Authentic Christianity has profound implications for your heart, head, and hands. In other words, authentic Christianity is a supernatural change of heart that fuels a desire to know (head) more about Christ that in turn motivates the faithful work of your hands. James says it this way in James 1:22, “be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves”. Self-professed Christians who are only focused on filling up their head are deceived. They think they know Christ, but they only know about Christ. As a result, they are failing to obey the commands of Christ. Only through spiritual rebirth we are able to truly acquire knowledge that will be put into action. In our sermon today, we shall see how authentic Christianity is revealed in our heart, head, and hands.
- A Renewed Heart (19-20). A renewed heart is revealed through genuine love for others. A more natural response is to be quick to speak, quick to anger, and slow to listen. This is because we are naturally selfish. A renewed heart changes our selfishness into selflessness. James says that a Christian “should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger”. These actions demonstrate the love of God in us and flowing out of us. A renewed heart is mentioned in Ezekiel 36:26. The Lord said, “I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit will I put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” Consider further:
- Quick to Listen. Being quick to listen means that we are willing to hear what another person has to say. Too often we do not listen to other people when they are talking. We would rather listen to ourselves think than the other person. This reveals selfishness. Christ frees us from selfishness so that we can care about others so much that they genuinely want to know what they have to say and why they say it. It is a humble act to remain silent and listen to others. Good listening involves considering what others say and not simply remaining silent long enough just to think of something else to say. A renewed heart cares and hears.
- Slow to Speak. Being quick to listen includes being slow to speak. Edmond Heibert wrote that this “does not mean slowness in speaking but is a call for restraint upon hasty and ill-considered reactions to what is heard.” If we are not careful, we will listen to someone only long enough to find something we disagree with. Then we let them have it. Christians should speak with wisdom and speak what is good. We should resist the urge to engage in pointless arguments. This is especially important in the age of Facebook and Twitter where everyone has an opinion about everything. When someone posts something on Facebook you disagree with, do not immediately start typing; start praying!
- Slow to Anger. The reason Christians should be slow to anger is because “human anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness.” Getting angry at someone does not help resolve any problems. Our anger is a weapon that we use in order to get someone to yield to our demands. Jesus does not call us to win arguments by getting angry. He calls us to win people to Christ by a righteous life. Anger does not produce righteousness. It is love that leads people to Jesus. This is motivation for us to keep our anger in check and seek to love people like Christ.
- A Renewed Head (21). A renewed head is revealed through the intentional pursuit of righteousness. Paul wrote in Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.” A sure sign that a person is a Christian is their fight against “all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent.” We must detest what is evil and love what is good. Notice where James says this battle begins. It begins with ourselves. James uses the imagery of a person wearing filthy clothes. This person must remove those dirty clothes and dress with clean clothes. Likewise, we must remove the moral filth that so easily ensnares us and “humbly receive the implanted Word, which is able to save your souls.” Put off the evil of the world and put on the righteousness of Christ.
- Renewed Hands (22-27). Renewed hands are revealed by obeying the commands of Christ. James writes that Christians “must be doers of the Word and not hearers only.” The one who hears and does not put into practice is deceived. James compares him to a person who looks into the mirror and then forges what he has seen. This person has forgotten the purpose of the mirror. Likewise, the person who hears the Word of God and fails to put it into practice is failing to see the purpose of God’s Word.
James then gives to practical points of application so that we may examine ourselves. First, he writes, “If anyone thinks he is religious without controlling his tongue, his religion is useless and he deceives himself.”(or in 2017 he could substitute tongue with Facebook). Second, he writes, “Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” In the first point, a born-again Christian has his/her tongue under submission to Christ. They seek to control their tongue for good and resist using it for evil. This is a sign of genuine faith. Anyone can sing “Oh How I Love Jesus”. The best way to tell if you actually do is by what comes out of your mouth after the song is over. In the second point, a born-again Christian uses their time and money for the good of others and not for self-gratification. They are doing the works that God has prepared for them (Eph 2:10). It also shows itself on having compassion on the most vulnerable.
Let us not be deceived. If your religion does not affect your thoughts, words, and actions, your religion is worthless and you are deceived. Authentic Christianity is a supernatural change of heart that fuels a desire to know more about Christ that in turn motivates the faithful work of your hands. Do you have a renewed heart? Do you have a renewed head? Do you have renewed hands? If you truly love Jesus, you will love like Jesus. Those who hear without doing are hypocrites and their faith is not genuine. Those who hear the Word and obey demonstrate genuine faith. Put your faith into action.