Hearers and Doers (James 1:22-25)

Many people think their spirituality is based on how much they know about the Bible, nlook-yourself-in-the-mirrorot on how obedient they are to the commands in Scripture. I know many people who have superior knowledge of the Bible, but it never changes them. It never impacts their lives. They are just not growing. They look into the mirror of God’s Word, but they never do anything about what has been revealed to them. You and I must become doers of the Word, not simply hearers. Spirituality is not based on what we know; it’s about what we do with what we know.

“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 a man 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” (James 1:22-25).

Look at verse 22. The command is clear, “Do not merely listen to the Word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” Too many Christians are hearers and not doers. They focus on hearing, reading, and learning the Word rather than doing what God says. They come to church to hear the Word, but do they go home to live the Word?

James says do not just listen, but act upon what you have heard. There are many people who sit under the ministry of the Word, but they are deceiving themselves. The deception comes from thinking they have done all that is necessary to obey God when actually hearing what the Bible says is only the beginning. It is not sufficient to simply hear the Word of God; we must respond to it in active obedience. We must become or keep on becoming doers of the Word. Just as the person who has no interest in hearing the Word of God is horribly deceived about his spiritual condition, so too is the person who is content to only hear what God says and not obey Him. We must apply God’s Word to our lives.

Sometimes when we talk about hearers and doers, we think the hearer is the man who sits in the back row at church. If you ask him to tell you what the service was about, he doesn’t have a clue. Rather than giving God his full attention, he is preoccupied thinking about what he wants for lunch. Or maybe, it’s the person who has no idea what the pastor is preaching about.

That is not what James is saying. He is not saying the hearer is the person who is clueless of what the Bible says. Instead, he is the person who sits in church and when he hears the Word of God, he sees himself as he really is. He hears a message and says to himself, “I’m not the husband I need to be. I don’t share Christ with my friends like I need to. I don’t love my neighbors as I should.” These are the perfect people to give a testimony. Why? Because they realize something is wrong and needs to change – they should be doing devotions more, they don’t love God and others with their actions, they have anger issues, they have any number of things they realize need to change in their lives.

Too many Christians mark their Bibles, but their Bibles never mark them! If a person thinks he is spiritual just because he hears the Word of God, not because he does the Word, he is deceiving himself. It is not hearing, but doing that brings blessing and maturity in Christ.

To drive home the importance of obedience and application of God’s Word, James likens it to a mirror. But there are different ways to look in a mirror. James describes two types of people in our text:

THE FORGETFUL GLANCER

Look at verses 23-24: “Anyone who listens to the Word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.” This is the person who reads the Bible or hears his pastor talking about a sin issue in his life and he understands. He’s listening; he sees himself as he really is; he gets it. He knows he needs to change, but he does not do anything about it. Why? Because he is a hearer and not a doer.

Anyone who has any familiarity with Scripture knows the Bible is indeed a mirror. We cannot look into it for very long without seeing ourselves for what we really are. God’s Word tells us the truth about ourselves. What does it reveal to you when you look into it? Does it tell you that your life is not what it ought to be? Does it tell you that your love for Christ has grown cold? Does is tell you that you are not making your hope public to the world around you. What does it say? How will you respond? Are you going to act on the Word or are you simply going to hear what God says and walk away?

This is the deception James is taking about. It is thinking something spiritual happens just because you hear the Word of God. Somehow, because I paid attention, because I listened in church, because I got it, because I know how it impacts my life, and because I see myself as I really am, I think something spiritual happens. But James says, “You’re deceiving yourself. Spirituality is not about what you hear; it is about what you do.”

I have spoken to many people over the years that have come to me for counseling. I have showed them what the Bible says about their sin and we have prayed together. But that’s it; nothing about them ever changes. The person who listens to the Word of God, but does not change is like a man who glances at his face in a mirror and then forgets what he saw.

The main purpose for owning a mirror is to be able to see yourself, to make yourself look as clean and neat as possible. We depend on mirrors to tell us what is wrong with our appearance. A man does not want to go out in public with blood on his collar after shaving. A woman doesn’t want to be seen with lipstick on the end of her nose. So we look in the mirror. But what would you think about a person who looks into a mirror, sees a problem, and then fails to correct it? You would say there was absolutely no point in that person ever looking in the mirror to begin with. Looking in the mirror only works if it leads to action. Otherwise, it is useless.

