Look in the Mirror! - Part 1

Tom Pennington • James 1:19-27

  • 2005-08-21 AM
  • Look in the Mirror!
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I was reminded this week of the amazing advances in God's goodness and common grace to all man that had been made in medical science, and particularly in the technology of diagnosing the ills of the human body. I read a couple of articles that sort of rehearsed the history of diagnostic equipment. It was back in the 1800's that x-rays were at first discovered, and it was toward the end of the 1800's that Thomas Edison made a machine that allowed that technology to be used in some meaningful way. And then with the computer age that field just absolutely accelerated into an unimaginable speed. It was in the early 1970's that two men, Allan Cormack and Godfrey Hounsfield invented a method for examining the organs of the body by scanning them with x-rays and then using a computer to construct a series of cross-sectional displays or scans along a single axis. It was called computerized axial tomography or CAT scan as most people call it.

Since then we've added the PET scan which, by the way, has nothing to do with your dog or cat, and the MRI. I was reading this week though, there's a new technology that is even more amazing, it's called functional MRI or FMRI. This technology instead of requiring something to be injected into your blood, so that the equipment can read as is true with some of these other processes; it relies instead on the magnetic properties of your own blood to enable doctors to see images of the blood flowing through the various parts of the body. They can literally map out the flow of blood as it flows through your organs, through your brain, and they can map that flow. In fact, this article said that FMRI has taken the place of PET scanning as the king of brain imaging, because it can produce images of the brain every second and with such precision and with such high resolution that they can distinguish structures that are less than a millimeter apart. It's incredible really that they can look so deep within the human body to see the issues and struggles that we face.

As I thought about all of that it occurred to me that wouldn't it be wonderful if God had given us such a tool as a spiritual diagnostic; some way to take and look within ourselves to see our true, not physical condition, but spiritual condition. And as I thought of that I was reminded of the reality that, in fact, He has. James tells us in the passage we'll examine this morning that it is nothing less than the Word of God. It's not a CAT scan, it's not a PET scan, instead it is a simple mirror. Not a mirror of our physical appearance, it's a mirror of our souls. And it's a mirror that never lies. It always accurately reflects our true spiritual condition. Every time you and I honestly evaluate ourselves by the Word of God, what we get is God's perspective on our spiritual condition. When I open the Scripture, and when I'm willing to compare myself against it, I get to see myself through God's eyes. So, when I turn to the Scripture not only do I find grace and comfort, help, teaching, reproof, correction, instruction in righteousness, not only do I find displayed there the character of God displayed there in all of His greatness and majesty; but I also find in its pages a perfect spiritual diagnostic tool. No wonder everywhere you turn Scripture is always proclaiming its own importance for every individual Christian.

Let me challenge you to do something that a college professor of mine challenged me to do, and it absolutely revolutionized my own approach to the Scripture, he challenged us as students sitting in his class to take one week and each day of that week to read through Psalm 119, but not just to read it, to get on our knees before God and to pray the words of that Psalm with our understanding back to God; to think about what we were praying and to recite those words to God. I'll tell you if you'll do that, it will absolutely revolutionize your approach to the Scripture. There are passages like that that just unfold for us the majesty and the beauty and the glory of God's Word. But I think the most radical passage about the value of God's Word is Psalm 1. I want you to turn there as we begin this morning, Psalm 1.

Of course, you're familiar that this Psalm is the introduction to the Psalter. It lays before us the two ways, and there are only two on which all mankind find themselves. There is the way of the righteous, and there's the way of the wicked. He begins with the way of the righteous.

How blessed [Verse 1] is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of the scoffers! [Here he tells us what a righteous man does not do. He does not listen to the advice or counsel of the wicked. He doesn't get his tips about life from wicked people.] Nor [does he] stand in the path of sinners, [That doesn't mean to find a sinner and get in his way. It means he doesn't follow the path or the habits or the lifestyle of those who are opposed to God. Nor does he sit in the seat of scoffers: that is: he doesn't associate with those people who scorn God and scorn the truth about God.]

If you were to write a passage, a short chapter, an introduction to the Psalter, if that was your responsibility, and God said I want you to describe a righteous man, how would you describe him? How would you encapsulate everything that's true about a person that loves and pursues God? Well watch how the Psalmist does. Verse 2, here it is, this is all that he says positive about the righteous man; one attitude and one action. Verse 2, "… his delight" [Where he finds his joy, his satisfaction, his great desire] "is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night."

