Tuesday, August 9, 2016, 6:00 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “For Our Nation.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read James 1:19-27 (ESV).
Slow to Anger (vv. 19-21)
This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.
What is anger, and is all anger wrong? Anger is passion, rage, resentment, wrath, punishment, and/or vengeance. I read this on biblehub.com: “’Orgē comes from the verb oragō meaning, “to teem, to swell”; and thus implies that it is not a sudden outburst, but rather (referring to God’s) fixed, controlled, passionate feeling against sin . . . a settled indignation (so Hendriksen)’ (D. E. Hiebert, at 1 Thes 1:10)” (1). So, anger can be good, and it can be bad. It can be irrational and of the flesh, or it can be justified and righteous. Yet, it should not be out-of-control. Even when Jesus turned over the tables in the temple, I believe his anger was fixed and controlled, and he knew exactly what he was doing.
We read in Ephesians 4 that we are not to sin in our anger, so obviously not all anger is sin. It also teaches us not to let the sun go down while we are still angry, and we should not give the devil a foothold (vv. 26-27). I believe anger is a natural human emotion given to us by God to motivate us to some kind of action, and that the emotion of anger is not sinful. Yet, our reasoning for being angry may be rooted in sin, or it may be rooted in righteous indignation against sin. I noted, in this passage of scripture in James 1, that it states that the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God, so this quick anger spoken of here seems to be rooted in the flesh of man and not in the holiness and righteousness of God, which is opposed to sin. So, evidently this is speaking of sinning in our anger.
When we sin in our anger, or when anger itself is sinful, I believe it has to do with resentment, bitterness, hatred, envy and strife. It is rooted in selfish pride which does not get its own way and so the person gets heated under the collar and explodes at others with harsh and often untruthful words, or else he or she implodes the anger and it turns into bitterness and resentment, which then comes out of his or her mouth whenever he or she is angry (heated) again. Sometimes people are quick to get angry because they don’t really listen to other people. They have already decided in their minds what the other person is going to say or what the other person’s intentions are, and so they react with preconceived notions in mind, and blow up or implode based upon a lie which they are convinced is truth.
The caution here is that we must not be quick to get angry and to speak what is on our minds, in our quick anger, but we must be thoughtful and self-controlled, and choose our words and actions carefully and prayerfully. We must also be good listeners. When we don’t listen well to what people say we may find ourselves jumping to conclusions, and assuming their words or intentions, which may not be theirs at all. So, good listening skills are essential to controlling words and actions prompted by a feeling of anger about any situation. If we find ourselves getting angry with people regularly, we must do a heart examination to find the source of our anger so that it can be directed in the correct path. In other words, the emotion of anger should signal us that something is wrong, and that we need to do something about it. We may need some spiritual cleansing of unforgiveness and bitterness or we may need wisdom in how to direct our righteous indignation against sin.
Doers of the Word (vv. 22-25)
But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. 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; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. 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.
There are a lot of people who know a lot of scriptures because they heard them read in the gatherings of the church, or because they read them for themselves, or because they studied them in school, or they may have heard them on TV or on the radio, and/or they may have read or heard them on the internet, etc. Yet, it is not enough just to know the scriptures. We have to do what they say.
It doesn’t matter if you have a Bible college degree, or if you know biblical Greek, or if you are a pastor or a teacher of the Word, or if you have memorized oodles and oodles of scripture verses. There used to be a commercial on TV years ago advertising a child’s toy called G.I. Joe. The commercial said, “And knowing is half the battle.” This came to mind this afternoon as I was writing what the Lord was teaching me through this passage. If knowing is half the battle, then doing is the other half. We have to know in order to do, but if all we do is know, but we never do, then what we know is useless to us.
This, to me, is a lot like wisdom. Knowing is just head knowledge. Doing is applying the knowledge we have to our daily lives. This is wisdom. When all we do is gain a lot of head knowledge, thinking that makes us spiritual, which it doesn’t, then we are not exercising wisdom. The opposite of wisdom is foolishness. We are behaving foolishly, thus, when God speaks to our hearts, and he reveals his truth to us through his Word, and yet we walk away from it and we continue to do what our flesh tells us to do, instead of doing what the Spirit instructs us to do.
