the problem is we are quick to speak and slow to listen. And this is especially true in the Christian life. You know, we wouldn’t tell plumber how to do his job, but everyone is an expert in religion, or how to run a church … and with that mindset, the loudest voices …the fools end up running churches.
Now, I’m all for good ideas and helpful discussion, and even if you need to rebuke me. But be careful that you don’t press your own thoughts and words too far.
TRANS: To receive God’s word, be quick to hear, slow to speak, and now James 1:19… slow to anger.
Slow to Anger
Be slow to anger. Control your temper. Your temper about what?
EXP: Again, the context dictates that we understand this in reference to receiving the word of God. Don’t be quick to get angry when you’re hearing preaching.
Why not? Because verse 20 says simply that man’s anger isn’t going to somehow produce God’s righteousness!
James 1:19–20 19 be … slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.
Just because you’re angry, doesn’t mean that you’re right! Just because you’re angry, doesn’t mean that you are righteous in this. People too often think that because they are angry, they are righteous in this situation. No!
ILL: It’s like the quick tempered guy whose wife invites him to church week after week. He finally concedes and goes with her one Sunday. And that day the pastor happens to be preaching on all of this guy’s sins. And he thinks to himself, “Well, this pastor knows all my sins and he’s just preaching against me.” So the man waits in the line to thank the pastor for the message and instead, this guy just punches him out!
Don’t be quick to be angry. Preaching is going to step on your toes every now and then. Don’t be soon angry.
Proverbs 19:11 11 A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger, And it is his glory to overlook a transgression.” Do you have discretion…wisdom, understanding…? .. .enough to keep you from getting angry …especially during a sermon?
Now, if you get upset because a preacher is sinfully mishandling God’s word … that’s one thing…but if you get upset because he’s just not saying what you want him to say … that’s quite another!
Proverbs 25:28 28 Like a city that is broken into and without walls is a man who has no control over his spirit.
Proverbs 16:32 32 He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, And he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city.
Are you a mighty man who controls his anger or a foolish weak man who doesn’t control his temper?
Proverbs 12:16 16 A fool’s anger is known at once, But a prudent man conceals dishonor.
APP: not once has someone been upset about what they’ve heard from this pulpit. Be careful … b/c if you’re angry about the preaching of God’s word, you may be cutting off your heart from sound biblical preaching, which may be your only lifeline to get you back on the right track.
I’m far from perfect as your pastor, but if you go home on Sunday’s and you have roasted pastor for lunch, you’re going to kill off what’s remaining from your spiritual life, not to mention that of your own family. For your own good, don’t soon be angry at the preaching of God’s Word.
APP: Also if you’re generally an angry person, it’ll keep you from receiving God’s word. Angry people are always right and are not easily corrected. How could you, if you’re generally angry, how could you also generally … humbly receive the Word of God?
Call it what it is…but you say, “I’m just honest…or blunt…or other people are too thinned skinned…” No, you’re an angry person…and James says here that that doesn’t produce a righteous life.
Matthew 5:22 22 “…everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.”
Far from producing the righteous life God desires, anger makes you guilty enough for hell.
ILL: In Gen. 4, … and you could turn there … In Genesis 4 Cain is angry with his brother Abel and kills him.
Genesis 4:3–8 3 So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the Lord of the fruit of the ground. 4 Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and for his offering; 5 but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell. 6 Then the Lord [attempts to give him His word …. the LORD] said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? 7 “If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” 8 Cain told Abel his brother. And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.
Cain was angry and the LORD Himself comes to rebuke him…but he was in no condition to receive the word of God. Cain didn’t master his sin…When you’re angry, you’re proud…you need to be held back from going after someone, you are not controling yourself, and so you’re weak toward God and His word.
If you have anger problem, study Ps. 4:4-5. Paul quotes this in passage in Ephesians 4:26. Here’s what it says …
Psalm 4:4–5 4 Tremble [with anger is the idea…], and do not sin; Meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still. … 5 Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, And trust in the Lord.
That’s your counsel for anger. You need to purposefully think on good things, do righteous acts for God, and trust in the LORD. Receive that word from God to get over anger.
TRANS: Quickly for the last two … To receive God’s word, repent. Be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, and now repent.
Repent of Sin
James 1:21 21 Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.
How do you receive the word? How? By putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness. Put it aside, like it’s a piece of clothing. Lay it aside. This is speaking of repentance. Turn from those sins … turn your back on them don’t give them your allegiance. Purposefully turn your back. Hate those sins. Repent of these things we’ve been speaking of this morning or you will find yourself less able to receive the word of God.
So practice repentance; live it. Live a life of repentance where you are constantly repenting and asking the Lord to forgive you of your sin… telling Him how you don’t want your sin and that’s constantly your attitude. When you do that all the time, you’ll have a heart that’s more receptive to God’s word. Repent to have a heart that’s receptive to God’s Word.
TRANS: Finally, humility. Be humble to better receive God’s word.
Verse 21, in humility receive the word implanted.
EXP: this is submitting to God’s word; coming underneath God’s word. Letting it judge you and not you … it. Be teachable. This is humility.
And it is the implanted word here because that word of God is not found naturally in your heart. That word must be implanted in you. It’s like the parable of the soils. You must have good soil in your heart and that seed must be planted in your heart for it to take root. The right soil is a heart of humility … that’s being teachable.
CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of James 1.19-21
So do you have a hard time concentrating on God’s word? Are you like the goldfish minus one second? Are you like that guy on the sailboat glued to his phone who missed the whale and you are missing important things from the word of God? Do you struggle with paying attention? Will you work on listening? Tell you what, I’ll work on preaching if you work on listening? Sound like a good deal?
This take time and effort doesn’t it? Do you need to make some changes…do you need to say ‘no’ to something? Do you know if your children are getting anything out of the Scripture from week to week? Have you asked them if they understood something from God’s word recently? Do you need to change some things in your home to make your heart and the hearts of your children more able to listen? Let’s take some action here; let’s get serious about receiving God’s word.
469 take time to be holy