“Prove Yourselves Doers of the Word!”
INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of James 1.22-25
James 1. A man realizes that he lacks tools in his shed. So he hops in his truck goes to the hardware store and buys his tools. But then he never uses them!
And then there is the starving man. Who, when he receives bread, rejoices at the sight and smell of that fresh bread … but he dies, refusing to eat it.
So it is with many hearers of God’s word. They hear God’s word but they do not practice it.
Last time in James we emphasized the necessity of receiving God’s word. Be quick to hear and with humility, receive the implanted word. But don’t just receive the word, be doers of the word. But let’s read now…
James 1:22–25 22 But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. 23 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; 24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. 25 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.
I’m preaching on Proving yourselves doers… how? By responding to and practicing God’s word.
First, we’ll observe the hearer of God’s Word and then the doer of God’s word.
The Mere Hearer
We are exhorted here not merely to hear the word but to also do the word.
Merely Hearers and Not Doers
ILL: The word “hearer” in verse 22 can refer to someone who hears something with pleasure. Such as music, or some speech, or a play performed… This person downloads the data into their heart with pleasure.
But they go away, as one who enjoys the number, but they don’t take any action.
But that’s all the word of God is to him, a song and a dance.
ARG: Again, as I quoted a couple of weeks ago… 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 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 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.
Too many church goers are like this. They hear a sermon or read the Bible, they enjoy the sweet sound of it, the colorful language and the beauty of the text, the religious experience of attending to a sermon, but they go away and are not changed.
James says this is delusional.
Hearing and Not Doing is Delusional
Don’t be merely hearers who delude themselves.
EXP: Deluding themselves…this is self deception.
ILL: they enjoy the sermon on repentance, but they have not repented. They’ve heard the plea to flee to the cross to be rescued from the wrath to come and look down the aisle and are concerned for other people, while they themselves have not believed. They hear the message of the cleansing power of the blood of the Lamb, but yet they themselves are still in their sins. This is not the way everlasting blessing!
These are they who are in a caravan and see the oasis in the desert, and watch others drink their fill, but they themselves have failed to drink. These are they who stand outside the doors of Fort Knox…who are invited in to take all they want, but remain outside!
You know the sweet gospel call and the purity of life in Christ, but upon hearing it, you go your way and wallow back in the mire. And the whole time these people are self deceived, thinking, “What joy, what delight is this sound in my ears; what good news! I do hope that many shall hear this and I shall tell others!”
APP: Have you come to God’s word and heard it preached…but haven’t changed? Do you not see where you need to change? You do, but have you heard this call? You have, but will you do it!?
APP: how many sermons have you heard? In the past 3 years, if you’ve been with us, you’ve heard Mark, Ephesians, and various series. You understood and received at least some of those messages. What is different in your life? We’ve taught on marriage, family, anger, lying, speech, witnessing, discipleship, prayer, …any improvement?
If you haven’t grown, it may well be because you’re self-deceived, you may be deluded as verse 22 says. You might think, “I went today and judged the sermon to see if I liked it or not. And now, having made a proper judgment, I now count myself religious and as having done my proper duty.” How foolish! What are you going to do about it? You may like it or not, but what are you going to do about it? God doesn’t care about your critique of some sermon; God cares that you understand the Word of God and that you be doers of it.
Yes, there are many preachers who make a mockery of God’s word. But how many listeners do the same? Many Bible colleges have sermon contests. Maybe more importantly we should have sermon listening contests. We compare this preacher with that preacher like we trade baseball cards…
Repent of some sin, the preacher says … “great message, wonderful! I sure hope the lady down the pew heard that one!” How many church goers hear the message “turn or burn” and it’s a wonderful teaching, but they themselves haven’t turned…. This is deception, self-deception.
It’s not about just going to church and not living a sinful life. You could be lost and not drink, not smoke, not watch bad movies, or listen to “bad music”… and“love” those in your family…many lost people haven’t yelled at their kids. Doing that just makes you no better than lost people. Don’t deceive yourself into thinking that you’re ok; everything is fine if you don’t listen to God’s Word and you are habitual doers of it.
