James 1:20-26

The Perfect Law of Liberty
The theme of this lectureship is "practical righteousness." I'm not sure that I am the
right person to speak of "practical righteousness." Most people think of practical as
something that will help them in this world - it will bring them more money, it will bring
them more possessions, it will bring them more prestige, it will bring them more
knowledge, it will help them get ahead in this world. My wife will tell you that if that is
what is "practical", I'm not the person to speak about it.  My history has not been a
"practical" one. I left college over a matter of principal, but it was not a "practical"
decision. I preached for the congregations that I thought needed my help the most, but it
was not a "practical" decision. I dropped our health insurance in order for the
congregation to go on, but it was not a "practical" decision. I quit my job with a
newspaper chain over their support of homosexual unions, but it was not a "practical"
decision. I refused to lie and misrepresent the products I sold, but it was not a
"practical" decision. Solomon requested that God keep him from riches, lest he be
tempted to forget God, and from poverty, lest he be tempted to steal. So far, in my life,
I have been much more tempted to steal than to forget God.  Contrary to the common
idea in the religious community; I do not believe that practical righteousness brings
riches, or prestige, or power. It lays up treasures in heaven. It is preparation for the life
which is to come rather than that which is here.  To walk by faith, is to walk looking
toward and forward to heaven. That is what is "practical" for this life.

"We, having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore I
have spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak; knowing that He Who raised up the
Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you. For all things
are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many
redound to the glory of God. For which cause we faint not; but though our outward
man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is
but for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. While
we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the
things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal. For
we Know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building
of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan,
earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven. If so be that
being clothed, we shall not be found naked. For we that are in this tabernacle do groan,
being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality
might be swallowed up of life. Now He that has wrought us for the selfsame thing is
God, Who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit. Therefore we are always
confident, knowing that, while we are at home in the body, we are absent from the
Lord: (for we walk by faith, not by sight:) we are confident, I say, and willing rather to
be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. Wherefore we labor, that,
whether present or absent, we may be accepted of Him. For we must all appear before
the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body,
according to that be bath done, whether it be good or bad. Knowing therefore the terror
of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are
made manifest in your consciences." (2 Corinthians 5:13-6:11)

I can tell you about this type of practical righteousness. I can tell you about the practical
righteousness that makes you right with God. I can tell you about the practical
righteousness that gives you the peace that passes all understanding. I can tell you about
the practical righteousness that gets you to heaven. That is the only practical
righteousness that I know about.

I would like to start with verse 16 rather than verse 20.

16. Do not err, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every complete gift is from
above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness,
neither shadow of turning. Of bis own will he fathered us with the word of truth, that
we should be a kind of firstfruits of bis creatures.

=  Do not sin, brethren.

= Remember that everything good, everything perfect has come from God. Goa has not
changed. He will not send that which is not good and perfect. Some things seem to
change shape in the shadows. Some people change their ways and character when they
are in the shadows. God does not change. Both God and Jesus are the same yesterday,
today and forever.

= God has begotten us to be His children by the word of truth, the gospel. If He has
provided for us to become His children, He will not give us things that are contrary to
our good. The Jewish Christians were the firstfruits of the gospel, opening and showing
the way for the Gentiles.

19. Therefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to bear, slow to speak, slow
to wrath: far the wrath of man does not work the righteousness of God.

= Realizing who we are, Christians begotten of God to be his children, act accordingly.
Be quick to listen and to learn. Be slow to speak, making sure you know what you are
talking about. Be slow to anger, make sure you know why you are angry and it is just.

= Because man's anger, for purposes of the flesh, and losing control of one's reason and
actions, is not working the righteousness of God. Let righteous­ness be your guide. Let
the word of truth light your way. Let your actions reflect well upon your Father in
heaven.

= The righteousness of God is the pivot of the passage. Our purpose as Christians is to
do the righteousness of God. That is what our lives should be.

20. Therefore lay aside allfilthiness and excess sinjumess, and receive with meekness the
engrafted word, which is able to save yoursouls.

= That is why you must put aside all sin and wickedness from your life, and let your
thoughts and your actions conform to the gospel, the doctrine of Christ, the word or
truth which is able to save your soul. Let this word be planted in your heart to guide
your emotions, and in your mind to guide your thoughts, and it will guide your actions.

= We no longer live in an agrarian society that is always familiar with grafting. If you go
across the highway out front, to the nursery, you can get a lesson on grafting. It is the
process whereby you "implant (a portion of living tissue) in a lesion so as to form an
organic union". It is placing a living plant into a living plant so that the desired fruit can
Be harvested. It is surgically placing an apple branch into another tree, so that it will bear
apples. What this means spiritually, is that the word of God (which is living and
powerful - Hebrews 4:12) is placed in our hearts so that it can grow there and produce
the fruits of the Spirit. The word of God grows in our hearts, minds and souls to the
extent that our lives exhibit the fruits of the Spirit - our thoughts are guided by the word,
our speech is guided by the word, our actions are guided by the word.

