The Sixth in a Series of Sermons on the Book of James
Living in Southern California, we are all far too familiar with frightening scenes of wind-driven brush fires consuming everything in their path. When a brush fire strikes, vital watershed, expensive properties and homes are destroyed in minutes. People and animals are displaced, the skies turn black, and panic is the rule of the day. And yet as James reminds us, a more painful kind of damage can be done almost instantaneously by the human tongue. The words which we speak are capable of great destruction. Just as a small spark can create a horrific fire, our words can inflict great personal pain, or even destroy someone’s reputation which they’ve worked a lifetime to build. And then there is the fact that our words reveal how deeply and thoroughly sin resides in our hearts. The words which we speak reveal to everyone our deepest thoughts, they reveal our true character, and they expose how wise we may or may not be. A brush fire causes great havoc and damage. But the damage done by a fire, often pales in comparison to the damage which can be done by the human tongue.
We resume our series on the Book of James. When we left off last time, we discussed one of the most controversial passages in all the Bible–James 2:14-26. In that passage, James makes his case that a living faith (i.e., a justifying faith) is a faith which inevitably manifests itself in good works. James has carefully set out the cause and effect relationship between regeneration, faith, and good works. In James 1:18, our Lord’s brother told us that God has brought us forth (regeneration) through the word of truth (the gospel). In verse 21, James speaks of how that same word has been implanted in our souls, giving rise to faith (James 2:1). Believers are to receive that word with meekness and humility. And that same word, which is able to save our souls, is also to be obeyed. Says James in verse 22 of chapter one, “be doers of the word and not mere hearers only.”
Then in James 2:10, James has told us that the law of God exposes all us to be sinners, since if we break but a single commandment, we are as guilty as though we had broken every commandment. Sin but a single time and God regards us as a law-breakers. And yet, since Jesus Christ has fulfilled the law through his own perfect obedience to the Lord’s commandments, and because Jesus Christ has died for all of those times we have failed to keep the law, for the Christian, the law is now described as a “law of liberty.” As James puts it, the Christian who gazes upon the law preservers during trials. Such a person is a doer who acts. But the one who only hears, but does not do, is like someone who looks at himself in a mirror and then immediately forgets what he looks like. The law exposes sin, reckons people law-breakers, and smokes out those who are mere hearers of the word only. When such people make a profession of faith in Christ, that profession is not accompanied by good works. They may claim to follow Christ, but give no hint of actually following him. They “hear” but they do not “do.”
To read the rest of this sermon, click here