Anyone who has ever painted a house knows that the hardest work is preparing the surface, not the actual painting. This is true in every endeavor and for good reason. The better the preparation, the better and more lasting the results. As in painting, preparation is necessary also for receiving truth. Without preparation, we simply whitewash our lives with knowledge, which will quickly peel, revealing an unchanged character underneath.
James had seen too many Christians who tried to slap on God's truth without properly preparing themselves so that it would stick. Here are four requisites for preparing ourselves to receive God's truth:
- An Open Ear One reason our lives are often divorced from the truth is because we don't really hear what God says. The problem isn't that we're hard of hearing, it's that we're hard of LISTENING. Jesus constantly rebuked the Pharisees by asking, "Have you not heard?"
- A Controlled Tongue No one can speak and learn at the same time. How much time do you spend in silence preparing yourself for the sowing of God's Word? Before we can listen, we must first lean to control our tongues.
- A Calm Spirit The seed of God's Word cannot take root in a heart overrun with resentment and revenge. We must tear out the stems of anger in our hearts before they strangle the truth that's trying to blossom in our lives.
- A Clean Heart The word 'filthiness' is a vivid derived from a Greek word with a medical term meaning ' wax in the ear'. Get rid of everything which will stop the ears to the true word of God. When wax gathers in the ear, it can make a man deaf; and a man's sins can make him deaf to God. To rid all hidden sins, motives and attitudes that cause the corrupt behaviour that others see.
Two important insights for the process of actually receiving truth:
- Having the right attitude... our attitude should reflect humility...
- Welcome the truth by receiving it... it's an action...
Many Christians end up with lives that are divorced from truth because they think that simply agreeing with Scriptures is the same as obeying it. James, however, urges us to go beyond preparing and receiving; we must also act on what we've heard.
God isn't looking for activists who don't know His Word. Nor is He interested in hearers who know His Word but do nothing. James plainly states that those who simply audit the faith are deceiving themselves about their Christianity, and that sincere believers will prove their authenticity by applying what they hear.
God's Word is compared to a mirror. But unlike a mirror, which only reflects outward appearance, the Scriptures reveal our inner character. The hearer James describes promptly forgets what both reflect; while the effectual doer, on the other hand, gives careful attention to the Scriptures, responds positively, applies what is heard and, thus, is genuinely fulfilled.