= The words of James remind one of the parable of Jesus about the hearts of men:
"Listen; Behold, there went out a sower to sow: and it came to pass, as he sowed, some
fell by the way side, and the birds of the air came and devoured it up. And some fell on
stony ground, where it aid not have much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because
it had no depth of earth: but when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had
no root, it dried up. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it,
and it yielded no fruit. And other fell on good ground, and dia yield fruit which sprang
up and increased; and brought forth, some 30, some 60 and some 100.

And he said to them, He who has ears to bear, let him hear.

"And when be was alone, they who were around him with the 12 asked him about the
parable.

"And be said to them, To you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God-
but to them who are without, all these things are done in parables: that seeing they may
see, and behold not; and bearing they may bear, and not understand; lest at any time
they should be converted, and their stns should be forgiven them.

"And he said to them, Do you not understand this parable? and how then will you know
all parables?

"The sower sows the word. And these are those by the way side, where the word is
sown; but when they have beard, Satan comes immediately, and takes away the word
that was sown in their hearts. And these are those likewise who are sown on stony
ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness; and
have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: later, when affliction or
persecution arises far the word's sake, immediately they stumble. And these are those
which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word, and the cares of ibis world, and
the deceitfitlness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and
it becomes unfruitful. And these are those who are sown on good ground; such as bear
the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some 30 fold, some 60, and some wo."
(Mark 4:3-20; see also Matthew 13; Luke 8)

= Our hearts determine whether the word will be implanted and grow as it should, or
not. If our heart is the hard way side, we need to plow it up, disc it, harrow it and
prepare it for the word. If our heart is the stony ground, we need to break out the
cullipactor (a disc-like instrument that is make to break up the hard clods and stones in
the field), harrow it and prepare it for the word. If our heart is the thorny ground, we
need to cultivate it, hoe it (chop it, if you are from the South) and prepare it to receive
the word.

= How do we do this? That is what the first part of the first chapter of James is all
about. Humble yourself before God. Have a humble and contrite heart. Do not think
more of yourself than you ought. Prepare yourself to do the will of God, and be his
servant, submitting to his will What was once way side, stony or thorny ground can
become production ground if you will make the preparation.

= "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. (Romans 8:14)
To be led by the Spirit of God, one must be led by the Word of God. Look at the parallel
passages of Colossians 3:16 and Ephesians 5:18-21. "Allow the word of Christ dwell in
you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns
and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. "And be not drunk
with wine, in which is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; speaking to yourselves in
psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the
Lord; giving thanks always far all things to God and the Father in the name of our Lord
Jesus Christ; submitting yourselves one to another in the fiarofGod."

= Allowing "the word of Christ" to "dwell in you richly in all wisdom" is the same as
being filled with the Spirit." The word of Christ, the word of God, the Holy Bible is
inspired, given, revealed by the Spirit. It is the words of the Spirit.

= "I  beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your
bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And
be not conformed to this world: but you be transformed by the renewing of your mind,
that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, wilt of God."
(Romans 12:1-2).

= Our minds will conform to one of two things: the world or the word. Our minds will
either be led by the philosophies of this world, or by the revelation from heaven. We
control which one will happen. We choose which path we will follow: the broad path of
the world, or the strait and narrow path of the word. Our actions show which path we
have chosen. Our actions show which we have conformed our minds to. Our actions
show either that perfect, good and acceptable will of God; or they will show the
irregenerate philosophies of man.

= "For Ezra bad prepared bis heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to
teach in Israel statutes and judgments." -Ezra 7:10 "So they read in the fook of the law
of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading" -
Nehemiab 8:8. If you wish to teach others... if you are going to teach others... you must
first prepare your heart. You must implant the perfect law of liberty in your heart. You
must allow the will of God to become your will. You must allow the will of God to
guide your thoughts, your emotions, and your actions. You must first be obedient to the
word of God yourself, then you will be able to give the sense of the word to others and
cause them to understand what it says.

22. But you be doers of the word, and not bearers only, deceivingyour own selves. For
if any be a bearer of the word, and not a doer, be is like a man seeing bis natural face in
a mirror: for he sees himself, and goes bis way, and immediately forgets what kind of
man he was. But whoever looks into the complete law of liberty, and continues in it, be
Being not a forgetful bearer, but a doer of the work, tbts man shall be blessed in bis
deed.

