Look in the mirror - James 1:18-27

This is a sermon by Lee McMunn from the Riverside Church service on 25th January 2015.

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Look in the mirror

 

James 1:18-25

 

If a friend asked you what kind of church you attend, what would you say? How would you describe Riverside? Friendly? Caring? Informal? Growing?

 

Would you call it an evangelical church? Some of you might say yes and know why. Many of you will want to say yes but not really be able to say why. Some might never have heard the word evangelical before.

 

So let me tell you what it is. An evangelical church is a church where the bible determines

 

  • What the church believes
  • What the church does
  • How the church lives

 

Surely every church should be evangelical? Yes, of course they should. However, the reality is that there are many churches that do not allow the Bible to determine either what they believe, what they do and how they live.

 

Riverside is an evangelical church. Therefore, your expectation should be that the Bible will determine what we believe, what we do, and how we live. Not perfect. We make mistakes. But that’s our goal.

 

 

For the rest of my sermon I want to show you why an evangelical church will aim to teach the bible as often as they can, both to those who are exploring the faith and to those who are keen to grow in the faith.

 

The reason I want to do this today is because this section of James explains the reason so clearly.

 

First, let me show you why an evangelical church will teach the Bible to those who are exploring the faith.

 

Look at vs 18.

 

You may remember a conversation that Jesus had with a man called Nicodemus. You can find it in John chapter 3. You must be born again.

 

We are born as creatures but we are born again as children.

 

How does this radical new birth occur? The Holy Sprit? Yes. But notice what is stressed here. Birth through the word of truth.

 

The word may be heard many times.

 

What is the result of being born again?  So that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created. Firstfruits were the best. The pick of the crops.  Those that belong to God in a special way.

Why will an evangelical church teach the bible to those exploring the faith? Here’s the logic. An evangelical church is driven to the Bible so that what it does will be determined by what it discovers in these pages. What does it find? The Bible says that new birth happens through the word of God being heard. So, as a result, an evangelical church now has a conviction about the importance of the word of God in their evangelism.

 

What does this mean for us?

 

Hopefully this will help you understand some of what we do.

 

  • Our evangelistic courses. We open up the Bible.
  • What we do at our evangelistic events. Why have some sort of gospel input? Not because it’s just something we do. It’s conviction thing.
  • Why I give books away as much as I can.

 

Why do all this? Because of a conviction – we are convinced that we should do all we can to get the word of God unleashed into people’s lives.

 

It’s possible to attend an evangelical church and yet not be an evangelical Christian.

 

My plea to you is to own this conviction for yourself and let it shape your everyday practice.

 

This truth also has implications for those of you who are still exploring the Christian faith. If you are really serious, put yourself in the way of the word of God as often as you can, not just on Sundays.

 

Second, let me show you why an evangelical church will teach the Bible to those keen to grow in the faith.

 

I want to show you this from verses 19-25.

 

Look at vs 19. Read vs 19-21.

 

The focus here is still on the word of God. This time it is the place of the Bible in the lives of Christians.

 

It can save us – in this context saving refers to the transformation of who we are so that increasingly we become more like Jesus.

 

How will this happen?

 

  • We need to actively listen to it

 

Quick to listen. Slow to speak. Slow to become angry. Some areas where we need to press the accelerator and some areas where we need to press the break.

 

I think this is all about the word of God.

 

This is all about attitude. A desire to want to listen.

 

Not like the judges on The Voice. You are not turned around first and then can be persuaded to listen more. No, from the beginning, we are those who press the button and say, “I want this.”

 

Also, be those who are slow to speak against it.

 

And be those who are slow to become angry at what it says. When it challenges our view of what is right and wrong. How we behave and think.

 

  • We need to actively do it

 

Look at vs 22. Read vs 22.

 

Listening to the word of God is a really good thing. But if that’s all we do then we may be deceiving ourselves about our spiritual condition.

 

We may even think we are a Christian when we are not. Real faith is a faith that transforms. No transforms means no faith.

 

We should have a NIKE mentality when it comes to the Bible. Just do it. Not rash or reactionary decisions. But real decisions.

 

The reality is that not everyone who hears the word of God does what the word of God says.

 

We’re told in no uncertain terms what such a person is like in the next two verses. Look at verse 23. Read vs 23 and 24.

 

A quick look. Does nothing. No change.

 

What are we supposed to think about such a person? What a fool!

 

Reminds you the story Jesus told about the wise and foolish builder. Whoever hears but doesn’t put it into practice.


What’s the alternative? Look at vs 25. Read verse 25.

 

Looks intently. Into the perfect law. It is law – commands of the King. It is rules in the context of relationship and rescue but there are still rules.

 

The law that gives freedom. Freedom has boundaries. The conditions necessary to thrive.

 

West Wing. Written by Aaron Sorkin. The actors say he knows exactly what he wants when he writes and if you stick to it you get the best performance. Martin Sheen plays President Bartlet. When he started the show he thought he would improvise a bit, change the odd word without causing too much damage. He soon discovered he was wrong. He said, ‘When I surrendered to the word, and was ruled by the specific text, I discovered a wonderful freedom’.

He doesn’t just do this on one occasion.  He continues to do this. It’s his ongoing practice.

 

And importantly he acts on what he learns.

 

The result? He will be blessed in what he does – why? Because this is the way to be saved, to be transformed to be more like Jesus.

 

If you are not seeing transformation is it because you listen but don’t do?

 

Why will an evangelical church teach the Bible to those keen to grow in the faith? Here’s the logic.

 

Here’s the logic. An evangelical church is driven to the Bible so that what it does will be determined by what it discovers in these pages. What does it find? The word can save us.

 

What does this mean for us?

 

Hopefully this should explain what we do. On Sundays. During the week. HG. Book groups. 121s. Why so much Bible? We are convicted and convinced.

 

Do you want to grow? Then cultivate a keenness for listening. And do what it says.

 

Much to be said in this letter about specifically what kind of things we should be doing but for today I just wanted to highlight the big principle that if we want to be transformed into the likeness of Jesus then we need to listen and obey the word of God.

 

If not yet a Christian. Hear the gospel. Obey the gospel.

 

A Christian, hear the gospel. Obey the gospel.

 

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