James 1:18-25 - In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we might be, as it were, the first fruits among His creatures. 19This you know, my beloved brethren. But let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; 20for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21Therefore putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. 22But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. 23For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; 24for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. 25But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man shall be blessed in what he does.
Here in New England the blossoms of spring are "still hanging in there" on the fruit trees. They are not only very beautiful, but they are a promise of the harvest to come. The first fruits of summer will soon be here! Christians are a kind of first fruits. Verse 18 of our Scripture tells us that God brought us forth by His Word to be first fruits among His creatures. That is, God planted the good seed of His Word in the responsive ground of our hearts; He saw that seed take root in our lives; He carefully watered and cultivated us; He watched us blossom in the spring-time of our new life in Christ; and now He desires "that we might be" first fruits of the summer harvest. We are the first fruits because the harvest has only begun. The Word of God makes certain that some day all creation will be subject to the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 8:18-23). Every growing Christian is a first fruit of this great harvest. In the Old Testament (Leviticus 23:10) the first fruits of the summer harvest were presented to the Lord as a sacrifice in gratitude for His goodness and in recognition of His faithfulness. So we have the idea of dedication also in the term first fruits. (See Romans 12:1 and the concept of presenting ourselves as a living sacrifice.) The rest of our passage speaks about hearing, receiving, and doing the Word of God. What does this have to do with the first fruits? Just this! If the seed which brought forth the first fruits was the Word of God, then certainly the Word of God should characterize the first fruits. When you plant an apple seed you expect the fruit to be apples, not grapes! "Like seed, like fruit," is what God is teaching us. How then, as first fruits, can we be characterized by the Word of God, the very seed which begot us? Answer: hear and receive God's Word--verses 19-21; hear and obey God's Word--verses 22-25. In verses 19-21 we are told to make a deliberate effort to split from sin and then to receive the implanted Word. Implanted means it is already there! Well, no wonder--it is the very seed planted by God which resulted in our new birth. (See 1 Peter 1:23.) But now we are to hear and receive the Word. A Christian hasn't really received a particular portion of God's Word until it begins to transform his life. For example, you haven't received the 23rd Psalm if you are still "wanting." To want your own way, to be frustrated about your future, or to be uptight about your lot in life is to deny and not receive "the Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want..." Read the whole Psalm and see if you've received it. We are to receive the Word in humility or with meekness (verse 21). This means we must be willing to submit and yield and let God change us through His Word. In this way the Word "saves our souls." That is, God uses His Word not only to save our souls from eternaldamnation, but from present damage as well. Our ticket to heaven was good the day the seed was implanted. Now as we continually receive God's word and submit to it we are preserved from "tubing it" in our present Christian life. In verses 22-25 we are told to be doers of the Word. Obedience to God's Word! Remember, if we are first fruits, we are to be characterized by the Word of God inside and outside. To hear and receive is to be characterized internally and subjectively by the Word. To hear and obey is to be characterized externally and objectively by the Word. Take the great commission, for example, in Matthew 28:18-20. We could memorize this Scripture or go through seminary and know all "about" this Scripture, but still it may be "in one ear and out the other." Hearing only! When we begin to hear and receive the words of the great commission, such as, "All authority is given unto Me" and "Lo, I am with you always," our lives begin to be transformed from the inside out. How can we possibly be up tight and frustrated when we've really received these truths? But now there is also a command to obey. "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you." We may be really "digging" the Word of God, but until we begin to verbalize the gospel to our roommate or neighbors, and until we're actively involved in discipling and teaching someone, we are not hearing and obeying the Word of God--in fact we are deceiving ourselves (verse 22). Only when our external lifestyle begins to change for the cause of Christ can we consider ourselves obedient to the Word. Until that point we are like someone who hurries past a mirror (verses 23-24). How can a brief look at a two-dimensional reflection possibly change us? But when welook intently (verse 25) into God's perfect Word and obey it, then our lives themselves begin to reflect the glory of God. And that's where the blessing is too! The end of verse 25 tells us that we are blessed when we do; not when we merely hear. Do you want to know the love and blessing and joy of God in your life? Then stop wishing and start obeying! This is exactly what the Lord Jesus tells us in John 15:10-11. "If you keep my commandments you will abide in My love: just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken unto you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full." Soon we will see the summer first fruits in the grain fields and fruit orchards all over this country. In your travels this summer, let the sight of the fulfillment of nature remind you that we too are first fruits for our Lord. Let us be characterized by His holy Word inside and out. What a disappointment it must be to God if, after a beautiful blossom, the fruit turns out to be spoiled and marred.