Sunday Sermon: ‘Doers and Not Just Hearers Only’

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James 1:22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. 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. 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.

I. Promise

This morning I want to talk to you about the importance of being a doer of the Word, and not just a hearer only. As we can see from this passage, the reason for being so is pretty simple and straightforward:

1. Obedience to God’s Word brings blessing
2. Disobedience to God’s Word brings destruction

This promise and principle is repeated throughout scripture. We read from the book of Joshua -

Joshua 1:8 This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous , and then thou shalt have good success.

“Joshua, obey God’s Word and you will have good success. Disobey God’s Word and you won’t.” We see this same principle repeated in the first Psalm -

Psalm 1:1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. 2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. 3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

David goes on tell us what will happen to those who do not live by God’s Word.

Psalm 1:4 The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away. 5 Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.

A. How Does Obedience to God’s Word Bring Blessing?

If you’re like me, whenever you read a promise or command, you naturally ask ‘How?’ or ‘Why?’ James shares with us a couple of important reasons:

1. Able to save your souls

James 1:21 Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.

a) Able to save your souls from eternal destruction

Through God’s Word we find God’s way of salvation. Scripture is very clear that heaven is not something that we can earn. We all have sinned and come short of God’s glory and therefore we are incapable of pleasing God. We don’t deserve salvation, neither can we earn it. Salvation is by God’s grace. Forgiveness from God is a free gift that God is able to offer to us because of what Jesus did on the cross. Two thousand years ago, Jesus died on the cross for our sins. He took our place and received our punishment and based upon the sacrifice Jesus made, God is able to grant to us complete forgiveness, if we will put our faith and trust in Jesus.

That’s God’s plan of salvation and it is only by our faith in that plan that we can receive salvation. No man shall enter any other way.

b) Able to save your souls from daily destruction    

Obedience to God’s Word is also able to save us from daily destruction. The Bible says that Satan is like a lion, prowling about, seeking whom he may devour. He schemes ways to destroy us. Often he is so deceptive in his methodology that unless God intervenes and helps us, we will not be able to escape.

How does God guide us? He does so through His Word. David wrote in the book of Psalms -

Psalm 119:105 Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

The picture is of a traveler, making his way along a treacherous pathway. It’s a dark and dangerous road and unless the traveler has something to give him light, he will surely come to ruin. ‘Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.’ God’s Word is like a lamp that the traveler holds out before him so that he can see where to step and avoid danger. Think of how foolish it would be for this man to try to make this dangerous journey without a light. Think of how dangerous it is when a believer tries to live the Christian life without the Word of God.

2. Blessed in his deed

James 1:25 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.

God’s Word is not like a magic lamp that we can rub and receive three wishes. God’s Word will not deliver us from the consequences of our foolish decisions. ‘Whatsoever a man sows that shall he also reap.’ What then is the benefit of God’s Word?

God’s Word guides us so that we won’t make foolish decisions. It gives us wisdom to make good choices; choices that will ultimately bring us God’s blessings.

One of the important lessons I had to learn about God’s blessings is that they do not always come in the color green. Many years ago I had a close Christian friend who made a huge impact upon my life. He was a powerful spiritual leader in our church, yet he was not rich or famous. He drove a very modest vehicle and lived a very modest life. Yet no one could say that he wasn’t greatly blessed. What were some of his blessings?

1)  He had a good name. The book of Proverbs says – “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches…” (Pr 22:1)

2)  All of his children became born again believers.

3)  His family was very loving and close knit.

4)  He had a happy marriage. Oh I’m sure that he and his wife had their problems, but they always seemed to be close and complementary of each other.

5)  He was used greatly in the church. He was chosen to be a deacon. He was one of our best Sunday School teachers and he was always a well-respected leader.

6)  He was a good steward of what God gave him. Through his obedience to God’s Word, he learned how to live a conservative lifestyle and to manage his money well. The last I talked with him, he was retired and enjoying life with his family.

Is that success? Is that being blessed? In my opinion, it is. It’s what life is all about.

If we were wise people, learning what we have just learned should be all we need to know. This should be the end of the sermon. Unfortunately, we’re not always wise people. We don’t always practice what we preach. James warns us –

James 1:22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. 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.

Although we are often faithful hearers of the Word, we are not always faithful doers. Too often the Word steps on our toes but doesn’t change our hearts.

II. Problem

With God’s promise also comes a great problem.

