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"Receiving God's Word"
James 1:19-21

Wednesday AM Bible Study
May 14, 2003

In a new section of his letter, James now begins to speak to us about how essential it is that we allow God's word to impact our lives. In verses 22-27, he is dealing with the whole matter of "doing" God's word and putting into practice what it says. But we can't "do" what we have not first "received". And so, he begins by telling us how to "receive" the word of God so that it can transform us and we can put it into practice.

Many of us have abundant copies of the word of God. We also hear it taught in church, or on the radio or television. We have lots of tools and helps to understand it. We "hear" it in abundance. And yet, many of us still suffer under the same old problems over and over; and it seems as if all our access to God's word isn't doing us the good it seems it should. Why? James answers this for us. The problem is not with the word - the problem is with us. There's a difference between "hearing" God's word and properly "receiving" it. So few who have access to God's word "receive" it properly, so that it can have the impact God desires in their lives. James gives us three principles for properly "receiving" the word.

"So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God" (vv. 19-20).

A. This is a word to Christians - particularly suffering Christians. There may have been a temptation to lash out in anger because of the things they were suffering - perhaps even a temptation to take vengeance. But James warns that man's anger does not accomplish God's will (Rom. 12:19-21; Prov. 10:19; 25:28; 29:22). We are to be slow to speak, and slow to anger.

B. Instead, we are to be "quick" to hear. The giving of our opinion is not the important thing in a time of trial. The important thing is to hear from God in such times. If we would hear what God says first, we would be much more holy in the things we speak or the feelings we express.

"Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness ..." (v. 21a).

A. As a good gardener must take things out of the garden in order for it to grow, we must also take things out of our lives that will hinder the work of God's word in us (Matthew 13:22).

B. We can "hear" God's word and fail to see it produce something in our lives because we still cling to the things of the old life. We fail to lay aside (a) all filthiness, and (b) the remaining overflow of wickedness within us. (1 Pet. 2:11). We can also allow the word of God to be hindered by resentment and bitterness - perhaps a particular problem for these suffering Christians (1 Pet 2:1-2).

"and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls." (v. 21b).

A. The first principle to seeing God's word grow in our lives involves being rich soil; the second involves being unincumbered soil; and the third involves being soft soil. We must receive the word in "meekness" or "humility".

B. There's always a tendency in us to evaluate God's word and decide whether or not we will obey it. Yet, God tells us that He looks to the one who trembles at His word (Isa. 66:2). We must allow the Holy Spirit to cultivate in us the attitude of a willing learner when it comes to God's word (John 16:12-15; 6:61-65).

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