3rd Wednesday in Lent, 2014 – James 1:19-27

How do you stand firm against all the filthiness and rampant wickedness of this world? How do you stand against those who would take your liberty and security from you? If you look at the answers of this world, if you look at what you are told on TV and movies, the answer is clear. Get angry, take up arms, resist with all your might. How do you stand firm? With the righteous power of your might wielded in a just cause. This is what the world tells you. And yes, in God’s left hand reign, where the power of the sword is necessary for keeping chaos at bay, this is true. But as we stand as the Body of Christ, His right hand reign of the kingdom of heaven on this earth, it is just wrong. Our liberty in not found in the ways of the world and our righteousness is not found in our works in this world, so neither is our means for standing strong in the face of this fallen, sinful world. Our might will not protect our liberty in Christ and our anger will not produce the righteousness we need. Only the prayer of faith will sustain you.

In our text for this evening, we hear James tell us the source of our safety and the means of our righteousness. He writes, “Receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” It is the Word of God implanted in your heart by God the Holy Spirit Himself that saves you; this implanted Word of God which is a free gift of God your Heavenly Father that saves you; this implanted Word of God who is God the Son incarnate — the locus of your faith — that saves you. But more than this, for the same Jesus Christ that hung on the cross and died for our sins and on the third day rose from the dead raising us up with Him to everlasting life, walked this earth with us; rebuked us in our temptation; comforted us in our trials; fed us in our hunger; and healed us in our sickness. The same Jesus died for you also lived for you. And this same Word of God implanted in your heart that saves you also keeps you safe.

Faith is not just some passive force that you intersect with at the moment of your death, it is active, powerful, and efficacious here and now. And the Word of God is not just something you passively listen to, giving comfort and solace, like music in the background. The Word of God changes you; it remakes you. The Word of God kills you in your sin, nailing you to the cross to die with Him and the Word of God raises you up with Him in His resurrection as a new creation. James tells you to “be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” If you are a member of the Body of Christ, then you are by definition a doer of the Word. Jesus Christ is the Word of God and you are His Body. What a person does, he does through his body. This means that the doing of the Word of God is done through the Body of that Word, the Body of Christ in this world.

Your anger at the filth and wickedness of this world does not make you righteous, but only the Word of God implanted in your heart. The laws of this world and the power of the sword that defends those laws cannot in truth give you liberty, but only the law of liberty given and defended by the Word of God implanted in your heart. So, do not think that you can be simply a passive recipient of faith; simply a hearer of the Word. The Word that you hear is that same Word that is implanted in your heart; the same Word that is at work in you. So be a doer of that Word and not just a hearer. For the faith that saves you is the same faith that keeps you safe. The prayer of faith will sustain you!

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