The Word of God commands us to take action, but many people seem to be waiting for something to happen to them—some great spiritual experience—that will force them to do what they ought to do. Meanwhile, the Bible tells us to take responsibility for ourselves. It tells us to not wait for a feeling, but rather to deal with those things in our lives that have been revealed to us. There is no more urgent business before us than addressing those matters which the Word of God has called to our attention. How sad is it that many people refuse to do so!

THE THOUGHTFUL GAZER

Look at verse 25: “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.” This is the person who hears the Word of God and it has such a profound impact on his life that he changes. Doers are people who allow the Word of God to change them and make a difference in their lives.

To look intently into the mirror of God’s Word involves an obligation. The word “looks” in Greek speaks of stooping down to see an object more clearly or to know it better. It suggests far more than a casual glance. It has the sense of looking carefully, closely, or seriously at something. It implies a searching inspection. The purpose of the ongoing, penetrating gaze into the mirror of God’s Word is to put it into practice what has been revealed to us.

It amazes me how many believers there are who spend all kinds of time in church and know a lot about the Bible, but they deceive themselves into thinking they are spiritual just because they know deep theological truth. They know facts about the Bible, but those truths do not change them. God’s Word does not impact their motives and attitudes. It doesn’t impact the way they treat their neighbors. It doesn’t impact the way they approach and respond to situations. It doesn’t impact anything in their lives. If we are spending time in church, but the Word of God is not changing us, then something is wrong.

Being a doer is taking the Word of God and allowing it to have an impact on my life, so it changes me. It changes the way I speak, think, and live. It changes the way I treat my spouse. It changes the way I act in business. It changes everything about me. If I am to use the mirror of God’s Word profitably, then I must gaze into it carefully and with serious intent. No quick glances will do. I must examine my heart and life in the light of God’s Word. This requires time, attention, and sincere devotion. Five minutes with God each day will never accomplish a deep spiritual examination. Perhaps one reason people glance into God’s Word instead of gaze into it is that they are afraid of what they might see.

After seeing ourselves, we must follow through and obey what God tells us to do. The blessing comes not in hearing, but in the doing. The emphasis is on action and application. If we stop with hearing, we will miss the full benefit of the mirror ministry of the Word. Life-change and transformation (2 Cor. 3:18) is what needs to happen.

Too many Christians confess their sins and claim forgiveness, but they never really grow spiritually. We must put into practice what the Bible says and become doers of the Word, not simply hearers. God commands us to apply His Word, but too often we stop at accumulating Bible knowledge instead of putting into practice what we have learned. Exposure to God’s Word must lead to obedience. Applying God’s Word is a vital part of our relationship with Him.

The mirror does not change. If we seem out of line with God’s Word, it is we who have changed, not the Word. A mirror is useless unless we use it – so we must use the mirror of God’s Word. We may not like what we see, but we need to look intently into the mirror and do something about it. This is necessary if we are to grow in Christ and live godly lifestyles. We need to do what God commands in His Word.

Satan works very hard to portray sin as the greatest freedom and God’s Word as the greatest bondage, but the very opposite is true. To be a doer and not simply a hearer is to apply the Word of God to your life. Jesus said, “Hold to My teaching, then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (Jn. 8:31–32).

Do you love God with all your heart? Is your love for God demonstrated by what you are doing? Are you a doer or simply a hearer of the Word?

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About Pastor Joe Quatrone, Jr.

Pastor Joe has been serving in Christian ministry for 15 years. He desires to nurture and disciple believers, helping them experience a deeper level of commitment and faith in the Lord. He is the author of "Back to the Basics: A Guide for Christian Living." Through a commitment to servant leadership, he proclaims relevant Bible truth, equips the saints for effective ministry, and builds up the body of Christ. Married eleven years, Pastor Joe and his wife live in New Jersey and have two children.
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56 Responses to Hearers and Doers (James 1:22-25)

  1. Perfect devo for today. :)

  2. “If I am to use the mirror of God’s Word profitably, then I must gaze into it carefully and with serious intent. No quick glances will do. I must examine my heart and life in the light of God’s Word. This requires time, attention, and sincere devotion. Five minutes with God each day will never accomplish a deep spiritual examination. Perhaps one reason people glance into God’s Word instead of gaze into it is that they are afraid of what they might see.” BOOM. Not even 15 minutes a day will work anymore, not if I really want to mature. Thank God and thank you Joe for sharing :-)

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  4. neatnik2009 says:

    As I understand Pauline theology, faith is inherently active, thus the sufficiency of faith there. In the Letter of James, however, faith is intellectual, hence the pairing of faith and works there and the comments about being justified by works–something which gave Martin Luther a very difficult time. It is better, however, to do theology when responding calmly and intelligently than when reacting.

