To tell someone you are ‘born-again’ in our culture will get you some weird looks. “Your not one of those… born-againers’ are ya?” is sometimes the reply. When addressing the nature of those who believe in Christ it has become synonymous with the young angry zealot who carries around the mega-phone for shouting people into heaven, the large print King James only, study Bible (extra thick) for thumping people into repentance, and a multi-colored chronological map to show people the only right way that the world is going to end, as a way to offer hope.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!
According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” 1 Peter 1:3
This is in essence is what James points out to us in James 1:18 – “Of His own will He brought us forth as by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.” When a person comes to a place in their life where they have seen the goodness of God, the sinfulness of their own heart, the incredible measures of love that God has gone to in sending His Son to pay for and take the penalty of our sin, surrendering all they believe in this grace of God – They become a part of this ‘first fruit’ a new creation, one who was once dead to God by sin has been made alive to Him through the work of Christ, who conquered death and sin on the cross- it is a spiritual birth. Having been born once physically into life now you are born again spiritually into spiritual life, by faith in Christ.
What then follows new life? The enjoyment of this life. Growth, maturing, deepening in understanding and opportunity, development of skill, relationship and trust. All this is true spiritually as it is true physically. God does not leave us as orphans to figure out what this looks like on our own. In fact right here James tells us how the resultant life of those who are the ‘first fruits of his creatures’ are supposed to look.
James 1:19-26, thankfully we are given a picture of someone who is not like the Bible Thumpn’, mega-phone totin’, apocalyptic dogmatin’ zealot. Instead we get some clear, direct, instructions on how to move beyond the thump!
Moving Beyond the Thump!
1. By a righteous renewal in God’s Word (vs 19-21)
The anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. For those who are quick to rain down judgment on the sins of others, those who shout REPENT through a mega-phone of self-rightness, to all who call themselves ‘born agains'(whether you own a mega phone or not) being quick to judge, slow to hear is not a way to mature, grow know the joy of spiritual life. But instead it is filthiness, rampant self wickedness. The only solution? Humble ourselves at the foot of the cross by allowing the Word of God to penetrate our own hearts first and constantly. A renewed surrender to allow the Spirit of God to point out the log in our own eye.
2.By a righteous revival in the Word (vs22-25)
Look, James says, to those who need to move beyond the thump, “You got ‘schmutz’ on your face. ‘Schmutz’ on your very soul. You can’t really see it… it’s right there… no, not on that side… in the very corner of your heart that you seem unwilling to look at…Look we all can see it in how you interact, live, talk with, your family, your co-workers, your spouse, your brothers and sisters, those who are different than you….Here let me show you with this mirror, God’s Word, where the real schmutz is… don’t worry. It may hurt for a moment… you may need to allow God to humble you… but He humbles us without humiliating us… this is the way of the cross… it is a ‘law of liberty’… a place of freedom, joy and hope…. allow the truth of all that He gives us at the cross to point out the dirt in your soul so that we can continually walk as not merely a self righteous hearer (and shouter) but a revived doer who lives the Gospel.
3. A Righteous Religion through the Gospel is what follows (vs. 26-27)
No longer is it about being right first, being heard first, hiding safely behind the walls of comfort or our religious dogma. Now we are preaching the Gospel to ourselves first, renewed in His Word, revived by the truth of His work in transforming our own brokenness, that the ‘born againer’s’ behavior has so completely changed. Instead of being quick to anger and self righteous judgment (that is full of filthiness and rampant wickedness), there is pure and undefiled acts of worship lived out before God. Uncomfortable, inconvenient, outflow of Gospel compassion on those who are hurting around us- as we continually live out love in a counter-cultural expression of the new birth God has awakened in us!
Don’t you think it’s time we Christians moved beyond the thump?