The Beauty of Faith and the Breath of Life - Radical

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The Beauty of Faith and the Breath of Life

How can we receive, remember, and obey God’s Word? In this message on James 1:19–25, David Platt encourages Christians to view God’s Word with the right perspective. He challenges us to receive God’s Word humbly and wholeheartedly, remember the Word intentionally and continually, and obey God’s Word gladly and immediately.

If you have a Bible—and I hope you or somebody around you does that you can look on with—let me invite you to open it to James 1. As you’re turning, I want to give a shout-out, especially to brothers and sisters who used to gather together with us physically, but who are living in different places around the world for the spread of the gospel right now. It’s good to be together around God’s Word.

I want to start by doing a simple relaxing exercise together. On the count of three, I want to invite you to take a deep breath. No, you’re not at the doctor’s office. This is just a nice, relaxing, calming breath—in and out. Sound good? Alright, let’s do it together. One, two, three. Breathe in…and out. Pretty simple, right? And pretty awesome at the same time. 

Let me explain what happened in that breath. You just took into your body about 25 sextillion molecules of air. Sextillion. I didn’t know there was a word. That’s 25 with 21 zeroes behind it. That’s more molecules that just passed through your nose than all the grains of sand on all the world’s beaches. Now, those air molecules were made up of different elements, one of which is oxygen, which is about 20% of the molecules you just breathed in. 

Side note: thankfully, you breathed in clean air. If it had been filled with smoke, for example, your body would have immediately rejected it. It would not have been relaxing. Thankfully, it wasn’t and the oxygen you needed came into your body. Here’s how it got in you. Your brain sent a message to your diaphragm and ribs, telling them to contract, increasing the size of your rib cage, enabling your lungs to expand, which then allowed that air to rush in. That air went down your trachea into your lungs, where it came into contact with millions of miniature balloon-like projections called alveoli. They have alveolar walls that then brought those oxygen molecules in touch with red blood cells, which are the transportation system for oxygen in your body. You have about 20 trillion of these red blood cells. Your body is churning out about 2.5 million of them per second and each of these red blood cells contains about 270 million oxygen-binding molecules of hemoglobin. 

Are you following this? These red blood cells picked up the oxygen molecules and carried them throughout your cardiovascular network, this massive collection of blood vessels that reaches every cell in your body. If we laid out those blood vessels in a straight line, end to end, they would wrap around the entire world multiple times. Where did these red blood cells get the energy to get that oxygen throughout your body? Your heart, which pumps an average of about 100,000 times a day. So in that breath you took, your heart was the powerhouse that took the oxygen you inhaled and got it to every part of your body that needs it. All of that happened in just one breath.

So let’s take one more breath together, now that you know what’s happening. All right? Breath in…and out. It’s pretty awesome, isn’t it? And all the more so when you realize this happens about 20,000 times a day without you even thinking about it. Just to point out the obvious, if it doesn’t happen, even if just for a few minutes, you won’t make it through the day.

Now, the reason I share all of this is because, as important as oxygen is to your body—and I trust you know how important it is—I want to propose to you that the Book I am holding in my hand is infinitely more important to your life. I’m concerned that you don’t know how important it is. I want to propose to you that this Book has power to bring every part of your being to life in ways that oxygen could never do. This Book has power to sustain you amidst everything you face in your life in ways that oxygen cannot do. Then ultimately, one day, when your body loses the ability to take in one more breath—and it will, and it could be any moment for any of us—this Book has power to save your life beyond your breath. 

So let me show you this in the next step of our series on “The Beauty of Faith,” in the book of James. Let’s start together in James 1:16. I want to encourage you, as we read this passage, to circle every time you see the word God mentioned. Here we go. 

16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. 18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

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.

Six times these verses talk about God’s Word or God’s Law. Did you see what God’s Word does? More than oxygen—look back at verse 18—God’s Word brings us forth. The language there is literally God’s Word brings us to life. We see the exact same phrase in the original language in the New Testament in the very next book in the Bible. Take a quick right turn in your Bible and you’ll come to 1 Peter 1. Look at 1 Peter 1:3: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again.” That’s the same phrase we see in James 1:18: “bring us forth.” We are born again “to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” Then 1 Peter 1:23-25 says this: 

Since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God, for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you. 