  5. Pingback: Do You Hear From God?

  6. Reblogged this on augustine1blog and commented:
    Excellent points.

  7. Pingback: Hearers and Doers | augustine1blog

  8.  Reblogged on http://augustine1-defendingthefaith.blogspot.com/2013/07/hearer-and-doers-by-joe-quatrone.html

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  9. Sebastian says:

    Reblogged this on Sharing His Word and commented:
    Reading this post causes me to stop and take a look in the mirror of God’s Word to see what I am reflecting. Thank you Joe for sharing this timely and timeless message.

  10. I especially liked this, ‘Too many Christians mark their Bibles, but their Bibles never mark them! Nice

  11. johnedoe says:

    you know, it’s “almost” funny,…faith is so simple,….until we jumble it up with all the other stuff,…..(hey joe, there is my two cents for the day)……..cut me some slack, it’s been a very good and long day and i’m tired,…….but it’s a good kind of tired,……and now,….i’ll rest,……………talk soon

  12. So true! “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth”. I know someone who refuses to ever be convicted of anything. She slanders and gossips, causes strife among family members, breaks up relationships and refuses to practice forgiveness or repentance because all she says is, “It’s all under the blood, its all under the blood!” She is accountable for nothing and never applies any biblical truth to her life because that is all she quotes. Yet very quick to to point out fault in others

  13. Joe,

    You might like a post I wrote on this very topic about a year ago called akroatai or poiētai?:

    http://evenifministries.wordpress.com/2012/08/15/akroatai-or-poietai/

  14. The Sun of Man says:

    “Satan works very hard to portray sin as the greatest freedom and God’s word as the greatest bondage, but the very opposite is true.” This is an awesome statement!

  15. You do realise Pastor Joe, that your not scratching many ears with your message today but hopefully you are causing them to echo so they will hear again God’s Truth in your words and respond, thank you for a powerful message and very much God’s Truth.

    I hope you don’t mind Pastor Joe but I thought I would ask you a few questions this time, but not all the ones I have or you would need to start a new Post. They are based on something I often hear which is…. ” We will sin till we die but it’s ok because we are forgiven. ” I’m not expecting you to answer them unless you want to, they are really just for reflection, like the Mirror…Wow I had to shield my eyes I was shining so bright 8-)

    1. If we are to reckon ourselves dead to sin, should we continue saying that we can and do sin when we are in Christ Jesus? ( Romans 6:11) as a man thinks in his heart, he does! and God tells us no temptation will be greater than we can bear……..

    2. If God asks us to be perfect as He is, do you think it’s impossible and if so does this mean that what He asks of us is not really attainable ? ( Matthew 5:48 ) (1 John 4:17-19 )

    3. If it is our Sin Nature that causes us to sin by polluting our spirit and we put it to death by The Spirit, ( Romans 8:13 ) ( Galations 5 ) does this mean we can no longer sin as the Scriptures tell us in (1John3:9)

    4. God asks us to walk as Jesus walked (1 John 2:4-6 ) and He walked in Love without sinning and when we are Born again of God’s seed, (1John3:9) and Jesus lives in us ? and He dose not choose to sin, so do we? (1Corinthians 2:16 )

    5. If we ask for God’s wisdom as He asks us to do, ( Proverbs 4:7 ) because in the flesh we all lack it, we were not born with it, so we are to seek after it, do we then doubt that we or others have received it and if we do, are we saying that God does not do what He says and so we are calling Him a liar ?James 1: 4-6

    Thank you again Pastor Joe, I will just go and wash the glitter off now : roll: see you soon, perhaps I will be perfected in Love by then (1 John 4:17-19 )

    Christian Love from both of us -Anne

    • Those are thought provoking questions, Anne! Allow me to copy and paste some things I have written in the past that will touch on your questions:

      What about those who abuse God’s grace? Paul asked and answered this very question: “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (Romans 6:1-2). The implication is that it is unthinkable a Christian would be comfortable continuing in sin. Sin does not stay dormant. It grows. It enslaves. If we are saved, sin cannot destroy our relationship with God, but it surely can damage our testimony and our fellowship.

