The Expository Files

Guidelines to Application

James 1:19-22

I never have really liked "lab" classes in school. These are the classes where you are expected to put into practice what you have learned in the lecture
classes. I guess my dislike for them originates from the fact that nothing ever seems to work the way it is suppose to work. It is much less difficult for me to understand something on a theoretical basis than to actually apply the theory.

This is the same problem many of us have with our spiritual lives. It isn't too difficult to understand how God want us to live but acting upon that knowledge is a whole different story. The first chapter of the book of James gives us instruction on going beyond the mere hearing of God's word into the doing of it. If we are to better apply God's word in our own lives then we desperately need these instructions.

1. Be Swift to Hear. James begins his guide of application by giving us the first step..."So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath." (James 1:19). It is impossible to apply principles that we do not even know. If we are not swift to hear what God has to say then we will not be able to live the way he wants us to live. Also included here is the desire to hear. We should always base our actions and our decisions on God's word. In 1 Peter 2:2 Peter states, "As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby." Our growth originates from a desire for God's word. If we are swift to hear then it shows we desire God's guidance.

2. Lay Aside All Filthiness. The second step in applying God's word is found in verse 21..."Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness." If we are not willing to refrain from actions that displease God then we are going to be hindered from performing actions that are  pleasing to him. In Ephesians 4:22 Paul says "put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts." Again he states in Colossians 3:5,8-9, "Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil
desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry...But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds." In application of God's word we must take ourselves down from the throne of our lives and lay aside our evil practices.

3. Receive God's Word in Meekness. The third step is stated in the last part of verse 21..."Receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls." Once we have taken ourselves off the throne of our lives then we need to put God in that position. When we meekly receive his word we are saying that we will submit our will to his, his word is what will rule our lives. In Ephesians 4:23 Paul says that in order for you to lay aside the old self and put on the new self you must "be renewed in the spirit of your mind." We must change our attitude and our direction in life from serving ourselves to serving God. This is similar to what Paul said in Romans 12:2, "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." An application of God's word demands
that we recognize God as ruler of our lives.

4. Be Doers of the Word. Once the above three steps are completed and are present in our lives then we can become doers of God's word.  James 1:22 states, "But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves." The only thing that appears to keep us from applying God's word after we have truly performed the first three steps is our own deception. It is a sad situation indeed when we attempt to explain away why we have not obeyed God. All we are doing in this instance is trying to deceive ourselves. We need to "look in the mirror" and fix what is wrong instead of
walking away and pretending everything is all right.

Application of anything is much more difficult than the mere knowledge of that thing. The same difficulty is present when discussing the application of God's word in our lives. James has given us guidelines, however, so that we can become "effectual doers" of God's word. Put these steps into practice and stop deceiving yourselves!

By Olin Hudson
From Expository Files 7.3; March 2000