Pastor Bruce Simpkins
Renewal Community Church
Preached: February 5th, 2012
James 1:19 My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.
Even though James addresses these 3 differently, there is an order to it. Quick to listen comes first. In fact, listening may avert what we say and how quickly we become angry. Listening is a powerful tool. Good listening skills are developed when you are more focused on understanding than on than on being understood. You can not really understand what is being said unless you are intentionally trying to understand. For example:
The story is told of Franklin Roosevelt, who often endured long receiving lines at the White House. He complained that no one really paid any attention to what was said. One day, during a reception, he decided to try an experiment. To each person who passed down the line and shook his hand, he murmured, “I murdered my grandmother this morning.” The guests responded with phrases like, “Marvelous! Keep up the good work. We are proud of you. God bless you, sir.” It was not till the end of the line, while greeting the ambassador from Bolivia, that his words were actually listened to. When the ambassador heard him, he leaned over and whispered to the president, “I’m sure she had it coming.”
Our natural bent is to not listen. We tend to think more about what we want to say next instead of trying to understand what the other person is saying. The best listener is God Himself. He doesn’t keep office hours or require appointments. He is available to listen 24×7. And Jesus demonstrated this powerful ability to listen in everything He did. Whether being challenged by the Pharisees, or questioned by His followers, or appealed to by the lowest of people, Jesus listened, and understood the issues, and THEN dealt with them perfectly.
You might be amazed at how much more affective you would be in your witnessing and evangelizing if you stopped talking to the people and just started listening for understanding as to how you can best help that person make a decision for Christ. Jesus tells us that we also need to be listening for His voice too.
John 10:2-5 The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. 3 The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”
When I was younger and read this verse, I pictured the gate being the pearly gates of Heaven with St. Peter as the watchman opening the gate. And there were two roads, one leading to Heaven and the other leading to Hell. And then I thought that there would be a voice coming from one road saying “This way”. And then there would be a voice coming from the other road saying “This way”. And I better be able to recognize Jesus voice or I might not make it to Heaven. Of course, that’s NOT the way it works. Others say, after you die, go toward the light.
Let me assure you, there are NO decisions to make after you die. Not going toward a light or choosing a road, once you die, all the decisions have been made here and now in this life. After you die there is only judgment or mercy based on your relationship with God. All the testing will be over at point. The testing we face is NOW. The decisions about which path to take are NOW. The voice we choose to follow is NOW. After you die, its too late.
The “gate” is His teaching here on earth. We choose to pass through the gate or not now. He’s the one who leads us through the gate of His word. He calls us now . . . by name . . . personally . . . intimately . . . but we must get to know Him and be listening for Him . . . NOW.
Many years ago I did an in-depth study in a book written by Dallas Willard called “Hearing God”. He is very deep and sometimes difficult to understand, but there is a thought about this passage that has stuck with me ever since. It starts with the question, “If you heard the voice of the Good Shepherd, would you automatically know it was Him”?
According to Dallas Willard, it is easy to mistakenly think that if God spoke to us we would automatically know it was Him. We must first learn to recognize His voice. Yes, it is a learned recognition. Even as a believer we need to hear His voice over and over until we recognize it with certainty. There are lots of false voices trying to imitate Jesus, but only with practice, do we begin to recognize the authentic Jesus.
Just like the prophet Eli did for little Samuel in 1Sam 3, the Lord called to Samuel 3 separate times, but each time he went to Eli because he did not yet recognize the voice of the Lord. Eli told him it was the Lord and to tell God he was listening. Then God gave him the message.
We need to have more mature Christians helping other newer Christians recognize Gods voice until they can do it on their own.
One of the primary sources for listening to God is of course the Bible. So we listen to the Bible for understanding and through various helps and the Holy Spirit we do understand. But James goes on to say that true listening and understanding goes further and should lead to action.
22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man 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 the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it — he will be blessed in what he does.
The law of God is very much like a mirror. There is no mercy or grace in the mirror. It shows me EXACTLY as I am . . . warts and all. It is very unforgiving. I look into the mirror every day so that I can shave a straight line on my beard and trim the wild ones that are sticking out where they do not belong. The law shows me where I need to shave things out of my life that are not straight and trim the loose bits of me that are sticking out where they do not belong.
The law and my mirror set me free though, when I use it to correct the things I need to in my life. When I walk away from the law and from my mirror, I don’t have to hide myself, because everything has been dealt with and is well maintained. There is good reason to look in the mirror and see that I am lumpy in places I shouldn’t be. But that is just for my physical health. How much MORE important is my spiritual health? Looking into God’s law and correcting taking action to do something about the spiritual lumpiness that has crept into my faith over a long period of time.
Let’s pause here now. It would be easy at this point to think that correcting all of the things that God’s law points out, is what makes us worthy to be saved. But all our actions is NOT what saves us. I am going to remind us of this many times as we plow our way through the book of James, because James is constantly promoting the daily walk part of our life. If we are saved, these teachings are the things we want to strive for, because we will see (and others will see) the blessings in this life that come of our actions. Listening to these teachings with understanding will make our spiritual life with God healthier, but it is not what saves us from eternal death. Only Christ’s sacrifice can do that by spilling His blood and breaking His body.
Ephesians 2:8-9 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.
5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
This is why Christ instituted the ordinance of communion. It is a command to be obeyed so that the symbols will be a regular reminder of His spilled blood and broken body. As Jesus said, we are to do it in remembrance of Him.
And as we do this today in remembrance of Him, we need to examine ourselves in the mirror of God’s Word and His law. As He reveals to us our true self, we must confess the parts that are sticking out where they do not belong and ask Him to do the trimming, because we unable in our own strength.
1 John 1:8-10 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.
1 Corinthians 11:28-29 A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.
This practice has been carried out since Christ Himself instituted it in the upper room on the night He was betrayed. From the beginning, it has always been a most sacred sign of loyalty to the church and a means of distinguishing those who professed Jesus Christ as their Lord from the world. We do not approach this table lightly but with most solemn and Holy intentions.
It is, however, for all believers. You do not have to be a member of Renewal Community Church, you just have to be a member of the body of Christ. That means, you have made a public decision to be a participant in the Kingdom of God through Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Let us always remember that:
The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
< Pass Bread >
2:1 If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Take and eat this in remembrance that Christ died for you.
In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes
< Pass Cup >
5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross!
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Drink this in remembrance that Christ’s blood was shed for you.
Rom 8:1 There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Let’s Pray. Sing << Oh How He Loves You And Me >> Benediction – Ephesians 3:20