James 1:21: Receiving the Word (Pt. 1)

James 1:19-21

This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.

We know for sure that the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God, but what should we do with this information? In fact, this entire chapter is filled with wisdom, and principles that we must apply to our own lives. And if you are anything like me then at about verse 20 you began to ask yourself: “How can I do all these things?” Well with divine timing James will answer this question in the next few verses. Here in verse 21 we have the short answer to the question: receive God’s Word. The same glorious Word that was used by the Father of lights to save our very souls will be used by the Spirit to bring about a change in our lives. Remember: It is the Spirit of God through the Word of God that will bring a lasting change in your life. If you want to be the person who exhibits the wisdom James talks about then you must receive the Word through faith. If you want salvation for your soul, joy in trials, wisdom, perseverance, the crown of life, every perfect gift from the Father, and the righteousness of God then look no further than the Word of God. James has some insightful steps for the person who wants to study God’s word, and be impacted by it. What we will see in verse 21 is that in order to yield ourselves to the divine influence of God’s Word we must prepare our hearts.In order to receive God’s Word we must put away our sin. James says that we must put aside our filthiness. Don’t just look over the word filthiness. The word is a really gross word. In fact, one of the ways that word is used is to describe ear wax. Sin is disgusting. It is morally filthy, and it is a serious barrier that will hinder us from understanding God’s Word. We must take off this filthiness like we would take off dirty clothes (2:2). Look at what the writer of Hebrews says in 12:1. We are to lay aside the encumbrance of sin so that we can run the race. He we can envision a runner removing his outer-garment in preparation for the race. If we are going to understand Scripture properly, and run the race that has been set before us we must put aside sin as if we were taking off a shirt with ear wax on it. I cannot tell you how important clothing yourselves in righteousness is, and so I will let the Words of Christ in Matthew 22:1-14 convey it:

Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. “And he sent out his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding feast, and they were unwilling to come. “Again he sent out other slaves saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited, “Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and my fattened livestock are all butchered and everything is ready; come to the wedding feast.”‘ “But they paid no attention and went their way, one to his own farm, another to his business, and the rest seized his slaves and mistreated them and killed them. “But the king was enraged, and he sent his armies and destroyed those murderers and set their city on fire. “Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. ‘Go therefore to the main highways, and as many as you find there, invite to the wedding feast.’ “Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered together all they found, both evil and good; and the wedding hall was filled with dinner guests. “But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed in wedding clothes, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?’ And the man was speechless. “Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ “For many are called, but few are chosen.”

If we want to understand God’s grace, if we want to be impacted by the Word of God we must cease to be under the lordship of sin and submit to the lordship of Christ. This does not mean that we will not struggle with sin, if that were the case James would not be giving this exhortation. Neither does is mean that we are saved based on our lack of sin. What it does mean is that if we are clothed in sin we have never been impacted by the righteousness of God found in His Word. We are not submitting to the Lord as our Savior, we are submitting to sin as the ruler of our life.Do not think for one minute that this disgusting and offensive sin does not exist in your life. Whoever will genuinely examine themselves will find that there exist within them an immense cloud of sin. The word that the NASB translate as remaining sin really could (and probably should) be translated as “abundant” or “excessive.” The sinfulness in men’s lives is not only filthy in its nature, but also present and abundant. The point is that there is a lot of sin, and it must be removed. And as long as we are on this earth we will always be contaminated from the filthiness of sin. This is why it is so important to put off the filthy things that are polluting our minds. This idea is that we need to confess, repent of, and eliminate the evil in our lives that corrupts our minds, reduces our desire for God’s Word, and clouds our understanding of God’s Word. Our sinful flesh desires to be gratified by sin, and it corrupts our mind into thinking that we can be satisfied by sin. This is why we must lay aside our filthy submission to sin before we can receive the Word of God. When we are able to do that we will soon realize the satisfaction that is found in God’s Word.

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