Community Group Study Notes
Have someone in your group provide a brief, 2-minute summary of Sunday’s teaching.
Read James 1:21. What kind of heart preparation is necessary in order to “humbly accept the word”? Why is this step important?
Read James 1:22. Why are we vulnerable to self-deception when we just listen to the Word without obeying? What are the consequences of not doing what the Word says?
What is one action step that you can take in order to be a doer of the Word and not just a listener? In other words, what has God been speaking to you about through His Word that you need to obey? How can our group help you in this?
Pray before Reading the Word:
- Incline my heart to your testimonies and not to selfish gain -Psalm 119:36
- Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law -Psalm 119:18
- Unite my heart to fear your name. -Psalm 86:11
- Satisfy me in the morning with your steadfast love. -Psalm 90:14
The message today is on seeding. And if I'm talking to very brilliant people, and I think I am, then you know this has something to do with the seed of the Word of God being planted in our hearts and being effective. Well done, you passed. So that's exactly what it's about. But let me start off with a question that I don't want you to raise your hand. Have you ever had this experience? Have you ever had someone in your life that misses the Sunday message and so long about Monday, they'll call you, or they'll talk with you. And they'll say, "So what was the message about on Sunday?" "I don't remember."
And then there's that awkward time now that we have community groups where you play out the pastor's message and someone gets called on to give a two minute summary on the message, and you're hoping that you're not the one that's picked because you don't remember? Come on. Don't pretend you don't know what I'm talking about. Maybe you think it's a memory problem and now that I'm north of 60, or South of 60, whatever that is, I get that there might be a memory problem, but Jesus actually has a different theory on why we might not be able to remember the message that we heard on Sunday. And in fact, he tells a story that was so powerful that generation after they're talking about it, in fact, as we'll find out from James chapter one, James actually thought it was such a brilliant story that he actually includes it in part of what he says, you know the story, the parable of the sower and the seed.
And so a farmer grabs a pouch, straps it over his shoulder, kind of would look like what a paper boy would carry when he delivers the news. I know what's a paper boy, but he would put his hand in the bag filled with seed, he would take some out, and he would swing his arm back and forth and release the seed. Well, the problem when Jesus is telling the stories, he's telling in Israel, Israel is very tough terrain. I was there in 2014. And I honestly do not think I took two consecutive steps on level ground. And so Jesus actually is giving a parable. And he tells the story about how the farmer tossed the seed out and it landed in four different spots. It's an easy story to remember or to get something out of if we remember that the seed is the word of God and the soils where the seed lands represents the hearts that receive it.
And so some of the seed fell on a path. You know what it's like, there's no sidewalk to get from point A to point B. But it seems like everybody takes this particular step and it carves out a path that becomes very hard, there's no grass. And if you were to toss some seed there, it would just bounce off. This is the seed that's sown along the path. And if you ever tried to plant grass, on hard soil, you know that the birds come and eat it before it gets a chance to take root in your heart or to take root in the soil. And Jesus says it represents those who because the soil of their hearts is so hard that Satan comes and steals the seed. Sometimes before you get out of the parking lot, I want you to understand something. You hear great teaching almost every Sunday from Pastor Jerry, and Satan doesn't care a bit if you hear great teaching on Sunday, if he can get you to do absolutely nothing with it. That's the first soil.
The second soil is rocky ground and because there are rocks protruding out of the soil, it kind of lands on the surface and it springs up quickly. But because there's no depth, the sun scorches it, and withers it away. And maybe if Jesus was telling this story in 2020, he might say it refers to those who hear the Word of God on Sunday, are greatly excited about it so that you put a thumbs up on our Facebook page, you really like that message. But because it fell among rocky soil, the sun scorches it. when trouble comes into your life, you default to the old patterns rather than the new truth that God tried to teach you.