You want to know if you're a righteous person, you want to know if you have connection to God? Here's the best way to analyze it, there are a lot of other tests, but this is a great one. Do you really find your delight, your true satisfaction in the Word of God? And do you meditate in it day and night? Are you absorbed in it? Is that where you spend your time and energy and effort? How important must God's Word be if the only description of a righteous man given at the introduction of the Psalter is his relationship to that Word.

This morning we find ourselves back in the book of James in a passage that makes a very similar point. I want us to turn back to James 1. We're going to be studying over the next couple of weeks a paragraph that begins in verse 19 of James 1 and runs through the end of the chapter, verse 27. Let me read it for you to give you its flow and context; you follow along as I read. James 1 beginning in verse 19,

This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does. If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man's religion is worthless. Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

Now, first I want you to see to whom this paragraph applies. Notice how he begins it in verse 19, "my beloved brethren." Obviously, he's talking to Christians, in fact, if you doubt that, look at chapter 2:1, "My brethren, who hold faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ." He's talking to Christians here. But then he adds back in verse 19, "everyone." Literally in the Greek text it says "every man". So, there is not one single Christian to whom this passage does not apply. If you claim to be a believer in Jesus Christ then this passage is speaking to you. And this entire paragraph that I read to you this morning drives home one great spiritual reality. Our response to the Word of God is a perfect spiritual diagnostic tool. Let me put it differently; you can accurately discern both the legitimacy of your faith and the maturity of your faith by your response to Scripture. If you're a Christian, then there are some crucial qualities that should describe your response to the Bible. Specifically, in this text that I read for you, James identifies three qualities that should characterize our relationship to God's Word; three essential qualities that should describe our response to the Word of God.

This morning we're just going to examine the first of those qualities, and it's this; a teachable heart, a teachable heart. Verses 19 - 21,

This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.

Now when you look at this text, verses 19 and 20 are often misused. In fact, they're often completely pulled from their context as if James just sort of pulled them right out of the air, a kind of written hiccup. Nothing could be further from the truth or the flow of this passage. Notice in verse 18, James ends the section on temptation with a reference to the Scripture as the instrument that God uses to bring new life to dead hearts. Notice verse 18, "He brought us forth by the word of truth." Then when you go to verse 21 all the way through verse 25, it's very obvious that these verses have to do with the Word of God. So logically, verses 19 and 20 which are sandwiched between those also must have some reference to the Word of God. But not just logically, let me show you exegetically.

Look at the flow of James' argument. In verse 19 he begins by saying that there are some very specific things that his readers knew. He says you know this already. You know that you should be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger because anger doesn't accomplish God's holy purposes. He says you know these things. Now, how could James be sure that they knew them? Well, remember he's writing to people who were scattered from his flock by persecution. He used to be their pastor. He taught them these things. So, he knows that they know them. So then, after telling them you know this, let me just remind you of what I taught you, in verse 21 he says: therefore. Here's the practical application he says, "in humility receive the word." Now think about that for a moment. It makes no sense for James to say, listen, here's a general principle for you to learn. You should be slow to speak, therefore in humility receive the Word. It makes no sense. It doesn't flow logically. No, verses 19 and 20 have to do with our response to Scripture. These principles are generally true. That is, you should listen more than you talk. But that's not what James is saying here. Instead, he's talking about our response to the Word of God. Let's examine what he does say.

First of all, he says everyone must be quick to hear; quick to hear. If you're going to be teachable, then you need to be quick to hear. That is quick to hear the Word of God, just because you have the structure that constitutes an ear both an outer and inner ear, that doesn't mean that you are actually hearing when someone is speaking to you. You doubt that, just think of a phenomenon that occurs every day in many homes across our country and probably represented in this church. Ladies, see if this describes an event you have ever experienced. How many times has this happened to you? Your husbands watching a game, a football game, or he's reading the paper, or he's working on his computer, and you walk in and you say, "honey, there's something that's really bothering me." And what does he say, "Huh?" You say, "honey, there's something that's really bothering me." And he says, "What?"

But the problem is, he never looks away from the television or from the paper or from the computer. But you, because you have that verbal response, ladies and that what you think means you've got something. You begin to talk, and for the next five minutes you poor out your heart. And you end with an impassioned plea for a response. And finally, he looks away from whatever it was he was doing, and what does he say? "I'm sorry, honey what did you say?"

