“The word of God often comes in collision with man’s hereditary and cultivated traits of character and his habits of life. But the good-ground hearer, in receiving the word, accepts all its conditions and requirements. His habits, customs, and practices are brought into submission to God’s Word. In his view, the commands of finite, erring man sink into insignificance beside the word of the infinite God. With the whole heart, with undivided purpose, he is seeking the life eternal, and at the cost of loss, persecution, or death itself, he will obey the truth.” - Ellen G. White, Christ’s Object Lessons, 60
We are under the authority of the Word of God because we are under the authority of the God who gave it. One day, every knee will bow in acknowledgement of God’s supreme rule and reign over all. As followers of Christ, we can show our submission to God by our submission to His Word, not only by acknowledging its truthfulness but by walking in obedience to the truth it teaches.
In today’s message, we will consider how our submission to God demands not only our acknowledgement of the truth of His Word but also our obedience to all it teaches.
I. OUR OBEDIENCE TO GOD’S WORD BEGINS WITH ACTIVE HEARING (VERSES 19, 20)
After getting his hearers’ attention with “Know this,” James follows with a present imperative (a command calling for continuous action), which, if over-translated, could read, “Let every person keep on being quick to hear . . .” The two other actions they are to avoid—talking too much and reacting harshly in anger—impair one’s ability to hear clearly. Further, they are to “receive with meekness the implanted word” (a command), in part by “putting away” (a participle) all filthiness and wickedness. Doing this is similar to having their spiritual ears cleaned, making sure they are actively leaving the vestiges of their old sinful lifestyle that would hinder their hearing of the Word of God.
James is not implying that his readers can work toward sinless perfection, causing them to hear the Word of God in a manner that is completely unhindered by their sinful nature. He is, however, making clear that they will be better prepared to hear and receive the truth of the Word if they are active both in listening to the Word and in removing any known spiritual hindrances.
Do you regularly position yourself to hear the Word of God clearly? Do you allow the Word of God to speak to your heart rather than simply talking or reacting in anger? Do you walk away from those practices that keep you from hearing?
II. OUR OBEDIENCE TO GOD’S WORD REQUIRES ONGOING ACTION (VERSES 22-24)
James gives another command at the beginning
of verse 22: “keep on being doers of the
word.” A person can listen to the best pulpiteers,
the best radio teachers, and the best Bible study
leaders every week and still dishonor God by disobeying
the truth he or she has heard. The end of
such a practice, James says, is self-deception.
As one commentator so aptly put it, “The growing
numbers of sermon-sippers who flit from
one doctrinal dessert to another like helpless
hummingbirds are deceiving themselves.” How
frequently you listen to the “Sermons” playlist on
your iPod is not the measure of your submission
to God and His Word.
Ultimately, our true submission to God and
His Word is not demonstrated by the amount
of time we spend listening to or reading God’s
truth, but by the degree to which we live in obedience
to it. God has given us His Word as a mirror
that shows us an accurate reflection of who we
are. Our response to seeing that reflection, having
responded in repentance and faith to Christ,
should be gratitude for God’s grace and obedient
submission to His rule. Jesus said those who are
truly in relationship with Him and who truly love
Him will obey what He commands (John 14:15).
Perhaps you have heard the equation: Stated Belief + Actual Practice = Actual Belief. If that is true, what does your current obedience to God’s Word say about the degree to which you believe it? Does the way you live your life demonstrate consistent, active submission to God and His Word through a lifestyle of ongoing obedience?
III. OUR OBEDIENCE TO GOD’S WORD RESULTS
IN PROMISED BLESSING (VERSE 25)
Will an occasional glance into God’s Word
and a half-hearted attempt at living in obedience
to what little we have read suffice for a life submitted
to God? Certainly not! James says his
hearers should “look into” the law of God, suggesting
the idea of “stooping down to get a close
look.” They are to look into the “perfect law, the
law of liberty.” God’s law does not bring oppression;
it brings true freedom, true liberty. Freedom
under God’s law is not freedom to do what I want
but a freedom to do what I ought, having been
set free from the bondage of sin (see Rom. 6).
There is no greater freedom than man, God’s
creation, living in obedience to God’s will and
plan. To do so is to live according to the purpose
for which we were created.
So what is this promised “blessing” that
comes as a result of obedience? Does our obedience
to God’s Word promise material blessing
and prosperity? No! In fact, read Job. Read
the New Testament accounts of faithful Christ followers who suffered persecution for their
obedience rather than receiving material blessings.
So, then, what is the blessing? The greatest
blessing of obedience is the delight a child
experiences knowing that his or her obedience
has resulted in the honor and joy of a delighted
parent. Our blessing is the honor God receives
through our obedience.
Do you find delight and “blessing” in knowing
that God is honored and glorified through
your obedience to Him? To do so is a mark of
true submission to God.
For the one who has not trusted Christ as
his or her Savior, the first act of submission is
to repent and, by faith, trust in Christ as the only
Savior. For those who are Christ-followers, we
show our submission to God by obeying His
Word and experiencing the blessing of honoring