The third soil as he's tossing out the seed falls on thorny ground and anybody with a green thumb, that's not me, knows that if you try to sew something around a thorny bush, the thorns will choke out the life. And Jesus says, even as Pastor Wes was referring to last week, this is when the worries of life and the deceitfulness of riches, choke out the word. The problem is that you might come in and listen. But the problem when you go out is that you're pursuing the wrong things. And the word of God is choked out in your life. Then it finally falls on good soil. The seed is nourished by the soil and it bears fruit. And Jesus says, "This is like the one who hears the word, understands the word," ready? "And puts it into practice." The obedience is the rightful response to the seed that is trying to find room in your heart.
As you listen to this story that you're all familiar with, I believe, I want you to understand something today. The issue is not the seed. The issue is where it lands and what happens when it does. The issue is not the seed, the Word of God, the issue is where it lands on the condition of your heart and mind. And what happens when it does. So like the farmer in that story, Pastor West last week, me today, Pastor Jerry next week, Pastor Jonathan and others, other times, we're like the farmer, we're tossing out seed. The issue is not the seed. The issue is where it lands. And what happens when it does. While it may land quite honestly today on some hearts that are not ready to receive it, or willing to receive it, that's not our prayer. Our prayer is that it's received well, because the issue is not the seed. It's where it lands. And what happens when it does.
Jesus prays that it would land on good soil, or I don't think he'd tells the story in the first place. I don't know everyone who heard Jesus tell that story originally in the first century. I mean, I know the names of 12, the 12 disciples heard it and apparently so did James the half brother of Jesus, either then because he was in the crowd or later on as the stories circulated, but James heard it and we know he did because he uses the concept of the implanted seed in his letter in James and we'll start here in verse 21. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. James says, humbly accept the word that is planted in you. Make it relevant today.
Today, God wants to plant a seed in your heart. God wants to plant a seed in my heart. And every time you open this book this week, God wants to plant a seed in your heart. James says humbly accept the word that is able to save you that's implanted in you and is able to save you. In other words, allow it to take root so that it can bear fruit. He's saying the same thing I did just in a different way. The issue is not the seed, the issue is where it lands and what happens when it does. So let me pick that verse apart. He says, humbly have a posture of humility when you open up the word, that means that your place is not over the word. It's under the word. That means that you submit to it. That means as our pastor says it that your yes is on the table before you even open the word. You are going to say yes.
Let me speak honestly for all of us. I'm not saying you're not necessarily going to like what the Word of God says to you. I'm not saying you're not going to have difficulty at times putting into practice. I'm not crazy about the verse husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church. But I must humbly submit to it. You may not like what God says to you, because it gets a little really close to what's going on in your heart. But humbly, he says, submit to it. Say yes to it. Say, "God, whatever you say. I will obey." Humbly accept he says next, humbly accept, or receive your translation might say, humbly receive as a long lost friend. Think about how gracious and kind and loving and merciful and faithful God is to speak to you and to want to speak to you think.
Think how gracious that is? Every time, God is giving you an opportunity to be delivered from something. Now initially, when you came to Christ, God through His Word delivered you from sin and the death sentence over you. He says it this way in James, just a few verses before he chose to give us birth through the word of truth that we might be a kind of first fruits of all he created. The new birth, somehow miraculously and mysteriously. You have two parents the Holy Spirit who quickens the Word of God and makes you alive in Christ, he delivered you at the new birth from your sin and the death sentence hanging over you. But every time you open up his word he wants to deliver you, will you let him? He wants to deliver you from that which prevents you from being shaped into His likeness. He wants to deliver you from that lying tongue. He wants to deliver you from that lust, that greed. He wants to deliver you from that selfishness. He wants to deliver you from how you're treating people.
