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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Saturday Evening, November 11, 2017

“Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves” (James 1:22).

One of the greatest challenges you face is how to know the will of God. Young people are hit hardest by that question. You have to make many of the most important choices of life while you are still inexperienced and youthful. What should be my major in college? What career should I choose? Who should I marry? These are life-changing decisions you must make. And the choices you make now will affect you for the rest of your life. It’s bewildering and frightening to many young people. It can be very confusing to young Christians. “What does God want me to do with my life?” The Bible gives the answer – “Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22).

A. W. Pink (1886-1952) said, “There are many ‘hearers’ of the Word, regular hearers, reverent hearers, interested hearers; but alas, what they hear [does not affect] their life: it does not regulate their way [of living]...God has given us His Word...for the purpose of directing us: to make known what He requires us to do” (Arthur W. Pink, “The Scriptures and Obedience,” in Profiting From the Word, Free Grace Broadcaster, Summer 2015, pages 1, 2).

“God has given us His Word...for the purpose of directing us.” I completely agree with Mr. Pink. That is what I was taught, even before I was converted. The Baptist church I attended in Huntington Park as a teenager was wrong on several things, but not on this point. I was taught that God speaks to us and shows us His will only from the Scriptures. And I learned not to seek the will of God through feelings or impressions. I especially learned this later from my pastor, Dr. Timothy Lin, and also from Dr. J. Vernon McGee. By the grace of God, I could say with the Psalmist, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105). Proverbs 6:22 says of the Word of God, “When thou goest, it shall lead thee; when thou sleepest, it shall keep thee; and when thou awakest, it shall talk with thee.” That’s why our text says, “Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves” (James 1:22). This verse tells us how to know the will of God.

I. First, the text speaks of those who deceive themselves about the will of God.

I am commenting on the second part of the text first, “deceiving your own selves.” Those who refuse to be “doers of the word” will be deceived. They will not be able to know the will of God for their lives. This is very common among people in the churches today. They are often deceived, and not able to know the will of God for their lives.

They forget that the Devil is a great deceiver. The Bible tells us that Satan deceives the nations of the world (Revelation 20:3). He is called “the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world” (Revelation 12:9). “Satan” means “adversary” or “enemy.” He opposes God. His oldest trick is to deceive people. He “deceiveth the whole world.” The Greek word for “deceiveth” is “planaō.” It means “to lead astray,” “to seduce,” “to mislead,” “to attract and lead astray.” This is what Satan did at the very beginning. He deceived our first parents, leading them astray, seducing them to eat the forbidden fruit in the Garden. Many professing Christians today think they know the will of God for their lives. But they are really misled by Satan. Many think the Holy Spirit is leading them, but it is really the Devil. You must never forget that. The Apostle Peter was speaking to Christian people. He warned them, “Be sober [be watchful], be vigilant [be alert]; because your adversary [your enemy] the devil...walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (I Peter 5:8). Dr. McGee said, “I do not think you can resist the Devil by need other believers to stand with you” (Thru the Bible; note on I Peter 5:9). I think he is exactly right. The Devil will seduce you and mislead you if you stand alone, or if you have close fellowship with an unsaved person, even if it is a brother or sister in the flesh. The Bible says,

“He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed” (Proverbs 13:20).

The Scofield note is good on defining a “fool.” It says (p. 678) “A ‘fool’ in Scripture is never a mentally deficient person, but rather one arrogant and self-sufficient; one who orders his life as if there were no God.” An arrogant person is a fool, even in the church. Be sure you fellowship with wise men, and not with fools! Fools will be used by the Devil to lead you away from the will of God.

Then, too, you can be deceived by false Christians. This is especially true in these last days. The Bible says,

“Evil men and seducers shall wax [grow] worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived” (II Timothy 3:13).

False Christians will definitely deceive you and lead you astray. But the answer to II Timothy 3:13 is in verses 14 and 15. The Word of God is a sure guide in these evil days. Stick close to those who are obeying the Bible. Don’t listen to those who are “deceiving, and being deceived.”

Also, you can be deceived by so-called “leadings” of the Holy Spirit. This is a major trap for new-evangelicals today. They have been taught that every thought that goes through their mind is a “leading” of God’s Spirit. Many of them talk about it a lot. They say, “God led me to do this,” or “God led me to do that.” You hear it all the time. It sounds very spiritual. You may think that person is a strong Christian. But the Bible calls them “fools.” The Bible says,

“He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool” (Proverbs 28:26).

You will hear them say, even out on the street, “The Lord led me to do this.” “The Lord led me here.” “The Lord led me to go.” Nearly every time you hear those words, you are hearing them from a “fool.”

“He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool” (Proverbs 28:26).

The Bible plainly says, “Lean not [on your] own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). When people refuse to do that they open themselves up to deception, which takes us back to our text,

“Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves” (James 1:22).

II. Second, the text speaks of those who really find the will of God.

“Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only...” (James 1:22).

To hear the Word of God and find guidance from it, you must be willing to obey what you hear. The condition for hearing is given in the previous verse, James 1:21.

“Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21).

I will give it from a modern translation for clarity.

“Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent, and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you” (NIV).