Do you hear this language? God’s Word is living and abiding It will abide forever and has power to give you new birth, to cause you to be born again. What is this Word? This Word is the “good news that was preached to you.” 

So now tie this with what we just saw in James 1. This ‘Word’ is the good news that is able to bring you forth to life. Then in James 1:21, this Word contains the good news that is able to save your soul. Which all begs the question: how does this Word make this possible? How does this Word make it possible to bring you to life and save and sustain your life? Well, I’m glad you asked. 

This Word that is living and abiding is the Word of God himself. So the same God who created your body, your heart, lungs, red blood cells, blood vessels—the same God who provides you with the oxygen to breath—this God has spoken to you and me in this Word. So the big picture is this: God has told us who he is and how he created us. He’s told us in his Word how he loves us and how to experience abundant life with him.

However, God has told us how we have all sinned against him and how the just judgment due us in our sin is death—eternal death. Why has God told us this? Because God loves us and wants to save our souls from sin and death. God has told us how he sent his Son Jesus to die on a cross to pay the price for our sin and to rise from the dead in victory over sin. That means any one of us who trusts in Jesus will be forgiven of our sin and restored to relationship with God, where we can experience eternal life with him—starting right now. This Word is indeed really, really good news about how God wants to bring us to life, save our souls from sin and death, sustaining us through every circumstance of life, now and forever. In other words, this Word is infinitely more important to our lives than oxygen is to our bodies. 

I am concerned that many of us—I think it’s safe to say most of us—are not getting the life we need from this Word. As a result, we are weak and frail in every facet of our lives, not just spiritually, but mentally, emotionally, relationally and even physically in some ways. I say most of us because, quite honestly, I include myself in this. I’ve been so convicted studying this passage this week, personally and as part of the church in our day. 

Did you know that just a couple centuries ago, it would have been common for a regular church goer—not just a pastor, but all the more so for a pastor—to rise before dawn for extended time in private prayer and meditation on God’s Word? This would be followed by family prayer and meditation on God’s Word in the morning, which would be followed by time set aside in the middle of the day for personal and/or corporate gathering with the church for prayer and meditation on God’s Word. It was then followed by family prayer and meditation on God’s Word in the evening before personal prayer and meditation on God’s Word before going to sleep. This was once the normal schedule for any Christian—collective hours throughout the day in prayer and meditation on God’s Word. 

But not for us today. We almost can’no fathom this, not amidst everything going on in our lives. I mean, how is this possible? From the moment we rise, to the moment we go to bed, moments throughout the day, to always be looking at God’s Word? We can’t imagine it.

Wait a minute. Can we imagine having something we look at first thing in the morning, right before we go to bed, and collective hours of our day in between? I think we can. Did you know that the average American spends five hours and 24 minutes a day on one of their mobile devices? From the moment we wake up to the moment we go to bed, and everywhere in between, did you know that we check our phones on average 96 times a day? That’s once every ten minutes. 

Brothers and sisters, we are breathing in the air of this world all day long on our devices. We’ve disciplined ourselves to do so, to always be looking, scrolling, typing, reading, sending, listening. To use the illustration from earlier, we’re breathing in smoke all day long. And you can tell this in the quality of our spiritual lives, in our mental and emotional states, in our relationships, in some ways even our physical conditions.

In this moment, in this text, on this day, God is calling you and me to make a radical change, to reorient our lives around this Word so we can actually live. We are not living like we could be living. God loves us and wants us to experience life. So let’s hear what God is saying to us, right now, through his Word. This is why we gather together. It’s not just to go through a religious routine on a Sunday. We want to hear from God. He is speaking to us right now about the place of his Word in our lives.

Through his Word, God is calling us to receive his Word humbly and wholeheartedly.

