In this episode of the Pastor Talk podcast, Michael Gewecke and Clint Loveall discuss the Book of James and its emphasis on being doers of the word, not just hearers. They reflect on the importance of humility, meekness, and practical Christian living and encourage Christians to take responsibility for their actions and strive to live out their faith in real and tangible ways.
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00:00:00:41 – 00:00:28:49
Hey, friends, welcome back to our series that we are working our way through Lent with. Considering some of Michael and my favorite texts, passages that have spoken to us in specific ways at specific times, things that we hope might be interesting to you and maybe some sense of devotional reading in this meditation. And today we move to the New Testament, where in the Old Testament last week, if you didn’t see that, you might want to start there.
00:00:28:49 – 00:00:38:04
But whether or not you’ll follow along fine today as we move into one of Michael’s key passages from the Book of James Michael.
00:00:38:11 – 00:01:11:07
Yeah, the Book of James. So this is maybe a little surprising in the sense that I don’t find myself in the book of James often, but this has been a very formative text for me. It comes to us here from James chapter one later in that chapter, and it begins in verse 19. You must understand, my beloved, let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger, for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness, therefore rid yourselves of all sordid ness and rank growth of wickedness and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls.
00:01:11:07 – 00:01:34:31
I think all that’s important and I think it’s a very much a prelude. It all matters as we come to verse 22, which I think is a very popular verse, but b doers of the word and not merely hearers who deceive themselves for any are heroes of the word and not doers. They’re like those who look at themselves in the mirror, for they look at themselves and on going away immediately.
00:01:34:31 – 00:01:59:22
Forget what they were like. I think one of the things that James offers us is a corrective to the kind of faith that might live in our head and never touch our hearts. And I think that the gospel some times has in the church been proclaimed and taught and lived out in such a way that we create a kind of firewall between what we think and what we do.
00:01:59:47 – 00:02:31:49
And whenever that happens, it is a destructive kind of sickness to our body because it inhibits our ability to have a true and authentic whole relationship with the one who called us. Jesus wants all of us, not just our head, not just right doctrine and thinking He wants all of our lives, our thoughts and our actions, our hands and our feet, all of them, to be in conformity with his love and with his his calling to be children of God.
00:02:32:15 – 00:02:53:15
That’s one piece. And I think the other piece that’s so essential is our Christian witness that if we say one thing and do another, anyone who has children knows how destructive it is. When other people see us saying one thing and doing another thing, it fundamentally cuts out and destroys the foundation of the thing that we’re trying to say.
00:02:53:15 – 00:03:15:46
And so, Clint, this text has always been important to me, and maybe we look in verse 19 through 21 a little bit here in just a moment. But it’s been important to me because I have recognized in myself this desire to know the right thing, to study the scripture and to get it figured out. And there’s nothing wrong with caring deeply about study.
00:03:15:46 – 00:03:39:10
But Clint, when when I have found myself caring more about what I think and less about what I do, that has always been an opportunity for this text to really like a doctor ask me, you know, is there some symptoms here that need to be diagnosed of ways in which your action does not map meet the the ways that you profess to believe?
00:03:39:48 – 00:04:16:01
Yeah, I think one of the one of the great offerings of the book of James is it’s practical reality. You know, James is not a theological book in the sense that it aspires to teach. I think fundamentally it aspires to challenge us to greater faithfulness in our action in the way that we live. And so I think it’s interesting, Michael, that a person been to seminary, a person who’s trained theologically, I think James is a I don’t want to say corrective to that.
00:04:16:01 – 00:04:45:36
I think it’s a nice balance right to that to hear words that are relatively simple but incredibly challenging. But everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger, rid yourselves of what doesn’t belong and do the word. Don’t just hear the word. I mean that that doesn’t add a great deal to our understanding of who Jesus is or what Jesus calls us to.
00:04:45:57 – 00:05:05:27
But wow, is that a challenging text in terms of our own discipleship? Was there a time that this landed on you? Do you remember? Was this a growing awareness? Was this something was there a kind of a moment that you read this and felt compelled by it, or did it just sort of work on you over the years?