= Do not only know what the word says, do it. Don't deceive yourself into thinking that
it is merely a matter of knowing the right things. It is a combination of both what you
know and what you do. It must be a practical knowledge. It must be wisdom.

= If someone hears the word, and does not obey and live it, he is like someone who
looks at himself in the mirror and forgets what he looks like. It does no good to look in
the mirror and see the dirt on your face if you are not going to wash it. It does no good
to look in the mirror and see your hair uncombed, it you are not going to brush it. It
does no good to Took in the mirror to see your clothes are on incorrectly, if you are not
going to correct them.

= The man who will receive the blessing of God is the man who looks into the mirror of
God's word, sees himself as God sees him, and makes the necessary corrections. It is
the man who sees what God says to do and does it. It is the man who sees what God
has said not to do, and refrains from it. It is the man who is obedient to the word of
God, who will be blessed.

= "Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed on him, If you continue m my word,
then you are my disciples truthfully; and you shall know the truth and the truth shall
make you free."-John 8:31,32.

= Only by continuing in the word-not by knowing it... not by memorizing it... only by
doing it are you the disciple of Christ. A disciple not only hears, but follows; not only
sees, but mimics. The words of Christ must be implanted in your heart to truly know
the truth and the freedom that it brings.

= The perfect law of liberty is three things: i) perfect, 2) a law, and 3) grants liberty.

1. It is perfect - The word of God is given by Him who is perfect: sinless and without a
flaw. God cannot lie. Therefore, the word which he gives is without error. It is
complete as it "provides us with all things that pertain to life and godliness" (2 Peter
1:3-11), and "is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in
righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good
works" (2 Timothy 3:16.17).

2.  It is a law - The gospel is a law: "the perfect law of liberty and "the law of the Spirit
of life in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:2). It is the law by which we will be judged: "He who
rejects me, and receives not my words, has one that judges him: the word which I have
spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day. For I have not spoken of myself but the
Father who sent me, be gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should
speak. And I know that bis commandment ts life everlasting: therefore whatever I
speak, I speak even as the Father said to me." (John 12:48-50).

3. It grants liberty - "Therefore there is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ
Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For toe law of the Spirit of life
in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could
not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending bis own Son in the likeness
of sinful flesh, and far sin, condemned sin in toe flesh: that the righteousness of the law
might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" (Romans
8:1-4). The law of Moses was a bondage which the law of Christ freed us from (see
Galatians 3:1-5:26). "Therefore stand fast in the liberty with which Christ has made us
free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage" (Galatians 5:1). See also the
freedom from sin Paul speaks of in Romans 6:1-23. "Then Jesus said to those Jews
who believed on him, If you continue in my word, then are you my disciples in truth;
and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." (John 8:31-32).

The glass of "the perfect law of liberty" is not a magnifying glass to pick at the faults of
others. It is not a window to be able to see what others are like. It is not a "fun house"
mirror to see a distorted view of yourself as either you wish you were or as you think
others see you. It is a mirror backed with pure silver and diamond dust to be able to see
yourself as God sees you. Tor we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that
which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When J was a
child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I
became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, darkly, but wen
face to face: now I know in part, but then I shall know even as also I am known."(i
Corinthians 13:9-12). We now have the perfect law of liberty to "know even as I am
known."

= When we study the word of God, it should be to see ourselves as God sees us. Too
many study to prove others wrong, or themselves right. Too many study to teach, but
not to learn. Too many study to learn, but not to practice. The most difficult thing in the
world is to look honestly at yourself - to see your own failings, to see your own flaws,
to see yourselfnonestly (whether good or bad).

26. If any man among you seem to be religious, and does not bridle his tongue, but
deceives his own heart, this man's religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before
God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to
keep himself unspotted from the world.

= If any one wishes to be religious (in the sense it will be acceptable to God), and does
not control nis speech, he deceives himself in his own heart, and his religion is empty
and useless. We sometimes say, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will
never hurt me." However, that is not true. The damage that is done by our tongue can
sometimes never be undone. Our words are the window to our heart and soul. They are
the expression of our thoughts, our dreams and our emotions. God judges the hearts and
the very souls of men. Do not think that your speech which begins from your heart and
soul does not matter, when that is what you will be judged by. If you do not control
your speech, you will not control your life.

= Pure religion, religion which is spotless and blameless before God is twofold: help
those who are unable to help themselves, and do not become involved in sin. Religion
has two venues: action and abstention - the shahs and shalt nots. Religion which is
merely a religion of abstention from evil, never becomes good. Religion which never
abstains from evil, is overcome of evil. Religion which never obeys the commands of
God is a useless religion.
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