Faith That Works - How Teachable Are You?

Biblical tips for approaching life with a teachable spirit.

Chuck Martin
Jan 19, 2020    32m
In this sermon Pastor Chuck Martin teaches from the Book of James chapter 1, and shares important biblical advice on how to cultivate a teachable spirit within yourself. He explains for us to be open to new information we need to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger. Video recorded at Frisco, Texas.

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Hey man, just, just following up on what Mark said earlier about our D-Now weekend, and I'm so grateful for Chris Hurt, Sean and Brittany, and our leaders in our student Ministry; I mean, they just did a fantastic job this weekend. And so, we are, we are we are so blessed. But, did you remember Mark mention something about a live monkey? That may have caught your attention. Here's a picture, this verifies what he was talking about. I befriended this monkey last night and I discovered that he likes hats and so he stole my hat. There's the next picture of him. He's hiding it from you at this point. I got my hat back and the final pictures, we were reconciled there at the end. It's not every day you get a monkey to climb on your head; but you know that's church, right?

I'm reminded today, as well, that this weekend is Martin Luther King Jr. weekend. In 1962, my father (my parents) returned from Tokyo, Japan where they served as missionaries where I was born, and came to North Alabama, where my dad was pastor of a church, Parker Memorial Baptist Church, in Anniston at a very tumultuous time in really the civil rights movement in our country. You may not be familiar with Anniston, it was infamous in 1962 for a bus burning that occurred in our community, and here my dad, having shared the love of Jesus with our former enemies through Japanese, only to return to this country and be really cast in the middle of a lot of conflict in our community. And one of the things my dad did, very early on, was take a stand to say as long as I'm pastor of this church, we will welcome anyone to come and worship regardless of their skin color because Baptists did not send me to Japan to share the love of Jesus with our enemies only to return to separate, by race, those in our own country.

And one of the things he did, was he pulled together a group of Pastors in our church, African American pastors, white pastors, and formed a coalition and it really began to change the community. And so, when I think of Dr. Martin Luther King, I think of the example that he set, which we're so grateful for, but I think about something that happened when I was in high school. We were invited, because of my dad, to go to Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, the church he pastored for many years and Montgomery and my dad preached and they had a day to honor him. And so, I'm grateful for the impact of Dr. King, I'm grateful for the impact of people like Charles Martin, who love Jesus, who share the hope of Jesus in a world that is so divided even today. And so, we that continue that challenge continues for us, to be those who are peacemakers and those who represent Jesus well and meet people where they are and share his love.

Let's pray together and we'll jump into scripture. God, thank you for this weekend. God, thank you for what you've done and are doing and the lives of our students. God, we just invite you to speak to our hearts this morning in these moments as we look at your word. God, may me we have ears to hear today. For we pray that in Christ's name. Amen

The last several weeks, we've been in a series from the book of James and if you have your Bible with you or if you access scripture via phone or however, I want to encourage you to turn to James chapter 1 this morning. In many ways, we're going to kind of pick up where we left off. James as you may know is the brother of Jesus. He was martyred, put to death, stoned actually in 62 A.D. for proclaiming that Jesus was the risen Christ and was the Messiah. And think about that... what would it take for you to proclaim that your sibling was the son of God? See James early on did not believe that Jesus was in fact the Messiah, but he was convinced following the resurrection of Jesus. And so, in the Book of James he writes to a church that was undergoing persecution and gives some very practical advice, direction. So, this morning we're going to again build on a little what we talked about last week regarding how do we respond to truth. Last week, I shared with you that it is possible for someone to come week after week after week to go to a Bible study, to go to worship service, week after week after week and their life be virtually unchanged, very little difference in their attitudes and their vocabulary and their morals or ethics and their heart. But it is also equally true that a person can engage in those disciplines both privately and corporately, can study God's word, can gather together, can worship week after week, and their life is radically changed so much so that others notice it.