A person must get rid of all moral filth, and the evil that is so prevalent. This includes pornography and bitterness. Some men expect to know the will of God while they are slaves to unclean thoughts. Some expect to know the will of God while they are bitter with the pastor or with other leaders in the church. They have bitter hearts. Others have close friendships with people who are against God, who are worldly. They like the person so much that they forget that “whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:4). Others are full of envy and pride. You must confess these things to God and ask Him to remove them from your heart. Only then will you be humble enough to accept the Word of God as a guide in your life. Only then will you be “doers of the word, and not hearers only.” Commenting on this verse, great Spurgeon said, “It is almost invariably the case [that when persons grow skeptical who once professed to be Christians], and begin picking at this or that, there is secret evil in their lives which they thus try to cover from their own consciences. The devil tempts them to rail at the ministry because the gospel presses hard against their guilty consciences, and makes them feel uneasy in their sins. If you are to hear God’s Word with pleasure and profit to yourselves, you must ‘lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness’; for these things will prejudice you against the Word of God” (C. H. Spurgeon, “Before Sermon, At Sermon, and After Sermon,” MTP, No. 1,847). You must put aside all filthiness if you wish to receive benefit from the Word of God. Only then can you “be doers of the word.” Only when you obey God’s Word can you know His will for your life. I will now give you six of the ways in the Bible to know the will of God.

1.  Again, and this is most important, to know the will of God you must not trust your own heart. As I told you before, the Bible says very plainly,

“He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool” (Proverbs 28:26).

Why is that so important? Because,

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9).

No wonder the person who trusts his own heart is called a “fool.”

2.  To know the will of God you must be willing to do God’s will, not your own will.

“If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself” (John 7:17).

Dr. John R. Rice said, “This means that if a man chooses to do God’s will, God will reveal it to him” (The Son of God, commentary on the Gospel of John, Sword of the Lord Publishers, 1976, p. 162). Dr. Henry M. Morris said, “This could be read: ‘If any man sincerely wants to do his will, he will know…Thus, the first prerequisite to [know] God’s leading in some matter…is a genuine willingness to follow God’s will, even if the answer goes against one’s preference” (The Defender’s Study Bible; note on John 7:17).

3.  To know the will of God you must confess and forsake your sins.

The Bible says,

“He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy. Happy is the man that feareth alway: but he that hardeneth his heart shall fall into mischief” (Proverbs 28:13, 14).

4.  To know the will of God you must not despise your Christian father’s instruction.

“A fool despiseth his father's instruction: but he that regardeth reproof is prudent” (Proverbs 15:5).

“A wise son heareth his father's instruction: but a scorner heareth not rebuke” (Proverbs 13:1).

5.  To know the will of God you must obey the counsel of your spiritual leaders in the church.

The Bible says,

“Obey them that [guide you] and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief...” (Hebrews 13:17).

Concerning Hebrews 13:17 the Reformation Study Bible says, “Faithful church leaders are like faithful shepherds or watchmen who call out danger alarms to the city. The leaders’ care is deep and genuine because they are appointed by God and will give their account to Him. Everyone will suffer if their ministry is resisted.”

6.  To know the will of God you must consecrate your life to God, and not be conformed to the world.

The Bible says,

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1, 2).

“The renewed mind is one saturated and controlled by the Word of God” (MacArthur Study Bible; note on Romans 12:2).

Please stand and sing hymn number 4 on your song sheet.

When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
   What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
   And with all who will trust and obey.
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
   To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

But we never can prove the delights of His love
   Until all on the altar we lay;
For the favor He shows, and the joy He bestows,
   Are for them who will trust and obey.
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
   To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at His feet,
   Or we’ll walk by His side in the way;
What He says we will do, where He sends we will go;
   Never fear, only trust and obey.
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
   To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.
(“Trust and Obey” by John H. Sammis, 1846-1919).

Please remain standing.

In Romans 10:16, the Apostle Paul said, “They have not all obeyed the gospel.” Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “Notice how Paul puts it. He does not say they have not all believed the gospel, but they have not all obeyed it...The gospel calls for a response. It calls for calls for obedience. The gospel is meant to affect the whole of one’s life. It is meant to be the controlling, the central thing in life, that which governs the whole of one’s outlook. That is what is meant by the word obedience...Obedience is essential because the very essence of sin is disobedience to God” (“God’s Gospel and Obedience”).

Christ calls you to repent of your sins and come to Him. He died on the Cross to pay for your sins. He calls you to obey the Gospel – He calls you to come to Him in obedience to His command. If you refuse to come to Him you are disobeying His command. You must throw yourself utterly and entirely on Jesus Christ. “That is obedience to the gospel. That is what makes you a Christian” (Lloyd-Jones, ibid.). If you would like to speak with us about obeying the Gospel in real salvation, please come and sit in the chairs on the first two rows. Amen.

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Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Trust and Obey” (by John H. Sammis, 1846-1919).



by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves” (James 1:22).

(Psalm 119:105; Proverbs 6:22)

I.   First, the text speaks of those who deceive themselves about the
will of God, Revelation 20:3; 12:9; I Peter 5:8; Proverbs 13:20;
II Timothy 3:13; Proverbs 28:26; 3:5.

II.  Second, the text speaks of those who really find the will of God,
James 1:21; 4:4; Proverbs 28:26; Jeremiah 17:9; John 7:17;
Proverbs 28:13, 14; 15:5; 13:1; Hebrews 13:17; Romans 12:1, 2;
Romans 10:16.