Dead Sea Believers
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (James 1:22 ESV)
As a biblical counselor and a Pastor, I’ve often wondered how I can walk more consistently as a Christian and encourage my counselees and congregation to do the same. Many times what I’ve told others and been told myself is to simply read your Bible. I’ve given this advice to many people over the years; however, there is more to the Christian life than just reading your Bible. If we think that reading God’s Word alone is the answer to our sin problems we fall into the trap of acquiring knowledge of our Lord but not applying that knowledge in life changing ways. Biblical application, living out biblical truth, is every bit as important as taking in biblical truth. Our congregations and counselees must learn the importance of living out what the Bible teaches.
If all we do is receive biblical truth without obeying and living biblical truth in our lives we can become spiritually stagnant. If we’re not careful we can become like the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea lies between Jordan and Israel. It’s called the Dead (or Salt) Sea because it is an endorheic basin which means that water enters it from a tributary, in this case the Jordan River, but there is no tributary to take water out of it. The only way water exits the Dead Sea is through evaporation and some seepage. When water evaporates it leaves a salty mineral residue behind. A Dead Sea Believer is someone who is always taking in biblical truth but doesn’t live it out. To do this causes one to become stagnant much like the Dead Sea.
As Christians, we sit in corporate worship and listen to sermons each week. Assuming they’re biblical sermons, we hear them and we can even agree with them. However, we must not deceive ourselves into thinking that our work is finished at this point. If God graciously allows us to sit under a biblical sermon, like reading the Bible, we mustn’t stop there. Challenging and encouraging Christ centered sermons are hard to come by these days. If you’re in a setting where you’re exposed to this thank the Lord because as we’ll see, step one is accomplished. Simply agreeing and saying Amen in worship isn’t the end. The Amen is really the beginning.
James gives us the three step process that can transform Dead Sea Believers into healthy believers. First, he writes that we should be quick to hear (James 1:19). Second, he writes that we should be putting away sin and receiving the Word of God with meekness (James 1:20). Third, we’re told to be doers the Word (James 1:22).
1. Receive Truth Quickly
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; (James 1:19 ESV)
The first step of becoming a healthy disciple and not a Dead Sea disciple is to be very quick and intense at taking in biblical truth. As fallen people, one of the things we are intense at is sharing our opinions and aggressively arguing with anyone who has a different one. James points out that rather than being quick to broadcast your opinion and argue for its legitimacy, be quick at listening to God through His Word. In other words, seek to learn wisdom from God rather than running after your own. Give up your wisdom and take in God’s wisdom.
2. Put Away Sin
 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
In order to take in the Word of God properly, one must be putting away sin. Putting away sin prepares one to better receive the Word.
The great Puritan Thomas Manton in his work on the Book of James writes this, Before we come to the Word, there must be preparation…
The best way to prepare yourself for Bible intake is to be in the process of ridding yourself of sin. Put off sin, as you put on Christ through the Word. The more you grow in Christ-likeness the healthier you become as a Christian.
Again, like the Dead Sea that never looses any of the minerals or residue through outflow, we become spiritually stagnant when we take in Scripture truth but never deal with the sin that lies within us. It must be leaving us as God’s Word enters our hearts.
3. Be doers the Word
 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
Healthy believers will be those folks who are submitting to the authority of Scripture and obeying what God says to them through His Word. This is the final stage of Bible intake. Reading the Bible or hearing it preached or taught must always result in action on the part of the reader or hearer. God’s Word must change us. It must transform us into the image of Christ. If we stop with the reading or hearing we will not move on to maturity in the faith.
James warns us that if all we do is hear the Word and not carry out its commands , we are caught up in self-deception. The danger with being self-deceived is that all the time, one thinks everything is alright. A self-deceived person may even believe he or she is a believer when in reality they may not be.
My prayer is that the church would begin to realize that a healthy believer is one who reads the Word, works to understand the Word, and then by grace, lives out the Word by making the necessary changes, putting off sin and putting on Christ. Then, the church will be made up of healthy believers and not Dead Sea Disciples.
To God be the Glory,