God is saying to us, right now, “Receive my Word humbly and wholeheartedly.” This is what God is speaking to us right now. Look at James 1:19: “Let every person”—everybody, that including you and me—“be quick to hear.” The language is literally, “Let every person hurry up and listen—and be quiet.” “Slow to speak [and] slow to anger.” These are all postures of humility.

There’s actually some confusion here about whether James is just talking generally about all of life, including relationships with others when he says be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger. Or is he talking specifically when we approach God’s Word? Based on the whole Bible, we know ultimately it’s both. Yes, God instructs us to live like this all the time. So let’s hear that word from God.

Just think about the book of Proverbs which starts by saying, “Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance” (Proverbs 1:5). Let the wise listen. In contrast, Proverbs 18:2 says, “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” Wisdom starts with listening to understand, not expressing your thoughts. Proverbs 17:27 says, “Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.” Proverbs 14:29 states, “Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.” 

So do people know you as a listener, as one who seeks to understand, who is slow to anger, who has a “cool spirit”? I won’t ask for a show of hands when it comes to who struggles with listening or with anger. But hear God saying to us today, “There’s a different way to live—a far better way to live—especially in a culture that has convinced us that having a thought means it should be said, it should be posted. That way is not true.” 

We’re to be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, knowing that “the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” Anger does not produce a life that reflects a right relationship with God and with others. So God says, “Put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness.” The language here is like taking off garments, then we’re to put on something else. 

Here’s the deal. If this is how we should communicate with anyone—quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger—how much more should this mark our communication with God? Quick to hear whatever God has to say. “God, I want to listen to you all day long.” If this is to be our posture toward others, surely this should be our posture toward God, which is why he says, “Receive with meekness” —with humility— “the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” This word ‘implanted’ is so good because all who have been brought to life by this Word, you’ve been born again by the power of this Word. God’s Word is now planted inside you. 

This is where I’ve got to show you two quick places in the Old Testament. If you have your Bible, turn with me to Jeremiah 31. If these verses are not underlined in your Bible, they need to be. 

Let me just add—if you don’t have a Bible, we would love to get you a Bible. Just let us know.

Let me set the context for Jeremiah 31. Back here in the Old Testament, Jeremiah was speaking to God’s people about their struggles to obey God’s law. God gave them a promise of what was going to happen in the New Testament—in the new covenant—through Jesus. Look with me at Jeremiah 31:31-33: 

Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 

Do you hear that? God says, “I’m going to put my law inside you. My Word won’t just be outside of you; it will be written on your hearts.” What a phrase! 

Then look at one more place. Turn to Ezekiel 36, another passage you need to have underlined, specifically about the relationship between our hearts, God’s Word and God’s Spirit. The imagery here is beautiful. God is talking to his people in verses 24-25:

I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 

That’s God saying, “I’m going to forgive you of all your sins. 

Then listen to this in verses 26-28: 

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.

Do you see the language here? God is promising that in the new covenant he not only forgives you of your sin, he fills you with his Spirit. He gives you a new heart, a new life. This is what has happened to every single person who places your faith in Jesus. This is what it means to be born again—a new Spirit is within you. And by his Spirit within us, God causes us to walk in his Word, to be careful to obey his Word. 

That’s what James means when he talks about the ‘implanted Word.’ As a Christian, as a follower of Jesus, God has supernaturally written his Word on your heart. You’re born again—new life, new heart, new Spirit, with God’s Word planted on your heart. So receive it wholeheartedly. 

To use our illustration from earlier, just like you have a physical heart that needs oxygen to work, you have a spiritual heart that needs God’s Word to work. Your heart, your life, cannot work without God’s Word pumping through it. So humbly and wholeheartedly receive it all day long. In the morning, in the evening, in the moments in between, receive this Word and experience life. This is the Christian life. When we live like this, we experience what it’s like to actually be the people of God and to walk in relationship with God. 

Christian, don’t settle for less than this anymore. Don’t settle for breathing in smoke all day long and starving your heart from what your heart most needs: the Word of God, the Spirit of God pumping through your entire being all day long. Let’s receive God’s Word humbly and wholeheartedly.

Through his Word, God is calling us to remember his Word intentionally and continually.