00:05:05:36 – 00:05:32:31
So I grew up going to a Christian high school and there’s pros and cons in that. But one of the pros was we had a new Bible teacher every two years that wasn’t on purpose. That’s just the way it worked. And one of those two years was an incredibly formative time, and the the Bible teaches that we had had no formal theological training of any kind, but they were a thoughtful individual and they were the right person for that time.
00:05:33:01 – 00:06:00:25
And the emphasis that they had for those two years at a very formative time in my life was the idea of community, Christian community. And the idea of living out the faith in practical ways. And I think that this text was one that that they returned to often. And at the time, Clint, I don’t know if you’ve had this experience, those things where you’ve heard things and it took years for you to understand them.
00:06:00:46 – 00:06:21:28
I saw this lived out in his life, a joyful simplicity of faith for him. His faith was was like a like an expert in any field who, if you’re a master or pianist and you start playing the piano, it looks easy, but it’s not easy, is it? That’s a reflection of all of your years of effort and thought and work.
00:06:21:48 – 00:06:42:57
When he practiced the faith when he was with you, you had a sense for how deeply he cared, that you had a sense for how deeply that was connected to what he believed. And as a young person, I was very tempted by this idea, Hey, I just want to know the Gospel, read the gospel, have the answers and tell everybody the answer.
00:06:43:21 – 00:07:09:46
And it wasn’t until years later where I began to see the true wisdom of faith grows and flourishes into real, practiced hands and feet, lived lives. And I began to be surrounded by folks that I would describe as saints, not in the sort of Catholic elected sense, but in the saintly character sense that that Christ has work in them.
00:07:09:46 – 00:07:42:27
And those folks that I’ve been blessed to see living out the faith, I’ve always stood in awe of the kind of effortlessness that they demonstrate care, concern and grace, forgiveness, love, joy. I mean, it’s almost like the scriptural spiritual fruit straw, like everything that you might think of as being a reflection of the the Christian life these folks have been able to to have built into them through that inner working of their faith.
00:07:42:27 – 00:08:01:57
And I think, you know, that’s been inspiring to me. And it’s certainly been a kind of thing that at some point I’m not sure that that point has a has a date. But there was a point where I decided, man, I hope that I could practice that, that maybe someday that might live in me.
00:08:02:40 – 00:08:30:43
Yeah. And again, you know, you and I have had these conversations. I love the book of James and James has a kind of reputation in the scholarly circles as being a little shallow, which I think is completely unfair. I think there there’s not an academic depth perhaps to this, but there is a deep well of wisdom in the book of James for Christian living.
00:08:30:43 – 00:09:08:27
And one of the things that I appreciate about it is we as Reformed Presbyterian Christians, we are steeped in this idea that we’re sinners, that we we don’t have a great deal of control over our own by default. But James speaks a little bit of a balance to that in that he assumes we have agency when he says act this way, be quick to listen, be slow to speak, keep a handle on your tongue, be slow to anger because anger doesn’t produce righteousness.
00:09:08:38 – 00:09:31:21
Get rid of the things. Do the word not just James assumes that we have some ability to do that. And I think, you know, by and large, James is speaking to Christian people. And I think as we hear that voice of both encouragement and correction, it does empower us to take some responsibility for ourselves and to sort of grab the reins.
00:09:31:21 – 00:09:56:52
And James seems to believe that we can do this. And I think, you know, I’m encouraged by that. And and certainly challenged by that. And I think in that sense, James is an extremely challenging book. You know, it doesn’t have certainly doesn’t have the depth and the theological chops of of a book like romance. But it’s not fair to compare it to romance because it’s not trying to do that.
00:09:56:52 – 00:10:06:14
This is trying to motivate Christians to be more Christian. And I that’s a voice that I think we all need to hear relatively often.
