37 The Heart of James 1:19-27

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How can I outline this text?  Verses 19-21 seem to be the main point and 22-27 are two illustrations.

19-22–The entrance and acceptance of God’s word is what brings us life.

If we want to have life we must lay aside the processes of death and accept and do God’s word.

23-25 Illustration

A man looking into a mirror. After seeing himself he went away and forgot what kind of man he was. If we do not act on the Bible, we read it and forget what we are supposed to do. If we will look at the word of God and not forget to put it into practice, we will grow and be blessed. 1:12, 1:2-4, etc.

26-27 Illustration

But if we do NOT do what God says, it is because we are deceiving ourselves with our own tongues.

Salvation depends upon our ability to accept and follow God’s will instead of the processes of death (from earlier in the chapter).

Illustration 1: If we will look at God’s word and act upon it, we will grow and be blessed.

Illustration 2: If we do NOT do God’s word then it is because we have fooled ourselves into thinking there is another way to salvation.

This is in contrast with the previous discussion of the process of death mentioned in 1:14-17. He said there not to be deceived, then he said it again in 22 and again in 26 (and implies it in verse 24–he sees himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. Why would he forget? He did not take the time or make the effort to remember–we deceive ourselves into thinking it is not as important as it is. So before the main point (:16), inside the main point (:22), implied in the first illustration (:24), and stated in the last illustration (:26) James tells us not to deceive ourselves into following the wrong path–the path of death. But it’s NOT just about AVOIDING sin. It’s also about CHOOSING LIFE. It’s about seeking that joy mentioned in verse 2 by recognizing the pathway of sin and death and pursuing instead the pathway of life implied in the passage. So the contrast is NOT between sin and avoiding sin. It is between sin and active pursuit of God’s word.

But what about the middle ground between the two? Here we are seeing that there is a third, middle section: Indifferent matters. The concept is there, it is just not discussed in so many words. Because we KNOW that to repent of sin we must stop doing it. That’s the normal contrast we have in mind when we talk about someone committing sin. They need to stop.

But there is a third element in godliness that James brings out. The cure for sin is not simply avoidance. It is the pursuit of godliness through obeying the Word of God.

So what is this passage about? Righteousness. Life. Life is probably more accurate, though it comes from righteousness.

What’s it saying about life? From previous verses (17-18) we are told that God brought us forth by the word of truth. James 1:19-27 reveals how that process works. When we are honest with the word of God, accept it, and do it will will live and be blessed.

So a CPT needs to be created:

The process of life lies in accepting and acting upon God’s word.

That is in contrast to the previous verses about the process of death (14-16). If we were to combine both sections (which is not necessary but still useful), the CPT would be something like:

The processes of life and death lie in the information we choose to accept and act upon.

That previous CPT was, “To overcome temptation, you must decide upon the right desires.”

I think that misses the point a little. It was not how to overcome temptation as much as how to overcome DEATH that temptation can bring. Of course, the point is to stop temptation before it sets in. And it emphasizes the right point about deciding what our desires will be. THAT decision comes from the information we allow to influence us. The information to sin might just be our own desire to fulfill needs we find that we have. It’s not wrong to fulfill needs in a godly manner, but if we act contrary to God’s will, that will bring us death.

So now, if I were going to preach or teach this, I would at least remind people of the previous passage and show the contrast and develop the second part as much as possible after that. So I can show how to have life. But that is another lesson because it’s the purpose bridge and CPS–which is the next episode.

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