Listening and doing – June 17, 2012

Listening and doing – James 1:19-27

WHEN IT COMES TO GETTING ANGRY, DO YOU TEND TO HAVE A LONG OR A SHORT FUSE?

One of the key figures of our nation’s history died eight years ago this month, President Ronald Reagan. “I think history will remember him as one of the pivotal leaders of the twentieth century. Americans will remember him as a man of great optimism and good will, a leader who emerged from the common people and never lost his ability to connect with average men and women. He was constantly underestimated by those who opposed his positions, and he consistently used that to his advantage.”

As always when something important happens in our nation, I like to turn to Peggy Noonan to read her insights. These came from the June 7, 2004 edition of OpinionJournal.com: “Ronald Reagan told the truth to a world made weary by lies. He believed truth was the only platform on which a better future could be built. He shocked the world when he called the Soviet Union “evil,” because it was, and an “empire,” because it was that, too. He never stopped bringing his message to the people of the world, to Europe and China and in the end the Soviet Union. And when it was over, the Berlin Wall had been turned into a million concrete souvenirs, and Soviet communism had fallen. But of course it didn’t fall. It was pushed. By Mr. Know Nothing Cowboy Gunslinger Dimwit. All presidents should be so stupid.

“He pushed down income taxes too, from a high of 70% when he entered the White House to a new low of 28% when he left, igniting the long boom that, for all its ups and downs, is with us still. He believed, as JFK did, that a rising tide lifts all boats. He did much more, returning respect to our armed forces, changing 50-year-old assumptions about the place of government and the place of the citizen in the new America.

“What an era his was. What a life he lived. He changed history for the better and was modest about it. He didn’t bray about his accomplishments but saw them as the work of the American people. He did not see himself as entitled, never demanded respect, preferred talking to hotel doormen rather than State Department functionaries because he thought the doormen brighter and more interesting. When I pressed him once, a few years out of the presidency, to say what he thought the meaning of his presidency was, he answered, reluctantly, that it might be fairly said that he “advanced the boundaries of freedom in a world more at peace with itself.” And so he did. And what could be bigger than that?”

President Reagan was a “doer” and that is what we are going to talk about today: “listening and DOING”.

READ James 1:19-27

James is not the first one to teach us about the value of listening and the dangers of hasty speech.

READ Proverbs 10:19

READ Matthew 12:36-37

James would remind us that we are to consider carefully what we say.  We should think before we speak.  We should also be careful with how we handle anger.

The coach of a Buffalo little league team called one of his players over to him and said that he would like to explain some of the principles of sportsmanship. He said, “We don’t believe in temper tantrums, screaming at the umpires, or using bad language. Do you understand?” The boy nodded. “All right then,” said the coach, “I want you to go over there into the stands and explain that to your father who is jumping up and down and screaming.”

Most people behave well when everything is tranquil and friendly. But character is revealed under stress — when we are angry, frustrated, or afraid. We need persons who are at their best under pressure, people who can disarm angry opponents with a calm truth, people who are slow to place blame and quick to applaud virtue. Resolve today that you will keep your lid on even if people all around you are blowing theirs. (Bill Bouknight, Christ United Methodist Church, Memphis, TN)

VERSE 20 SAYS THAT “MAN’S ANGER DOES NOT ACCOMPLISH GOD’S RIGHTEOUSNESS”.  DOES ANGER EVER ACCOMPLISH GOOD?

Anger can be the only appropriate response to a situation, but it should not be our only response to a situation.  It should be saved for those times when it is required.  But we need to be careful.

I have heard that if a rattlesnake is cornered, it can become so frenzied that it will accidentally bite itself with its deadly fangs. In the same way, when a person harbors hatred and resentment in his heart, he is often hurt by the poison of his own malice. He thinks he is injuring his enemies by displaying his wrath, but the real harm is inflicted deep within his own soul.

   Anger can also cause us to do and say things we may deeply regret. George W. Martin tells the following true story: “I remember a fellow who once wrote a nasty letter to his father. Since we worked in the same office, I advised him not to send it because it was written in a fit of temper. But he sealed it and asked me to put it in the mail. Instead, I simply slipped it into my pocket and kept it until the next day. The following morning he arrived at the office looking very worried. `George,’ he said, `I wish I had never sent that note to my dad yesterday. It hurts me deeply, and I know it will break his heart when he reads it. I’d give 50 dollars to get it back!’ Taking the envelope from my pocket, I handed it to him and told him what I had done. He was so overjoyed that he actually wanted to pay me the 50 dollars!”

IS THERE ROOM FOR “RIGHTEOUS WRATH” IN THE CHRISTIAN LIFE, SUCH AS WHEN JESUS DROVE OUT THE MONEYCHANGERS OUT OF THETEMPLE?

James does not forbid anger.  Repressed anger will eventually come out and it could then be destructive.

HOW CAN WE KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MAN’S ANGER AND RIGHTEOUS WRATH?

Surely the phrase: “The Wrath of God” is greatly misunderstood. Many think invariably of some sort of peeved deity — a kind of cosmic-terrible tempered Mr. Bang who indulges in violent uncontrolled displays of temper when human beings do not do what they ought to do. But such a concept only reveals the limitations of our understanding.

