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A cliche' that's actually true: Actions do speak louder than words
01/09/2005
Scripture: James 1:19-27
Track 2 of 12 in the Words to Grow By series
Running time: 30 minutes, 37 seconds.


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Chuck Sackett Speaker: Chuck Sackett
Dr. G. Charles Sackett is minister of Madison Park Christian Church.

View all sermons by this speaker.


Sermon for Sunday, January 9, 2005
2nd sermon in an 11 part series
"A cliche` that's actually true: Actions do speak louder than words"
"Words to Grow By"
(James 1:19)
Copyright 2005 G. Charles Sackett


The cliche' is, "what you see is what you get". Obviously not when it comes to cowardly lions and the wizard of Oz. The word that you saw originate on the screen just a little while ago is the word for the day, the word that we're going to try to grow by. The word "Authentic"; to be real, to be bona fide, to be valid, to be, well, to be what it is that you say you are when you say you are it. Whatever that happens to be.

We're in this series from James on "Words to grow by" and we're gonna see if we can allow James to help us come to the place of our Christian life the way we live it day after day after day begins to match the way we talk, what we proclaim to be with the words of our mouth. By the fact that we happen to be in a church on a Sunday morning, that says something to the community around us about who we are. Does that impact how we live every day? That becomes the question.

It is so important what people hear from us matches what they actually experience with us.

I had the ah, (I guess it's a) privilege to go to a car salesman (no offense to those of you who sell cars). I went with my son-in-law, who walked in, not really intending to buy a car at all. Just really wanting to look and so he was very clear and up-front with the salesperson. I'm really not much interested in buying today, I just really want to look. "No problem!" is the line. No pressure here. I'm sitting off as the, well. . . .I'm just trying to mind my own business and stay out of my son-in-laws affairs is what I'm trying to do. And I'm listening to this all unfold and about an hour and a half later as the salesman is tracking my son-in-law out the door saying, "what am I supposed to tell my boss? You told me that there might be a sale and I'm gonna have to tell him there is no sale. And I've wasted all of this time." And all of this pressure came. . . . Now I realize that most car salesmen are not like that. But now he's created a stereotype of what to expect when you deal for a car.

Is what you see, what you get? Is this promise by our words gonna be lived up to in the way we express ourselves every day? What kind of impression are we leaving for other people when they find out we're members of Madison Park Christian Church? That we, in fact, are believers in Christ. And they begin to say, okay, what kind of a person does that really turn out to be when they meet another Christian? Will we have created a scenario that they will then have a positive feel?

James 1 is the text we're looking at. We're looking at the second half of the chapter starting in James 1:19. Let's read that section together. If you have your Bibles, take them out. If you don't there should be a pew Bible somewhere near you or look over someone's shoulder.

James 1:19. My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it - he will be blessed in what he does.

If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

The truth that James is trying to communicate in this particular text isn't difficult to sort out. The "authentic" life is the life that's determined by the will of God. The life that is genuine, that it is real, that is true, that is bona fide or whatever term you choose to put in the place of "authentic", that which describes a genuine Christian person is the life that is lived in light of revealed will that God has given us.

Six times in this text, either by direct reference or by the pronoun, we have a reference to the word that God has revealed himself in words, in ancient words. Words that we have come to know as Scripture, and, that word begins to unfold for us what it is that God's looking for in the life of the believer.

It's tied immediately back to James 1:18. Don't miss the connection to the previous paragraph. When we closed out the text from last Sunday morning James 1:18 says, He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created. My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen,

There is a word that God has revealed to us that we're supposed to respond to, to listen to. To take in, to do something with and it creates in us a life that is "authentic". A life that can be trusted, that is genuine and it's marked out by some characteristics in this text. For example, in James 1:19-21 the life that God desires is a righteous life. That's what he says explicitly in this particular text. . . . .man's anger does not bring about the righteous life (James 1:20) that God desires.

The first part of this chapter is very clearly about those issues of our life when life is hard. Temptations, trials, difficulties when we are pressed on every side, the pressure to cave in rather than to grow. (James 1:4)

But when you think about this contextually when we come to this second half of the chapter. Here's the statement that one author says. "The temptation to anger due to difficulty (James 1:5) or to deprivation (James 1:9) doesn't originate with God (James 1:13) nor does it achieve anything for God (James 1:20).

The emphasis in this text is - learn to listen to Scripture. Listen what God has said. Respond to what God has said. Be quick to hear it. Slow to speak against it. Slow to become angry in life and you will begin to develop in you a life that God is pleased with. A life that is righteous. . . . .

Paul would say it this way in 2 Timothy 3 that all Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable to correct us, to rebuke us, to teach us, to train us in righteousness that the man of God may become perfect, thoroughly furnished in every good work. That we can become mature people. Scripture is given to us and we're to listen to it because it helps shape us into the kind of people God is calling for us to become. And so he says, be quick to listen to that word.