Then second, God is saying to us right now, through this text, “Remember my Word intentionally and continually.” So don’t just read it—remember it. Now, we’re going to talk in just a moment about this clear command to do the Word, but look with me at the illustration James uses in this passage. It’s about a guy who looks at himself in a mirror, then walks away and forgets what he looks like. He’s saying, “Don’t do that with God’s Word.”

That is possible, right? You can open God’s Word, you can read it, then a few hours later you can totally forget what you read. It could be just a few minutes later that you totally forget what you read. 

Then watch the contrast here: “But the one who looks into the perfect law…” The language here is so good. This word for ‘looks’ means to look intently. This word for ‘looks’ means to get down and look closely, intentionally. 

I was trying to think of an illustration and thought about when I was buying Heather’s wedding ring. Middle school, high school guys, start saving now; it’s going to cost you the farm. As you look at diamonds from every angle possible, you’re going to get a lesson on that day about cut, clarity, color and caret. They’re all going to look the same to you—but they are not the same. You get down and look really closely. You turn it around. 

James says, “Do that with the perfect law of God.” Stop and study it. Gaze on it. Turn it around. Look at it from every angle. One translation for this word ‘look’ is to “look with penetrating absorption.” I love that. Absorb it. Persevere in this. Keep doing this. Don’t be content with a little word from God to move on in your day. No, look at it and keep looking at it all day long, so you don’t forget it, so you remember it. 

This is what God told his people from the very beginning. Let’s go back to Deuteronomy…so another place in the Old Testament you need to have underlined. This word ‘Deuteronomy’ means ‘second law.’ It’s God restating or recounting his law with his people before they enter the Promised Land. This is one of the most important passages in all the Old Testament. Deuteronomy 6:4 is called the shema which is a Hebrew word for “hear and obey,” kind of all in one word. That’s the first word that comes out of the chute here. 

Deuteronomy 6:4-5: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” This is the foundation of everything I’ve just told you about. We have been created for a relationship with the God of the universe, marked by love. It’s awesome. Now, flowing from that, look at verses six and seven: “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

It sounds like he’s talking about your cell phone. He’s not. He’s talking about God’s Word. 

Then we get to verses eight and nine: “You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” Then listen to what God says next: 

And when the Lord your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you—with great and good cities that you did not build, and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant—and when you eat and are full, then take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

In other words, “Keep my Word everywhere, because you’re going to be tempted to forget me and what’s most important. 

Then watch this. Turn two chapters over to Deuteronomy 8:11-20 and listen to what God says. It’s the same language. 

Take care lest you forget the Lord your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, who led you through the great and terrifying wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water, who brought you water out of the flinty rock, who fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end. 

Beware lest you say in your heart, “My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.” You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day. And if you forget the Lord your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish. Like the nations that the Lord makes to perish before you, so shall you perish, because you would not obey the voice of the Lord your God. 

Are we hearing this? Straight from God: “Don’t forget my Word. It will lead to disaster for you. Lodge my Word in your heart, in your mind, so that it’s always before you continually.” You know what it’s like with your phone always near you, you’re always looking at it? Be this with the Word of God. Let’s just remember God’s Word is available on these devices, so we can look at it and spend collective hours with the Word from something in our pocket all day long. 

Then just think about this practically for a minute, God’s clear call for us is to remember his Word. What is the best way to remember God’s Word? This is not a trick question. The best way to remember God’s Word is to memorize God’s Word, right? To hide it in your heart, lodge it in your mind. I know some people say, “I can’t memorize very well.” There’s no question that different people have different capacities to memorize, but as I’ve said before, what if I offered to give you a thousand dollars for every verse you could memorize between now and this time tomorrow? I think you could learn to memorize. “Jesus wept,” John 11:35. Boom. A thousand bucks. So the question is not: can you memorize? The question is: what’s worth more to you, God’s Word or money? Memorize verses, paragraphs, chapters, whole books of the Bible.  

