38 The Lesson Purpose of James 1:19-26


Crafting the Purpose Bridge

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

That’s a powerful statement because it shows the importance of what we choose to accept. We will accept God’s word or we will accept the lies we tell ourselves in order to pursue our desires.

That reminds me of Eve and the serpent. We focus so much on the words of the serpent that we forget that there was a process going on there within Eve. We know what the Devil said to her. What must she have said to herself to eat that forbidden fruit? She accepted and acted upon the wrong information.

Why didn’t James deal with outside sources of influence in James 1:19-27 instead of only talking about deceiving ourselves? It’s because ultimately, we either accept the Word of truth and find life or we accept our own thoughts and act upon them, no matter where they are from. Life is more than just avoiding sin. Life is more than ignoring the voice of Satan enticing us to do his bidding. It’s choosing to hear and accept and DO God’s will that brings life.

It’s a tricky contrast, but the way to death is to listen to our desires and act upon them in ways God has not prescribed. Those desires conceive. Our desires cause us to conceive a plan to fulfill them, prompt us to create a plan. That plan may not be immediately obvious to us, but as we become more aware of ourselves and this process, we will see why we do the things we do more clearly.

The secret to overcoming and winning against temptation and death is not just to avoid conception of a pathway of sin, but for the “conception” to take place from the WORD of God. It’s the implanted word that must be accepted and followed. Then our actions are not conceived by us but by the word of truth. And if we accept what the word says and intentionally set out to obey it, we will overcome sin and death.

That does not mean we will be perfect, but this is the process of life. DO what God says. Don’t just find a few things God said to do and do them. Let God’s word tell you how to react to your needs. Let it inform your decision-making process so that the very ideas you conceive will be from God’s word. Then pursue those plans–let the idea conceived come to fruition. That’s the message that I think I should bring to others, based on this passage.

But I need to dig into the text and ask questions to be sure that I am bringing out all that I should and that what I am bringing out is the main point of the text.

Am I satisfied with the CPT? Fairly. It seems to be eluding me a bit, but I think I have the main thought.

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

So what?

3 levels of the sermon:

  1. This is what it says, and I know it.
  2. This is what you are supposed to believe or do based on what it says.
  3. This is what believing or doing this will accomplish.

I want to land in stage 3 by discovering what that is so that I can influence and encourage people to change in some way–whether that be a change in belief, modified or reinforced, or a change in activity. I suspect in this case it should be a change in behavior after they better see what to believe. I certainly has encouraged me to step out in action toward life.

Considerations for the Lesson

A goal for the sermon

This is what I need. What goal can I set so that I can take the CPT and preach it so they will reach toward that goal? What do I want them to do or believe when I am finished talking to them?

  • What’s the purpose James had in writing it? To get us to realize that we must act upon God’s word and not fool ourselves into thinking that avoiding sin is the same as pursuing life.
  • What did James want us to do? Stop resisting the word, accept it, and put it into practice. “But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22).
  • How can we know whether we have been successful in this? Did he give any indication that we can test? The illustrations might be just what he was doing. In the first one we see a man who forgot what the mirror told him about himself. In the second one a religious man deceived himself into thinking he was righteous because he was a religious man but didn’t ever DO what God required. He did not bridle his tongue but deceived his own heart with it–told himself he was OK not doing God’s will–told himself perhaps that if he avoided sin he was right with God. But pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” So it’s NOT just keeping oneself unspotted from the world. A Buddhist Monk can do that–as anyone could. Life comes as we learn to accept and DO what God has told us in His word. [WOW that really sets the Calvinist on his ear.]

What do I want to accomplish, then, based on these things?

What do I want them to consider and learn?

What do I want them to believe and/or do as a result of this lesson?

And why should the do or believe it anyway? What do they get from it.

Audience Considerations

I need to consider my audience so I can decide how to approach this. I should think of different ways and reveal those in the podcast so that people can see what I mean.

  • What if I am addressing a bunch of newly married women?
  • What if I am addressing a crowd of unbelievers?
  • What if I am addressing people who have just lost family members?
  • What if I am addressing low income, poverty-stricken people?
  • What if I am addressing rich people?
  • What if I am addressing elders, deacons, and preachers?
  • What if I am addressing a bunch of preaching school students?
  • What if I am addressing a crowd that came from loss of property like in the Louisiana floods?
  • What if I am addressing newly divorced couples?
  • What if I am addressing new families with new children?
  • What if I am addressing a church divided by political parties?