Be slow to speak. One of the things that this text implies and pushes us toward is in those times when life is hard, our gut response is often to speak and to become angry rather than to sit back and to listen to see what God has to offer.

I'm not sure what my father was trying to tell me. My father never wrote great letters. He would often just send little notes. In fact, he must have had an abundance of blue paper because he spent a lot of time sending little notes on little pieces of blue paper. One of the notes he stuck in an envelope one day and sent my way was this statement. It didn't originate with him, but he'd read it someplace. "Anger is the wind that blows out the light of the mind." He knew me well. He knew that it was one of the issues that I dealt with in my life. And I have tucked that away in the back of my head and thought about this particular text. Be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to become angry because anger is the wind that blows out the light of the mind. You stop thinking well.

One of our members, just this last week, shared with me that they have a practice at their house when something is said to them that is offensive, they have a policy whereby they wait three days before they make a response. . . .quick to listen, slow to speak. . . . Sit on it for a little while and formulate the answer before you decide to turn right around and blurt something out that your going to regret later. The righteous life is the life that is conditioned by a word from God that somehow helps us know how to respond under those time of duress and pressure.

Some of you know me well enough to know that I'm a lover of words. In fact my wife knows me well enough that my calendar for this year is a day-by-day new word to try to learn. Fortunately several of them this week were words I already knew because there were two or three that I still haven't figured out how to work into a sentence, but I will. I'll find a way to get those words in.

Sometimes the older translations of Scripture have words in them that I really like that we've kind of lost. The old King James version for example, in James 1 talks about the superfluity of naughtiness. Now, doesn't that have a ring to it? . . . . . the superfluity of naughtiness. . . . . I mean it just kind of rolls off the tongue. I have no idea what it means, but it rolls off the tongue nicely. It's talking about abundance. Superfluity is an old word for abundance and what James is saying in James 1 is that there is an over abundance of evil in us. It just kind of abounds everywhere you look. One translation, in fact, says, the rampant wickedness that abounds in us. . . . . James says that is not the righteous life. The righteous life is not paying attention to this super abundance of evil but rather to get rid of that. In fact, that's the very language that he uses. James 1:21 get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent.. . .

Get rid of this superfluity of naughtiness.

One way to translate that word in this particular text is not necessarily to talk about a super abundance of something but to talk about the remainder of something. Sometimes this word is not used to talk about all of a substance, but only what's left of a substance after you've gotten rid of some of it. Boy does that begin to fit into the language of Scripture doesn't it? James says get rid of the remainder of the filth.

If your experience is like most peoples, if it's anything like mine, when you became a Christian there were some massive changes that occurred. You got rid of a lot of "stuff". In fact, sometimes it's such a radical change that you wake up the next day and wonder if your even the same person. But after you hang around for awhile, you begin to realize there are some remainders aren't there? There are still some pieces left in us that need to be gotten rid of and here is the language that James uses. Get rid of the remainder of the filthiness. Continue to grow.

This word, "get rid of" is used in Colossians 3 when he talks about put to death certain things in your life. Get rid of certain things in your life. It's used again in 1 Peter 2:1 for getting rid of moral evil. It's used twice in Ephesians 4; 5 to talk about getting rid of things in your life.

One of the things that James says is that there is a word that comes from God that has the ability to help us become righteous people in the way that we live. And he says in James 1:21 that the word has the ability to save us. That word, he says, has been implanted in us. Course the argument is whether or not that word is innate within us. Has it been implanted in us all of our lives or is it sown into us when we hear the preaching of the Gospel? My response to that question is, YES. There is an innateness in us. We have a pension for God in us by creation. But that gets watered and fed as Scripture is applied to our lives and we begin to grow into the nature of Jesus. We begin to change in our shape and in our understanding of who God is and it begins to produce this righteous life in us.

It's why you will hear us regularly say, you need to be studying Scripture. You need to be feeding that innate word within you. You need to be watering the word that God has placed there. You need to be listening to preaching. You need to be in an adult discipleship study. You need to be in a women's Bible study. You need to be in a small group. You need to be studying Scripture. Maybe you need to be in the new basic Christian belief class. You need to be exposed to the Word, so that the word can produce a righteous life in you. This word has the ability to shape you into the person God desires you to be.

The "authentic" life is the life that is shaped by the will of God and it looks like the righteous life. That's not all James said. He says in James 1:22ff that there is a life that God desires that is the life of obedience. Look at James 1:22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

I walked into Dan Peters garage. I, if you haven't seen Dan Peters garage, this is a garages garage. It's a man's garage. He's got stuff in there that I don't even recognize. But I did recognize one thing. He's got a welder in there and I figure if a guy's got a welder, he can weld. Now I don't know whether he can or not, but I just make that assumption, don't you? If a guy's got a welder, he can weld.

