- The Explore the Bible lesson for Oct. 28 focuses on James 1:19-27; 2:1-4.
“Obedience is the very best way to show that you believe. Doing exactly as the Lord commands, doing it happily. Action is the key, do it immediately, joy you will receive. Obedience is the very best way to show that you believe.” (Mike & Ruth Greene, “Obedience”)
All it took was a childhood memory of singing this song, a simple Google search of “obedience is the very best way,” and presto I was hearing these words both inside and out. Imagine if we all got as excited about obedience as these lyrics prescribe. But we all know obedience can feels like more of a chore than a privilege. Why is this?
As a reminder, the New Testament book of James is a text full of application for the Christian life. Thus, the theme for today’s text is simple: live obediently in response to what Jesus said and did for you. May we walk away today with a better understanding of why obedience matters and why it can bring joy to those who believe and follow.
Heeding (James 1:19-21)
For those who are naturally good listeners, this is not as much of a difficulty, but for those with a desire to share and remark, it is a challenge to be both “slow to speak” and “quick to listen.” What do we make of the addition of “slow to anger?” How might quickness to anger make us instead quick to speak and slow to listen?
As a group, discuss the topic of anger. How has anger ever helped you and others? How has anger ever hurt you and others? If anger “does not bring about the righteous life that God desires,” then what does it bring? It would seem that anger opposes a moral and good life.
Back to obedience, consider how your own anger has kept you from being obedient. Since this may not be an easy topic, as the teacher, consider sharing a personal example that is meaningful, describing how your anger kept you from obeying God. Since we all struggle with anger and its consequences, it is pertinent that we acknowledge and discuss its reality and effects on our lives.
Doing (James 1:22-25)
How might we paraphrase verse 22? It seems to be at its simplest form. Only listening and not doing is comparable to gaining knowledge without applying knowledge. In other words, it is useless! This counters James’ intended message to these believers.
Be sure to take time to discuss the example of verses 23-25 in relationship to the command of verse 22. There is an identity crisis for the person who does not “do” what she or he listens to. This interesting image asserts the image of hypocrisy: the non-doer is like an actor with a mask who has forgotten what she or he looks like.
Jim Samra said of this text, “Become doers of the Word so that you can experience the blessings of God in your life” (Jim Samra, James, 1 & 2 Peter, and Jude, 19). Keep in mind that the blessings of following Jesus are a natural consequence of how you “do,” not how much you “know.”
Loving (James 1:26-27; 2:1-4)
Verse 26 is a clear re-assertion of verse 19, but verse 27 launches us to another “do” of the Christian faith. A pure and faultless devotion to God must include caring for orphans (think of how this tied into our previous discussion of Galatians) and widows in their distress, and to keep from being “polluted by the world.”
Care for those who are vulnerable and helpless is part of the required hospitality of the believer. It is what we must do. At the same time, be sure not to ignore the struggle of obedience and how it can keeps us from being formed by the world. What are some practical ways for us to “do” these pure and faultless acts of devotion?
The combination of 1:26-27 with 2:1-4 is an interesting and important one. After reading the text, consider looking at Jesus’s story in Luke 14:7-14, and compare it to James’ point about favoritism. How do we wrongfully practice favoritism in the church, at work, and in our own homes? How will we change what we are doing wrongfully?
We started this conversation with a children’s song, yet I would like you to consider a timeless hymn: “While passing through this world of sin, and others your life shall view. Be clean and pure without, within; let others see Jesus in you” (Baylus McKinney, “Let Others See Jesus In You”).
Followers of Jesus prove their faith to others by how obedient they are to Jesus. Being obedient to Jesus stands out among the greater disobedience of the world. While one’s salvation does not rely on one’s obedience, one’s obedience should produce a witness of one’s salvation.
Think of it this way: The way you “do” faith could make a way for others to find faith. Imagine the wonderful blessings that can take place, most important being that a person who does not know God might find God through your faithfulness. This is a heavy and difficult task, but it is worth doing. In closing, ask your group: What will you change this week so that you’ll be more obedient?
Heath A. Kirkwood is lead pastor of First Baptist Church in Lorena.