Podcast: Actions Speak Louder Than Words
Podcast: Actions Speak Louder Than Words
Actions Speak Louder than Words
Well, as we continue in the series, the James series, the section of scripture today is found in James the first chapter, verses 19 through 27. Now, instead of reading that all at once, we’re going to break it apart piece by piece. I’ve entitled this message today Actions Speak Louder Than Words. When I think of James, I always think of, the theme that speaks to me in the book of James is, “faith without works is dead.” So, keep that in mind as a backdrop as we continue today. Actions speak louder than words. It’s not just what you hear; it’s not just what you say; it’s what you do that matters. Actions speak louder than words. Let’s pray for our time and open our hearts to the Lord.
Lord, we open our hearts to You and we’re totally confident that You will open Your heart to us today. Lord, open Your Word to us. It’s a living Word; living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, cutting to the dividing line of soul and spirit, joint and marrow, exposing the intents of our hearts. Lord, make this biblical, practical, relevant to every heart here today. With all the people that are here today, Lord, we all face different situations, different circumstances, different seasons of life, but I pray that You will make this message connect; you will enable there to be a connection with each heart today. For Your glory, for Your purposes. In Jesus’ name, amen.
1. Tell Me More
I’ve broken this into what I’m calling three super points. The first super point is: Tell me more. Under that super point, let’s take a look at the section of scripture that would relate to that, James 1:19-21: Know this, my brothers, that every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger. For the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore, put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word which is able to save your soul.
Tell me more! That is what I’ve come to realize in my relationship with Mindy. In the month of August, August 13th, as a matter of fact, we’ll celebrate 43 years of marriage. It just gets better all the time. But, something that I have realized is so important in my relationship with her is an attitude of “tell me more.” I want to have that same attitude toward the Lord. Seek more, tell me more, Lord, not tell me less. I want to be on the path of the wise, not the simple or the fool. The path of the wise is seeing things from God’s point of view. The path of the simple is, “Well, the more I know, the more I’m responsible for, so I’d just as soon not know as much as I need to know because then I’ll be responsible.” But then, the path of the fool is the path of rebellion. At the extreme, the fool would say, “There is no God!” Then, less than the extreme, the fool would just have an attitude of knowing what God wants and refusing to do it. But, I want to be on the path of the wise, seeing things from God’s point of view. So, even in my relationship with Mindy, I’m not limited to what she says she wants. Now, she’s got the fear of the Lord, thankfully. She doesn’t want to control me or try to control me. She doesn’t have to have her way. She wants God’s way. But, she’s not afraid to express her desires. But, I don’t limit myself to what she expresses. I always go vertical at those points and I say, “Lord, what do you say?” Because, you know, the English language is so inadequate. People try to put things into words and communication, but I try not to be a literalist about what they’re saying, in terms of words. But, I’m asking the Lord, “Lord, what are they really saying?” I’m not going to decide what they’re saying. “What are they saying, Lord?” So, that’s been really helpful.
So, with that as a backdrop, some of you know my father in law–Mindy’s father and Susan’s father–recently had his graduation service in May and went home to be with the Lord. Prior to that, we were going on a trip to Africa. Now, I don’t tend to get stressed, but I did feel pressure. I did feel a press prior to that trip, because we were getting ready for that trip, we were going to leave the 21st of May, come back the 11th of June, it was going to be a three week trip for some of us like Brad, Tom, and myself and others. So, here was the pressure point, one the pressure points: is Dad going to die while we’re gone. Lord, tell me more. I was really seeking the Lord. Because I knew that if he died while we were gone, during the course of the trip, I knew that I would need to and want to come home. I knew that Brad Thomas, being another son in law, would want to come home. I knew that our daughter, Joy, would come home and Brad’s daughter, Mindy Abercrombie would want to come home. That means that would leave Emily Brummond and Denise Dachshund the lone survivors of that part of the trip. Well, it was their first Fresh Start trip, so it really wouldn’t be fair to leave them as the lone survivors, so I thought, What should I do, Lord? Should I approach somebody, do we need to have a contingency plan?