If you walked in my office you wouldn't find a welder. You'd find books. In fact, most people walk in my office and they just kind of gander around. They make two or three remarks. One of them is, "Boy! You have a lot of books." The second one is, "Have you read all of these?" Well, why would you assume that a guy would read them? You put books on a shelf to make them look right. You know, they're color coded. They're in the right order. I know where they are. I figure if you've got a problem, there's a book written on it. So if you're dealing with anger, buy a book on anger. Put it on the shelf. That will solve the anger problem. Now the assumption is that you've got a welder, you can weld. If you've got a book, you've read it. That you're doing whatever this thing implies.

Scripture is not valuable because we can sit and read it. The value is not in saying, I read my Bible every day. The value isn't in being able to say, I've chalked up 117 verses this week. The value is taking that word, even if it's one verse, and saying, whatever this says I'm going to do this week. James call, the "authentic" life is the obedient life. It's the life that responds to what God has spoken. He calls it a perfect law that gives freedom. It's a word from God that liberates us.

Somebody pointed out one day and I had never seen this before but it is such a remarkable truth about Scripture. When you go back to the Old Testament, Deuteronomy and Exodus. . . .when you get the Ten Commandments and we typically view the Ten Commandments as this kind of rigid, restrictive rules of do's and don't's. Have you ever looked at Exodus 20 or Deuteronomy 5? The very first thing he says is, don't forget I brought you out of Egypt. I redeemed you from captivity, therefore here's my law. Law was always based on grace. There was the grace of redemption. Then there was the expression of that grace through these rules. You know, I know that rules feel restrictive. I don't have any doubt about that. Any kind of a law or rule feels restrictive.

There is this really strange thing. My wife, I don't know if you know this, my wife loves to jump out of airplanes. I think that's really dumb. I mean, even if she has a parachute, I think it's really dumb. But there is this rule that you have to be wearing a parachute to jump out of an airplane. Now that's a really restrictive rule. There's no freedom in that. Freedom would be, here's the door, jump out if you want. The rule is there not to restrict you but to protect you.

That's the way God's rules are. They're not there to restrict us. They're there to protect us. So when God says, don't commit adultery, it's not because he wants to restrict you and to make your life miserable by saying, oh, you can only relationship with one person. It's to prevent you from having all of those other difficulties that come when you foul up your marriage because you have been with somebody else's spouse. Or when you destroy your life because your kids no longer trust you. God's rules may be, in some sense, restrictive but there not there in order to do anything except liberate us to live freely.

God says, you know, if you'll trust me, if you'll listen to my word and you'll obey my word, I will give you a life like you cannot imagine. That's not restrictive. That's freedom.

Now we don't listen. It's true. We don't. I'm sorry. Most of us don't pay a lot of attention. There was a poll done just a few years ago among teenagers. We'll pick on them. Well, actually, we're not picking on them. We're picking on churches. The poll said, 9 out of 10 church going teenagers said their church experience exposed them to the Bible, taught them about the lives of great people in the Bible, and gave them fun experiences related to religion. Nine out of ten. But only 5 out of 10 said that the Bible taught them how to make decisions about how to live.

The question isn't, do we know the stories? The question is, do we know what the stories mean and are we doing what they teach us? You know, one of the things that we have to concentrate on at all times as parents is helping our children understand why they should obey Scripture. The world will not teach them to obey Scripture, by the way.

We live in a world that is entirely relative. Take a little of this, a little of that, a little of something else, kind of mix it up and you've got American religion right now.

Just a few years ago there was an interview that was done with Sarah Michelle Gellar who was "Buffy the Vampire" by the way. She has a. . . .here's her comment. "I consider myself a spiritual person. I believe in an idea of God, although it's my own personal ideal. I find most religions interesting, and I've been to every kind of denomination: Catholic, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist. I've taken bits from everything and customized it." She even told Rolling Stone that in 1999 she read through the Bible from cover to cover. That's our world. Take a little of this, a little of that, mix it all up and if it makes you feel good, then that's your religion.

James says, there is a word from God. Listen to it. We don't just disobey or fail to obey simply because the world is relative. Sometimes Scripture has become almost superstitious to us. I mean, how many of us have a coffee table Bible? We have it out. We've got a book called the Bible on our shelf. We may own several copies of it and we hope by owning a Bible or having the big family Bible out where you can see it, that somehow that's going to make a difference when in fact, the only thing that makes a difference is when you read it and you do it.