The answer to these is found in the passage, generically, but if I want to help them, I should consider how it might work for these (and other) groups of people.


Newly married women

What kind of challenges or problems are they facing that this could help them with?

  • It would depend on what you know about the group–as with any group.
  • The message starts with the CPT: The process of life lies in accepting and acting upon God’s word.
    • This certainly relates to marriage because the Bible has a lot to say about marriage!
    • It would be important to stress that this applies to ALL aspects of life, but that we could specifically illustrate the principle with their own challenges and circumstances.
      • Marriage pointers–how the Bible says to treat your husband.
      • Child-rearing help.
      • Managing the stress of being One with her husband–figuring out how that works
      • Dealing with social pressures that seek to divide a marriage relationship

Divorced men in their 60’s

  • The process of life lies in accepting and acting upon God’s word.
  • This is a time when their lives could be dominated by seeking to follow the Word–more time
  • This would be a time to discuss divorce and see what God said about it–challenge them to accept and obey God’s will before their own.
  • How they can help people younger than them
  • If eligible for remarriage, what does God want from them when they look for a new mate?

Children in a foster home

  • The process of life lies in accepting and acting upon God’s word.
  • What does God want from their lives?
  • What about pursuing careers? Where should they look?
  • How their relationship with God can shape their futures and their present.

These are TOUGH questions that should require us to THINK ABOUT our audience. We could do some research, some asking of questions. This is extremely challenging for preachers to do because they have to think this way for every sermon and Bible class. There’s just not enough time to do it the best way. That’s why longevity in a congregation is so important! But that’s another podcast episode for me to do one day.

Take the time to THINK ABOUT your audience and how this text, this CPT can help them in their circumstances.

Would it do much good to discuss with 60 year old divorced men how the Bible wants newly married women to behave toward their husbands? Of course the general principle is true, but the application is vital to the lesson material.

As to the crowd you are addressing, AND what specific application you are going to address, these decisions will shape the way you present your lesson to them. You will use the passages of the text to make the points that must be made for those groups. In this case, the CPT is, “The process of life lies in accepting and acting upon God’s word.” You COULD keep it generic and just talk about the divisions of the text–the first part is the explanation and the second part gives two examples to illustrate the point for us.

That might be all you do for all of the different audiences you can imagine. But why not work to make it more applicable to each group?

The end result is a life of blessings. A woman can help build her home into a continuous blessing from God if she will accept God’s word and do it. The illustrations could be changed to illustrate the same ideas. In the first part, a woman might understand and accept what God wants, but she must decide to behave that way. She might look into the perfect law of liberty and see her Lord tell her to submit to her husband’s leadership, but if she walks away from that teaching in agreement but never acts on it, that’s useless! She must then be ENCOURAGED to FIND ways that can be put into her practice. Maybe it’s one step at a time. Maybe she can see one area where she tends to be argumentative about things that really don’t matter. Why not simply say, “OK” the next time he wants to do something you don’t care about?

NOW we are getting to how to apply this text. Would you say that to 60-year-old men? Maybe in principle, but certainly not in the same way.

Why is it we treat Bible classes and sermons as if they are speaking to very generic audiences only? Couldn’t we at least address specific groups with statements for each? Or maybe we could address a specific group and help the rest of the people see that this can be generically applied to them as well and encourage them to come up with their OWN applications? Maybe the one group you focus on could be an EXAMPLE of how to apply it.

Elements of the CPS

Based on the above, your CPS will be very close to the CPT but modified a little to include some elements. Here are those elements to consider:

  1. Audience
  2. Specific applications
  3. Key words that relate to that specific application

Rephrase the CPT to take into account the audience and what you are going to tell that audience, and what they will receive from heeding your lesson.

Now applying this to yourself is a little different, but it is the same approach. Look at yourself and ask, “What need does this speak to?” And then be BRAVE with the application of it.

Well, I’d love to hear from you what you get from this. I can imagine someone in Bible class telling me how they can use this to talk to a group of teens, for example, or perhaps a ladies’ or men’s class. Maybe if you used it in prison ministry.

So I want to challenge you to take this to the next step, and let me know. Write me at jason@constructingfaith.com and tell me your key audience, what specific application you want to address, and how you used this text to address that specific audience. What is your CPS?

Are you up for the challenge?

Thanks for listening! And as always, may God bless the study of His word.

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