Today, we're going to drill down on one of the things that, that is key to that being true of us; that we are in the process of changing and not resisting change. And it has to do with really how teachable we are. So, let me just ask the question... How teachable are you this morning? How open are you to correction from scripture from God? To his Holy Spirit saying you know that, that you need to pay attention to this, this needs to change, okay?

Webster's defines teachability and are teachable in this way, being capable of being taught but also being willing to learn and both of those are key. And so, this morning we're going to look at a passage where James really gives us a test... a test of teachability if you will. And so, we're going to re-plow a little bit of what we covered last week, but we're going to focus on verses 19 and 20 of James chapter 1. So, if you have your scriptures open, let's look at them together. Verse 19 he writes, my dear brothers and sisters take note of this, everyone should be quick to listen slow to speak and slow to become angry because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent, and here's the key, and humbly accept the word planted in you which can save you. We addressed some of that last week.

Last week, we focused on these verses look at verse 22. He says, do not merely listen to the word, in other words be exposed to the truth, and so deceive yourself. If you listen and don't do anything, if you listen and it not find residence in your heart, he's going to say; he says do what it says don't merely listen, to do something. Verse 23 anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says and he's going to give an analogy is like someone who looks at his face in the mirror and then after looking at himself goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law, the law that gives freedom and continues to do this not forgetting what they have heard but doing it they will be blessed in what they do.

So, here's what I'm going to do, I want to, as we talk about teachability, I found an interesting book a couple of weeks ago by a guy named Matt Keller, he's not related to Tim Keller who's a pastor in New York, but Matt is a pastor in Florida. And he writes a book called The Key to Everything and he says, teachability or openness to truth is really the key to spiritual growth and he gives, he gave a formula if you will, that I found very helpful and I thought I'd share with you this morning. And it goes like that, T or teachability, [I'm running out of room over here] okay, teachability equals two things, he says. First of all, DL and then DL times WC, okay. DL stands for a desire to learn. [A desire to learn.] Let me ask this question, do we have any teachers in the room? Any school teachers? Any instructors? How many of you say, "Well, yeah, that's, I can, I can bear witness to this?" If there's no desire to learn, very little learning takes place, right? We know this as a parent, right? We know this is, as we want to instruct our children, but the problem is not a capability issue, the problem is a what? A desirability issue?

The same thing can be true of us spiritually. So, you have the desire to learn multiplied, and this is, this is the key, a willingness - and James is going to say this is so very true - that's willingness, willingness to change... or in other words a willingness to do something. It's not simply hearing the word; it's what we do as a result of it. It's what we say. It's really internalizing it when we say, yes, that's true of me and we pray, "God, help me change in this area," and we give attention to it; and we practice it and we work on it. That's when change occurs, when we allow the truth of God to have resonance in our life. Jesus puts it this way, "Let him who has ears to hear, let him hear." It's possible to have ears and not here.

So, this morning we're going to look at a formula really, it's a kind of a spiritual test. James is going to say three things have to be true for us to be teachable. This will be an incredibly simple message this morning. You're not going to go away and go I have no idea what Pastor Chuck was talking about, it just over my head, too deep theologically... very practical. Because James says three things in verse 19, you may have already mentioned, that you might have already seen them. Let's look at them again verse 19 my dear brothers and sisters take note of this every one of you, in other words if you're going to be if you're going to be in this process of transformation, every one of you should be the following, quick to listen slow to speak and slow to become angry. Three things: quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to become angry. So, let's say that together collectively, it won't be too hard, just three things: quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. All right, so let's talk about what does that mean? What does that look like? What is James saying here?