If you let him he wants to do that. The implanted word which is able to deliver you. And that means that I have to see the word of God, humbly accept, I have to see it as a friend. I'm being honest. I don't dread the word. I'm not afraid of it. I love it. I agree with the psalmist when he wrote these words, "O how I love your law, I meditate on it all day long." And I find myself often picking up my word in the morning or at the time that I can do it and saying, "O how I love your law." I meditate on it all day long. I love it. You need to have your heart's posture, where you love his word. Because when you place yourself under the word when you humbly accepted when you receive it as a friend, God is able to get into your heart and get into your soul, that's why we call it soul garden, get into your soul and do a work that no one else can.
Your best friend, a counselor, a therapist can't get into the places that God wants to affect with his word and change you because he wants to change you from the inside out, not from the outside in. That's why Jesus says, "Don't be so worried about cleaning the outside of the cup. Let me clean the inside of the cup," because it can get in deep that's what the writer of Hebrews meant when he said for the Word of God is alive and active sharper than any two edged sword. It penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow, it judges the thoughts and attitudes or intense or motives of the heart. It does a deep work in your life. The implanted word gets at your motives, your intense, your attitudes. It doesn't target surface things. It's not interested, the word is not interested in making you a better you by Friday. It wants to change you from the inside out.
So, my dear friends, let me tell you, if you want a superficial glance at the Word of God, you will get superficial results. Dig the well deep in the Word of God, dig the well deep, allow God to get in there because it's not so much you getting into the Word of God as it is the word of God getting into you. That's what this parable is all about. And so what happens? What happens in the soul garden when seeding takes place? There are two parts that I want to see today, I want to see the heart preparation and I want to see the heart evidence. Because you know as well as I do, even though I don't have a green thumb that when you begin in the beginning of the year to plant whatever you're going to plant, there needs to be some preparation of the soul. I need to prepare the soil. And this is what James says it looks like.
"My dear brothers and sisters take note of this. Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak slow to become angry because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which is able to save you." I see, because James, the practical book, and James, the practical author gives to me four steps to prepare my heart to receive the word, two of them go together, but there are four. So in this heart preparation, here's the first, stop talking. So you can listen. Stop talking. So you can listen. He says it this way. "My dear brothers and sisters take note of this. Everyone should be quick to listen and slow to speak." When Jesus told the parable that we just looked at the sower and the seed, at the conclusion of it, he said these words, "Whoever has ears, let them hear." Do you know how many times God actually says that in His Word? "Whoever has ears, let them hear." You know he's not talking about these physical ears.
You can hear that I'm putting noise through my vocal cords and Kyle back there is amplifying it so that you can hear. You know what physical ears are it's not what he's talking about. Will you listen with your spiritual ears so that the Holy Spirit can speak to you regarding his word. Every single message in the book of Revelation that Jesus gives to the seven churches, he ends with these words, "Whoever has ears, let them hear." And I would like to suggest, as James does that you stop talking so you can listen. I'm making a brilliant statement here. You can't do both at the same time. You can't talk and listen at the same time. When Pastor Jonathan was in high school, and he always got good grades. We never ever worried ourselves about that.
But the school he went to on report card, there would be the grade that he would get for this class. And then there were always the teacher was required to put down two statements underneath. And if Jonathan took seven courses during that particular marking period, most of them if not all of them had these two comments. "Pleasure to have in class," because who doesn't like pastor Jonathan, right? And underneath that, "Talks too much." So you got to realize that at that time in his life, Jonathan fancied himself as the class comedian. So I got that. Like I said, Our concern wasn't his grades. Our concern was this. If he was talking, he wasn't listening. And that's the problem. The problem with many of us, is that we're talking. We're not taking time to listen to what God might have to say about the particular issue that we have because we're talking to everyone else and getting their feedback and them listening to us.
Do you think that God said in vain in Psalm 46, "Be still and know that I'm God?" Do you think it might be a clue that maybe for the Word of God to be implanted deep in us, we have to stop talking about our problems and listen to what he says, is the solution. You will not become I will not become what God intends for me to become if I am not listening to him. Praying the prayer of Samuel, "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening." Those two things, stop talking so I can listen. Here's the third, stop fighting. Stop fighting. Here's how he says in James one, continuing the text, "Slow to become angry because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires." You might think that's strange in the conversation of talking about how I'm to receive the Word of God, why does he mention anger? Because many times the reason we don't hear from God is because we're fighting with God. We won't surrender.