If that sounds extreme, just look at many of our Muslim neighbors and friends whose children are memorizing the entire Qur’an before they graduate high school. And they’re not just memorizing it, but memorizing it in the original Arabic language, even if they don’t speak Arabic. Imagine our children’s ministry beginning a process where we’re going to start teaching our kids to memorize the New Testament in Greek. Then once they finish that, they move on to the Old Testament in Hebrew.

If others have the words of a false god, then what are you and I doing with the words of the one and only true God? In our lives, in our families, as a church family—memorize. If you’re the head of your household, take responsibility for leading your family to memorize the Word. In our church groups, let’s memorize the Word together. Let’s help each other remember God’s Word intentionally and continually. If we’re not intentional about this, then we’ll come together, hear sermons on Sunday, go to Bible studies, even read our Bible in the morning, but we’ll find that by the time we go to bed at night we’ll have forgotten most of it. That’s the way our minds work unless we keep on looking at God’s Word intentionally and continually. 

Through his Word, God is calling us to obey his Word immediately and gladly.

Finally, we are to obey his Word. God is saying to us today, “Receive my Word humbly and wholeheartedly. Remember my Word intentionally and continually. Obey my Word immediately and gladly.” The Bible says you’re deceiving yourself if you just hear the Word but you don’t do it. Did you catch that? James just said it’s possible to come to church every single Sunday and be completely deceived. It’s possible. It’s dangerously possible to come in here or to hear a sermon online, thinking, “Man, I needed that,” but then walk away and nothing changes. Come back the next week, again you’re thinking, “Man, I needed that.” We almost pride ourselves on it. “Man, that was a good word. Man, I needed that.” Then we just move on with our lives the same as they were before. We’re deceived, totally deceived.

We can do the same thing with Bible reading in our individual lives. We can read the Bible every single day and live a totally deceived life which is why James 1:22 says—the theme verse of the entire book—“Be doers of the word, and not hearers only.” 

Then he gets to verse 25 where he says, “The one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty”—this Word that brings life and freedom to you —“and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” 

Jesus says the exact same thing in Matthew 7:21-23. Listen to his language: 

Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?” And then will I declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” 

Did you catch that? Many people. Not just a few—many people will be shocked to stand before Jesus one day and hear him say, “I never even knew you. Away from me.” These are people who call Jesus ‘Lord,’ but do not obey the law of God. We’re going to talk about this more when we get to James 2 and see the relationship between faith and works. This is not Jesus or James saying we need to work in order to earn our salvation. This is Jesus and James saying, “Those who truly know Jesus actually obey Jesus.” 

Listen to what Jesus says next in Matthew 7:24-27—in the Sermon on the Mount—about how important obedience is to the foundation of our lives:

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it. 

What’s the difference between those who withstand the storms of life and those who cave when the storms of life come? The difference is not just that you hear the words of Jesus. Both of them heard the words. The one who stood was obeying the Word, but the one who caved was not. So how are you doing with the Word? There’s a sense in which Satan would delight in you hearing this sermon or others, maybe even resolving to read your Bible more, as long as you don’t do anything with it. Then your heart will get used to hearing and not doing; then you’ll be totally deceived. So obey God’s Word immediately. When God’s Word says to do something, do it then and not later when you can get around to it. Do it immediately. 

I would just ask is there something you know God has been calling you to do for a while now, but you have been hesitant to do it for any number of reasons? Hear him saying to you right now, “It’s time to do it.” Now, immediately—and gladly. Remember, this is the “law of liberty.” This is freedom, experiencing the life God has made you to live—not just in hearing God’s Word, but experiencing it, walking it out. 

Know that when you hear this Word and you do it, you will be blessed in your doing. The word ‘blessed’ means happy. It’s the same word Psalm 1:1-3 uses:

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.

Obviously this does not mean that everything will be easy, that everything will always go well around you. Remember the trials of various kinds that we saw earlier in James 1? Jesus’ words in Matthew 7 are so important because when the trials of life come—and they will come—if you are living your life breathing in the air of this world all day, you will collapse when the trials come. But when you’re receiving God’s Word humbly and wholeheartedly, remembering it intentionally and continually, hiding it deep in your heart and mind, obeying it immediately and gladly, then you have the life of God pumping through every fabric of your being and you’ll be able to stand.