Now think about that for a minute. Undoubtedly, in the pure technical sense of the word, he heard what you said; you were standing right next to him. But he didn't really hear what you were saying. James is not saying that we should be quick to let the words of God collect in our external ear and then flow down the channels of our internal ear. He's saying: be quick to really listen and to understand. This is very similar to what Jesus often said during His earthly ministry. He said, "He who has ears to hear," what? "Let him hear." Listen. Listen to what I'm saying.

In fact, turn back to John 8, because Jesus likens this hearing problem, or I should say, he diagnoses this hearing problem as a problem of unbelief. John 8:37, he's speaking to those Jews who were convinced that they didn't really need to be freed from sin because they had been Abraham's descendants, and they'd never been anyone's slave which was, of course, a bit of revisionist's history. But in verse 37, Jesus says, "I know that you are Abraham's descendants; yet you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you." Now why is that? Verse 43, "Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word." You don't have the capacity to hear My word. Why is that? Verse 47, "It's because he who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God."

Essentially Paul bounces off of this expression of our Lord to say in 1 Corinthians that the natural man what? can't receive the things of the Spirit of God. He doesn't have the capacity. Now why is it that unbelievers have such a problem hearing the Word of God. Well, Jesus implies it here, but Ezekiel states it very plainly in Ezekiel 12:2, He speaks this: God speaks this to Ezekiel, "Son of man you live in the midst of a rebellious house, who have eyes to see but do not see, ears to hear but do not hear;" [Why?] "for they are a rebellious house." It's because of willing unbelief, rebellion. They can't hear.

But there's another reason: an unwillingness (or I should say an inability), to hear the Word of God also comes from a demonstration of God's wrath. Listen to what Paul says in Romans 11:8; he's quoting Deuteronomy 29:4, "Just as it is written, God gave them a spirit of stupor; eyes to see not and ears to hear not." You see unbelievers are both willingly deaf to the Word of God and also deaf as a result of an act of Divine judgment. That's unbelievers.

But if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you have the capacity to really hear God, you have the capacity to grasp the truth of God. So, to all of us James says, be quick to really listen to the Word of God. John MacArthur in his commentary on this passage puts it this way, "James' appeal is for believers to seize every opportunity to increase their exposure to Scripture." To take advantage of every privileged occasion to read God's Word or to hear it faithfully preached or taught." Listen to how he finishes, "the sincere eager desire for such learning is one of the surest marks of a true child of God."

We need to be careful listeners, quick to hear because we want to get the message right. We should respond like those who heard Jesus in Luke 19:48, Luke says that, "all the people were hanging onto His every word." Does that describe you and your response to the Scripture? Do you hang on it's every word? Do you seize every opportunity to expose yourself to the Scripture? Let me ask you, have you ever in your life read all of the only book that God ever gave us? Do you spend time daily reading God's word? Be quick to hear and this is how we hear God.

Never once in my life has God spoken to me. And He never will, and He never will to you either. But God has spoken to all of us who know Him and love Him. Ultimately, and finally in a book, a book that we can read, that we can study that we can understand with our minds. What could be more important than that we be quick to listen to the words of God given us in His book? Every one of us here needs to hear this, including me, because not one of us can honestly say if we stood before the Lord today, "Lord, I listened to Your Word enough." James says be quick to hear the Word of God.

Then he says, if you're going to be teachable, you not only have to be quick to hear, you have to be slow to speak; slow to speak. Now what does this mean? Well, there are two possible interpretations of this phrase. He may mean that we are to be slow to speak in the sense of not being overly eager to teach others. This was a problem to the people to whom James wrote. Notice 3:1, "Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment."

Apparently, those to whom James wrote were eager to teach, and James says wait a minute, you need to understand if you're a teacher, you're going to have a stricter judgment, don't be rushing into that. It may have been that there were Jewish Christians who heard the Word taught but who didn't carefully weigh the implications and the application of that truth for their own lives instead they simply rushed to teach others. James says don't do it; be slow to speak.