ILL: ….as someone once said, “it’s enough for some church goers to believe that one should believe in Jesus without themselves having believed Him.” Do you only believe that you must believe in Jesus, but as of yet you haven’t believed?
Do you believe that one should love his wife without you loving your wife? Do you believe that a wife should respect her husband but yourself do not? Are you a child who believes a child should honor their father and mother, but you yourself do not?
ILL: It’s like the skinny 10 year old boy flexing in the mirror and sees Arnold Schwarzenegger.
This is delusional.
The hearer looks closely at the Word
But it’s not like the hearer doesn’t have some joy in what he hears from God’s word. The hearer enjoys listening to these things, alright! He hears the word …he hears it like an orchestra and now verse 23 “he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror” … “Looks” is a word for careful observation and consideration. He’s not quick to shove off God’s Word, he actually finds a sort of pleasure peering into the Word of God.
James 1:24 24 for once he has looked [same word] at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was.
So James illustrates his point.
Just like a man looks carefully into a mirror, so also the mere hearer of God’s word looks closely into God’s word.
The mirrors of the first century would’ve been made out of some polished metal, like bronze, silver, or gold. And you can look at your natural face, that face you were born with, in that mirror. The mirror reflects what’s really there.
ILL: “Mirror mirror on the wall who’s the fairest of them all” I’m telling ya… it ain’t you, brother!”
And so what do you do? You’ve done this … You look real close at the mirror…that’s the word, there in verse 23…look. You look, study, examine is the idea. It’s not a casual glance. And so you then, if you are in your right mind…you proceed to fix yourself. You shave, comb your hair, pluck, paint, dab, powder, spray…you do everything you can to get yourself more presentable. As one wise philosopher once said … “if the barn needs painting, paint it!”
But the hearer in our passage doesn’t do that. Oh, he looks alright. He studies, examines, and makes all those funny faces in the mirror … but doesn’t fix a thing. He studies himself and leaves. And because he leaves the mirror, he forgets what kind of person he really is…and he’s not shaven, or she’s got no make up on, or whatever.
Ever done that?
ILL: I have. I, at least twice, have come to church having forgotten to shave! Many then make these kind of comments, “are you trying to grow a beard?” No, I just forgot shave. Or going out in public without having brushed your teeth…and so you’re self-conscious of your morning breath. Or ladies, you forgot to put on that one crucial piece of makeup…and oh no!
You looked in the mirror, but you forgot to fix the problem.
Now, the word of God is the mirror here. Especially the New Covenant gospel, that law that gives freedom! But it’s generally the word of God.
POINT: Just like your mirror at home shows you all the flaws in your face, the word of God, as you look intently into it, will show you the flaws of your heart. It shows you your flaws and aims at conviction.
Just like you don’t look into a mirror and not fix your face, so also you shouldn’t look into the Word of God and not fix your heart.
Just like looking into a mirror…why, that’s me! Look, that’s my face! And my nose hairs, pimples, and the rest. Now, same thing with reading God’s word and hearing it preached. Looking into that spiritual mirror, the word of God … “Hey, look, that’s me…I’m not right, I need change. I’m not going to let this slide, I’m going to fix it.” You’d fix your face that will one day end in the grave, if the Lord tarry’s, why would you not fix your immortal soul? Why would you not work at changing?
Nothing is better proof of the Bible that it is the word of God than the fact that the Bible gets the heart of man right. We are rebellious, we are sinful, and we need salvation. The Bible is designed to be alive and active in your heart and to discern your thoughts and motives… And the question becomes, “will you submit to it and respond to it and do it?”
You’ve been struggling with that sin for years and you’ve heard sermons on it…isn’t it time to get it right? Isn’t it time to practice the righteousness you already know to do? Stop deceiving yourself.