You have to be honest with your heart and so do I to realize that maybe he's been speaking for a long time about how you treat your husband or wife. But you're fighting. Maybe the reason you're not hearing from the Word of God as you could and should, is because you got that habit in your heart. And he's been telling you I want you to surrender and give that up and you won't. Maybe you're not hearing from him because you're fighting him about your lust or greed or the way you're treating people or that those business deals. And you're fighting and you and you won't surrender. As long as you fight, you will not receive, your heart will become hardened and the seed will bounce off your heart like the hail was bouncing off my windshield this week. And you won't receive it because you're fighting.
Decide today. God, I'm not going to fight any longer. I'm going to submit. There's another thing he says. He says, "Get rid of things in the way. Get rid of things in the way." What God says in verse 21. "Therefore get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you." Get rid of the things in the way, the moral filth, that would be addressing what Pastor West spoke about last week. The sin in your life, repent, get it out of your life. You know what that's like again, I don't have a green thumb and I'm not going to throw my wife under the bus but neither does she. But when we plant whatever she plants, she knows what they are, I don't, in our little garden that we have in the front of our home.
The first thing we do is we get the rake, get the shovel, and we get rid of everything that's grown in there or been thrown in there over the winter, we get rid of it. And it makes logical sense as Pastor West was speaking last week that we get rid of sin. But it also can mean that we get rid of distractions. I don't know about you, but maybe one of the reasons we don't receive what God has for us is because rather than being in his word, I'm going to get personal here, is maybe we're too busy binge watching Netflix, and don't have time for his word. It's a distraction. Maybe we need to get rid of that distraction. Maybe this thing needs to be in a different zip code when we're with God because it's a distraction. It's a distraction in every human relationship we have, and we know it is. It's a distraction when it comes to God's word. It doesn't need to be in the environment, where we are trying to get alone with God, get rid of those things so you humbly accept the word.
Because the issue is not the seed. The issue is where it lands and what happens when it does. But I asked you, how do you know when it's producing. So like I said, I don't have a green thumb and we've lived in the place that we live in now for 10 years, and so every two or three years, I'll try to re-seed our lawn. I don't know what I'm doing. But I'll throw the seed down. I'll try to water the soil so that it's soft enough to receive it. I'll cover it with hay so the birds have a less inclination to get at it. And then I'll hope Mother Nature rescues me from my incompetence. And I'll look and I'll go out there in the backyard and I'll look and wait to see something sprouting up. And when I do, it's like, I'm relieved, because it worked, even though it shouldn't have because I don't know what I'm doing.
So when it comes to my heart, how do I know when the Word of God has been planted in good soil? What does that look like? There are two things that I'm going to give you. I'm not giving them to you, James gives them to you. Here's the first, hard evidence is obedience. The hard evidence is obedience. I always, when I'm up here, want to say things that reflect well, the gospel and the Word of God. And I'm just saying, in the amount of time that I've studied, being in the ministry as long as I have, looking from cover to cover, the only evidence that I see for the right response to the Word of God, from the old testament to the new is singular. Its obedience. It is the only response that God asks for regarding his word. Let's see what James says about it. "Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says."
Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror, and after looking at himself goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom and continues in it, not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it, they will be blessed in what they do. So it's not me saying the right response to the Word of God is obedience. It's James in inspired scripture saying the only response is obedience. There is no other way to measure the effectiveness of the Word of God in your life than with your obedience to what he tells you. Here's how Paul said it, "Through Him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his namesake. If you say that you believe, if you are all about God's glory, then you will obey Him."
