by the Rev. Larry Wilson
22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
Our Lord Jesus says, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me" (John 10:27). A born-again heart loves God's Word; it is "quick to hear." Moreover, it is quick to do what God says in his Word. The Lord's sheep don't merely assent to what their Shepherd says; they follow him. But if you are "hearers only" of God's Word, and not doers, then you are "deceiving yourselves" (v. 22). It raises the question: are you in fact one of the Lord's sheep?
"It is possible to hear God's Word constantly proclaimed in … Scripture [readings] and in sermons, and to regard such hearing as an end in itself, so that the message heard never becomes translated into deeds accomplished. This … is a form of self-deception."†
Our sinful flesh is quick to embrace legalism, the expectation that we can somehow contribute to earning our right standing with God. We so easily deceive ourselves into imagining that somehow we can make God beholden to us. But our sinful flesh is just as quick to embrace the opposite error of presumption. We can also deceive ourselves into thinking that just because we know certain information, therefore we are right with God. God gravely warns us here. Don't deceive yourself into thinking that you are saved when you have no repentance unto God and when you content yourself with hearing God's Word merely as a matter of accumulating abstract, academic data.
Remember how our Lord Jesus promises and warns in Matthew 7:24–27: "24 Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it." "Blessed … are those who hear the word of God and keep it!" (Luke 11:28).
Keith Green once asked in song,
"How can you be so dead
when you've been so well fed?"
It's so incongruous, but it's still possible. People do it by not taking God's Word to heart, by being hearers only, and not doers. Ask the living God to give you both ears to hear his Word and a heart to heed it, so that you "unquestionably ... receive [the Bible's] statements of fact, bow before its enunciations of duty, tremble before its warnings, and rest upon its promises" (B. B. Warfield). O, how we need the sovereign, gracious working of the Holy Spirit to produce this response of faith! Ask him to grant it, not just for yourself, but also for others.
† R.V.G. Tasker, The General Epistle of James, (Eerdmans, 1956, 1975), p. 52
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