First, let's look at what does it mean to be quick to listen? How many of you, or how many of us have someone in your life, please don't elbow, someone in your life that you find a challenge at times in getting their attention? How many of you, if you didn't raise, how many of you say, "that is me?" I would say, that is me. My sweet wife, from time to time, will go, "Hey honey, honey." And, I can tell you, if I have TV on, if ESPN is on... I mean she may be talking and it's like, wah-wah, wah- wah, wah-wah, and I may be going, "Yeah. Yeah. Oh, yeah. Oh, ah." and trying to, but I'm not I'm not engaged. I'm not listening. How many of you men have been busted before? You've gone to a restaurant? Here's what I've been guilty of and you position yourself so that you can see, especially if there's a game on, where the TV is, okay? And as you sit there and you're listening, she's saying what and you're like eyes are wandering, eyes are wandering, eyes are wandering and she goes, "Where's the TV?" I have been busted. I don't know how many times she will go, and she'll say, "We are switching places," right. You are not sitting there because she knows the way I am. And you know, that's what this is addressing. When we're talking about being quick to listen meaning that were not in a position where were open to really here. You know that as a parent, but if we're honest that describes you and I far more often than we want it to.

So, how do you know if that's true? How do you know you're quick to listen? Well, here's some observations, some things I'd share with that I think are helpful. Sometimes what that points to, when we're not quick to listen, is basically when we fail to listen, or we're not quick to listen and often points to the fact that we're self-absorbed or proud. You may not say, well, it's not a pride issue, but it's a self-absorption or, or if you're, if you're like me, often times, I'm distracted. My mind is somewhere else, and I can take a trip and stay in the same room; I do it all the time, right. And sometimes in the middle of conversations, my mind will wander. That's why one of the disciplines in my life, is that when it comes to prayer and when it comes to reading scripture, I will journal. I will write out what God says to me. I will write out my prayers because soon as I go to pray, my mind goes to 14 hundred other things. I understand that. That's part of just a personal challenge for me. But sometimes we're just we're not in a position to hear because we're just too self-absorbed.

Secondly, it can be a failure to listen reflects a heart that values our opinion over that of other. Sometimes, we are not willing to listen because we're not thinking that the other person might be saying something of value that we need to hear, truth be told. Have y'all ever been in a social setting where perhaps you're, you're meeting people for the first time, you're kind of working, maybe a corporate gathering - a business thing - or in my case, it might even be a church thing. And you're talking with someone and as they're engaging with you, they are like looking, okay, when can I finish with them and move on to someone else that might be more important? You ever had that happen? You ever been the one that you feel like, okay, you're the unimportant one. I will never forget when I was planting a church in Newcastle, Indiana, basically the middle of nowhere, east of Indianapolis... and I went to one of our own denominational gatherings and I was running into a lot of friends from school and, 'how you doing?' People that I knew, acquaintance of, 'where are you?' trying to say, "Well, I'm over here were planting this church over here in Indiana." And they looked at me like, 'That's nice... Who else can I talk to?' In other words, that's good; someone needs to do that. But clearly, you know, if you were a little sharper you would be in a larger city or somewhere else. Has that, has this never happened to you? Am I the only one? Have you ever been the one when you're talking with someone like, 'oh when am I going to get out of this so I can talk to the person I really want to talk to? No show of hands.

What does that reflect? It reflects how quickly we can judge others. And often times, what I've discovered is that God speaks to me sometimes the loudest and most clearly through the person I would least expect him to speak to me through. He delights in doing that. Try it sometime.

So, sometimes it's that we value our opinions over that of others or we think we're more important. Sometimes it's an unwillingness to listen to, simply a symptom of unrepentance in our life. James 4:6, he's going to write just a couple of chapters later, that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. And when we're proud and when we think we're self-important that is a hindrance to God speaking to us and that's why he says here be quick to listen in other words, don't be so full of yourself that you don't hear or engage with the people that are in front of you. Quick to listen, how quick to listen are you?

You know, one of the things I've discovered as a pastor and part of being a pastor, it's kind of a weird role to be in to be honest in this regard... a lot of times when you call people, or you have lunch, or you visit with someone, I understand because of what I do there's a certain amount of you could say kind of intimidation with that, to a degree. So I can't tell you how many times I have visited with somebody and I'm wanting to get to know them and asking them questions and not... one of the things I love about my job is I love meeting people and hearing their stories, and I mean that's what makes life fun and rich. But I can't tell you how many times, it's exception rather than the rule, tends to be, that I've had a conversation and gotten to know someone in the sense and that the end of that conversation, walked away and go, you know, they didn't ask me anything about me.