APP: Just because you may know facts about God’s word, that’s not enough. The church is not a lecture hall. You might even come here and look carefully into the words of God and take notes … now, taking notes is important, but just because you do that in a service doesn’t mean you’ve arrived in the spiritual life. God is more pleased with the doer of God’s words then the one who can remember all the points of a message.
But the thing is, that note taker could be the one who takes notes, but goes away and forgets what manner of person he is.
The hearer forgets
The hearer of God’s word who doesn’t do the word … he’s self-deceived, even though he may enjoy the Bible and preaching, but he forgets how the word cut to his heart and he doesn’t do a thing about it.
This is verse 24, the man who walks away from a sermon that was aimed at conviction and he’s convicted … “that passage or sermon told that man or woman all things that ever I did.”
Or he knows he needs to respond, but gets up from the message, and he has a flippant thought of needing to shave that out of his life and add that into his life…but instead, he forgets.
Sunday lunch is coming…and then you get busy…and then this and that fire will need to be put out and then … Sunday’s sermon is gone!
So what do you do then?
TRANS: Why do some people shoot up like weeds after they get saved and others stagnate for years? Because of this…Those who change, look intently and don’t forget who they are…they don’t just go off and do nothing, they change, they put some unction into it, and wrestle and fight, struggle, and pray!
Know thyself; don’t forget what manner of person you are after the word of God cuts open your heart. As you look at the prostitutes and drunkards, rioters, and the murderers … can you say, “in my heart of hearts …there go I! That’s in my heart.” Take that desperate attitude to the Word of God…and peer into and respond to it. Don’t just be content with the peering…demand the change, demand the response, demand the growth in yourself that God wants and use His Word as a tool for your own change.
TRANS: The mere hearer may enjoy God’s word, but he doesn’t practice the word of God. He is self deceived about who he really is. He thinks he’s ok. But instead of actually doing something about it, he goes his way and forgets about the kind of person he really is.
James now shifts from the foolishness of the hearer to the wise doer.
The Effectual Doer
Don’t just do the word, be doers. Don’t just play hockey, be a hockey player. Don’t just box, be a boxer. Don’t just do the word, be doers of the word. Prove yourself to be a doer of the word. It’s a lifelong habitual day in and day out sometimes gruelling exercise, it’s a … on your way to being a world-class doer of the word of God. This is your character, this is your life, a life of repentance and change, conviction and response, and growth.
He proves himself to be a doer of the word of God because he hears … and day in and day out … he habitually responds to and obeys God’s Word.
James 1:25 25 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.
He hears and obeys God’s Word, this perfect law of liberty. This is the law that gives liberty, it gives freedom. James has been speaking about the word of God. For example in verse 18, the word of truth. This word is implanted, verse 21 says. God used that implanted word to bring us forth in order to cause us to be born again.
And in Jeremiah 31:31, Jeremiah prophesies of God’s new covenant in his Messiah hundreds of years before the coming of Christ. And he prophesied there that God’s law in the New Covenant would be written on our hearts. In other words, it would be implanted, just as James 1:21 says. This is that law of God that’s found in the new covenant in Christ; it saves! And as we grow in the gospel of Christ and obey the teaching of the One whose blood inaugarated the NC we grow and are sanctified. Thus, this New Covenant law gives liberty, it frees us from the power of sin.
He receives God’s Word
This doer of the word, verse 25 looks intently at this law of liberty. This law that gives freedom. He bends over and peers down into it. Looking intently into it. This word look intently is used in John 20:5 and verse 11. And it’s used to describe both Peter and Mary as they peered down into the empty tomb of Christ. No doubt they peered down into that tomb with wonder and amazement.
The doer of the word of God peers into God’s word …and he is cut in his heart…the Word reveals his true character, and it divides his heart and it opens him up and he considers this treasure indeed.
Proverbs 2 … He has received God’s words and treasured God’s commandments within him… he has made his ear attentive to wisdom and has inclined his heart to understanding …. yes he has cried for discernment and lifted up his voice for understanding and has sought her as silver and searched for her as for hidden treasures… And he has therefore…discerned the fear of the Lord and has discovered the knowledge of God.