Reminds me of Paul's warnings, you remember in 1 Timothy 3:6 when he's going through the qualifications for elders, he says make sure that an elder whose primary responsibility of course is to teach, he says make sure that an elder is not a new convert. Why? So that he doesn't become conceited and fall into the same judgment the devil fell into. Don't rush people into teaching. First Timothy 5:22, Paul says, "Don't lay hands" [Timothy] "on anyone too hastily."

Don't put someone in the place of teaching in a hurry. Don't recognize them as leaders and teachers; slow to speak.

One writer recounts that there was a famous Roman orator who was asked by a young man to teach him the art of public speaking. And he came to ask, and after he asked, he just kept on talking to the point that the teacher couldn't even reply and give him an answer, and when he finally stopped talking, the teacher quietly said, young man, I'll be happy to teach you, but I'm going to have to charge you twice the normal fee. And the young man asked why, and he said well I have to teach you two skills. I have to teach you how to hold your tongue, and then how to use it. Be slow to speak. It may mean that's what James means here. Don't be over overly eager to teach others.

But I think what he probably means is the second option, and that is be slow to speak in response or reaction to the word taught. In other words, be slow to speak in the sense of don't be in a hurry to take issue with or disagree with the teacher or the Word itself; to argue with the Word of God. I think this is probably what James has in mind because of the next phrase. Slow to anger. Essentially what James is saying is this, stop talking and listen to the Word of God. What an appropriate application for us. We are all tempted in this way. You see whenever we read the Scripture or we hear it taught, and it runs contrary to our own ideas, to our own beloved doctrines, to our own cherished behavior; what's our first response? Our first response is not to listen to it, but to what: to talk back, to argue. We're too busy mentally defending our own view to really listen to what God says.

As a pastor, sadly I see this often in counseling; people who have convinced themselves of what is right of what they ought to do. So that when I simply share the Scripture with them, they don't even hear it, they're too busy talking, too busy justifying what they want to do, too busy sharing their own mind their own ideas. There are times when I want to say, would you just be quiet a minute and listen to what God says.

The most graphic illustration of this I've ever experienced was when I was in seminary. When I was working on my master's degree, I taught a number of undergraduate Bible courses. And one day after class, one of my students, who had her mom visiting with her from out of town, brought her up to meet me. Well, everything went well at first until this mother said that after many hours of careful study she had come to a unique conclusion. Now that was my first sign of trouble; a unique conclusion about the condition in which man was born. I said really, I said what is that?

She said, well I've discovered from the Scripture that what it really teaches is we were all born neutral, like a blank slate with an equal capacity to choose either evil or good. Of course, that's not new, that's the ancient heresy of pelagianism. And I tried for 30 minutes to help her see both historically and exegetically that what she had embraced wasn't new at all, and in fact, it was nothing an ancient heresy. But she was too busy talking to listen to the Word of God, and I'll never forget, she and her daughter walked away very angry with me because I hadn't given more hearing to her view. That lady's problem wasn't with me, it was with God. She was too busy talking to listen to the Scripture.

Solomon, in Ecclesiastes, paints this responsibility of ours to listen to God very clearly. Turn back to Ecclesiastes for a moment. Ecclesiastes 5:1. Listen to how directly he puts this. He says,

Guard your steps, as you go into the house of God [That is into the temple that had been built.] and draw near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools; for they do not know that they are doing evil. Do not be hasty in word or impulsive in thought to bring up a matter in the presence of God. For God is in heaven and you are on the earth; therefore let your words be few. For the dream comes through much effort and the voice of a fool through many words.

Listen don't lecture God, don't tell Him how things ought to be. Don't tell Him that you have now discovered how you ought to order your life. James says be slow to speak, instead be quick to listen.

Let me ask you very directly and personally. Do you cling to your own views, even if you've never diligently studied them? Do you often do only a cursory study of some issue without adequate tools and resources and then come to an entrenched position from which you will not be moved? Do you enjoy taking novel or maverick viewpoints of various biblical issues? Let me ask? When your views have been taught against, what's your response? Do you sincerely seek out the true meaning of Scripture by careful study? Are you like the Bereans, whom Luke tells us were more noble than those in Thessalonica for they received the Word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so? Is that how you respond to the Word of God? Be slow to speak, slow to argue with Scripture, slow to present your own opinions. Sit yourself before the Word of God, and let God speak.