Why is that? Well I know in my case is because it's intimidating, there a little self-aware that they're meeting with a pastor, like meeting with the Pope or something, right? So, I get that I get that. It's a little skewed. But so often times when we're not quick to listen because we're too busy talking, which is the next thing that he says... be quick to listen and slow to speak. Why does he put those two together? Because they need to be together because one of the main were, we're not quick to listen as we're too busy talking. And I know I'm guilty of this, sometimes as I'm talking with someone and I think of something in the conversation. Y'all have that happen? When you think of something in the conversation, 'Oh, I gotta oh... I got a good one; I need to inject this here before I forget it.' Any of you? Have you? Am I? I'm, oh don't leave me hanging... I'm surely not the only one who does that? And sometimes I just blurt it out. But at that point, once I've thought about what I'm going to say next, I'm not listening to what they're saying. When are you going to finish so I can get back to the interesting thing I was going to share? I think we need this people. Quick to listen slow to speak.

I have a daughter that is very verbal. That's an understatement. Daughters by the way tend to be more verbal with... she's definitely that way. And I know one of the things, as we were parenting Emily, we would, we would from time to time we have conversation and she would just be a bully and she would talk and talk and talk and talk and talk, and it would be hard to even get in a word edgewise and we would... We came up with a hand sign, meaning it's time to stop talking and let someone else say something here. The more I think about it and the more I reflect on it, I wonder where she gets that from, ha ha. I wonder who she might get that from? Do you ever realize that sometimes you can see and others with great clarity that which you have difficulty seeing in yourself? I know I do.

Listen again what he says James 1:19, dear brothers and sisters take note of this pay attention to this, everyone should be quick to listen. In other words, bring a humble attitude to life; be slow to speak, slow to speak, slow to speak. James 1:26, he's going to continue that thought few verses later, notice what he says in verse 26, he says, those who consider themselves religious, in other words, they have a good standing with God, yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues, they deceive themselves and their religion is worthless.

Boy, there's so many Proverbs dealing with the tongue and we'll address this in a few weeks. But let me just remind you of a couple of them James, I mean Proverbs 17:28 says, even fools are thought to be wise if they keep silent and discerning if they hold their tongues. Proverbs 10:19, one of my favorites, is in the multitude of words sin is not lacking but he who restrains his lips as wise, as the King James. I learned it, I believe In The New American Standard in that, when words are many sin is not absent but he who holds his tongue is wise.

I'll give you one more, Proverbs 29:20 says, do you see someone who speaks in haste, in other words quickly - to give an opinion quickly to speak up, there's more hope for a fool than for them. So, why does the Bible talk so much about this? Why is this in God's word? It's in God's word to instruct us to curb our tendencies to be quick to give our opinion and not really listen. And if you want to see an example of this turn on the news; turn on a news program where they have a discussion or two divergent opinions. Seriously, it's not a discussion. It is a yelling talking over. It is rude; it is, it is it's disgusting. I'm tired of the spirit of our culture; and we as followers of Jesus, we need to learn to listen; we need to practice this, our culture desperately needs it. Our culture needs it from political leaders. Our culture needs it from you: business leaders, parents, siblings, Christ followers. Let's set a different tone.

How about being quick to listen, slow to speak, and then notice what he mentions next slow to become angry. Look at verse 19 and 20 again. He says, my dear brothers and sisters take note of this everyone should be quick to listen slow to speak and slow to become angry because human anger verse 20 does not produce the righteousness that God desires. I'm so glad he did. He says slow to anger. He doesn't say no anger. Some folks think that anger itself is wrong and it's not. As a matter of fact, eight times, eight different, I mean more than eight times, eight different books of the Bible, God is described as being slow to anger. As a matter of fact, we are instructed in scripture to be angry and yet not sin. Anger is a human emotion and sometimes anger is very, very appropriate because it's tied, or can be tied, to love.

