Already in James 1 we have studied how sin is generated. It all starts with temptation that lingers long enough to mix with evil desire. All of a sudden, the sin you were entertaining in your mind now masters you. You have been carried away and enticed, and sin is born. It results, in the end, in death. It is the sin-cursed life cycle, or, this fallen world’s sin-cycle.
But, thankfully, that is not the end of the story. Because God is able to produce another kind of generation; a life-cycle that ends in life, not death. “In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.” (James 1:18 NAS95) We are not now as we were when we were first-birth born. This second birth produces something quite different. And we need to learn to live according to the new definitions.
On the other side of this envelope, we find that God makes use of “the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.” (James 1:21 NAS95) God has placed and is placing in us his dynamic, powerful word that continues to re-fashion us into what we are to be and become. We desperately need this word, and we receive it humbly. This is where we will learn the new way of living; the new definitions.
Inside this envelope we find the famous admonition: “be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger;” (James 1:19 NAS95). We are to“put() aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness” (James 1:21 NAS95). We need to live by new definitions. We must not do what comes naturally. We must not follow our instincts. We must not imitate the crowd. We must listen up and slow down so that we can prayerfully evaluate how we act and respond in every situation. This is the Christian life, the life of discipleship. And there is precious little of it in our fast-paced, worldly world.
Ask yourself these questions. Maybe your answers will be better and more perceptive than mine. Maybe we could learn from each other.
Why don’t I listen? Because I think I already have all the answers, and because I think I’m mostly right most of the time. But, I don’t, and, I’m not. And there is so much I could learn if I would listen. Listen to other perspectives. They may be wrong, or right. Learn to listen to the Spirit. Learn the art of active listening, asking questions in prayer, that God would graciously guide.
Why do I talk so much? Because I’m proud. My talking needs heavy editing. There must be a difference between Spirit-prompted speech and self-prompted, self-promoting speech. Learn the difference. Take a (selective) vow of silence.
Why do I become angry? Because people don’t rightly regard my quick wit and lofty perspectives; because I’m not loyally listened to and heeded; because people don’t treat me with the kind of dignity that only God deserves.
As children of God, you and I are not nothing. God has done something special, that he might create something in us and do something with us. But it is not us, apart from God, that is of any value. And so we must learn the new definitions of what it means to be a child of God, and we must learn to choose this new kind of life where “it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” (Galatians 2:20 NAS95)