This is an interesting scripture. James connects liberty with listening. Our relationship with the Holy Spirit should be more about His speaking to us than our speaking to Him. He has a great deal to say to us in helping to bring our life into the liberty Christ has provided for every believer.
“Anyone who is a hearer of the word and not a doer forgets what kind of person he was” (James 1:23-24). An aspect of our liberty is located in remembering what kind of person I had been. As I read God’s Word, I am always reminded of the true lost condition I was in. Many believers hear the Word, but stop and camp on who they were in their fallen nature. The liberty James is addressing comes not only from hearing, but also by doing God’s Word. The “perfect law of liberty” is located in what Christ has done for us and our response by receiving what He has done. The forgetful hearer is limited in hearing the Holy Spirit. Remembering what I was without Christ should lead to what I am in Christ and the doing of His will.
“It was for freedom that Christ set you free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1). What a tremendous declaration of God’s purpose in Christ. Our freedom! Consider a few things He has accomplished: our freedom to obey the Holy Spirit as He reveals God’s Truth to our hearts, our freedom to love others, especially those not so lovely, and our freedom to retain God’s Word, and by His power allow the Word to change us into His likeness and image perfect in me.
Outside of Christ, this liberty does not exist. The only law we need, is the “law of Christ.” Paul gives us clarity as to what that law is, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2 KJV). It is that simple, beloved, learning to bear the burdens of others. This is what the Lord had in mind when He said to His disciples, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, so love one another” (John 13:34).
Father, I thank You for the perfect law of liberty. My great desire is for the Holy Spirit to daily empower me to look into “the perfect law” and fulfill its liberty by hearing and doing all You have commanded me to do.
James 1:19-20 – This you know my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.
In James’ letter, he writes of the testing of our faith, a need of wisdom and humility to be demonstrated. He writes of the blessing for the one who perseveres under trial. He deals with the subject of temptation and deception. He establishes God’s character in his statement, “All good and perfect gifts come from God, the Father of lights” (James 1:17). God brought us forth by the word of truth and James declares, “This you know.” James reminds us, “We must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.”
Being quick to speak is a hindrance to hearing the voice of the Holy Spirit. An evidence of maturity in the life of a believer is the ability to carefully listen to another as they share their perspective. Unfortunately, few are careful listeners. Most are caught up with their own views, rather than carefully listening to another’s perspective. The Holy Spirit will give us the ability to be a good listener if we allow Him to take control of our emotions.
The same is true about speaking. How many times has a word quickly left your mouth that you immediately wanted to pull back? Words are powerful. Note what Solomon tells us by the Spirit of God: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21). The Holy Spirit desires to take control of our tongues and causes us to speak only words of life to others. By the power of God’s Spirit, the tongue can become a source of encouragement. “One who prophesies speaks to men for edification, exhortation, and consolation” (1 Corinthians 14:3).
One who speaks quickly and does not listen to the other person sets themselves up for anger. Anger is a natural part of our human makeup. Anger alone is not a sin. It becomes sin when it gets out of control and evil things happen. Things such as broken relationships, words that become difficult to forgive, rage that can lead to murder.
James focuses the believer in chapter 1:19. To paraphrase James, You know the things I have been sharing. So be a good listener, be slow to speak and don’t let anger get out of control. Beloved, the anger of man never produces the righteousness of God.
Father, I want to produce the righteousness that You have provided in the Lord Jesus Christ. I ask for the power of the Holy Spirit to control my tongue. Please cause me to be a quick listener and a slow speaker. Please protect me from unrighteous anger and demonstrate to others the patience which You have toward me.
Ephesians 4:26-27 – Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.
Anger and unforgiveness are both hindrances to one’s ability to hear the Holy Spirit. Anger either is a result of unforgiveness or leads to unforgiveness. It is one of the greatest hindrances to a believer being able to hear clearly from the Spirit of God. Paul makes room for the human emotion of anger. God gets angry. Jesus expressed anger at the unbelieving religious leaders He encountered. He never gave way to His own emotions, but expressed His Father’s view of those hardened leaders.
Paul says, “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.” I call this “keeping short accounts.” Sin creeps in and settles in one’s heart if not dealt with quickly. Anger at another is one of the most common ways for this to happen.
Jesus addresses the issues of unforgiveness in Matthew 18:23-35. He shares the story of a king forgiving one of his servants a large debt he owed. That same servant did not forgive a fellow servant who owed him only a fraction of what he was forgiven. The wicked servant had his fellow servant thrown in jail until he paid the whole debt. When the king heard what had happened, he summoned that wicked servant. The king sentenced him to jail as the wicked servant had done to his fellow servant.
In Verse 35 it states, “My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart” (Matthew 18:35). Anger and unforgiveness gives the enemy access to our mind and heart. When the enemy begins to affect our emotions, we become dull of hearing the Spirit of God and we find ourselves being directed by our feelings and natural reasoning rather than by the Holy Spirit. We become our own authority in the affairs of our lives and the Holy Spirit loses His rightful place of control and guidance. The enemy has put many of God’s people into prison because of anger and unforgiveness that remains in their hearts.
The Lord wants to speak to us and lead us in the way of righteousness. Let Him reveal to you any anger and unforgiveness. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you each day to keep short accounts with others. Do not let the sun go down on any anger you may have.
Matthew 16:15-17 – But who do you say that I am? Simon Peter answered “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.”