I was really pressed. Not stressed; pressed. And then the Lord spoke to my heart, because my attitude with Him and with Mindy and with others, Tell me more, Lord, what do we need to do? And the Lord spoke to my heart in that deep, reassuring way, and basically said, it’s going to be okay, and it gave me a deep sense of peace and well-being. In Colossians 3:15, it says: Let the peace of God rule in your heart. So, I knew without peace, there was nothing to talk about. I needed to have a contingency plan or not go at all. Then, you think, well, there’s a lot of preparation going on, on their end and our end and team meetings and prayer and finances and it wasn’t an easy decision to make. So, I was so thankful that the Lord spoke to my heart and said it’s going to be okay. Now, my interpretation of that peace was different than the reality that came to be. Because, on the 16th of May at 4:13 in the morning, Dad had his graduation into the presence of the Lord. That was the 16th and we were scheduled to leave the 21st. It was amazing what God did between the 16th and the 21st. It was amazing provision, amazing grace, amazing blessing. I was scheduled to give the message at All Nations Church that Sunday, which I gave, some of you were there. Then, Pastor Elmer Murdoch and I co-officiated at Dad’s graduation service and we left on Wednesday the 21st for Africa for three weeks.
Now, I wouldn’t have gone without Mindy’s blessing and peace from the Lord. Mindy and Susan both, as sisters, gave Brad and me the blessing to go and one thing that really helped was, they were going to be together for two weeks before Susan went back to Atlanta, so they were going to be working on stuff, so it wasn’t like they were going to be alone. So, that helped. And then, during the course of the trip, when we got to Capetown during the second half, I began to think and pray about coming home early. We’d had a wonderful trip, as I shared recently. It was the best trip yet. It was amazingly full and fruitful. But, as we were coming to the close of the Capetown trip, I thought, Lord, do you want me to go home a little early? You know, Brad would be able to lead the team to the conclusion of the trip. And, as I prayed about that, the Lord spoke to my heart and said I believe there’s something that would mean more to Mindy. I was impressed about that. I knew she would be blessed if I came home early, but what was going to be the greater blessing? And here it was: Now, keep in mind the backdrop, keep in mind the significance of what I’m going to say. Fresh Start for All Nations is exploding in terms of opportunity. In the last ten years, we’ve had face to face, heart to heart personal contact and investment in hearts in forty-two nations of the world by those in our Fresh Start network. A lot of those personal face to face, heart to hearts originated from here, from Omaha. So, God’s on the move! Things are exploding, the momentum is there. The Lord spoke to my heart as clearly as I’m looking at all of you and I know you’re here and I know I’m here. This is reality, this is not an illusion. He spoke to my heart and He said: I don’t want you to go on any more trips the rest of this year. That doesn’t mean Brad and Susan can’t go; that doesn’t mean others in the network can’t go; but you, Steve Peterson, you need to be home for the rest of the year, as far as international trips. Without hesitation, because my attitude was Lord, tell me more–I was at zero, nothing to prove. It was God’s mission, anyway; He will build His church, He will expand His kingdom. It’s not dependent upon me; I just wanted to be a willing participant)–it was clear, so I conveyed that to Mindy and she was blessed, yes, but it wasn’t about her first and foremost being blessed–I don’t mind her being blessed, by the way–but more importantly, I believe God’s heart was blessed. And she said, “You know, I would never have asked you not to go on any more international trips the rest of the year. I would have never asked that of you. But, I want you to know–” and she inspired the title of this message, “your actions spoke louder than words. Your actions, your decision not to go on any more trips the rest of the year spoke louder to me than any words of encouragement or blessing that you could’ve said.” Actions speak louder than words.
