The believers in the early churches were in danger of “deceiving themselves” and not keepin’ it real! How do we keep it real as Christ followers?
We’re going to be looking at James chapter one again this morning, James chapter one, verse 22 to 27.
Uh, we started this last week. We’re going to come back to it again today and I’m going to read the passage in a few moments. There’s a lot of messaging out there right now. There’s a lot of noise. In such a time, we can easily be swept along with the wrong messages and embrace dangerous narratives. I think that is more true today than any time I have ever seen in my lifetime with the number of cultural messages that are you’re out there.
Uh, this poor former had going on at Thanksgiving time for him. I’ll give you a chance. Is this really that hard to understand, um, okay. There’s faults messaging, there’s narratives that can fool us and trick us. And we all have that potential of getting drawn in, but the greatest threat, the greatest challenge, the most invasive false Meredith is the one that we actually spend for ourselves.
As a phrase that we have culturally, uh, keeping it real. And it’s a phrase that talks about the importance of seeing things as it really is. I was struck this week that Steve Steph Curry from the golden state warriors. Was in a game, he scored 35 points, but his team still lost by 10. And so they were talking to him after the game, how he felt and, and, uh, how frustrating it must have been discouraging for the team.
And he made this statement. He said, night tonight, it’s hard with a new group. When you’re playing really talented teams, we need to just be real with ourselves. And what we need to do better, not get in our feelings when we don’t play well now what’s he saying, when he says we need to knock into our feelings, we need to keep it real.
He’s saying we not, we need to not hear this louder than it is. We need to not, not have a different impression. Uh, we need to not think, Oh, we’re no good. We can’t improve. We’re hopeless. He’s saying we can play better. We just need to get back to certain things and, and we’ll be fine. Older players on a team tend to bring that kind of perspective, right?
They have the ability to come alongside of the young hot shots and help them not think too much of themselves. They also have the ability to come along with players that are struggling and to not, and to help them not think too little of themselves, what older players can do. Is to help them fight against a deceptive self analysis.
That’s exactly what James is doing in James chapter two in these verses, he is speaking. He who is the physical brother of Jesus Christ. Half-brother he’s the pastor of the Jerusalem church. And he’s writing a general letter to all the, all the believers at this point throughout the Roman empire. And he’s helping them not be deceived about themselves as followers of Jesus Christ.
He’s trying to help them keep it real with that in mind, I’d like you to look at James chapter one, verse 22 to 27, and here’s what we read and I’m reading from the ESB, but be doers of the word and not hearers only deceiving yourselves. For, if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he was like, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror for, he looks at himself and goes away.
And at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of Liberty and perseveres being no here who forgets, but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. If anyone thinks he’s religious and does not bridle his tongue, but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.
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. Let’s pray together.
Lord, we thank you for truth. And as Mike prayed earlier, We do thank you for the word of God. We thank you that we can love your word and we can learn from it. But Lord, we love your word because it takes us to the one that we love. And we want to love you. We want to know you. We want you to become the central reality and the most important person in our lives.
And Lord, as we look at this passage and. How it directs us ultimately to you, and then how it directs us out to being extenders of love to others. I pray that you would speak to us this morning in Jesus name. Amen. Last week we looked at verses 19 to 21, where we saw that James was admonishing us to be listeners to truth.
And he says there’s three ways first year. You’re quick to listen. Quick to hear, we talked about the intentional role and I rolled into that. The idea of joining with pastor Mike, uh, with the writing out 10 verses a day, there needs to be some intentionality. If we’re going to be listening to the scriptures, he says also be slow to speak.
I think there’s certainly means that we’re, we’re listening too much to our own voice, but it also means we’re not listening. W we avoid listening too much to other voices, which then become our voice and drown out the voice of God. He also says, if you’re going to really be listening to God and being shaped by God, you’re going to have to be slow to wrath.
You’re going to have to be slow to anger. Yeah. Letting your soul be stirred up, not on angry, unsettled, aggressive spirited. Because it makes it impossible to really be living in quietness with the spirit of God, soul vital to Kristin experience so much though, that he says in the next phrase, because the anger of man does not produce the righteous life, God desires.