Peter was listening and the Spirit of God revealed to him this powerful truth that the other men had missed. Our natural mind is great for natural things, but is dull when it comes to spiritual understandings. Another way of expressing what Jesus told Peter is, Peter you did not learn this in Sabbath School, but from my Father. In Jesus’ day, even the teachers of God’s Law had missed that He was the long awaited Messiah. Only by the Spirit of God can one know eternal truth. The Lord is eager to speak if we are eager to listen.
Based on Peter’s confession, Jesus begins to share the greater purpose of God with His disciples. He must go to Jerusalem, suffer many things, and be killed. Peter, who had heard clearly from the Father, now pulls Jesus aside, and rebukes him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You” (Matthew 16:22). It is hard to imagine Peter saying “no and Lord” in the same sentence. Satan is always standing ready to deceive us, in order to prevent God’s truth from establishing our ways.
Jesus then rebuked Satan who had inspired Peter to resist the will of God and run interference with God’s eternal purpose in Christ. It is amazing that in such a short time, one moment Peter was in tune with God’s will and soon after, speaks for Satan. This illustrates how easy it is to let our rational mind take over, and let the enemy lead. What Peter said made perfect sense to him, but it was foolishness to God’s purpose.
In the next five devotions, we will discover five hindrances to our hearing the Spirit of the Lord. Ask the Father to help you hear His Spirit better. Ask Him to remove every hindrance. Ask to be protected from Satan and his subtle attempts to distract you from the will of God our Father.
Father, my prayer is that the Holy Spirit will have complete control in my life. Deliver me from all double-mindedness. Please keep me from ever saying no to You, my Lord.
Judges 13:25 – The Spirit of the Lord began to stir him.
In Judges, chapter thirteen through chapter sixteen, we find the life story of Samson. Samson’s life began in a supernatural way. His mom was barren. The angel of the Lord visited her and told her that she would bare a son who would deliver Israel from the hand of the Philistines. The angel of the Lord appeared a second time to both Monoah and his wife declaring again that the child would be a Nazirite from birth.
Samson grew up and the Lord blessed him. The Spirit of the Lord began to stir in Samson. When the Spirit of God begins to stir an individual it means that God is directing that one to fulfill the Lord’s purpose. Samson’s purpose in God was to deliver Israel from the enslavement imposed by the Philistines.
The twelve disciples were men that the Spirit of the Lord began to stir. They did not understand what was happening in their lives, but they followed Jesus and learned to obey Him. Throughout the book of Acts many were stirred to action by the Spirit of God. They not only received the Lord’s forgiveness and His promise of eternal life, but they were stirred to give up their lives for a much higher calling and purpose. They had only known their own natural rationale, but when the Spirit of God came upon them, they began to know God’s will and purpose.
Down through history we have numerous stories of those stirred by the Spirit of God to an uncompromising life of surrender to fulfilling an assignment given to them. We are presently living in historic times as the Spirit of the Lord is stirring the next generation of mighty men and women of God. I say historic because of the number of youth that the Lord is calling.
The same Holy Spirit is anointing today a generation of young people. They are operating in unusual amounts of power. They are appointed and anointed to carry out His purpose in the earth. They are being called from every nation to the kingdom of God. They look like average people, but they have the Spirit of the Lord resting upon them. The Spirit is doing great feats in order to accomplish the Lord’s bidding in the nations.
I have spoken of the young people, but it includes older ones as well that are young in spirit. The Spirit of God is joining the older generation with the younger to form a mighty nation that will be victorious in fulfilling the Lord’s desires. Samson, like many of us, had his failings, but the Lord has promised a “victorious church.”
Father, I pray that Your Spirit would stir me and thrust me forth into the battle. I pray for the power of Your Holy Spirit to rest upon me to fulfill every assignment You have appointed me to fulfill.
Judges 11:35 – I have given my word to the Lord, and I cannot take it back.
This is a very solemn portion of Scripture that contains the story of Jephthah’s tragic vow. He vowed to the Lord to sacrifice the first thing that came out of the doors of his house if the Lord gave him victory over the sons of Ammon. He did triumph over the sons of Ammon, for the Scripture says “The Lord gave them into his hand” (Judges 11:32).
Making a vow to the Lord is a serious matter. In today’s vernacular, we might call it a promise. In the emotion of the moment, perhaps because of a stirring message or a crisis situation one may promise the Lord things that have not fully been thought through. A rash promise is a sure way to bring grief into one’s life. The Lord takes our words very seriously.
The story of Jephthah is difficult for many of us to relate to. How could the Lord allow this? How could this man follow through with his rash vow? How could his daughter be so submissive to her father? There probably is no answer that will satisfy the rationale of the human mind. It is an answer that must be heard in one’s spirit.
The Spirit of the Lord must bring revelation to us over such deep questions. The Scripture is clear about the priority the Lord puts on “keeping one’s word.” Even the Lord has “magnified His Word according to His name” (Psalm 138:2). Your word is the most valuable possession you have. It establishes who you really are. If one cannot trust a person’s word, there is no real basis of trust.
Thank God for the cross of Christ that dealt with all our sins. Only Christ could truly fulfill God’s Word and make it possible for us to become keepers of our word. Through daily intimacy with the Holy Spirit and time spent in God’s Word we learn how to regulate our words and be kept from rash promises.
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).
Lord, I ask You, as the Scriptures say “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips” (Psalm 141:3). I am weak, but Your Holy Spirit strengthens me and will keep my heart from evil.