Have you ever stopped to think about how often you are exposed to God’s word?
Every time you open up the Bible for time with the Lord, the God of the universe speaks. Every time you go to small group and discuss a passage of Scripture He is speaking. When you quote verses in your head that you have memorized, He is talking. When exposed to His word He tells you who He is, He tells you how to live, He tells you what other people are like, He even tells you about the future.
It’s a dangerous thing to be exposed to the word of God, because every time one of two things happen. Either you will become more like Jesus Christ, or you will be hardened to the truth and become cold towards Jesus.
Steve Lawson in his biography of John Calvin says,
“We owe to the Scripture the same reverence which we owe to God because it has proceeded from Him alone, and has nothing of man mixed with it.” This was the unshakable foundation of Calvin’s preaching-the authority of divinely inspired Scripture. He firmly believed that when the Bible speaks, God speaks.”
Because of how dangerous it is to be exposed to Scripture, James, the brother of Christ, in James 1:19 is concerned for the Church. He’s already warned them to be prepared for trials, and temptation and now he wants them to be prepared to receive the word of God. In this verse he gives three short imperatives, that will remind us about the importance of how to react to God’s word when exposed to it.
19 This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger;
Quick to hear
People have a hard time listening in this day and age. I was recently watching the movie Bambi with my kids. I was shocked by how slow the characters were, how little was going on on-screen. Modern day cartoons are so different. Everything is faster, bigger, brighter, with so much more happening. We just have to face the fact that we have a hard time paying attention. And James wants us to make sure that we are alert and listening each time we come to hear from God.
We need to prepare ourselves before hand. To hear the word we must be alert. We must get enough sleep, we must pray, we must repent of all wickedness and we must work hard to tune out temptations and distractions so that we can be fully prepared to sit under Scripture.
In James 1:21 he tells us to put aside all filthiness, in other words we need to clean out our ears. You’ve seen a child’s ear full of nasty gunk. I’ve had to clean a couple myself. In the same way we must clean out our wrong presuppositions and replace them with God’s. We must come to the word ready to listen and ready to be changed, because nothing can change us but the word of God.
Slow to speak
In other words, “shut up!” Stop talking to your self. If when someone confronts you, you right away get defensive and start defending yourself or change the subject, chances are you are talking to fast or not listening. During preaching we are all tempted to think, “Wow I wish ____ was here to listen to this!”, instead of allowing the word of God to break us. Or maybe mid-sermon you’re already thinking about what you’re going to be doing after the service or after Bible study. Or during Bible reading, somehow you read an entire chapter and don’t remember a word that you read because you were thinking about something else the entire time. Stop, shut up and listen to the word.
Receiving the word means that you aren’t so quick to say what you think. You aren’t a talker who gives his opinion on everything before you’re even asked. We need to practice being a listener and practice not talking, because the less you think of what you have to say, the more you’ll think of what God has to say.
If you value your opinion a lot and think highly of yourself then the word won’t mean much to you.
Slow to anger
You must be willing to admit to yourself that you are imperfect. It’s easy at salvation. At salvation we said that we were terrible sinners and we deserve hell. But the sanctification process can only happen if you are willing to continue to say that you are a sinner. That you continue to need help. One of the ways you are able to know if you are receiving the word of God with the right attitude, is if you are slow to anger when confronted with the Bible. Whether it’s the preacher, whether its in your Bible reading, or more appropriate to us maybe, when someone confronts you, we must be slow to anger when faced with the word of God.
How do you react to confrontation?
The key to receiving God’s word is humility. Look at James 1:21 he says, “in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.“
So the point of this passage is to receive the word of God but the only way you will receive rightly is through humility.
- Being quick to hear can only happen if in humility, you realize that you need to hear the word. You are in absolute need of it!
- Being slow to speak can only happen if in humility, you believe that what you have to say is not that important and what’s really important is the Bible.
- And finally, you can really judge your humility when confronted by God’s word and you don’t get angry but humbly admit that you need to change.
So how do we know if we are receiving God’s word and it is bearing fruit in our lives? James 1:22 says that there is a result. You will do what it says! The right response to God’s word will always result in application. When we are exposed to God’s word, if we apply these verses, we will be more than ready to obey our Lord in everything.