As we look at these first three verses: Be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger. Well, that anger piece is not just a little extra piece that is not connected. The theme that I’m hearing is a theme of submission, because anger is an issue of submission. Nobody’s been more mistreated than Jesus; nobody’s been more rejected and mocked and reviled than Jesus, but when He was on planet earth, He was on a mission! They didn’t drag him to the cross kicking and screaming, He was on a mission to do His Father’s will, to defeat the works of the devil through his Father’s will, and rescue you and me. So, when He was mocked and reviled and when they gambled for his clothes from the cross and He was beaten to the point of death before he was even crucified, He was unflappable, immovable, because He was on a mission of submission to His Father’s will.
So, think about it. When you’re quick to hear, who are you preferring? The other person and the Lord. As a believer, as a follower, as one submitted to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, when you’re quick to hear, quick to hear, you’re preferring. It’s other than you. When you’re slow to speak, it’s other than you. When you’re slow to anger, it’s other than you. It’s submission to the mission of our Father. That’s what I wanted. And that I believe inspires the theme, or the super point, of the first three verses: Tell me more.
Before we go on, is that your heart attitude with the Lord? Tell me more, as opposed to, Tell me less! I don’t want to know any more! Because if I know more, I might be responsible for more. No, tell me more. Tell me more. I’m all in, Lord, I’ll obey You no matter what the cost. Tell me more. And then when it comes to the horizontal, whether it’s marriage or other relationships, when we have that attitude of Tell me more, it’s an attitude of, I’m really making understanding more important than you agreeing with me or feeling like you understand me. I’m really preferring you. Tell me more. And then when it comes to marriage, especially, but other relationships, too, Mindy is free to express her desires. She’s sweet, she’s nice, she’s wonderful, but she’s not afraid to say what she wants. And I love to please, but the Lord spoke to my heart years ago, when I sometimes felt torn about pleasing her and I said, “I don’t really have peace to do what she’s talking about, but I want to please her because I love her!” The Lord spoke to my heart and said, If you put her ahead of me, you’ll become a spiritual prune; you’ll become hollow and empty. That got my attention. The fear of the Lord is making Jesus the reason you do what you do or not do. It’s taking Him very seriously. Not taking the other person too seriously, not taking yourself too seriously, but taking Him very seriously. So, when she expresses a desire, I go vertical and I say, “Lord, what do You think about that?” And then, I do what I believe He wants, which doesn’t limit me to what she wants. It may intersect what she wants perfectly, but usually it’s more than what she’s even asking for. Tell me more.
Turn to the person to your right and left and tell them, “Do you have the attitude of Tell me more?”
2. The Highway to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions
Well, let’s go on to the next few verses. Verses 22-25. The super point on this section of scripture is: The highway to hell is paved with good intentions. Let’s read what the scriptures say: But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man looking continually at his natural face in the mirror, who looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer that forgets, he will be a blessing in his doing.
So, what is the personal application for this one? We want this to be practical, we want this to be relevant. We don’t want to be guilty of what these scriptures are saying and just be a hearer of the word and say, you know, that was nice, but are we going to do anything about it? Are we going to see any plan of application? Well, here’s consideration for application. Trying to be good enough is never enough. We could never be good enough. We need to be all in to experience salvation through Jesus Christ. The perfect law of liberty is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The perfect liberty found in Christ fulfills the law of the Old Testament because Christ was the only One Who could. So, you can imagine as James was addressing Jewish people of that day, [it was important] to acknowledge the Old Testament. The perfect law is Jesus in the Gospel, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The perfect law of the Old Testament, because He was the only One that could. Those who come to Him in faith now have freedom from sin’s bodage and they’re able to obey God. Christ alone can set us free and give us true liberty. I’m reminded in scripture, in John 8:31-32: Continue in my word and you’ll be true disciples of mine, and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free. And then skip forward to verse 36: Whom the Son sets free is free indeed. The only One that can fulfill the law–the Old Testament law, the ten commandments–is Jesus Christ. He is the Fulfiller. He is the Good One Who fulfilled the law. So, we need to put our faith and trust in the Good One.
