Instructions For Living
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
December 29, 2002
 


I enjoy reading these ďLifeís Little Instruction BookletsĒ. Sometimes the tips are pretty practical, sometimes theyíre just funny. Either way, I like them.

(Read some samples)

Let me tell you, those are some great instructions for life. But Iíve got to be honest with you -- I hate following instructions. If at all possible, Iíd rather try to figure things out for myself than look at an instruction manual. I think itís a guy thing. But itís true. And it doesnít really matter what it is. It can be setting the clock on the VCR, figuring out a new computer program, or running a microwave. I donít like using instruction manuals. And I hate using maps. Sometimes if Iím going someplace and donít know how to get there, Iíll just wander around until I happen upon my destination.

But you know what Iíve discovered? There are simply times when I need instructions. After I struggle with something for a while with no progress, Iíll give in and glance at the instructions. There are times when I get in over my head and I need to turn to the instructions for help.

One of the areas of life where I constantly need help is with living the Christian life. Thatís an area where I canít afford to waste time trying to figure it out for myself or making up my own rules. I need to know what Godís instructions are for my life.

Thatís why I love the book of James in the Bible. Itís a book about practical Christianity. There are all kinds of instructions for life that are contained in the pages of that book. This morning, weíre going to take a closer look at the passage we read earlier in the service and weíre going to identify three of the instructions James has for us.


Main Passage: James 1:19-25


Three Instructions For The Christian Life:


1. Be teachable (v.19)

ďMy dear brothers and sisters, be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.Ē (v.19).

Donít think you know it all. You donít. Weíve all got areas we can grow in. We all need to be willing to be quiet and accept instructions if we ever hope to improve in these areas.

Take a look at this scene from Mr. Hollandís Opus:

(Show clip - girl who was going to give up playing the clarinet)

Interesting. The girl was discouraged and ready to give up. But she didnít reject Mr. Hollandís offer to help. Instead of simply refusing and leaving the room, she sat down, listened to him, and followed his instructions.

I donít think God is ever going to ask you how many times you read the Bible through or how many verse you memorized or how many Bible studies you attended. Those are all important things, but ultimately God is going to want to know how much you applied to your life. Heís not going to care how much you know nearly as much as how you put what you know into practice in your life.

I teach piano lessons. I teach my students about sharps and flats, repeats, dynamics, phrasing, timing, rhythms and intervals. I have them learn the theory and work out problems with paper and pencil. But I also have them put the theory theyíre learning into practice by getting them to sit at the piano and learn to play.

How about you? When you read the Bible, does it ever occur to you to think about how you can put it into practice? If you do, do you take the next step and actually put it into practice? Are you teachable?

We should be teachable, but the truth is that there are a lot of people that arenít.

Never try to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time and it annoys the pig.
~ Paul Dickson (freelance writer and author)

Why? Help me out. Why is it that some people simple refuse to admit weaknesses and be taught?

AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION

Yeah, there may be many reasons why theyíre not teachable, but I believe thereís one dominant reason: Pride. People donít want to admit that they donít know it all. Their ego prevents them from recognizing mistakes in their lives.

I read this definition for ďegoĒ about a week ago, and it stuck with me. Ego is simply ďEdging God Out.Ē When we stop being teachable because our egos are too big we stop growing spiritually. We start to think weíve got it made, and eventually we lose sight of the fact that we need God. Itís in our weakness that He is made strong.

So watch out for pride in your life. Stay teachable. Desire to grow in your relationship with Christ and in your Christian walk. Seek and accept advise, and donít be afraid of criticism.

Iíve got a quote here and I honestly have no idea who said it. But I like what they said:

ďDonít mind criticism. If itís untrue, disregard it; if itís unfair, keep from irritation; if itís ignorant, smile; if itís justified, learn from it.Ē

Be teachable. Accept advice from others. Admit when youíre wrong and see what you can learn from it. And learn from God. Remember that He wants to offer you His wisdom. And also remember that we learn when we listen, not when we talk. Prayer is meant to be a conversation, not a speech. So feel free to talk to God, but also spend some time in silence before God to allow Him a chance to speak and to teach you.

