Calvary Road Baptist Church

“REAL FAITH AND THE WORD”

James 1.21-27

 How many of you have ever heard of the fruit of the Spirit? Just raise your hand if you have heard of or read of the fruit of the Spirit in the Word of God. Sure. Most people who are familiar with the Bible are aware that Paul described the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5.22-23. The fruit of the Spirit is the byproduct of the unencumbered presence of the Holy Spirit of God in the believer’s life:

 22     But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,

23     Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

 The different facets of the fruit of the Spirit are specific personality traits or character traits that appear in the Christian’s life when the Holy Spirit is working in his Christian life without hindrance or opposition.

However, you know there is another fruit that is of significance in your Christian life. It is the fruit of a Christian, mentioned in John 15.16: “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.” If the Holy Spirit bears fruit in the Christian’s life, what kind of fruit does the Christian bear in the Christian’s life? According to the Lord Jesus Christ, Christians beget spiritual fruit. The fruit of the believer is spiritual fruit of a kind that remains.

So you see, in Scripture, it is often the case that life is not indicated by the mere appearance of life, but rather in the production of one or another kind of fruit. If the Holy Spirit really is present in the person’s life, His fruit will be seen in that person’s life. If a Christian really is a Christian, his fruit will also be seen. As far as God is concerned, real life exists only when the proper fruit is produced. We see this even in our Lord’s parable of the sower, in Matthew 13, in which only that which grows up and bears fruit pictures the genuinely saved person.

With that firmly established, turn to the epistle of James where we will examine, what I shall establish clearly for you, the fruit of genuine faith. James 1.21-27:

 21     Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.

22     But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.

23     For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass:

24     For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.

25     But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.

26     If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.

27     Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

 Remember, there is much which passes itself off as faith which is not genuine faith. In our text we shall examine a portion of a larger passage which will help you to see, by the fruit which your faith produces, whether or not that which you have which passes for faith really is Biblical faith.

To summarize what James teaches, there are four different kinds of fruit which is produced by what James terms living faith, which is genuine faith, real faith, saving and keeping faith. Let me list them for you in case you want to write them down. First, living faith receives the Word of God. Second, living faith shows mercy. Third, living faith is visible. That is, you can see it acted out in people’s behavior. And finally, living faith is under control.

For now, however, let us see in our text that living faith receives the Word of God. This truth and what exactly it means is seen in three ways:

 First, IT IS SEEN IN THE WAY RECEPTIVITY IS EXHORTED

 In verse 21, James exhorts the right attitude:

 “Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.”

 Attitude is so important in a Christian’s life. What attitudes you are to have and toward what you are to have those attitudes? Toward the sin which damns the soul and wrecks the life, James tells you your attitude ought to be one of laying apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness. Filthiness means dirty behavior. It also means earwax. Sinful behavior is actually earwax that will plug your spiritual ears and prevent you from hearing the truth of God’s Word. When you commit sin that sin hinders your ability to receive the Word of God. For example, no one who is a liar is going to be as receptive to truth as he ought to be. No one who is a thief at work will be nearly as responsive to Biblical admonitions to giving as he might otherwise be. Whereas filthiness refers to your actions that can be seen, naughtiness refers to thoughts and intents of the heart, which cannot be seen by others, except God. This would be jealousy and envy, greed and hatred. The word superfluity means excess. Not that God wants you to get rid of just the excess of sin in your life, but that any and all sin in your life is excess and needs to be purged. What kind of attitude results in this intolerance of personal sin? Hatred. Friend, you ought to hate sin and be as personally finicky as you need to be to keep yourself spiritually clean. With such an attitude as this toward sin, both external and internal, what should your attitude toward God’s Word be? . . . the Word which God uses to save your soul? First, you are to have a receptive attitude. That is, be open to what Scripture teaches. Be like a paper towel that is ready to absorb any water it meets. This is the deliberate and ready reception of what is offered . . . whatever it may be. By the way, does receptive suggest one service per week? I don’t see how. Next, you are to have a meek attitude. This is the attitude that says, “Speak Lord, for Thy servant heareth.” This is an attitude not often found in many churches today, with many coming to church and wanting the church to adapt to them rather than adapting to God’s Word. Third, have an understanding attitude. Understand the placement of the Word of God into your life. Scripture is literally engrafted into your life by the Holy Spirit, Who is your teacher. Then understand the power of God’s Word. It is the Word, which I now hold in my hand, which is able to save your soul. James is not talking about saving your soul from Hell . . . he tells us that back in verse 18. Here he is telling believers that it is the Word of God that saves the soul from the power of sin, as well. Therefore, the ministry of God’s Word not only saves lost folks from the penalty of sin, which is Hell, but it also saves saved folks from the power of sin. Boy, that’s good stuff. So, have the right attitude toward sin. Shun it! And have the right attitude toward Scripture, too.

