The Book of James

Lesson 3 - "How To Get the Most From the Bible"

by Pastor Frank J. Cuozzo

Pastor Frank Cuozzo

James 1:19-27, “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth 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.”


-Introduction:

Thus far James has dealt with two of the most common problems that we as believers encounter: trials and temptations. Now, James addresses another common problem for us as believers—not knowing how to get the most from the Word of God. The Word of truth that brings us spiritual life also guides us into living lives that fulfill God's purpose for us. In this passage James gives us some very practical instructions for getting the most from God's Word. Three things here,


#1) First, we must receive God's Word.

-James 1:19-21, “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.”


James gives us five commands to explain how we are to receive God's Word.


A.   We must be swift to hear. The word translated swift is the word from which we get our English word "tachometer." The Greek word means "speedy" or "prompt." It is the idea of being an anxious learner. Most early believers did not possess a copy of the Scriptures, so they were dependent upon hearing them read at public services.

B.   We should be slow to speak. We cannot speak and listen at the same time. This doesn't mean we are not to speak at all, but we should think before we speak. Why do we have two ears but only one mouth? Could it be God is trying to tell us to listen twice as much as we talk, or to be slow to speak?

C.   We must be slow to wrath. This means we are to be calm, relaxed, and not easily angered as we listen to God's Word. If you're relaxed, you get a lot more from God's Word. When I teach or preach God's Word, I first try to get people to smile or laugh. Many homes are very hectic on Sunday mornings because we rush around, get aggravated, arrive late, become stressed; and then, we expect God to speak to us. Always try to arrive early at church services so you have time to slow down and relax. Being early for church or Bible study will relieve a lot of stress and aggravation, and thus help us get much more from God's Word.

D.   We must lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness. The phrase lay apart refers to actions like taking off dirty clothes. We would not think about putting on clean clothes over dirty ones. Therefore, to get the most out of God's Word, we must clean up and get rid of all known sin in our lives. How do we clean up spiritually? 1 John 1:9 says that, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

E.   We must receive with meekness the engrafted word. This means we should sincerely pray, "God, show me what I'm doing wrong and show me the changes I need to make in my life." James also says God's Word has been engrafted in us. In the parable of the soils, Jesus compares God's Word to seed that must be allowed to take root in good soil or a good heart. (Mt 13) A good heart lets God's Word take deep root, so spiritual fruit can be produced. (Mt 13:23)


We said that to get the most from the Bible, first we must receive God's Word and...

#2) We must respond to God’s Word.

James 1:22-25, “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.”


James says that simply listening to the Word of God and receiving it is not enough. We must apply what we hear. James writes: But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. Can you lose weight by just reading a diet book? No! In the same way, if we are hearers only of God's Word, it will have no real effect on us.


To clarify his point, James writes further, For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.” God's word is like a mirror. Why do we look in a mirror when we get up in the morning? To assess the damage from the night. God's Word provides a mirror that lets us see our souls or innermost beings.


In other words, God's Word reveals what we are really like on the inside. Nothing can be hidden from God, and we cannot hide from our inner selves if we sincerely study the Word of God. It is a waste of time to look in a mirror if we leave our hair in a mess or dirt on our face. In the same way, it is silly to hear God's Word and not make the changes it reveals we should make.


In contrast to just listening to the Word of God, James describes what happens when we both listen and do what we have heard, he says, But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed”


When we focus our full attention on the Word of God, not once or occasionally but continuously, not forgetting what we have heard, we will be blessed in what we do. God's Word gives liberty because it frees us from the passions, prejudice, and pleasures of this world. Part of Satan's strategy is to convince us that living the Word of God will bring bondage, not blessing.


One of the best ways to remember what we hear is to take notes. It has been estimated we forget 90% of what we hear within 72 hours of hearing it. But if we take any kind of notes, our retention is increased by more than three times.


We said that to get the most from the Bible, we must receive God's Word, we must respond to God's Word, and...

#3) We must reform according to God’s Word.

James 1:26-27, “If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth 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.”


James concludes this section by telling us three things that will be true in our lives if we are doers of the Word.


A.   We will have a constrained tongue. James writes: If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain. An out-of-control tongue is a sure sign of a phoney religion, no matter how spiritual we may seem. One true test of whether or not we are doers of the Word of God is if we bridle our tongues. One of the most harshly condemned sins in the New Testament is gossip, which is talking about the private affairs of others. It doesn't matter if what you say is true or not. If it is not repeated to help or protect, it is nothing more than vicious gossip. If we are truly doers of the Word, we will have a constrained tongue and...

B.   We will have a compassionate heart. James puts it like this: Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction. Faithfully attending Bible study and church services, as well as having a quiet time, are all empty and meaningless if we have no compassion for the needy. In Matthew chapter 25, Jesus tells about the judgment day when He will separate the sheep from the goats (or the faithful from the fakes). To His faithful He will say: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. The righteous will ask when did they feed Him, give Him drink, invite Him in, etc. Jesus answered them in Matthew 25:40 saying, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”


If we are truly doers of the Word, we will have a constrained tongue, a compassionate heart, and...

C.   We will have a clean life. Next, James says we are to keep ourselves unspotted from the world. This means we are not to conform to the world's value system. Every day the world tries to contaminate us or pollute us with its values, views, and practices. However, carefully receiving and responding to the Word of God keeps us unspotted from the world. Jesus prayed in John 17:15, “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.” We are to be in the world, but not of the world.


In conclusion, to get the most from the Bible, you must receive God's Word, respond to God's Word, and reform according to God's Word.


Let’s pray!



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