A. We can be ‘hearers’ of the Word, but not ‘doers’ of the word

1. Hearers

Years ago, Tammy led our club ministry to four-year olds. One night, when she got ready to teach them a lesson about Paul, a little boy spoke up and said – “I’ve already heard about Paul.” Four years old and already he knew all he wanted to know about the Apostle Paul.  Many adults approach church in the same way. Many of us have been in church so long that we’ve already heard about Paul, David, Abraham, and Peter. We’ve heard the Bible stories backwards and forwards and often we’re bored. Yet being a hearer of the Word doesn’t automatically guarantee that we are a doer of the Word.

In his commentary on this passage, John MacArthur says that the Greek term used here for a ‘hearer’ refers to someone who audits a class. Someone who audits a class attends when he or she pleases and listens to what interests them, but they’re not responsible to take the tests or do the homework. James says – “Don’t approach God’s Word like someone auditing a class. Don’t think that the homework is optional. Be a doer of what you are taught because someday you might be responsible to take the test.”

There’s great danger in developing the audit mentality concerning God’s Word. If you carefully read the Gospels, you will see that Jesus never got upset with those who didn’t know. He became upset with those who knew, but didn’t do. Concerning such people, Jesus said this -

Matthew 13:15 nkjv “For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, And their eyes they have closed, Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.”

Willful disobedience to revealed truth produces spiritual apathy. It causes our heart to become calloused and insensitive. It causes us to fall out of love with our Lord. Paul quoted this same passage when he stopped trying to reach the Jews and turned to the Gentiles. I have been told that today less that 5% of Jewish people in the world are born-again believers. Why has this happened in ? It has happened because their ancestors willfully rejected the truth.

2. Doers

James 1:22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.

The word ‘doers’ refers to someone who accomplishes something. We should note that in vs. 23 James refers to those who are doers of the ‘word.’ In vs. 25 he refers to them as being doers of the ‘work.’ You can’t separate the Word from work. Later James says that faith without works is dead. In other words, true faith produces action.

James is telling us to not put our faith in our back pockets as we walk out the church doors on Sunday mornings. Put it into practice. “Be ye doer of the word.”

The verb ‘be’, as it is used here, is in the Present Tense which means that it is an ongoing, continuous action. It’s not enough to dabble here and there in obeying God’s Word. God is looking for men and women who are committed to be obedient and who allow God’s Word to form their lifestyle. My mom has told me repeatedly down through the years – “A major part of the Christian life is self-discipline. You have to discipline yourself to do what you know you should do, even when you don’t feel like doing it.”

B. Deceiving Your Own Selves

James 1:22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.

Many people like the book of James because he is so straightforward. James is not afraid to tell it like it is. As Vernon McGee used to say – “It’s where the rubber meets the road.”

Apparently James believed that hypocrisy was a real problem in the church. Throughout his letter he addresses the problem of self-deception in our spirituality. He deals with self-deception in:

- our prayer life

- showing favoritism of some people over others

- thinking that partial obedience is the same as complete obedience

- claiming to have faith but lacking any real evidence

- expressing concern for those in need without offering any real help

- praising God while slandering fellow believers

- asking for God’s guidance while living in sin

- spouting off our opinion

- pretending to love God while still loving the world

- planning out our lives without praying and asking for God’s guidance

Here we see James addressing the problem of self-deception when we become a hearer of the Word, but not a doer of the Word of God.

James 1:22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.

Recently Tammy shared with me that she once read that we are not who we think we are, or who others think we are, but who God knows we are.

If we’re simply hearers of the Word and not doers of the Word, we are only fooling ourselves. Warren Wiersbe entitles this section of his commentary – ‘Quit Kidding Yourself.’

In his effort to explain this important principle, James uses a funny illustration.

James 1:23 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.

James refers to someone who looks into a mirror and sees what needs to be done, but then turns and walks away. Not only is that foolish, James says that once the person walks away from the mirror, they immediately forget about the need to comb their hair. They think that everything is OK while everyone else is forced to deal with the disaster.

Why is it that so many of us hate to have our picture taken? It’s because we hate to see what everyone else is seeing. We look at that picture and immediately think – “That can’t be me; I’m not that old; I haven’t gained that much weight.” Therefore it becomes a lot easier and a lot safer to never take a picture. Out of sight and out of mind.