So, when we read the Word of God, or when we hear it read to us, we need to listen intently to what is being said, and we need to pray for God to speak his words to our hearts. Then, we need to not forget what he said to us, but we need to immediately apply the truths we learned to our lives and continue to apply them to our lives via the power and working of God’s Holy Spirit within us, as we cooperate fully with that work of grace in our lives.
I hear so many people these days, who profess to know Christ and his Word, say that we don’t have to obey the Word of God, that we don’t have to repent of sin, and that we don’t have to submit to Christ and to the cross of Christ. They say that God demands nothing of us other than to “believe,” only “belief” comes across as a shallow emotional experience, the way they describe it. Yet, the Word, if they paid attention to it, says the opposite. It says we must turn from our sin and follow Jesus with our lives, and that we must walk in the Spirit and not according to the flesh, and that if we say we have fellowship with God but we continue in sin that we are liars. It says that if we do not obey Christ’s commands that we don’t love God and that we don’t know God.
So doing the Word, and not just hearing it only, not only brings with it much spiritual blessing in our lives, and in the lives of those whose lives we touch on a daily basis, but it is essential to our eternal salvation. Believing in Jesus is not just escape from hell and a ticket into heaven when we die. Believing in Jesus means death to sin and living to righteousness – all in the power and working of the Spirit of God in our lives as we yield to the Spirit.
Pure Religion (vv. 26-27)
If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless. Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
There are a lot of people in this world who pride themselves with being very “religious.” They follow their religion and they do what their religion tells them to do, or at least they do what is seen outwardly by people, much like the Pharisees of Jesus’ time. Yet, their religion and their religious activities don’t produce change of heart and mind, nor do they bring about the righteous life that God requires. They are just rules made up by man which they follow, thinking that if they do all those things that it will get them acceptance by God.
I had an impromptu conversation with a woman at a mall yesterday. At first, I was not part of the conversation. She was talking with other people about politics and such, and I just listened as they talked. Then, the subject of religion came up, and she told me her religious affiliation, and how she does all the things her church tells her to do, and that her leaders tell her to do, and she thinks by doing all these things that it is going to gain her heaven. So, I let her know that none of those things matter. I told her that the only thing that matters is whether or not she has put her faith and trust in Jesus Christ to be Lord (owner-master) and Savior of her life, and I explained what that meant, biblically speaking.
Yet, she kept going on about how she follows her religion and what her leaders tell her. So, I asked her if she owned a Bible. She said emphatically that she did, but she added, “But don’t tell me to read it.” She said she won’t read it, because her pastor (of sorts) will read it to her and he will tell her what it says. So, I tried to explain to her that we are not to follow what men say, but what God says, and that we will only know what God says if we read his word, but she was like a brick wall. She said she has always been this religion and she will never change. Wow! I pray for her salvation.
The point of all this is that following a religion will never gain us acceptance with God or the promise of heaven when we die. We have to obey the Word of God, and what Jesus and his NT apostles taught us, and we have to love others with God’s love, especially caring for those who are not able to care for themselves. As well, if all we do is talk, but our lives don’t match our talk, then our religion is worthless. If our mouths speak what is in opposition to God and his Word, especially as a matter of course, then our religion is worthless. We need to have tongues which are under the control of the Holy Spirit, not that we must be perfect, but that we should daily be yielding our hearts, lives and tongues to God in full submission and in surrender to his will for our lives. And, we must come out from the world of sin and be separate (unlike, different) from the world.
For Our Nation / An Original Work / September 11, 2012
Bombs are bursting. Night is falling.
Jesus Christ is gently calling
You to follow Him in all ways.
Trust Him with your life today.
Make Him your Lord and your Savior.
Turn from your sin. Follow Jesus.
He will forgive you of your sin;
Cleanse your heart, made new within.
Men betraying: Our trust fraying.
On our knees to God we’re praying,
Seeking God to give us answers
That are only found in Him.
God is sovereign over all things.
Nothing from His mind escaping.
He has all things under His command,
And will work all for good.
Jesus Christ is gently calling
You to follow Him in all ways.
Men deceiving: we’re believing
In our Lord, and interceding
For our nation and its people
To obey their God today.
He is our hope for our future.
For our wounds He offers suture.
He is all we need for this life.
Trust Him with your life today.