There is one stipulation that needs to go along with this, though: Test everything.

Paul told us that in 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 (NIV):
ďTest everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.Ē

We need to be teachable, but at the same time we need to guard what we accept as truth.

Thereís another instruction that James gives to us.


2. Live a moral life. (vv. 21, 27)

ďSo get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the message God has planted in your hearts, for it is strong enough to save your souls.Ē (v.21).

Do you recall the Exxon Valdez oil spill that happened off the coast of Alaska? (March, 1989) 149 km of shoreline in Prince William Sound were heavily covered with oil, and 459 km were at least lightly covered. From what I understand, the recovery process has taken years and is still continuing. There are still islands whose shores are covered with oil. Sub-surface oil in particular remains a concern, and was found in 58% of the sites tested in the summer of 2001. The pollution is still there and is potentially lethal to everything that comes into contact with it.

We are polluted in our lives when we accept the values of this world, when we participate in the evil of this world, when we condone it, or when we allow it to happen without objecting to it (e.g. same-sex marriage, abortion, mercy killing, pornography). We are polluted when we give up our morals and standards and allow them to be replaced by what James calls moral filth.

Well, what happens if youíve already participated in the moral filth of society? What can you do about it?

Did you know --

  • In 1842 the first bathtub was denounced as a "luxurious and democratic vanity". Boston made it unlawful to bathe, except on doctor's prescription.
  • In 1843 Philadelphia made bathing illegal between November 1 and March 15.

Well, good news. Thereís no ban on you being cleansed from moral filth. You can have that sin washed out of your life. Listen to this:

If we say we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and refusing to accept the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong.
~ 1 John 1:8-9

Do you realize that when God looks at the moral filth in our lives, Heís repulsed by it. But at the same time, as we commit ourselves to Him, He will take us through a process of purification that will completely decontaminate the ďmoral filthĒ from our lives. If you look at you life and see ďmoral filthĒ, then let God do his work in you. Allow Him to purify you.


3. Embrace The Word Of God. (vv. 22-25)

James 1:22-25;
And remember, it is a message to obey, not just to listen to. If you donít obey, you are only fooling yourself. For if you just listen and donít obey, it is like looking at your face in a mirror but doing nothing to improve your appearance. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you keep looking steadily into Godís perfect lawóthe law that sets you freeóand if you do what it says and donít forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.

Itís a funny picture that James paints for us with his words. And I can identify with it. You see, Iím not a morning person. So when I get up in the morning, I stumble to the bathroom, and I might even stumble into a door-frame or two on the way. When I get there, I look in the mirror and Iím rarely pleased with what I see. The remains of sleep are still with me. My hair is usually in a mess, I havenít put my contacts in yet so Iím squinting, Iíve got to shave, I might have some crease marks up and down my face from my pillow (pillow face), and in general itís not a pretty sight. I need work.

Now what I donít do is this: I donít turn around and suddenly forget what I look like. As much as I might like to. This morning, I didnít simply get up, look in the mirror, and then come to church. I took the time that it takes to care for all the things that good grooming and good hygiene require. I took a shower, I washed my hair, I washed my face, I shaved, I put in my contacts, and I even ironed my clothes as I got ready for the day.

James tells us that a person who hears or reads the words of the Bible but doesnít put them into practice in his life is like a person who looks at his reflection in a mirror, turns around and forgets what heís seen.

Most people are bothered by those passages in Scripture which they cannot understand. The Scripture which troubles me most is the Scripture I do understand.
~ Mark Twain

Folks, let the Bible bother you. Be troubled by what you read. And let it inspire you to let it make a difference in your life.

Hereís another one of those quotes when I donít know who said it, but it states things so well:

ďChristianity has been studied and practiced for ages, but it has been studied far more than it has been practiced.Ē

Donít let that be said of you. Letís pray.
 


 

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