April 30, 2017
They say that the memories that stick in your brain are generally those that have emotions tied to it. You will forever remember the birth of your children, your wedding day, graduation, the day you were laid off, the day you were promoted. And the reason is because they all had emotion attached to it. One of my earliest memories sticks in my brain because of the emotion tied to it.
I was in kindergarten, and I had just watched one of my friends cut off a piece of his nice straight hair with his scissors. I thought it was the coolest thing ever. So I took out my scissors and cut a chunk of my hair off.
A little later, Mrs. Oldenburg, the teacher, came up and said, “Stephen, did you cut your hair?” I was so scared I looked at her wide eyed, shook my head, and said, “No.” She knelt down next to me and said, “Then why is your desk covered in hair? And why is there a chunk of your hair missing from your head?”
Busted. I didn’t even have to say anything. She knew it because the evidence was obvious. It was displayed for her and everyone else to see.
As I started to prepare for this sermon, I couldn’t help but think of that story. The question I keep asking myself is, “Is my faith on display for everyone to see?” When someone looks at me, can they see that I’m a Christian just as easily as someone could see that I was missing hair from my head? Is there evidence that I’m obviously a Christian? Or is it hard to see?
How would you answer that question for yourself? Would someone look at your life and immediately see evidence that you are a Christian? Is it as obvious as if you had a chunk of hair cut out? As a Christian it is so important to practice what you preach because…
Everyone knows a hypocrite when they see one.
Everyone knows one when they see one, and when you live a hypocritical life, it affects your integrity. You become known as someone who doesn’t practice what they preach.
For those of you who weren’t here last week, we are in a series called Anatomy of a Christian. We are looking at what is inside a Christian and how that affects the Christian’s outward actions. To do so we are looking at the book of James. James was originally a letter written by Jesus’ half-brother James around 60 AD. It was written to Christians scattered throughout the middle east.
The focal point of James’ letter is addressing hypocrisy within the church. In these opening remarks, he gives us a clear picture of what a hypocrite looks like. I’m going to be honest, these words are challenging, and they make us feel uncomfortable. But here’s what James says…
19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.
22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
God’s Word demands that we do what it says.
James lays out for us what a hypocrite looks like: someone that doesn’t know how to listen, think, or slow down. If you don’t do these things, you’re on the path to hypocritical living, unable to live as a child of the risen Lord.
But remember what’s inside of you: the good news of Jesus. And his resurrection helps you with this. How? Well, if Jesus rose, then we too will rise to eternal life. The problems we face in this life are only temporary. So there’s no need to get angry or caught up in all the moral filth of the world. The risen Lord helps us to fight all of this, and he helps us do what the Word says.
But let’s be clear: You aren’t saved because of how great of a Christian you are. You aren’t saved because you live so great or how squeaky clean your record is. Because no matter how hard you and I try we can’t be perfect. We can never do what God’s Word says perfectly. So praise God you aren’t saved by your performance.
Rather you’re saved by the word planted in your heart. It’s that word of Jesus’ perfect life that he lived for you. It’s the word of how he died to wash you clean of every sin. It’s the word that he rose from the dead. That message that is planted in your heart, that is what saves you. It’s Jesus’ perfect record that counts.
It’s this saving word that is planted in our hearts that makes us want to do what God’s word says. It makes us want to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. It makes us want to get rid of all the moral filth in our lives because Jesus saved us from all of that.
And yet, what do people see when they look at your life? Do they see someone who does what God’s word says? Do they see the evidence? Or do they see a hypocrite? Well, God’s Word tells us to be quick to listen. But how well do we do that?
Have you ever had a conversation with someone and though you are there and it looks like you’re listening you actually aren’t? Instead of listening to them as they talk to you, you are actually thinking about how you’re going to respond. You’re thinking of your answer. That’s not being quick to listen.
Or maybe it’s on a bigger scale. You disagree with someone on a certain topic and instead of seeking to listen and understand, you seek to be heard and be understood. Because after all, we all want to be right. So there is hardly any listening done, but only trying to fit in what you want to say. Maybe you’re not so vocal. But during a conversation you get angry and instead of listening to the other person you just storm off and don’t want to talk about it. That’s not showing love. Seek to understand before being understood. Be quick to listen and slow to speak.