We need to be imbibing and listening to truth. But today we want to be living out truth. And the believers in the early churches were in danger of deceiving themselves and not really keeping it real. They had truth. They even to some degree were listeners of truth, but they weren’t living it. So I’d like to look at just a couple of things.
First of all, how do we keep it real as Christians? And there are two ways. We’re going to look at number one by doing what God tells you to do. He says this in verse 22 and following I’m just going to read a couple of phrases here, but be doers of the word and not hearers only deceiving yourselves. He tells us, I think we first need to think about what it means, and he illustrates this here of what it means.
If you are not keeping it real. It’s interesting that the word that is translated here in this passage is only used four times in the new year. Estimate. Three of them are in verses 22 to 25. The other ones John is found in Romans chapter two, verse 13, where Paul makes almost an exact same statement. And he says this for it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.
Now the word here, here is a little different than the normal one. This there’s a normal word for hear or listen, or being a hear, or a listener choosed countless times in the new Testament, but this particular word takes the root of that word and adds a, an accelerator to it. It basically is saying. These people who are listening are hyper listeners it’s as if James could come to us and say, Hey, Hey, are you listening to the word?
And we respond. I am an on steroid listener. I am on a sugar listener. I mean, I’m listening. I’m a note taking listener. As a matter of fact, I take screenshots of my notes. I’m listening, James. I am a hyper listener and James says good, but I’m really not that hot on how well and how much you’re listening.
My question is when you listen, are you a liver? I’m not just looking for listeners. I’m looking for livers and that’s cool. You’re hyper. And it’s interesting. He says these are hyper listeners. These are hot listeners. I mean, they’re taking notes, which I love by the way, but they’re taking notes. They’re, they’re hanging on every word, but he says, that’s not the goal, so that’s good.
But he says, are you living what you’re listening to? And it’s great. You may be the person out there and saying, you know, 10 verses a day. You gotta be, I’m doing 20 verses a day. I’m a hyper listener. And James says, well, if you’re not living, you’re listening, then you’re like a guy that stares into the mirror and see stuff.
And it says he gazes in he’s he’s intently. I mean, he’s the guy that’s coming to the mirror. And he saying,
I think between my lateral incisor and my canine. That’s a big piece of broccoli and wait, I got sleepy seeds and this year cut. I got I’ll bet. Wait a minute. They want above year here and there almost an inch and a half down. I mean, wait a minute. My fault eyelid is actually upside down and then you walk away.
And you just go do life and Paul’s, and James is saying, that’s you, if you’re a listener, but you’re not a liver, this is not keeping it real. He says, so what is it? How does it look if we’re keeping it real? But what it looks like is found in verse 25, but the one who looks into the perfect law. The law of Liberty and perseveres being no here who forgets, but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
There’s two things about this. Number one, you’re looking in order to live it. It says you’re persevering. You’re not just here. You’re staying at it. You keep letting it change you. God tells you stuff and you’re trying to put it into action. It’s not how much truth, you know, it’s how much truth you live.
That’s why enrollments chapter two. I mentioned earlier that this word, the hyper listener is used there and he says, you know, it, the one that’s a hyper listener, but doesn’t do it is not the one that’s declared righteous. What he says in the next verse is shocking. He’s talking to the Jews, they’re the Jewish Christians.
He says, then there are Gentiles who don’t even have the Bible and they’re just living what they know by conscience to be right. He says, they’re the ones that God’s justifying, declaring righteous, putting his, his approval upon. They have hardly any truth compared to, to you guys. But it’s lived truth. It is not how long you’ve been a Christian or how much knowledge you have required.
It’s how much you are living it out in daily experience. I would even suggest to you that there is much evidence in the new Testament and the old actually that a lot of knowledge when it’s not being lived has one constant fruit pride. And spiritual coldness. We are not imbibing in order to live. It is actually destructive.
The truth that is within us. We become proud people. We become Pharisaical people. We become harsh people. It is not only looking in and listening to the scripture in order to live. And this to me is as important. A part of this passage is anything we’re going to say. You are looking to become loving. This is what it means to keep it real, because look at what he says.
