This psalm began by “the heavens telling of the glory of God”, and then reminding us that “the law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul”. We’ve learned that His “precepts… are right, rejoicing the heart”, and they are more valuable than gold and sweeter than honey. We’ve asked the Lord to show us our hidden sin, and to keep us from allowing willful sin to rule over us.
As we’ve worked our way in a prayer that cries out to the Lord in gratitude of His greatness that both restores our souls, enlightens our eyes to the truth that His Word endures forever, we now come to the place of choosing what we will do with all that He has shown us. “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.” (Ps 19:14)
We are asking the Lord to “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Ps 51:10) James showcases the difference between mental agreement and a genuine saving faith. People were claiming that, because they believed in the God of Moses and could recite Scripture, “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!” (Deut 6:4) that they were right with God. James shatters that false hope by comparing that kind of belief to the knowledge held by Satan and his demons.
“You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.” (James 2:19) Satan’s minions are more aware of God’s reality than most people are, yet the demons aren’t right with God. The demons “believe” some things that are true about God—they know He’s real and powerful, but their “theological soundness” can’t be called faith. There’s no salvation for the demons, even though they assent to the truth that there is one God.
The demons know more than we do about the awesome power of God. They watched Jesus Christ come to earth, live as a man, and then be crucified (Matt 20:28). They trembled in horror as the God-Man rose from the dead and walked out of the tomb (1 Cor 15:3–8). They saw Him ascend back into heaven, and they know that Jesus is the Son of God (Mark 1:24).
The demons believe all this to be true, yet their condemnation is sure. James’ point is that mere assent to the historical and theological facts about Jesus will not save a person. Saving faith results in a new creation, which produces good works. If you receive salvation from Jesus Christ, holiness will be one part of it; if Christ does not wash you from the filth of your sins, you have no part with Him (John 13:8).
It’s not enough to believe in God or even to believe that the God of the Bible is the One True God. That belief, devoid of a change of heart, makes one’s theology comparable to that of the demons. Unfortunately, many people may not realize that what they call “faith” is nothing more than the same mental assent that the demons possess. Perhaps they prayed a prayer, got baptized, or went to church, but the direction of their lives never changed. They were never born again. “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3)
The truth is that we are not saved by belief in a creed; we are saved by trust in the Person of Jesus Christ, the Messiah. And that trust in Jesus will result in a love for God, a love for people, and a striving for holiness in all we do: “but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior” (1 Peter 1:15).
With a clean heart with a steadfast spirit (Ps 51:10), our actions and words should comfort or edify those who hear them. We are to “let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person” (Col 4:6).
What does God’s Word tell us is acceptable in His sight? We are told to “encourage one another” (Heb 10:25). Relationships with other believers are one way to be encouraged to live out the faith we proclaim; to “hold fast,” through our own spiritual maturity. Growth in faith is greatly influenced by having Christian examples around us, which is why the Great Commission was for the church to “make disciples”, not merely to talk about Jesus (Matt 28:18–20).
We are directed to “speak the truth in love…to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ” (Eph 4:15). Believers are called to live in harmony with one another as family. With unbelievers, we are told to be ready at all times to be “ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence” (1 Pet 3:15). We should speak the truth in love, letting God’s Spirit work boldly in us and through us to help others come to true faith in Christ.
We are also told to speak “to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord” (Eph 5:19). This is another way to encourage ourselves and one another. Believers can both sing with their voice, and/or live with a “song” internally. God instills joy within those controlled by the Spirit.
Jesus taught that the heart is the source of our words. He declared, “For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart” (Matt 12:34). What words and tone of voice come out of my mouth? Do they make others want to ask me where my hope comes from so that I have an opportunity to share Jesus, or do they make others not want to share in what is in my heart? It is important, therefore, to fill the heart with Scripture. “Your Word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You.” (Ps 119:11)
The Lord has given us much instruction as to what words from our mouths and meditation from our hearts is acceptable in His sight; He has provided access to His written Word. And by our faith in Jesus Christ, we have been given the confidence to draw near “to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb 4:16).
He doesn’t leave us alone to figure it out for ourselves, He is always with us to show us the way. Thank You, Lord, for giving us “Your Word [which] is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Ps 119:105).