GOSPEL: [perhaps you’ve heard of the gospel for a long time and you’ve never responded…] This is the doer of the word…he looks intently into this law that gives freedom, this glorious gospel … He marvels at the death, the effective death of Christ to take away sin…his sin. He peers in wonder at the glorious resurrection and how he fulfilled his own prophecy of raising himself from the dead. And now he looks above where Christ sits at the right hand of God and …as he has pleaded with him for forgiveness of sins and has received eternal life, he keeps on receiving that cleansing power of the blood of the Lamb, through a life of conviction, repentance, forgiveness, cleansing, and growth.
TRANS: He receives God’s word and he practices God’s word. He practices God’s word.
He practices God’s Word
He is, verse 25 says, an effectual doer.
Psalm 103:18 God’s righteousness is to those who keep His covenant And remember His precepts to do them.
The doer practices God’s word; he abides in it, verse 25 says. That is, he continues in the word. He keeps on getting exposed to God’s word; he keeps on desiring God’s word to do it’s work. And he keeps on changing and growing…he doesn’t just keep on listening and not changing. He keeps on receiving, longing and growing. He refuses to stop no matter how tough it is.
Examples: When the Word exposes some issue in his life, he fixes it.
ILL: it’s like having a cowlick. When he sees that hair out of place in the mirror…even though it’s out of place every day when he looks in the mirror, he works on it until he sees it’s getting fixed.
His anger, her worry, her fear…he works on it.
If you hear a message on repent, you repent. If you hear a message on making disciples, you pray and ask God to help you make disciples. You’re struggling with some sin and the Bible exposes your heart…, you not only concede, you repent, and actively work on it, pouring over those verses to help you.
Is your longing that you become like Jesus? Is that your constant prayer? This is God’s design; do you seek Him for this salvation?
True Bible wisdom and knowledge is lived. It’s never of the head only; it’s always of the heart. When knowledge is given from God’s word, listeners are required to receive it and to act/respond to it.
If you don’t practice what you know, even what you think you know will be taken away.
Matthew 13:11–13 11 Jesus answered them, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted. 12 “For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him. 13 “Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.
Wisdom will increase to greater wisdom; foolishness will decrease into greater foolishness.
APP: if you hear some sermon or read the Word, and your conscience is convicted, do something. Make plans and accomplish those plans. Most times it’s going to be repentancce and asking God to help you live righteously, to love others, to ask for cleansing from sin, or to get a plan to get over some sin.
And right now, are you making excuses…”well, I can’t because I’m too busy, well, if the pastor would only … well, if God would allow me more time in His word…” Do find other things to think about during sermons? The grocery list, your business, that coworker, frivolous things? Folks, this is life or death! Receive it and do it.
If you do, it’s blessings for you, my friend.
The doer receives blessing in doing
James 1:25 25 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.
You’ll be blessed, spiritually prosperous, rich in heart. Rich of soul. On one occasion in Luke 11, while Jesus was speaking a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said, “Blessed is the womb that bore you…blessed is your mom in other words.” But Jesus responds, “On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”
Hear and obey.
CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of James 1.22-25
A man with tools and doesn’t use them.
A starving man who rejoices at food prepared for him and doesn’t eat it.
A cook who dies of hunger.
“are you going to look on at the Table of Mercy,” Spurgeon said, “and admire it and yet refuse its provisions? Does it give you a thrill of pleasure to see so many taken from the highways and the hedges and brought in and will you stand outside and never partake yourself? I always pity the poor little boys on a cold winter night who stand outside a steaming restaurant window and look in and see others feasting, but have none themselves. I cannot understand you! All things are ready and you are bid and persuaded to come—and yet you are content to perish with hunger! I pray you think of yourselves and I ask the Spirit of God to make you doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” QUIET TO RESPOND. 525 trust and obey