He says you are to be looking into the perfect law of Liberty. Now w w what’s that about? Well, in chapter two, he tells us in chapter two, verse 12, he talks about the law of Liberty. And that passage is where he’s talking about people that were not living out the 10 commandments and even cites a couple of the commandments there.
And basically he’s saying the law of Liberty and this principle new Testament is God’s moral law. I don’t mean the, the civil law or the ceremonial law or the millions of laws of the old Testament. He’s talking about the general 10 commandments of God, which basically Jesus says in Matthew 22 have two summary statements in Matthew, 22, verse 30, uh, 37 to 40.
They were, he was asking, what are the greatest commandments? And he says, he says, well, here are the two commandments. Really love the Lord, your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself. He says, everything else hangs on these. When he talks about the law that has been implanted in us and other places, it’s called the law of Christ.
It’s the principles of righteousness that are lived out and the Christians now have the freedom to live that law. So what is it? It is the law. Of love it is what James in chapter two is going to talk about. You’re not following the law of Liberty, the law that you’ve been liberated to live. You’re not loving you’re partisan.
You’re you discriminate, talks about in chapter, true to the law. That he’s the scripture that he’s preeminently talking about is saying what the scripture will do. Is, it will teach you to love. He said, if you’re really looking in the law, it’ll teach you. If you really reading the scripture, you’ll get theology, you’ll get other things.
But how do you know if you’re really looking in the mirror and being changed, you love God and you love other people. This is really important to understand. Because it is tremendously easy as believers, as followers of Christ to think that because we’re getting more knowledge or because we’re, we’re getting a broader perspective of life and the worldview that we’re, we’re, we’re getting it and we’re keeping it real.
If we are not growing in love with Jesus, if we are not growing in our love and kindness and compassion to other people, James would say to us guys, you’re not keeping it real. You’re not, you’re either looking at the wrong mirror or you’re not hearing the message that is there and living it out in your life.
Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength is what it means to be living out truth. Blue light. Jazz is booked by Donald Miller has written a few years ago. And, uh, the last chapter of blue light jazz, which is subtitled non-religious thoughts on Christian spirituality, the last chapter of his book, he closes with the chapter title.
Jesus. The lines on his face. And in that chapter, he talks about a guy named Alan and this guy named Alan had gone around the country and interviewed, uh, spiritual leaders. And he was recounting this guy’s Allen visit with a man named bill. It was a guy named bill bright who is ahead of, um, uh, a major Christian organization.
And as he visited bill bright, he asked him the questions. He asked everybody. And then he asked the final question. He always asked of everybody. And Donald Miller was recording. What happened when Allen interviewed bill bright and he asked bill break the question, what does Jesus mean to you? And bill bright was sitting behind his desk and he said, Dr.
Bright, couldn’t answer the question. He said, Dr. Bright just started to cry. He sat there and his big chair and wept overwhelmed with love Christ and Donald Miller. And his typical, if you’ve read anything by, I mean, no, this fits right with his style. He said, when Alan told that story, I wondered what it was like to love Jesus, that way I knew then that I would like to know Jesus like that.
With my heart, not just my head. I felt that would be the key to something.
It is. It’s the key to what it means to keep it real, the whole purpose of God, giving us the scripture, the whole purpose that, that we have church like this, and we gather. Is that we will love Jesus more that we’ll know and more that we will be overwhelmed with with the beauty and the glory and the spectacularness of Christ.
James says, guys, I don’t care how much data you’ve got. I don’t know. I don’t care how so many things you’re listening to. How many books you’re reading, how many websites, how many podcasts sermons you got and you’re all stirred, I’m fired up and you think, Oh, I’m getting it now. I’m getting in now. If it’s not making you love Jesus more, you’re not keeping it real because that’s what it’s about.
But there’s something else. It’s not only about loving God, it’s about loving others. This law of God, this law of Liberty, the law that we’re liberated to live out in Christ is to love our neighbors as ourselves. That is actually the whole focus of the book of James.
James’ concern is that people in the early church were starting to get knowledge
without becoming kind. It happens a lot. Doesn’t it?
