It’s too easy to think of life in today’s world as so far removed from biblical times that those words, written so long ago, may not have much relevance for today. As it turns out, nothing could be further from the truth. Although we tend to think of New Testament Christians as living in a vastly different context than we are living in today, the similarities are much greater than the differences. The human heart is the same. The Gospel truth is the same. And the pressures that Christians face, when you reduce it to the essentials, are really not that different after all.
James is a practical book written to 1st century Christians who are trying to live out their faith in the midst of a hostile culture. They are people like you and me who spiritually are swimming upstream in a downstream world. If they are going to survive, they need a faith that is deeper than words – a faith that will survive testing at every level and on every front.
A Christianity that is based on convenience and comfort will not last. Only a belief that is grounded in conviction will stay the course. And that kind of belief will manifest itself in behavior that is conformed to Scriptural conviction—not the surrounding culture.
Christianity in this kind of culture is not for cowards. It is for men and women who are committed to maturing in their faith and commitment to Christ and His Word.
But what does a mature faith look like? What are the marks of this kind of faith? James points the way with three important markers: this kind of faith is a faith that rightly responds to trials (1:2-12), temptation (1:13-18), and truth (1:19-27).
Our response to truth is especially significant because it is foundational to the others. If I respond correctly to truth, then I will “count it all joy” (1:2) when facing various trials. And if I respond correctly to truth, then I will refuse the strong pull of temptation, knowing that it leads to death and steals from God’s purpose of producing fruit in my life.
James tells believers that they will know they are growing and maturing in their walk with God when they are consistently and correctly responding to God’s Truth.
So what does that response look like when it gets up out of bed?
Receiving God’s Word
Responding to God’s Word, of course, assumes receiving God’s Word. Mature Christians will be on the lookout, listening and learning from the words of Scripture. They will demonstrate humility in their attentiveness to God’s voice and submissiveness in their attitude toward God’s Word.
In the words of James, they will be “swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (1:19).
We may often think of these instructions when it comes to our relationships with others, but this passage noticeably links these commands and our reception and response to God’s Word.
Responding to God’s Word
As you attentively listen and submit to Scripture, there is an inevitable effect – your life will change! You will be cleansed of sin and will progress towards purity.
Before hearing the Word, we were covered in filth and overflowing with wickedness. But now we are under the purifying power of God’s Word. In a sense, submitting to God is like placing yourself under the sanctifying shower of Scripture!
Reflecting God’s Word
Properly responding to God’s Word means His Word will not end at our ears. It will make its way into our life.
God reveals Himself to us through His Word in order that we may reveal Him to others through a life conformed by His Word. In other words, a mature Christian is one who reflects the Word personally and publicly in his daily life.
Those who are only hearers of God’s Word are like those who see themselves in mirror, notice a blemish, and yet walk away without any change. What is sad is that they miss more than just an opportunity for sanctification. Think about it – what about all the people who have to look at that blemish throughout the day? They are missing out as well!
This is the glorious opportunity we have when we humbly receive and properly respond to God’s Word – we can reflect it to those around us!
So how are you doing? How well are you actually applying what God says to you in the Word to your life? You have wonderful devotions, but did they actually change your life? You listen and take great notes from the sermons each week, but how are you actually conforming your character and your conduct?
The person who will be blessed is not the one who reads their Bible or has a deep knowledge of truth. The blessed one actually applies what they know so that their life is conformed to truth.
Here’s some areas to think about:
“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.” (1:26)
“Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction…” (1:27a)
“…and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (1:27b)
The problem with not bothering to live like this is that it makes our “religion” worthless. It will have no weight.
If our speech, conduct, and character is more like the world’s than God’s, then those who are touched by our lives will find our “religion” absolutely weightless and worthless! It will have no impact—in fact, it will actually turn people away from God.
If we want to make a difference for God, we must commit ourselves to correctly respond to God’s Word in order that we may accurately reflect God to the world around us.
These ancient words actually bring us a very relevant and timely message. A deep faith maturely responding to God’s truth will bring forth a changed life that now reflects that truth to the world. By God’s grace, let your hearing of God’s Word result in reflecting God’s Word so that your life of humble submission may be a glorious display of Gospel Truth.