You see, we could never do enough. I circle back to faith without works is dead. We’re not talking about works for the sake of earning favor with God or acceptance with God or forgiveness with God. We could never do enough! We will always fall short. The law-giver became the law-keeper and we need Him. He’s our only hope. And, to the degree we know we needed rescuing from our sin and selfishness, to that degree, this is relevant. That helps us know and understand what grace is all about, because grace is something we don’t deserve.
So, there’s good intentions; we can try to be a good person, we can try to improve and do better, but it’s never enough. We need Jesus. We need His life. We need His acceptance, His forgiveness. We need Him. He is the only hope. So, as we look at this, the perfect law of liberty. The perfect law of liberty isn’t going backwards to the Old Testament. The perfect law of liberty is Jesus Christ, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and He fulfilled the law by dying on the cross for you and me so that we could be free as we put our faith and trust in Him. He’s our only hope.
Turn to the person to your right and left and ask them with all sincerity, “Is Jesus your only hope?”
3. Are You the Real Deal?
Actions speak louder than words. Which brings us to the third super point. The third super point is: Are you the real deal? Let’s take a look at these verses, in closing, in terms of the verses in James that we’re addressing today. Are you the real deal? If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue, but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
So, as we look at these nine verses today, let’s take a look at the personal application here. Are you willing for your religion to cost you something? I think it’s very significant, the choice of words here, in terms of how the Lord, through James, is defining “true religion.” Are you willing for your religion to cost you something? Are you a respecter of persons? I think that’s very significant when we talk about visiting the orphans and widows in their affliction. It’s like, in order to do that, we can’t be consumer Christians. We’re not going to be thinking about what’s in it for me. We’re not going to be a respecter of persons. James talks about that in James the second chapter verses 1-3. Are we willing to make a sacrifice? Are we willing to fully participate no matter what the outcome? Does there have to be something in it for us?
Let’s ponder these questions for a moment. I know there could be more. We live in a day (it’s probably not unique) we live in a day of observable phenomenon. I’ll just say it that way, speaking for myself, not deciding what’s in your heart or what you believe. We seem to live in a day of consumer Christiianity. What does that mean? It’s an attitude of what’s in it for me? It’s an attitude of what am I going to get out of it? It’s an attitude of outcome-based. And it’s kind of a setup in some ways, because you follow the word of God and you’re doing what He says to do, but then, very subtly sometimes, something comes in and then, “Well, I’m doing my part! How come you’re not answering my prayer, God? How come you’re not healing my body? How come you’re not giving me a new job or giving me a pay increase?” Or, whatever the case may be. It’s so easy to be outcome-based. Now, nobody cares more than Jesus about what you’re going through. We want to pray for those in physical need and we do pray. It does matter whether we have income and a job, it does matter. So, I’m not saying it doesn’t matter, but the motive of the heart is what I’m talking about right now.
How do we treat one another? We hang out with people that are the easiest ones to be with, even as we come together on Sunday morning, just as an example. Do we hang out with those that are the easiest to be with? Our friends and the ones that we have the most affinity with, or chemistry with? Or, do we approach this gathering on a mission? Who can I meet today that I haven’t met before? Who can I reach out to? Who can I invite to lunch? Who can I invite to lunch this week? Who can I bless? Do we allow temptations to come into our mind, “Well, they don’t have any money. They don’t–” Fill in the blank. “They don’t have any way that they’ll benefit me.” Do we approach things on the basis of what we think we’re going to get? In other words, do we give to get? Or, do we live to give and love to love? There’s a difference. Do we live to give and love to love, or do we give to get? Is there a motive?
