We are considering in turn each of the “spokes” on our worldview wheel. Thus far we have seen how all four spokes work together, and we have considered the spoke of revealed and objective propositional truth. We come now to the second spoke, which is the way we actually live.
“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 1:22-25).
St. James is very clear, perhaps more clear than we would like. He says that we are to do the word, and not just hear it. Those who hear without obedience, he says, are self-deceived. What is the point of the deception? What do they think is true which is not true? They have come to believe that hearing truth is tantamount to living the truth. In other words, if you put up with a preacher to tells you (all the time) to love yourwife and to respect your husband, the mere fact that this is taught (without apology) at the church you decided to go to, this must mean that you are doing it. But this is self-deception, James says. He then gives us an illustration. Such a person looks in the mirror, sees the spinach in his teeth, and immediately thinks, “Whoa, better do something about that.” But what he does about that is to step away from the mirror, which has started to reveal certain unpleasant truths about him. The mirror obviously has a critical spirit. But the man who stands in front of the mirror of Scripture (the perfect law of liberty) has a certain constancy about him. He “continueth therein.” He is not a forgetful hearer. But James is no works-monger, even though this man is a “doer of the work.” Note especially that this man is blessed in his deed. Raw doing by itself is just as fruitless as raw believing. The blessing of God’s grace is absolutely necessary.
St. Paul and St. James:
Last week we focussed on Romans, where St. Paul teaches us to believe in our hearts, and to confess with our mouths. Here we consider St. James, teaching us how true faith results in action. These two emphases are not inconsistent with each other at all. To continue with our metaphor, if there is a break between the axle and the propositional spoke, there will also necessarily be a break between that axle and the lifestyle spoke.
This Is Why . . .
Over many years, we have sought in this congregation to have practical teaching from the Word on God on many practical aspects of our lives before God. We have diligently sought to establish the assumption that doctrine in the airy heavens is worthless, and that the precious doctrines of our holy religion were given to us in order that they might be lived. And this is why we have sermon series on child rearing, on marriage, on vocational pursuits, on finances, and so forth.This is not instead of expository preaching through books of the Bible, but in addition to that, as an important complement to it.
We believe there is a distinctively Christian approach to marriage, to the education of children, to the management of household finances, to the work ethic we are to exhibit when we get up in the morning. Pushing it further, we believe there is a distinctively Christian “take” or approach to auto mechanics, and dentistry, We do not believe that we have this approach well in hand, or that there are no disagreements between Christians on such subjects. But we know what we are pursuing.
The Fruit of the Spirit:
This is simply the obvious place to emphasize something that needs to be evident in each spoke. As you make what would be called lifestyle choices, be careful that your standard is not to “suit yourself” or to “indulge your own opinions.” The manner of choosing must be love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control (Gal. 5:22-23). These traits are not to be operative merely the fellowship time after church. They are to be the governing attitude when two moms are talking about eduction options, when a kirker family approaches someone else in the church to conduct their business, when they are sorting out the difficulties because that someone did a slipshod job, or conversely, if the customers took advantage of their brother, when you are talking about alternatives in medical treatments, when you are urging your friend to buy the Ford instead of the Chevvy, or vice versa.
What Gets in the Way:
Of course, the Sunday School answer is that “sin” gets in the way, but this is too general. What kind of sin? In every area of our lives, whether it is our deeply held beliefs, or our symbolic and liturgical desires, or the story we tell, or the way we choose to live our lives, the sin that intrudes like nothing else is the sin of pride and envy.
We are imitative creatures, because that is how God made us, and we are competitive and envious creatures because of Adam’s fall. Put this together, and you can have a real mess. Imitation brings us together and envy brings us together in conflict. And because we are Christians, we have long since learned to say, “It is not that I wanted that job, it is the principle of the thing.”
The Cross of Christ:
Without the cross of Christ being proclaimed regularly and with power, lifestyle claims in the name of the Lordship of Jesus Christ are the most dangerous thing in the world. This is why it is so necessary to remain robustly evangelical. What raw lifestyle claims wind up doing is bringing a bunch of Christians together who claim the ultimate sanction of Christ’s lordship for whatever “lifestyle”they want everybody else to adopt—whether bread baking, classical and Christian education, bee-keeping, alternative medicine, political involvement, and you-name-it-ism. So make your decisions before the Lord, and check the connection of this spoke to the axle of grace three times every day. If you are an opinionated fellow, check it seven times.
A day schooler and a homescholer (both well schooled in grace) have a blended and harmonious lifestyle together. But two people who share the same method (detached from grace) will soon fall to quarreling about the color of the textbooks. “But it is not the blue, but the principle of the thing . . .”