And so he wrote the book of James. And he talks to them about stuff like this. Here we are at verse 22 to 2025. We’re in verse 25 in the very next verse. He’s going to talk about harsh words. He’s going to talk about overlooking the poor and in need in chapter two, he’s going to talk about partisan behavior and discrimination of others.
In chapter three, he’s going to talk almost the entire chapter on our words and our tongue. And he describes that the tongue it’s a fire as poison, polluted water flowing out of a, of a foul spraying. And he saying, watch, be careful. Your words are so important in chapter four. He’s going to talk about quarrels and fights.
And PRI and chapter five is going to talk about greed and grumbling against others who take money away from you. Hey, in the last 10 months, we’ve lived through a lot of noise, racial tensions, pandemic election cycle, and conspiracy theories in abundance. Christians are reading, watching podcasts tuned into one view of reality or another.
The question is with all your learning and all you’re hearing, are you loving Jesus more? Well, I’m getting a bigger world yet. It’s not what I’m asking you. I’m asking you, are you more in love with Jesus Christ? And are you more in love with people? All people. Even the other side of the aisle. People, if we’re not growing in love, we’re not keeping it real.
And Jen, James is saying, my concern for your brothers and sisters is that you think you’re learning and, and you’re growing and you’re getting it, but you’re not keeping it real if you’re not living off. If you can’t process with people, if, if you’re living out the us and them,
and my question is not, are you becoming a better American? Cause now I understand things. Are you becoming a better Christian? And you know, because you’re loving Jesus more and you’re loving people better. The other thing we find here is by doing in verse 26 and 27, what God told all Christians to, and he says two things.
He says, we keep it real by yielding to Jesus control, verse 26. If anyone thinks he’s religious and does not bridle his tongue, but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. He says, start by getting rid of contemptuous words towards others. Stop thinking in terms of us and them
love people, all people here, people value people and not take on words that are unbridled because you’re deceiving your heart. If you think you’re keeping it real as a believer. And then he says, yield to Jesus priorities, verse 27, religion that is pure and undefiled before God. The father is this to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and affliction.
Invest yourselves in the lives of people around you. He said orphans and widows. Now this was representative of the two most needy classes in ancient society. They are the ones that are most highlighted in the old Testament as needing care. The reason for that is we understand orphans, right? Orphans are those that have no parents to take care of them.
There was no, um, social system to do that, but widows, I mean, w w what about. What about, you know, couldn’t couldn’t women work? Well, it was a male dominated workforce and also they didn’t have life insurance policies. They didn’t usually have, uh, savings. They, they, it was an agrarian culture. And so he says there were many people, particularly in the Roman world where widows and orphans were those that were most destitute and he says, visit.
Orphans and widows. Now this doesn’t mean to have a friendly social call and stop by the word visit here meant to go in with the aim of caring for, and supplying the needs of those visited. First Timothy five widows were actually put on a list. Four and the churches they would, when the widows that were in the church, they, they actually qualified for a list where they would be financially cared for by the church, because there was not anything culturally for them early church, not only cared for their own widows and orphans, but they were famous for caring for those of people around them.
Plenty in the air. That’s a guy’s name. This actually, historically we hear of plenty of the elder and applied to the younger. I don’t remember which one this is, but plenty. Anyway, one of the boys and he was a governor in the area of Turkey and he hated Christians, but they drove him crazy because he had acknowledged certain things about them and actually talks with shock and dismay.
Because he said this pagan, religion of Christianity does something. We don’t understand their followers. Not only care for their own widows in needy. But those are the Romans as well. They not only care for their own families when disease hits their home and what the Romans would usually do as a way of protecting themselves is they would literally take their family members out and leave them in a field to die.
And the Christians would go and take care of when they infanticide was one of the pre pre. Uh, lost the word was one of the largest practices in the Roman empire. Especially if you got a girl and you wanted a boy, you would just leave your child out on the hillside. Kristin scoured, the hillside for the infant
was money cost to do that.
I’m not being political with this. I’m just saying this from my heart.