I can remember in previous days–not this body of believers, but going way back–I sometimes perceived that leaders were interested in people that had more means, financially. My response was not to put the spotlight on that and say, “Shame on you!” but God moved in my heart that affected me, that I moved after some of those same people, but I wanted to send them a message, “I care about you for you. I’m not interested in your money. I’m not interested in what you would give to the church or to a ministry or whatever, I care about you. You see, that’s the spirit of what I believe James is talking about in terms of true religion. If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.
The true religion that he’s talking about is visiting the orphans and widows. Of course we see in Psalm 68:5 that God says He is the Father to the fatherless and the protector of widows. God really has a heart for the poor. He has a heart for everybody, but how about us? Are we outcome-based? Are we consumer? Are we cultural? Or, are we consumed? Consumed with Him. Consumed with pursuing His heart. Consumed with an attitude of tell me more. I’ll do whatever You want, no matter what the cost. Consumed with, “I know I could never be good enough, I’m going to fall short. You’re the only good One. You live in me and to give me the ability to do and to will and to do Your good pleasure and your delight, it’s all about You. I want to live for Your glory and for the benefit of others.” Am I the real deal? I’m convinced that one of the reasons why–and, Emily is here and Brad is here and I am here, so three out of six that were in Botswana know what I’m talking about that are here today–one of the reasons there was such incredible impact in Botswana among the university students in particular was Emily is so real; Joy, our daughter, is so real; Denise is so real; Mindy Abercrombie is so real; Brad and I, totally transparent. People respond to real, not fake,and they seem to know the difference and we insult them if we think they don’t know the difference. It’s like an insult to them, it’s like, people are more discerning than we think. Are we the real deal?
Turn to the person to your right and left and ask them, Are you the real deal?
Okay, let’s summarize and close.
Tell me more!
The highway to hell is paved with good intentions.
Are you the real deal?
Tell me more, Lord. You know, I can remember when I first came to the Lord, I didn’t know anything. Within six months, I was leading two Bible studies. Mindy looked at me after I volunteered for the first one and her nonverbal communication was, “You don’t know anything!” She was right, I didn’t know anything. But, we started with the book of Romans. I got a Barkley’s commentary and we got into–it was the previous, previous, previous church, it was a mainline religion church, and it was dead but nice people–we were leading them through the book of Romans, if you can imagine this, in a small room at the church with a fireplace and most of the women were smoking. But, I believe God was pleased. It was a time of grace and truth. My attitude was, “I don’t understand all of this, but let’s just do it! Let’s just do what He says.” I believe God honored that. Suffer the little children to come to me and forbid them not, for such is the kingdom of God. I was just like a child, just had childlike faith, I didn’t know anything. But, I was sold out. I was all in and whatever He showed me, I did.
How about you? Are we sitting, soaking, and souring in these seats? Or, are we willing to do whatever He says? Tell me more! Tell me more! The highway to hell is paved with good intentions.
As you can imagine, I run into a lot of people in my travels who believe that they’re good people. And you know, in many ways I can believe they are. But, they’re not good enough. Because there’s only One Who is the perfect law of liberty and His name is Jesus. He died for our sins and He rose again on the third day and He ascended into Heaven and sits on the right and of the Father. Those of us that believe in Him and are submitted to Him are seated in the heavenlies in high places in Christ Jesus and we have the good One in us to will and to do his good pleasure and delight. The good works that are coming from our lives now are not works to gain or to earn something, but they’re works of gratitude. They’re works of love and gratitude because we’ve been rescued! We’ve been rescued. We’ve been delivered, and there’s always more with the Lord, no matter what. Wow.
I want to be the real deal. How about you? In just a moment, I’m going to have the worship team lead us in a closing song, but I want you to be thinking practically now. Okay, now what? Now what? I hope you’ve been inspired today. I hope you’ve been moved today to action. But, you know, it’s not gonna look the same from person to person. But, what is it gonna look like for you? Actions speak louder than words, what does that look like for you? I’m convinced that everybody in this room has something they can take another step into. We can all take another step forward. [Continues addressing congregation as music plays] What is that next step for you? Action.