Luke adds that when it comes to the Word, we must not only be quick to hear and slow to speak, but we must be slow to anger. I'm sorry, James adds. I said Luke, James adds that when it comes to the Word, we must be slow to anger. We're now back in the letter of James. We must be slow to anger. The Greek word for anger here is not the word we've studied before for "explosion" or "an outburst", it's the word for "settled anger", the kind of anger that seethes under the surface. It's the anger of "resentment". The anger here in James 1 is the resentment that builds against anything you hear from the Word of God that displeases you. When the Word of God conflicts with your cherished belief, with your cherished conviction or your cherished standard of behavior, when it calls your views or perspectives into question, when the Scripture confronts some sin that you cherish, how do you respond? James says don't get angry. Don't shoot the messenger. I'm reminded of the words of Paul in Galatians 4:16, where he says to the Galatians, ",,, have I become your enemy by telling you the truth?" Apparently, some in the Galatian churches thought so. Don't get angry with the messenger, and don't get angry with God.

Why should we never respond in anger to the Word of God, no matter how much it runs against our own ideas, our own opinions, our own sins; verse 20, here's why. "For the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God." In other words, human anger doesn't produce the kind of righteousness that God approves of. James says you must be teachable, and to be teachable you must be quick to hear, you must be slow to speak, slow to anger. And notice verse 21, you must in humility receive the Word. In humility receive the Word. "Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls."

Now remember that in verses 19 and 20, James has simply reminded us of what we already know. Here's what you should have known already he says. But here's the punch line, here's the practical application, here's what you should do in light of the truths that you have just been reminded of. "Therefore," verse 21, he begins the sentence, notice, with a participle, it's translated "putting aside". Participle is simply a verb form that modifies the main verb of a sentence. What is the main verb of verse 21? It's the word "receive", so, "putting aside, receive". In the original language the construction implies that the "putting aside" must happen before we can receive the "Word". Having put aside, receive.

Putting aside, of course, is the familiar New Testament image of taking off dirty clothing. Sometimes it's used literally, of taking off a coat. But often it's used metaphorically for taking off the evil or sinful attitudes and behaviors that were a part of our lives before Christ. That's what he means here, specifically, James says, "taking off all filthiness, or all that's morally dirty," in other words. Lay it aside as you would a dirty coat, dirty piece of clothes. And all that remains of wickedness, literally all the abundance of wickedness. In this context that word wickedness is probably simply a reference to all forms of "sinful and wicked and evil activity".

Now, what does he mean here that before we can receive the Word, we must put aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness? It isn't that you have to be perfect to receive the Word. It's that you have to be willing to let go of all that's dirty and all the abundance of wickedness in your life, you must be willing, here's the bottom line, to let go of anything that the word tells you to let go of, no matter how much you currently cherish it. Whether sinful acts, sinful ideas, doctrinal confusion, doctrinal error, whatever it is that the Word tells you is wrong, you must be willing to lay it aside. When that's your attitude, then you're ready to be taught, you're truly teachable.

So, he follows that by saying, in humility receive the Word. When you've come to the attitude of you're willing to let go of whatever it is in your life that remains of the wickedness, if the Word of God points it out, then you're ready in humility to receive the Word. Notice, "in humility" as opposed to the pride that argues with the text or gets angry because I disagree, I receive it in humility. And notice the word "receive", it's not merely listening. This word "receive" includes the idea of "eagerly welcoming the truth".

James Hiebert in his commentary writes, "The readers had to go beyond a passive acquiescence to the statements of the Word and by a definite volitional response," in other words by a definite act of the will, "welcome the Word as an active working force in their lives." Have you by a definite act of your will ever welcomed the Word and its active work in your life? Have you ever invited God to use His Word to change everything you think and every way you behave? You see the same Word that brought life into our dead hearts, verse 18, is the tool the Spirit uses to shape us into the image of Christ.

