Sermon: Putting on Righteousness (James 1:19-27)

Putting on Righteousness

James 1:19-27

 

Matthew 5:20 (ESV) 

    For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

What did Jesus have in mind when He spoke these words?  What was He getting at? 

The Pharisees had a very elaborate system developed.  It was a system of works.  They thought that if they did all the right stuff God would somehow be obligated to show them His goodness and ultimately take them to heaven. 

Jesus was not at all impressed.  Jesus was ready to forgive sinners.  Jesus had no forgiveness for those who were unrepentant and self righteous.

Matthew 23:13-15 (ESV) 

    “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. 

    [14]  [15] Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.

Matthew 23:25-28 (ESV) 

    “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.  [26] You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.

    [27] “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.  [28] So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

Jesus’ point here is really our main point today in James 1:19-27.  Jesus says the Pharisees were only concerned with externals.  They wanted to appear righteous rather than actually being righteous.  James shows us how we can be engaged in internal righteousness which also leads to external righteousness.

James 1:19-27 (ESV) 

    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 that God requires.  [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.

    [26] If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.  [27] Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

1- I am Becoming Righteous When I Humbly Receive the Word (vss. 19-21)

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 that God requires.  [21] Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

The word anger appears twice in verses 19-20.  It is vital that we understand what James has in mind when he writes this passage.  In the original language this word translated as anger is a result of being wronged or sinned against.  It also has in mind seeking wrath against the person who committed the act.  For us to be angry in this sense is sin.  For God to be angry in this sense is righteous.  Why?  Anger is God’s Prerogative no ours.  When sin occurs it is always ultimately a sin against God and God alone is the righteous judge.  We are usurping God’s authority when we seek wrath. 

Paul uses this same word that James uses.  Speaking of civil authorities Paul writes:

Romans 13:4 (ESV) 

    for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. 

James clearly tells us: [20] for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God requires. In anger we tend to act quickly. Often we get things backwards. Rather than being slow to anger, we are quick to anger. 

James lets us in on an important principle if we are to acquire the righteousness God wants all His children to have.  He tells us: be quick to hear.

Be quick to hear what?  In the context of the verses previous to this text it is be quick to hear the revealed Word of God.

In the beginning stages of our wrath against another,  we must put into practice the truths of Scripture, quickly.  let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;

If we are pursuing holiness we must use this principle revealed to us by God. 

James gives us another practical principle.

Out-with-the-bad-and-in-with-the-good-principle 

 [21] Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

As we are receiving the truth we must be taking off the bad.  This is the picture of someone changing a filthy garment and putting on a clean garment.

That’s why it’s so important to take off all filthiness and rampant wickedness.  Then to put on receive with meekness the implanted word.

There is a heart attitude that goes along with this receiving.  Meekness is the hand that accepts the perfect gift from the Father of Lights knowing that this free gift is the only hope given for salvation.

Only when someone is in this process of putting off and putting on can they have assurance of the salvation.  which is able to save your souls.

If all you can do is point back to a day that you made a profession of faith and that’s all there is, you have reason to be concerned and review the Gospel. 

Many people I have witnessed to have said things like, I remember the day I was baptized in the church.  I remember the words I prayed 37 years ago.  Salvation is ongoing not an act or one time event.  It is in receiving the Word that one is given confidence that they are on the road to salvation.

1- I am Becoming Righteous as I Humbly Receive the Word (vss. 19-21)

2- I am Becoming Righteous as I Practice the Word (vss. 22-25)

    [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.

Practice makes perfect.

Here James is warning us against sentimental religion.  I have been in many churches that the people come week after week, year after year, decade after decade and they are no different than what they were 30 years ago.  They listened to hundreds of sermons and there is no change.  These faithful hearers will even go so far as agree with the Word of God by shouting AMEN! 

Where is the breakdown?  Where is the disconnection?  Many people for whatever reason think that it is the hearing from God alone that changes them.  They have categorized their lives.  They are often trying to live two separate lives.  They are pursuing various treasures throughout the week and then come to worship on Sunday morning.  When in reality they are deceiving themselves. 

Hearing the word must lead to doing the word.  We must live as believers 24/7.  The early church was given a derogative nickname in the first century.  They were made fun of and called “little Christs”  or as we know the title today Christians.  Why?  Because as the town’s people saw them conduct business, care for their kids, go to work, they were reminded of the One who was crucified—They were reminded of Jesus Christ.

Do our lives remind people of Christ?

The great Scottish reformer John Knox had this to say in regard to this text,

There is danger in supposing that contemplating good is the same as doing good; that we are less selfish because we admire unselfishness; that we are less proud because we admire humility.

There are the wise that accept the word and then act upon it.  Then there are the foolish who simply listen.

Jesus gives us the same teaching in a parable.  This is especially meaningful in light of the current storms we have had.

Matthew 7:24-27 (ESV) 

    “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  [25] 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.  [26] 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.  [27] 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.”

Parables are great teaching devices at times.

James gives us a parable to help us understand what he’s talking about.

[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. 

We look in the mirror and see something that needs fixed. You see a flaw in your reflection but instead of fixing it immediately you leave the house and go to work or school with this thing that needs fixed.  James says you are deceiving yourself.  However, if you persevere and do some hard work and fix the problem using the perfect model which is the Word, you will be blessed. 

he will be blessed in his doing.

1- I am Becoming Righteous as I Humbly Receive the Word (vss. 19-21)

2- I am Becoming Righteous as I Practice the Word (vss. 22-25)

3- I am Becoming Christ-like By Practicing the Word (vss. 26-27)

     [26] If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.  [27] Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

The internal change that by grace, the Word is producing is now producing an external behavior.  My works are now considered profitable for the kingdom.  My attitude is in line with Christ’s.  I am slowly but surely acquiring the mind of Christ. 

My works are not bringing me glory but bringing God glory.  I don’t have a religion like the Pharisees had that was only legalistic external acts which were meant to impress others and were worthless to God. 

God is producing in me the desire to unselfishly give to others without any hidden agenda and to pursue a holy life.  Both of these often time go unnoticed by the world, but are noticed by our Father.  We see more and more that our lives are truly a reflection of Christ’s life. 

Matthew 5:20 (ESV) 

    For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Can our righteousness exceed that of the Pharisees?  Receive the implanted Word with meekness and be doers of the Word not doers of man-made religion.  This is a mark of a person born of the Spirit.  

 

 

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