Whatever your political stance is, make sure what’s driving. It is Christian faith. You may be totally against big government and I get it completely get it, but think of why you’re against big government. I don’t want social pro well, that’s fine, but if you’re a Christian. If you cut all social programs, you better be ready to ante up.
Like the early church did and do what they did in the place of government programs. And you say, well, I’m willing to do that. And I love to see the church grow, but that will be beautiful, but just recognize when we want to minimize everything and we’re getting recognized. The church has always been about compassion and if we don’t have the government do it, then we need to be ready to do it.
Say we’re ready to do it. That’s awesome.
We hate immigrant immigrants, faults, immigrants, alien immigrants here. Okay. We want them to obey the law and that’s against. I get it. That’s a, a proper motivation, but if your motivation is because they come and they take my money and they take my services,
I don’t, I think that’s how the early believers would have processed whether we should have immigrants or not. If you want to say they should obey the law. Fine. But if you want to say, they’re not taking my money or not, is that Christian? I have a hard time thinking it is. And again, I’m not saying politically, well, we should do this or that.
I’m just talking. We’ve got to say what’s my motive. You may come out to very clear that this is, is wrong to have these practices. That’s fine. Just check why? Just check what’s ruling our hearts. It is such a beautiful thing. In my opinion, to see the multitudes of families in our church that have entered the, the foster care program that are adopting children through the foster care system, simply because that is the orphans of our culture, nearly church.
It said this Bishop of Athens ethanol, agurus wrote a letter to emperor markets, a Relias titled. A plea for the Christians. And after his presenting, the principles of the sermon on the Mount is the standard of believers lifestyles. He wrote this, but among us, you will find uneducated persons and artisans and old women who, if they are unable and words, to prove the benefit of our doctrine yet by their deeds exhibit, the benefit arising from their persuasion it’s truth.
They don’t rehearse speeches. But exhibit good works when struck, they do not strike again. When Rob, they do not go to law, they give to those that ask of them and love their neighbors as themselves. This was the defense to the civil government of the lifestyle of Christians. Is it ours? Is it ours? When it says, when they’re struck, they don’t strike again.
When Rob, they don’t go to law, they give to those who ask him, love their neighbors as themselves. Is there a spirit of wanting to have a counter cultural lifestyle as a people? I think that’s what Jesus is saying when there is the ultimate Mark of Christians is there is a gentle compassion.
He says in verse 27, the latter part divest yourselves of the values of the world around you and keep oneself unstained from the, the world. The world’s fighting for rights. The world’s fighting for their view of America. I just. Are we buying into the world’s agenda, whatever political side you’re on or we are, we are, are we buying into Jesus?
Is there a gentle compassion that is ruling our hearts? We can hold our, our political persuasions with great intensity personally, but our, what we known for should be is a gentle. Humility and kindness. Jesus James is saying to fight for Christ’s view of righteousness in the building of his kingdom. It comes by Christians, keeping it real, letting God’s word, speak into our lives, causing us to fall in love with Jesus.
Amy Carmichael was a missionary to India and. They had countless orphans and they were caring for, and she tells the story in her book, the, uh, gold, the gold cord, um, of one day they were, were there and they were, they were taking care of these children and the kids were just screaming and crying. And there was one of the Indian women, was there a believer and she was more and more agitated and, and, uh, And they were terribly understaffed.
And she finally just said to Amy, she said, here was her statement. She said, I I’m sorry. I have to go. I must do the Lord’s work. And Amy was so mad and she looked around this room and she said, what do you think we’re doing? I don’t know what the Lord’s work is for you, but it will be done. If it’s in the Lord’s power with kindness, with gentleness, with truth at times with boldness, but it will be done with a humble boldness, but the Lord says if we’re really looking into the law of Liberty, if we’re really looking into the, the scripture speaking into our lives, it will help us love Jesus.
And it will help us love others, all others. Lord,
I’m just asking you to apply this message where you see the name. I want you to do it first in may, but I do pray that you would speak to all of us Lord in the noise. In the cultural contentiousness,
we want to live Christ help us to do that. Lord. We want to keep it real in Jesus name. Amen. Now, go in peace to love and serve and enjoy the Lord.