James, next, exhorts us to do the right actions, verse 22: “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” Do you want to know what the desire of a living faith is? It is obedience. Living faith desires to do the Word. It is not content with knowing God’s will just to know it. Living faith desires to know God’s will that it might do God’s will. The deceit of dead faith is quite another thing, indeed. Dead faith, mere religiosity, mere mental assent, stops at the hearing. There is no obedience. Dead faith also stoops to self-deceit, for there is no real self-perception. You with dead faith, you who are dead in trespasses and sins even in the midst of a great demonstration of piety and religiosity, you may not even know what you are like. Remember what Jeremiah wrote? “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Jeremiah 17.9.

 Next, LIVING FAITH IS SEEN IN THE WAY IN WHICH RECEPTIVITY IS ILLUSTRATED

 Two illustrations. The first shows one whose faith is not genuine, is not living. The second illustration shows living faith.

First, the rejecter of the Word:

 23     For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass:

24     For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.

 In reality, this is the person who hears the Word of God just like anyone else, but he or she does not obey. It is like when a preacher preaches on working to reach the lost, and the Holy Spirit deals with you about it, but you refuse to participate in our church’s outreach to bring the lost in. James’ illustration shows us that this person: Observes himself in the mirror of God's Word. “Yep, that’s me.” And that is good. But he walks off, either obliterating from his mind or just forgetting what he just saw about himself in Scripture. He forgets that he is totally dependent upon God’s power and strength for living. He forgets that he is weak and helpless in the spiritual realm. He fools himself into thinking that he can get by just touching base with God when he thinks he needs help. Folks, this, which passes for Christianity today, is not living faith. Folks who are like this are not saved! Let us realize that God places demands upon His people. Demands that cannot be lived up to except by a living faith.

Now, James’ illustration of one who receives God’s Word, verse 25: “But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.” His perception is quite different. By faith, he accepts the Bible’s condemnation of his sinfulness. By faith, he looks beyond, to the Bible’s salvation from his sinfulness, the Bible’s deliverance of him from the power of sin in his daily life. Victory over bad habits and sinful vices. By faith, he sees Christ’s salvation, not as chains that limit his freedom, but as cords of love that give him liberty from a life of sin. By faith, he sees the Word of God to be the perfect law of liberty, which is the freedom to do right, not the license to do wrong. It is not only his perceptions which are different. The performance of the genuine Christian with living faith is quite different, also. The person who receives the Word of God, the person who has a real and living faith, is a person who works, a person who serves God, Ephesians 2.10: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” The Christian who obeys, the Christian who works, the Christian who serves God, will be blessed, will be rewarded by God.

 Finally, LIVING FAITH IS SEEN IN THE WAY RECEPTIVITY IS MANIFESTED

 26     If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.

27     Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

 How is vain religion revealed? By vain religion, I refer to religion that is really quite empty. It is the kind of religion that most people practice, because man is by nature a religious creature. However, it is a religion that is devoid of true devotion to God. How is such religion revealed? First, the man seems to be religious. We see this in verse 26: “If any man among you seem to be religious. . . .” However, notice that his tongue is out of control. That is, he has speech patterns that obviously reflect the impulses of the sinful soul instead of the control of the Holy Spirit: “and bridleth not his tongue” Third, the man’s heart is self-deceived. This person has fooled himself into thinking he is a Christian, into thinking he is really okay, into thinking that all is well with his soul. However, he is only fooling himself. This person’s religion, James tells us, is vain. Vain is much like a soap bubble or a bubble gum bubble: Large surface area, but very little mass or substance. Having the outward appearance of substance, but really nothing lies below the surface. Those who are not receptive to God’s Word have this kind of facade religion.

How is pure religion revealed? Verse 27: “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” In relation to God, pure religion is undefiled. That means clean from sin. This can only be the case when you have trusted Christ to wash away your sins in His precious blood that was shed on Calvary’s cross. In relation to other individuals, it is love in action. The examples of visiting orphans and the widows in their affliction are significant and should not be overlooked. How better to show love than by loving those who have the least opportunity to return your love back to you? Widows and orphans in affliction. In relation to the world, unspotted. This means to be separated from the world, beloved. Do not look like, walk like, talk like, or think like the world. Why? Because the world is like a mud puddle. Splatters all over your clean garments at the worst possible time. So separate. This is not a hard thing for one who is receptive to the Word. The Word teaches us that the whole world lieth in wickedness. Why, then, would the spiritual Christian want to live in worldliness? However, those who are not receptive to the Word have a problem separating from the world, have a problem remaining unspotted, have a problem keeping themselves uncontaminated, have a problem keeping themselves uninfluenced by the world.

 What it all boils down to is this: Genuine faith hears the Word of God and responds to it. Habakkuk and Romans teaches us that saved people live by faith. James further says that the kind of faith that saved people are supposed to have is active faith that is responsive to God’s Word.

Loved one, make sure you are headed for heaven. Make sure your sins are forgiven. Place your faith in Jesus Christ.

You Christians, put some liveliness into your faith today. Has God, in His Word, told you to do something? Then do not say, “I can’t.” Do not say, “I won’t.” Take that faith that is the size of a grain of mustard seed and move your personal mountain by doing what the Word of God says to do.

Does Scripture tell you to cast off the unfruitful works of darkness? Then cast off those nasty habits. Does Scripture challenge you to serve God? Then do so.

Remember, living faith, the real thing, hears . . . and obeys.



Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org