I'm reminded of our Lord's words in His high priestly prayer in John 17:17 where He says, "Father sanctify them, make them holy by means of the truth. Your Word is truth." We must be teachable. We must receive; we must welcome the Word in humility into our lives to do its work. If you want a powerful illustration of that attitude, turn back to Nehemiah 8. Nehemiah 8, of course, the people of God have returned from Babylonian captivity, some of them, and verse 1 of Nehemiah 8 says,

And all the people [that had returned] gathered as one man at the square which was in front of the Water Gate, and they asked Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses which the Lord had given to Israel. Then Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly of men, and women and all who could listen with understanding, on the first day of the seventh month. He read from it before the square which was in front of the Water Gate from early morning [literally from light, from the time it was light enough to read] until midday, in the presence of men and women, those who could understand; and all the people were attentive [watch that,] all the people were attentive to the book of the law. [For six hours Ezra read and they stood there and listened attentively.] Verse 9,

Then Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, "This day is holy to the Lord your God; don't mourn or weep." [You see their response was to weep, verse the end of verse 9,] For all the people were weeping when they heard the words of the law. [They realized how badly they had disobeyed God. He said this is a celebration,] … "Go eat the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Don't be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength. So, the Levites calmed all the people saying, "Be still, for the day is holy; don't be grieved." So, they went away to eat, to drink, to send portions and to celebrate a great festival, because they understood the words which had been made known to them.

Verse 13, … on the second day the heads of fathers' households of all the people, the priests and the Levites were gathered to Ezra the scribe that they might gain insight into the words of the law.

Verse 18, [again you see him reading …] from the book of the law of God daily [… all seven days of the feast.] … and on the eighth day there was a solemn assembly according to the ordinance. [They'd come gathered with sackcloth and dirt on them to acknowledge their sin.] Verse 2, … they confess their sin[s] and [their] … iniquities…. Verse 3. "While they stood in their place, they read from the book of the law of the LORD their God for a fourth of the day; and for another fourth they confessed and worshiped the LORD their God."

This is what it looks like, to be eager, to be teachable, to be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, to in humility receive to welcome the Word of God. That's how we should respond, with an eager submission. We should be teachable.

Now turn back to James and notice how he describes the Word. He describes it in two ways. He says the Word of God is the Word implanted. It's an interesting Greek word; it comes from a word which means "to plant a seed in the ground". The picture James paints is: at the time of your salvation the Spirit of God planted the seed of the Word within your heart. Borrows on the image of our Lord, in Matthew 13 where He talks about all the soils and the good soil that was prepared, and the seed fell, and it took root, and it bore fruit. Salvation, the seed of the Word was planted in your heart.

And then he says that same Word that was implanted is able to save your souls. You see the Word is the tool the Spirit uses to affect every aspect of our salvation, our justification, our sanctification, and ultimately our glorification. It was the Word that showed us the way of salvation and delivered us from the penalty of our sin. It is the Word that teaches us daily how to overcome the power and dominion of sin in our lives. It is the Word that prepares us to be free some day from the presence of sin. It seems strange here that he is talking to believers and he says the Word is able to save. We have been saved, but here he's pointing ahead to the full and complete expression of salvation that occurs when Christ returns. The day when Christ returns we will be fully and completely saved, body and soul guaranteed for eternity, even as we are now.

It's no wonder when you consider the power of the Word that it's able to save our souls, that it's able to present us if you will, faultless before God at His coming. It's no wonder that Paul said to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20, "… I commend you to God and to the word of His grace which is able to build you up and to give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified." What an amazing tool. If you want to know your true spiritual condition, if you want you want to run a spiritual diagnostic, take a look at how you respond to the Word of God. Are you quick to hear? Are you slow to speak? That is: have you stopped speaking your own mind and have you started listening to God? Are you slow to anger when you disagree? Do you in humility receive the Word? To whatever extent those things are true, you have a teachable heart. And if you are teachable, then you evidence by that teachability before the Word of God there is in fact new life growing within you.

Let's pray together.

Father, thank you for Your Word. How can we ever begin to express our gratitude for this amazing gift? Lord, forgive us for how we treat it, so often with indifference, carelessly. Lord, even our best efforts at studying at pursuing Your truth in Your Word are only half-hearted. Lord, give us a renewed desire to sit with teachable hearts before Your Word to be quick to hear, to be slow to speak, and slow to anger in humility to receive the Word.

Father, I pray for the person here this morning who knows in the honesty of their hearts that they have no heart like that. They are not teachable, they do not listen to Your Word, in fact they have no delight in it, no real interest in it. Lord, help them to realize that that is Your Own view of them. And it is a spiritual diagnostic that it shows that they don't know You. Lord, may this be the day when they begin in humility to hear Your Word by receiving the gospel, by turning in faith to Christ. May they bow the knee before You and acknowledge their sin.

To the glory of Your Son, in whose name we pray, Amen.

Look in the Mirror!