Hearing and Doing the Word

19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. 27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

(James 1:19-27)

What do you hear?

What do you hear when you are in a conversation with someone else? The person speaking, or your own voice thinking of what to respond with? I have been challenged this week to think deeply about this question.

“We have two ears and one mouth, so we should listen more than we say.”
Zeno of Citium

 What does a good listener look like? There are many people who have taken the time to teach about this concept. Here are some highlights:

  • eliminate distraction (shut down the internal dialogue or shut off your phone)
  • have eye contact (give your attention to the speaker)
  • reiterate what has been said (seek clarification)
  • ask questions (seek understanding)
  • identify ways to respond (be active in application)
  • be slow to speak (be wise – the fool speaks many words)

I have felt the pangs of the fool or the person who does not care to listen, and I am sure you have too (whether we have done it ourselves, or seen it in action).

But there is a bigger question that needs to be asked of us.

Am I a good listener in my relationship with God? (vs. 19)

I so appreciate the wise men and women who have taken the time to create Bible studies to put these concepts into practical application.  These studies are filled with questions and guidance in how to listen to God’s Word. They are not filled with their own commentary. They apply the general practices listed above. For really, who do we want to be listening to… people who are sinners, or God Who is…

We must go to God’s Word, and God’s Word alone, to ensure that we are hearing from Him. If you have audibly heard Him, or think there is a still small voice speaking within you, check it against Scripture. Otherwise my friend, you run the risk of adding your own (or someone else’s) words to an already made complete Canon. (Rev.22:18-19)

Which Mirror do I use to see my reflection?

“If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn’t be. And what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see?”
Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass

We all have been shaped by the people, experiences, and knowledge we have been given in our lives. But what reflection do you see when you look into the mirror? Do you see the one that does not live up to the standard of beauty in this world? How about wealth? How about accomplishment?

I know in my life I will sometimes pick up the mirror of those who have been critical of my physical image. When I do this, I dwell on my size, my hairstyle, the clothes that I wear, the accessories that I choose, the extra hairs that grow out of my face (sigh…)

“I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then”
Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass

These mirrors only bring grief and pain… and a heavy yoke. They propel us into a sense of unworthiness and a drive to either lie to myself and/or the world around me. James warns here about this in vs. 23 & 24.

The mirror we have hope in, delight in, and never changes is God’s Word.

God has made us in His image and the law of liberty (vs. 25) is a beautiful gift. When we look into this mirror more and more, studying it to the finest details, we see and can rejoice in the beauty of Christ, His grace and unmerited favour being laid on us to make us to be more like Him. Oh what Good News this is!

Sanctification in progress. The working out of our salvation. His grace being applied. Christ’s precious gift of grace to be doers of the Word.

Many don’t know this. Many don’t know Christ. (vs.27)

Like the lips of a child who has eaten his Batman character cake and ended up with black lips from the icing, so are the effects of sin in the eyes of those around us. We can desire and try to share the Gospel, but all the person may see is the stain on our lips.

Will you look into the mirror of God’s Word?

Do you see a stain on your lips?

I do.

Will you only listen? Or will you act on what you see?

Thank God for His grace.