You can’t sustain prayer without the word of God, and you can’t experience the living power of the word of God without prayer. They go hand in hand. They are the lub-dub of the coronary Christian life. When you open your Bible, say to God: I trust you, I submit to you, I need you to help me. Incline my heart to love your word. Open my eyes to see the greatness of what is really there. Satisfy my soul with the glory of Christ revealed in all of this book. I bow. I yield to the supreme truth and value of this book. In all meekness and lowliness, I look to you. I wait for you. Come to me through your word, my Savior and my Lord and my God and my friend and my highest treasure.
The receptive heart clears the crud of sin: “Putting aside all filthiness.”
James’ thought here is the same as Paul’s, when he tells us to put off the old self (or man) and to put on the new self. “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Eph. 4:22-24). We all bring baggage from our old way of life over into the Christian life. Usually, we’re blind to much of it. We don’t realize that we’re displeasing God by our thoughts, words, or actions. As we begin to read God’s word, it convicts us of areas that we didn’t even know were sin. When this happens, the receptive heart cleans out the crud of sin and puts on the clean clothes of new life in Christ. If you don’t do this, the crud will prevent you from growing as a Christian.
The receptive heart welcomes the word: “In humility receive the word implanted.”
The picture here is that of the parable of the sower, scattering the seed of the word. Will your heart be good soil that receives the seed and bears fruit, or will it be one of the other kinds of soil that is unproductive? Once the seed falls into the good soil, it still needs to be nurtured in order to bear fruit. The seed must be watered and weeds must be pulled. It must be protected from the birds or from being trampled under foot. Here is the way Paul talks about this implanted, saving word. “And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.” (1 Thessalonians 2:13)
The word translated humility is a difficult word to translate. Often the NASB translates it as gentleness (a fruit of the Spirit, Gal. 5:23). The King James uses meekness. The Greek word has the idea of strength in submission or strength under control. It was used of Alexander the Great’s horse, which was powerfully strong, but totally submissive and responsive to the master’s touch. In this context of hearing the word of God, meekness surely means something like “teachability” or “readiness to submit” to God’s word. The believer with this quality can be very strong, as Jesus and Paul were, and yet completely submissive and sensitive to the Lord’s command. The word of God did not come and go. It did not leave these believers. It is “at work in you.” “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)
When James says that the word implanted “is able to save your souls,” he is viewing salvation as the entire process of the Christian life, culminating in our “ultimate deliverance from sin and death that takes place at the time of Christ’s return in glory. Here is the way John writes about this implanted and active and saving word: “I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.” (1 John 2:14). The word does not come and leave. When it creates life and faith, it “abides.”
So the word of God is “implanted” in us, and “is at work” in us, and “abides” in us, and (James 1:21 says) “saves” us. We cannot easily overstate how profoundly powerful and important the word of God is for our lives. Nothing apart from God himself is more important and powerful than his word.
“Save” is a radical word that means to be rescued or delivered. The opposite is to be lost. Picture a man in danger of his life, who fights against those who come to rescue him. That’s the wrong way to get rescued! The right way is to follow their orders, assuming that they know what they’re doing and that they are out for your best interests. God’s aim, through His implanted word, is to save your soul. But you need to submit to it with humility, putting aside all arrogance and pride. Welcome God’s word into your life as your deliverer. It will save you from destruction if you receive it and obey it. James says, “Receive the implanted word.” It is already in you. And you should receive it. It is rooted and planted in you. It brought you life. It is there sustaining that life by feeding faith in Christ.
Is there a particular filthiness or wickedness that you need to put away? Confess it and pray for repentance in this area. “The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galations 5:19-21) The implanted Word will result in the fruits of the spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Galations 5:22-24) Do you see this fruit in your life? Pray that the Lord would cause this fruit to grow in you.
Proverbs 4:23 says, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.” Have you done a heart check lately? If your heart is apathetic to God’s word, James says, “Be quick to hear.” If you’re prone to spout off arrogantly with how much you know, James says, “Be slow to speak.” If you’re fighting some aspect of the word that you don’t like, James says, “Be slow to anger.” If you’re tolerating the crud of sin, James says, “Put aside all filthiness.” If you’re resisting God’s commands that are designed to rescue you from sin, James says, “In humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.”