And John says it this way, "This is love that we walk in obedience to His commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love." We show that we love his word, and that we love him by being obedient. And as I said, there doesn't seem to be any other way that we can show either. And when we don't, when we don't obey, Jesus has some stern words. I want to put this on the screen these words from Jesus and then explain the background so that you see just how dangerous it is to hear and not obey. Here's what he says, "I know," he's speaking to the Pharisees that will become important a minute, "that you are Abraham's descendants, you are looking for a way to kill me because you have no room for my word." Now, I realize because of the front part you might ignore the last part, "There is no room in your heart for my word." He's talking to the Pharisees.
The Pharisees, the teachers of the law, at the time of Jesus would have the copy of the Hebrew Scriptures, from Genesis to Chronicles, Chronicles is the last book in the Hebrew Bible, but all the books in your Old Testament are in there. They're just arranged differently. From Genesis to Chronicles, they would have it memorized, every word memorized. And yet Jesus says, "There is no room for my word in your heart." That should concern us, because he said it to smart people. His Word found no place in their hearts. And that can happen to us if we listen to the word and do not obey it. If we don't give it the place in our hearts to take root, and that's dangerous, because hearing only can cause as James says, to be deceived. He says, "Do not merely be hearers." The Greek word for hearers is akroates from which you might hear the word acoustic. Those who hear only. It was often use that Greek word akroates to refer to someone who would audit a college course.
They would sit in the lecture hall, but they were auditing. So there were no papers to write. There were no tests to take. There were no quizzes to take. There were no books to read. They were just coming in and auditing the course. There was no responsibility and there was no accountability. They were just there. And so, I don't know when we started the sermon card notes that you have in front of you, but maybe at home you have a stack of them. Where you have taken notes even as you are doing today. And you have heard truth, but if you've not been putting it into practice, James would use a word that would suggest you are auditing church, where there's no responsibility and there's no accountability. Do you see why we are gently lovingly and yet strongly encouraging you to belong to a community group based on the pastor's message, so that you can take it?
There's a responsibility and there's an accountability among your group, that you are being held responsible and accountable for what God has taught you, and how to put it into your life. And James says that if you're not really crazy about hearing and obeying, you're not crazy about that accountability. And all you're interested in is doing is coming to church once a week and hearing truth that you are likely to deceive yourself. And the word deceive means to miscalculate. Hear this carefully. I'll only do it once. Two, plus two, plus three equals seven. If you come up with any other answer, you have added wrong. And James would say, "If you were I would come into a place like this, hear some truth and not obey it and think that God's okay with you just listening to it. You have added wrong and you've miscalculated."
The first example, it's a math problem, you might have problems with your checkbook. This second analogy, you might be having some problems with your soul and your relationship with God. And if you don't get that James has an analogy for you. There're two men and both of them stand in front of a mirror, and that ought to be a clue right away for how we should be looking at the Word of God. Because you don't stare and study a mirror, you stand in front of it and let it study you. And this is the analogy that he gives of the Word of God. That Yes, you look, you want to hear what God has to say. But you're also looking to see what it has to say about you.
So there's one man who stands in front of the mirror, looks at it intently and immediately forgets what he's like when he walks away. He didn't take notice and adjust, that his hair wasn't combed that he had something going on here and his nose and he had green lettuce in his teeth and he immediately walked away and forgot what manner of man this mirror showed him to be. But the problem wasn't a memory problem. The problem was a priority problem. Do you remember when your mom would say to you, "Did you make your bed?" "No, I forgot," you didn't forget. It's not a memory problem. That toy took prominence, that friend that called took prominence, that TV show to prominence. The problem wasn't your memory, the problem was your priority. And if you walk out of here, on any given Sunday, if you close your word in the week, and you immediately forget what God showed you, it's not a memory problem. It's a priority problem. You're just more interested in pursuing other things than you are in pursuing God.