   The Bible never deals with the Wrath of God that way. According to the scriptures, the Wrath of God is God’s moral integrity. When man refuses to yield himself to God, he creates certain conditions not only for himself but for others as well which God has ordained for harm. It is God who makes evil result in sorrow, heartache, injustice and despair. It is God’s way of saying to man, “Look, you must face the truth: You were made for Me. If you decide that you don’t want Me, then you will have to bear the consequences.” The absence of God is destructive to human life. That absence is God’s Wrath and God cannot withhold it. In His moral integrity, He insists that these things should occur as a result of our disobedience. He sets man’s sin and His Wrath in the same frame.

READ Proverbs 15:1

OF THE THREE AREAS MENTIONED IN VERSE 19, MARK ON THE LINE WHERE YOU WOULD RATE YOURSELF.

HEARING: QUICK____________________SLOW

SPEAKING: QUICK___________________SLOW

ANGER: QUICK______________________SLOW

Which area needs the most improvement?

HOW CAN WE APPLY VERSE 26 TO YOUR OWN LIFE?

The mark of a true Christian is first, the ability to control the tongue; second – the willingness to engage in acts of generosity; and third – the attempt to overcome the trials and temptations offered by the world.  This first mark – the ability to control the tongue – is the focus of these verses.

When you’re angry always count to ten before you say anything. It’ll give you more time to come up with the right insult.

–James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 33.

Have you ever noticed that sometimes we get angry and remain bitter with people and actually forget why we’re so upset? Take, for example, the notorious Hatfield-McCoy feud.

   It hit newspaper front pages in the 1880’s, when the Hatfield clan feuded with the McCoy clan from across the border in Kentucky. Historians disagree on the cause of the feud — which captured the imagination of the nation during a 10-year run. Some cite Civil War tensions: McCoys sympathized with the Union, Hatfields with the Confederacy. Others say it began when the McCoys blamed the Hatfields for stealing hogs. As many as 100 men, women and children died.

   In May 1976, Jim McCoy and Willis Hatfield — the last two survivors of the original families — shook hands at a public ceremony dedicating a monument to six of the victims.

   McCoy died Feb. 11, 1984, at age 99. He bore no grudges — and had his burial handled by the Hatfield Funeral Home in Toler, KY.

   — Peter Johnson, USA TODAY, 4-14-88.

WHAT QUALIFIES AS MORAL FILTH AND EVIL EXCESS?

I still have an article in my files from Time magazine, dated December 13, 1971, in which four mainline churches announced their new perspective on sex outside of marriage. They concluded after careful analysis that the commandment “Thou shalt not” really meant “maybe,” and that sex was intended to be enjoyed by any two lovers of either sex who could conjure up some kind of “meaningful relationship.” At last, people had been “liberated” from their sexual “bondage.” Millions celebrated between the sheets.

   Now, over thirty years later, we’re reeling under an epidemic of thirty-eight sexually transmitted diseases, with devastating new micro-organisms showing up every few years. Cervical cancer in young women has soared to unprecedented rates. An AIDS epidemic literally threatens the entire human family and twenty million Americans are afflicted with genital herpes. They can expect to suffer from it for the rest of their lives. Obscene publications and films have become so offensive that uninitiated viewers often become nauseated when seeing them. Millions of girls are having babies before they’re out of childhood. One and a half million abortions are occurring every year in the United States alone. And most importantly, the family has been deeply wounded — and may never recover.

   — Dr. James Dobson, Intimacy In Marriage, p. 30.

HOW CAN YOU GET RID OF THESE, OR AVOID THEM?

The wording James uses give us the picture of stripping off dirty clothes which stink.  How willing would you be to hug a child who was smelly and dirty?  We must remove those temptations from our lives to get rid of them and make choices in the future to avoid them.

One of the most successful things we can do to defeat sin is to replace it with what is good.

READ Philippians 4:8

WHAT IS THE “PERFECT LAW OF FREEDOM”?

This reference is probably to the teachings of Jesus which set us free, contrasted with the Jewish Law which brought bondage.

HOW COULD LAW AND FREEDOM GO TOGETHER?

The Law points us in the direction God would have us to go, but Jesus gave us the freedom to not be bound to the consequences of the Law.  The Law points us to sin.  Jesus points us to the Father.

READ John 8:32

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO “KEEP ONESELF UNSTAINED BY THE WORLD”?

Become a hermit in a haircloth shirt in order to avoid all contact with unbelievers

Try to use discretion in entertainment choices

Show by your lifestyle that you march to a different drummer

Be friendly to your neighbors, but only spend time with other believers

Mix freely with unbelievers, but keep a personal standard that is different from the world

James tells us that true religion has more to do with generosity than acts of personal righteousness.  It involves caring for others and avoiding the world’s influence.

It is exceptionally important to not just hear God’s Word, but to really put it into practice. We should not read our Bible and then go away unchanged.  That is what James is telling us when he says to be “doers of the Word”. A response is required when we ingest the spiritual food of Scripture.  It does not matter how well a person may know the Bible.  It matters how well we live the Bible.

DO YOU KNOW SOMEONE WHOM YOU WOULD CATEGORIZE AS A “DOER”?  WHAT STANDS OUT ABOUT THIS PERSON’S LIFE?

Your assignment this week is to take these words and find ways to live them out.

IN WHAT AREA OF YOUR LIFE COULD YOU DO A BETTER JOB OF APPLYING GOD’S WORD RATHER THAN MERELY LISTENING TO IT?  WHAT CAN YOU DO TO CHANGE THIS?

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