Or some of us who live in an academic world often treat it as if it is a text book. I've studied my Bible today. I read my Bible today. I had my Bible study today. We've done this academic thing where we can begin to quote texts of Scripture. We can actually spout the words off but if we haven't put them into practice, we have not come to the place that James is talking about. The "authentic" Christian life is the life that literally does, it obeys what God says. And so he uses this term that he used last week in James 1:12 "Blessed" is the man who does these things. Blessed is this person, not who reads it, but who does it. That person finds what God is looking for.

Well, there's one other thing that he says here, James 1:26ff It's not just that the life that God desires is this "authentic" life. It is righteous and it is obedient. It is also selfless. Look at James 1:26. If anyone considers himself religious. . . .I assume that's most of us or we wouldn't be here this morning. We in some sense believe that we have a relationship with God, that there's a religiousness about us and a good sense. But he says, if they don't. . . . . . . keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. There is a life that God desires an "authentic" life that is literally selfless.

We have said this on multiple occasions. We will continue to say it. We are grateful that you're here but being here is not the bottom line. Religion is not about rituals. It's not about going through motions. Certainly it's important to be in the right place. We're not suggesting that you shouldn't be in an assembly in worship. But the issue isn't, did I go to church today? That's not what God is looking for. The question is, has your life been changed? Do you have a rein on your tongue? The righteous life is the life that God says, this person has learned how to deal with their speech. They control their tongue. In fact, he going to spend all of James 3 on that so we're not going to spend a lot of time on it this morning.

I want to forewarn you, two or three weeks from now when we hit James 3 we'll talk about the tongue.

But he also says that it's just not that we take care of ourselves in the sense of our tongue, we are responsible for our neighbors. He specifically identifies orphans and widows, the disadvantaged among us, the marginalized people of our world. What in the world is the church going to do to try to help those people who are disadvantaged? And orphans and widows in that culture were completely disadvantaged because they were absolutely powerless. They had no one to stand for them.

I hate to think how the tin man would have survived if it not been for Dorothy standing for him. So we'll have an opportunity over the next couple of Sundays to collect an offering. For example, for those who are affected by the tsunami in the Indian Ocean and we will gather funds in this place and we will send them to International Disaster Emergency Services and a hundred percent of the money that we give will go to help relieve the difficulty of hurting people.

But then the question becomes, what do we do about our own community? What do we do about community work at Redmon and Lee or some other place where we can invest ourselves in marginalized lives and make a difference?

James says not only is it true about our tongue and about our neighbors, but it's true about our own personal life. He says we need to be unpolluted. We are keeping ourselves from the pollution of this world. There is a sense in which we withdraw from the world, not in the sense of not engaging it, but not being trapped by it.

I was listening to the CD of the lessons that are going to go on in the Christianity 101 class, this new basic belief class and Bob Russell is polling the audience (when he was teaching the class), and he simply asked this question. How many of you would be offended if you saw the preacher out drinking? Several people in the room raised their hands. Not everybody considers that an issue but some people did and he recognized that it would be an issue in his community if the preacher were seen as someone who drank. And he simply says, I choose not to in spite of the freedom the Bible might give me. He says, I choose to be a complete teetotaler because I do not want to offend anybody. I do not want anybody to think I have been engaged in the world.

Those are the kinds of decisions that people who do Scripture make. The hard decisions to say, I will live a life that is "authentic" that you can look at and trust at every turn.

James comes to us and he says there is an "authentic" life, there is a righteous life that God desires. It's marked by care for those around us for genuine religion. It's marked by an authenticity in our obedience. We do what the Bible says. It is marked by a righteousness that says I want to become this person that God has called me to become, and, whatever that means, whatever that takes, I'm going to do it. And I'm going to do it by doing the word. I'm gonna get into Scripture and I'm gonna respond to Scripture and I'm gonna do what the Bible teaches me to do. And I will live it in a way that you will know that's who I am.

Back in 1993 in Atlanta, Georgia there was a convention of cardiologists and heart research people. They were there primarily to figure out how to create "heart health". The area restaurants keep track of the various things that conventioneers eat so that they know how to market themselves and what they discovered was that the fast food restaurants were just as frequented during the heart specialists as any other time. They ate as unhealthy as anyone. And when one doctor was confronted about that, this cardiologist was put on the spot and said don't you think that's hypocritical, he said, "No, because I didn't wear my name tag." I guess if you don't know I'm a doctor then you can't expect me to live like one.

That's one way to handle your Christian life. Just don't bother to tell anybody you're a Christian and then you don't have to worry about it. Right? Or you can live an "authentic" life so that what you do and what people see matches what you say that you are.

That's what we're inviting you today. To an "authentic" Christian life.

Would you stand with me. We're going to sing a song of response where you can begin this process of choosing to live "authentically" before God.