That also applies to your social media posting. It’s so easy to go on there and just fire off mean responses. It’s so easy to tear people down and fill your post with vulgarities and other filth. This also applies with your conversations at the work place and with friends. How’s the conversation at work or with friends? Is it filled with cursing and swearing? Is it filled with gossip? God wants us to be quick to listen and slow to speak, and yet the only time that really happens is when we are hearing some juicy gossip. When there is some juicy gossip around, we zip our lips and our ears perk up. Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.
I’m sure all of us have been in a situation where we just feel our blood pressure rising and the anger filling us. For me, that happens in 2 different situations. 1) Traffic. Nothing gets me angry like sitting in traffic. It’s the worst. 2) When we are running late. Now, being angry isn’t a sin in and of itself, it’s how we respond to that anger that is sinful. When you get angry, are you letting everyone know it? Giving people the finger or saying horrible things about people? Are you harboring bitter feelings in your heart because of your anger?
Are you doing what God’s Word says? Are you living a life that makes it evident you are a Christian? Are you practicing what you preach? But there’s still a question that we need to answer. What’s the big deal? Why is it so important to not be a hypocrite?
A pastor recently just told me a story from his time at seminary. He and 2 of his friends had another friend who lived in Chicago. So the three of them went down to his place one weekend. Well, their friend had a roommate who was an atheist. One of the nights they were they, they had a few drinks, probably more than they should have, and they decided to have a conversation with this atheist. They said, “So you really don’t believe in God?” She said, “Nope. I sure don’t.” “How can you not believe in God?” They asked. She responded, “I have 3 perfect reasons right here. If you guys, who are studying to be pastors, don’t even listen to your own God, why should I?”
We know the risen Lord. We know that it is only through him that people have eternal life. But when we live a hypocritical lifestyle, we drive people away from Jesus. It can actually lead people to hell. And James has some harsh words for people who listen to God’s Word, but don’t do what it says. He says…
23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.
26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
Our integrity reveals our true identity.
James says that if you listen to God’s Word and then don’t do it, it’s like a person looking intently at themselves in the mirror, and then leaving and forgetting what you look like. That would never happen. But also, when we look into God’s Word, we look into a mirror and see who we really are. We see what our true identity is.
As you look into God’s Word, you see someone who has broken God’s law. It’s a sad reality, but you see someone who hasn’t lived up to God’s expectations, but you also see who you really are. When you look into God’s Word, you see that the word says that you are his blood bought child. You are someone whom Jesus shed his blood to save. He died to forgive you every time you don’t listen to what God’s Word says. He paid for all of them, and you are now forgiven. Your sins and your struggles no longer define who you are, rather God defines who you are, and he says you are his forgiven child. One who has been made perfect by Jesus. That is your true identity.
Wow! This is what God has done to save you. He saved you from the moral filth of this world. He rescued you so that one day you will no longer live in this world full of sin. Rather, one day you will live forever with him in heaven where there is no sin, but only perfection all the time.
Because this is who we are, because God has given us more than we could ever dream of, we now want to reflect who are in Jesus. We want to be quick to listen and slow to speak. We want to seek to understand before being understood.
So how does this look in our life?
As we approach God’s Word, we seek to understand what it says instead of saying, “Well I think God’s Word says this,” or “I think God would want this.” No. We are quick to listen to God.
We are quick to listen in our relationships. We want to understand where our spouse and kids are coming from. We want to know what they are feeling and why. We want to know why they are acting the way they do. And the same is true for our coworkers and the unfriendly person at the DMV. We want to seek to understand. Maybe someone was rude to them earlier and that’s why they are having a bad day. Maybe your coworker is going through some personal things in his life which is making him irritable and hard to handle. Be quick to listen and seek to understand.
Your integrity reveals your true identity. The risen Lord lives in your heart and that changes everything. It’s changed your status in the eyes of God. He now sees you as his perfect child. One that he’s saved from the moral filth of this world. It makes us want to live a life that is filled with evidence that we are God’s children because it shows what’s inside. It shows that the risen Lord is living and active in our hearts. But when we live like our identity, it also leads others to Jesus.
So we want there to be evidence in our life that we are Christians. We want to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. We want it to be so obvious that we are Christians. I’d go so far as to say, we want it to be as evident as a chunk of hair missing from our head.