The other person looks intently in the mirror, sees that his hair isn't combed, sees that he's got some things going on here, sees that he's got green lettuce in his teeth and he makes adjustments. He's the one who hears the word and obeys it. He's the one who hears it and obeys it. My friend Kim Howlett who is the director of our spiritual formation team, she has a great question after every time she teaches, and it might seem simple, and it is, here's the question. So what? So what? You've been sitting here for the last 43 minutes listening to me. So what? So what? You've been in your word in the day time through the week, so what? What is God asking you to do? Because we do not study the Word of God to know, we study the Word of God to do. So ask that question, so what? It calls for your obedience, but there's a second thing and then of course, it's related to obedience, and that hard evidence is restraint.
I hope that I'm able to explain this well, because every single one of us needs this. Look how James says it in verse 26, "Those who consider themselves religious..." Here's how I'll define it, any spiritual activity. "Those who consider themselves engaged in any spiritual activity, and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their spiritual activity is worthless." It produces a restraint that James says his first scene in our tongues, restraint. Here's what that looks like. This is why the Word of God deep in our hearts matters. Here's what it looks like that as the Word of God gets implanted in you, your response to go to whatever is going on in your life is not determined by what's outside of you or what the Spirit is doing inside through His Word.
And that looks like obedience. And it looks like restraint, where the Holy Spirit actually begins to control your life from the inside out, and that you're not moved, and you do not react to what's outside of you, rather than what the Holy Spirit is doing. That is a discipline of the soul that God wants to put into each of our lives. Please do not say it's not needed. From the top of our government down. There is such a lack of restraint. And we as his people need to be practicing that restraint, that we're actually waiting for the Holy Spirit to give us clearance before we speak, that we're actually practicing restraint when we're typing some kind of response or reaction to whatever is going on in the social media world, we actually pause and ask the Holy Spirit to give us restraint before we press post.
God wants his children to live by this book, not just read it once in a while, but we actually live by it and it becomes the filter, the sieve, the controlling factor in our life. It is rooted that deeply into our hearts. I think it's what the hymn writer was going after when he wrote these words, "Take my hands and let them move, at the impulse of thy love. Take my feet and let them be swift and beautiful for thee. Take my voice and let me sing always only for my king, take my lips and let them be filled with messages from thee." I'm just being honest. When I react from a superficial, the way that I'm feeling I have such a tendency to put my foot in my mouth. And the miracle is that I can get both of them in there at the same time.
And by you laughing I'm going to affirm that you know what that's like? How different is it to let the Word of God be so implanted in us so deep in us that Lord I will move only at the impulse of your love. What would that look like? For the folks leaving here, shutting down their computer if you're watching online, listening to me, what would it look like if all of us would say, "God, I'm going to let the Word of God go so deep, that I'm only going to be moved at the impulse of your love." Would you pray with me. Father, I can only reach so deep into anyone's heart, including my own. We've already looked at a verse that says that your work can go much deeper. I prayed that it would. I pray right now, Lord, that you would speak to us in a way that only you can speak and move so deep in our hearts with your word that we're not just a little bit better.
We've not just modified a few things. We're not just the better you, but we are totally transformed. Day by day as we stare into your word and as it stares into us, we are changed by what you teach us. Lord, I pray that we would be people of your word. Because whether it is the living word who is Jesus, or whether it is the written word that's in front of us, we realize that a word shaped life is a Jesus shaped life. We look like Jesus, we want that desperately. All of us do. And we pray this in the name of Christ. Amen. As you're leaving, I believe the ushers will be at the doors. And I want to give you something that that has helped me in reading the Word and I hope it would help you. It's just simply four statements from Scripture. It's an I, it's an O, it's a U, and it's an S. Here's the I incline my heart to your testimonies and not to selfish gain. The O open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.
The U unite my heart to fear your name, the S satisfy me in the morning with your steadfast love. Four Scriptures for you to pray this week, every single time you open the word, and may God richly bless you, as you allow the word into your heart. God bless. Thank you.
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