The endless drivel offered to you and me on our phones and tablets cannot give us that, but God’s Word can. Then when the ultimate trial comes, when our last breath is approaching, in that moment the drivel of this world will do nothing for us. It will all come up empty. We need a Word to stand on in those moments. 

Let’s close today with personal prayer and reflection, with God speaking to your heart. If you have never received God’s Word, you’ve not been born again through this Word, this moment is the moment when that can change. If this is you, I invite you to believe God’s Word, to believe that God loves you so much that he has spoken to you about how he sent his Son Jesus to die on a cross for you. He’s risen from the dead, so that you can be forgiven of all your sin and have eternal life in relationship with him. I invite you to let this Word save your soul today. So as we spend this time in reflection, I invite you to say to God, “I need you to save my soul. I need your Word to bring me to life.” As you pray that, he will do that. Today, everything can change for you if you will just receive and trust in God’s love and God’s Word with your life.

And for all who have done that, for all who have been brought to life by this Word, I want to give you a couple minutes, just between you and God. I want to ask what is God calling you to do specifically, practically, to orient your life around breathing in his Word? I want to encourage you, and in a sense challenge you, to go totally against the grain of this world by praying and identifying one, two, three practical steps that God is calling you to take this week—not in the future, but now—to reorient your life around receiving, remembering and obeying his Word.

Observation: What does the passage say?

  1. Read James 1:19–25 aloud as a group. 
  • From today’s passage and its preceding context, what might you observe about— 
  • The source of temptations toward evil (vv. 13–15, 20) 
  • The nature of evil temptations (vv. 13–16) 
  • The outcome of evil (vv. 15, 20, 23)
  • The source of good gifts (v. 17) 
  • The purpose of good gifts (vv. 17–18, cf. v.12) 
  • The encouragement given to press on toward righteousness, even in the face of evil temptations (vv. 12, 19–22)
  • The reward for those who persevere (vv. 12, 18, 21, 25) 
  • What other noteworthy observations might you share? 
  1. How would you explain or summarize today’s passage in your own words? 

Interpretation: What does the passage mean?

  1. This passage contrasts the temptation toward evil with the pursuit of righteousness. What are the contrasting outcomes of each? 
  2. Today’s passage (James 1:19–25) invites us to follow one of two roads: the temptation toward evil or the pursuit of righteousness. What leads a person to choose one road over the other? 

Application: How can we apply this passage to our lives?

  1. Receive his Word humbly and wholeheartedly. Reread verse 19. 
  • How quick are you to hear? Do people know you as a listener, one who seeks to understand?
  • How slow are you to speak? Do people know you as a quiet person, and a measured speaker? 
  • How slow are you to anger (cf. Proverbs 14:29)? Do people know you as one who has Spirit-led discernment and understanding? 
  1. Remember his Word intentionally and continually. What does your Bible study habit look like? 
  • How do you study the Scriptures? 
  • With whom do you study them? 
  • What is the typical effect, or fruit, of those studies in your heart and life? 
  1. Obey his Word immediately and gladly. Read James 1:25 and 1 Peter 1:14–23. His Word is the perfect Law, the Law of liberty. 
  • What lesser things are you willing to relinquish to better know the Lord and live the freedom and life found only in him? 
  1. Identify 1-3 practical steps God is calling you to take this week to reorient your life around receiving, remembering, and obeying his Word.

James 1:19–25 ESV

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. 


God’s Word is infinitely more important than oxygen. His Word is living and abiding and is able to save your soul. Through his Word, God is calling us to–

  • receive his Word humbly and wholeheartedly; 
  • remember his Word intentionally and continually; and 
  • obey his Word immediately and gladly.
David Platt

David Platt serves as a pastor in metro Washington, D.C. He is the founder of Radical.

David received his Ph.D. from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and is the author of Don’t Hold Back, Radical, Follow MeCounter CultureSomething Needs to ChangeBefore You Vote, as well as the multiple volumes of the Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary series.

Along with his wife and children, he lives in the Washington, D.C. metro area.


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