      Being a Christian is more than just coming to Christ. It’s about growing and becoming more like Jesus – it’s about being sanctified. One of the qualities or attributes of God is His holiness. Not only is He holy, but He desires that we would also be holy. Our growth in Christ must be understood as dying to sin. Paul wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20). In sanctifying us, God is transforming us, so that we would live in harmony with His will. Sanctification means we are being renewed in the image of God (Rom. 8:29). Our sin nature is in the process of being removed. As people sanctified by God’s truth and set apart from evil, we are to trust in God’s protection and witness for Christ. God wants us to be transformed people with renewed minds, living to honor and obey Him. God wants us to offer ourselves as living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1-2) – daily laying aside our own desires to follow Him, putting all our energy and resources at His disposal, and trusting Him to guide us. The reason God saved us is so that we would be sanctified.

      I think you will enjoy the sermon I am preaching on Sunday about Colossians 3:12-14. I will have my notes posted by Monday or Tuesday of next week. God bless!

      • Thank you Pastor Joe, for your openness to God’s Truth, many reject anything that goes against what they believe and have been taught as True even though it is in error as confirmed by Scripture but then I too believed error and was confused until I asked and received God’s wisdom and then it was as if a Light was switched on in The Darkness .. Jesus is the Truth and Light .

        I will look forward to your message and thank you for taking the time to respond, you are a very thoughtful , caring man who considers others of value in God’s eyes and yours. I was blessed by your concern for a person at Christmas who comments on your Blog, not many are humble in Authority.

        Christian Love from us both – Anne

  16. Gee I didn’t even get the roll right :roll: I must be where Paul was when He said He haden’t been perfected yet but was aiming for it and he made it before He died and so will I, what about you Pastor Joe or are you there already? .

    Blessings – Anne

    • I’m not there yet, Anna. But as Paul said, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14).

      • Yes so True Pastor Joe, I can see you still have a little way to go, it’s noticeable with your error with my Name :roll: God knows all our Names but then Anne does come from the Hebrew name Hannah which means grace and so does Anna and Annie, Ann etc.

        Because I never really had a Surname for many years, they kept changing, first because of being abandoned by my Mother and then only being with my father a short time before he died and after this foster homes until the Mother I have now Adopted me and than once again being abandoned in my first Marriage, so my Christian name is very important to me, it’s been with me from the start and it’s still mine, my Pen names though are Annie and Melody, my Mum has always called me Annie and so do some of my friends and Melody has a Spiritual connection for me. I’ll tell you about my Surname that I have now some other time but it has real significance too.

        Wow it’s so good that I can call you Paster Jo, I can’t make a mistake with that, Hmmmm I must be almost there :-)

        Be back soon in response to your answers, Truth is always refreshing to those who accept it.

        Blessings Hannah

        • johnedoe says:

          HI ANNA, ANNIE, ANN, ANNA, HANNAH,……HOW YOU DOIN???…….i gotta say, that was the single grooviest name rant that i have ever seen….life can be so funny, don’t ya think???

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  18. wsforchrist says:

    Great post! With God’s help, through Christ and the Holy Spirit, this world can make progress!

  19. Hi Joe, I’m going well how about you……..this must be one of those comment rants you wanted, and Pastor Joe agreed for you to do one, so yes there is a time for everything and God has given us the gift of laughter to use, I Love good clean humour and I use it often but my name is my name, there is too much confusion today with names and also in Scripture, especially Jesus’ Name.

    Take care – Christian Love from both of us – Anne

  20. Awesome teaching my friend. Amen!

  21. balding2soon says:

    That is just the thing of today we have to many people who are hearers and not doers of Gods teachings. I see it every day, it starts with the parents going to church then as they leave the front door of the church their Christian values stay there, their children pick up on this and soon it becomes a trend. As far as knowledge of the Word I can say I am not very knowledgeable but I also see that point where they can recite word for word but living it is another story.

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  24. Scott Sholar says:

    Hi Joe. These two lines really spoke to me: “Spirituality is not based on what we know; it’s about what we do with what we know,” and “Too many Christians mark their Bibles, but their Bibles never mark them!” Thank you. Great insight! Bless you.

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