00:10:06:18 – 00:10:46:46
Yeah, I agree completely. And I don’t want to repeat everything you said, but I do want to just emphasize as my last reflection here is I think there is a striking turn when you realize the things that James offers as some examples of what it looks like to do the word. And you’ve already mentioned this, but just to just to point out here and this is one of the reasons I love this text so much, is when you hear this idea of being doers, look at the things listed, Listen, be slow to speak, be slow to anger, rid yourselves of wickedness and sordid ness.
00:10:46:46 – 00:11:13:24
Welcome. Meekness, friends. This is a very challenging list and quite frankly, one of the most convicting things about it for me has been the moments of my life where I’ve had the most Christian pride, and by that I mean I’ve been most tempted to think lesser of other people because, you know, I’m doing a great job studying the Bible or I feel like I’m doing this or doing this.
00:11:13:35 – 00:11:40:21
Those moments where I’ve become puffed up, those are always moments where I have gone the exact opposite of the instruction that James gives us, that the tempts mission that I think comes inherent with being Christian and believing that we’re called to live our lives faithfully is that we start trying to add stars to our crown. But that’s not the biblical model.
00:11:40:26 – 00:12:03:54
What we have here is a call to humility. What we have here is a call to meekness. What we have here is a call to silence. And if we understand that as the metric, if we understand that is the bar that we’re called to hit in the doing of the word has a way of transforming our understanding of who God has called us to be.
00:12:03:54 – 00:12:27:00
And it has a way of transforming what we think of as that doing. Being the doing is not getting yourself out there so other people can see. Your Holiness. No, the doing is you being a person who, in the quiet of faith, in the meekness and humility of those who receive the gospel, is seeking to love and serve others in his name.
00:12:27:16 – 00:12:37:45
And yet that’s the place where we live. That’s the kind of fruit of the gospel that I think is compelling. And it’s always convicting to me, even as I say this when I return to it.
00:12:37:48 – 00:13:08:15
Yeah, I’ll try to make this quick, Michael, But I think again, as as reformed Protestant Presbyterians, you know, we’ve inherited this faith works stuff and we’ve been pretty steeped in the idea that our works do not save us. But that doesn’t mean that our works don’t matter. And again, I find James a really helpful balance. We are to do works not so that we can be saved, but because that’s what it means to follow Jesus Christ.
00:13:08:15 – 00:13:26:54
We are to be doers of the Word. So if you happen to be listening to this in the morning in the start of your day, I want you to think about how am I going to do the word today? How will I be a doer of the word if it’s later in the day? When you’re listening to this, I want you to try and wake up tomorrow morning with that question on your mind.
00:13:27:07 – 00:13:52:12
What does it mean for me today to be a doer of the word, to bite my tongue, to encourage, to not get angry, to to follow Jesus in very real and very practical ways, in addition to theold logical and belief kind of ways? How am I going to live out my faith today and be a doer of the word now?
00:13:52:13 – 00:14:02:11
I think that’s a great legacy that James gives us, and I think it’s a it’s a challenge that all Christians have to take seriously as we seek to be faithful to Jesus.
00:14:02:21 – 00:14:28:39
That is a great word. That may only last edition is you should start with what things can I add that would make me a doer of the word? And I think in the spirit of this Lenten season, you might also ask, What things is it time for me to subtract? What ways have I been living out even my faith in such a way that it has been more about me than it’s been about Jesus Christ?
00:14:29:04 – 00:14:47:43
And that is a very difficult place for personal reflection. But that’s exactly the season that we’re in because we’re called to both add and subtract. We’re called to take the gospel and to let go of those burdens that we’ve bore for too long. And both of those exist in the conversation today.
00:14:47:54 – 00:15:00:28
Yeah, absolutely. Good word. Great passage. Thank you, Michael. Thank you for listening. I hope that it’s helpful. And as we continue our way through this season of Lent, hope you can join us again as we look at some other passages along the way.
00:15:00:48 – 00:15:02:49
Thanks so much for being with us, Francis. We’ll see you next week.
00:15:03:19 – 00:15:24:45
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