A lot of us don’t want to face who we are spiritually. It’s much easier to pretend that everything is OK, when deep down we know that it isn’t.  Our love for Christ has grown cold and we have become careless about the way we live.

III. Plan

James’ purpose is not to condemn us. His purpose is to change us.

James 1:25 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.

James tells us that the Word of God is like a mirror that not only reveals to us what needs to be changed, it helps us to change. God has given us His Word for our spiritual grooming.

Here are three simple steps that will help us become doers of the Word and not hearers only.

A. Continuously Take a Serious Look into God’s Word

Many people believe that first thing each morning is a good time to look into God’s Word. Others prefer to do so later in the day or even perhaps in the evening. Although there can be great benefit from beginning your day with the Lord, the important thing is that when we do so, we do so with the intent of learning and growing as a believer.

James refers to those who ‘looketh’ into the perfect law of liberty. The word ‘looketh’ means to stoop down and take a serious look at some. Examine it. Scrutinize it. Learn what it has to say. The literal meaning is to stoop down and take a serious look. Maybe a better way to put it is to ‘slow down and take a serious look.’ For our own spiritual well-being and for the well-being of our family and others, each of us needs to slow down and spend some time in God’s Word each day.

B. Ask Yourself These Questions:

As you slow down to take a serious look, ask yourself these three questions:

1. What does it say?

2. What does it mean?

3. How does it apply to me?

First we need to determine what God is saying. Secondly we need to determine what God means by what He is saying. And thirdly we need to determine how it applies to our lives.

Lately Tammy and I have been reading together a chapter each day from the book of Proverbs and then praying. The other morning I read -

Proverbs 5:8 Run from her! Don’t go near the door of her house! 9 If you do, you will lose your honor and hand over to merciless people everything you have achieved in life. 10 Strangers will obtain your wealth, and someone else will enjoy the fruit of your labor. 11 Afterward you will groan in anguish when disease consumes your body, 12 and you will say, “How I hated discipline! If only I had not demanded my own way! 13 Oh, why didn’t I listen to my teachers? Why didn’t I pay attention to those who gave me instruction? 14 I have come to the brink of utter ruin, and now I must face public disgrace.”  (NLT)

Solomon was referring to sexual immorality, but he could have been referring to pride, greed, hatred, anger or whatever. Those who ignore the guidance of God’s Word will one day turn around and ask – “Why didn’t I listen? Why didn’t I pay attention?”

C. Determine to Apply What God Reveals:

It’s not enough to just recognize God’s guidance; we have to receive His guidance.

James 1:21 Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.

The verb ‘receive’ is in the Middle Tense which means that it is action that we perform upon ourselves. Someone can preach to us until they are blue in the face, but it does no good until each of us make the personal decision to obey.

James says – ‘receive it with meekness.’ Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God and allow Him to have His way with thee.

In His parable about the Sower, Jesus described four different types of soil. Each type of soil represents a condition of the human heart:

1. Hardened Soil – a heart that has become so hard and calloused that it refuses to receive spiritual truth. The book of Hebrews tells us that sin produces a hard heart. Believers who willfully condone sin in their lives, make themselves more and more resistant to God’s truth.

2. Shallow Soil – a heart that easily responds out of emotion without making any real commitment. Spiritual decisions are usually short lived in this kind of soil.

3. Thorny Soil – a heart that is preoccupied with the cares of this world and therefore becomes spiritually unproductive because everything else is more important than God and His Word.

4. Fertile Soil – a heart that is hungry for spiritual truth and that receives it and allows it to transform their life so that they are able to recognize and do God’s good and perfect will.

To be a doer of the Word and not a hearer only, we must have a heart of fertile soil. We read from the book of Hosea -

Hosea 10:12 ‘Plow up the hard ground of your hearts, for now is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and shower righteousness upon you.’ (NLT)

Plow up the hard ground of your heart so that you might receive God’s seed of truth. How do we do that?

a. Stop playing with sin

Confess it for what it is – SIN! and forsake it. There’s a biblical word for this. It’s called – Repentance

b. Seek the Lord

Seek the Lord through prayer and His Word. Tell Him your need for spiritual renewal and ask for His showers of spiritual blessings.

c. Determine to Be Obedient

That’s what this whole passage is about. Be a doer of the Word and not a hearer only.

d. Allow God to bless your life

God wants to bless your life spiritually and to produce His abundant harvest in and through you. Stop running. Stop resisting. Return to Him and let Him have His way with thee.