When you see injustice or when you see wrong done, or when you see someone hurt... there is a healthy response of anger. Sometimes it's appropriate that we be angry. Jesus was angry at those who were taking advantage of those in the temple. Jesus was angry at the prejudice in the hypocrisy in his day. Jesus was righteously angry, yet Jesus did not sin in his anger. And so it says slow to anger. And what James is addressing here, and it talks about anger is. is not really righteous anger... what James is addressing here, is more of what I would say is human fleshly anger.

How many of you when it comes to anger, on if you were to have a scale, would say you are more quick tempered? Or more quick to anger? How many of you, you know, how many quick we got some quick angry people here? Okay, how many of you are the slow to anger folks? You're the stewers? We have spewers and we have stewers right? How many of you are more on the stewer side? See because I tend to be more of an introvert and I tend to be more of a person who presses anger down, who kind of internalizes anger, I'll say well, I'm not angry. I haven't raised my voice. I'm not angry.

I remember number of years ago, I went to see a Christian counselor, trying to unpack some challenges that I was going through. I remember he said, "I think one of your issues is, is you're angry." I'm not angry. I think you're angry... what do you mean I'm angry? Ha ha, I mean, no, it didn't quite go like that, but you know as I reflected on I thought you know, you're right.

So why does Scripture say that? Why does it; why does it say be slow to anger because anger does not produce. In other words, giving vent to anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. In other words, the outcome of that when were angry is often times negative, sinful, harmful. James addresses this just a couple of chapters later... if you have your Bibles, turn to James chapter 4, it's very fascinating because here's what happens when it comes to anger. Is that oftentimes we will tend to think of anger as being something that is out there versus that it's something that is internal. In other words, when you think of why are you angry? We can say, well it's all because of him, or her, or this situation. But notice what James says, very insightful James chapter 4 verse 1, what causes fights and quarrels among you in other words what makes you mad? Notice what James says, don't they come from your desires that battle within you? Hmm... you desire but do not have so you kill you covet but you cannot get what you want so you quarrel and fight. What is James saying? James is saying, you need to recognize when it comes to anger and expression of anger often times, it's because we're not getting our way.

What James is saying here? Is to say being slow to anger is to curb that, it is to pause, it is to say why am I being upset? You know you it's easy to go, well, I'm upset, it's obvious because I'm stuck in traffic at the Tollway because this person cut me off, because that person was rude to me, because... and we tend to view it out there, but we don't learn, we don't change, we don't grow when we do that. What we do have is to stop and say is, what is there in me that is causing me to respond to anger to this situation or circumstance? Maybe you're angry because you didn't allow enough time to get where you needed to go and now, you're stuck in traffic. Is it because you're afraid others will think less of you if you're late?

You see what James is encouraging us to do, what scripture is telling us to do here, is to look within. That's why he says, don't they come from the desires that battle within you? So, let me just run through a few truths about anger. What does it mean to be quick? Slow to anger?

Three truths about the kind of anger that James addresses. The first, is this kind of anger prevents us from being teachable because it blocks our ability to see the truth about ourselves. And that's true about anger oftentimes when we're mad, we feel justified and we don't look below the surface. James is saying you got to look below the surface.

Second thing, this kind of anger points to the reason for our anger being outside of ourselves. What causes the fights and quarrels within you? We would answer, well it's this... James says no, it's you. It's your response; it' what's in your heart, it's not simply outside. And yes, there are factors and there are circumstances. Yes, that's a factor in that but you choose how you respond.

One of the most helpful things you can do, when you find yourself in conflict, is pause and think for a moment and actually you can even say out know part of the reason why I'm being angry right now is because I'm not getting my way or I'm frustrated. In other words, you're owning your own responsibility for your own response. You're not putting that off on someone else. And if you want a healthy way to get to anger is not just blaming but instead say, you know part of the problem is I'm not getting what I want or I'm frustrated or fill in the blank, and that changes things because you realize that you are responsible for you. You can't change someone else. You're not responsible for their behavior. You can't change them. You can change how you respond - and that's the whole point here. And that by the grace of God and the convicting presence of the Holy Spirit we can behave differently.

So, what do we do when we find ourselves angry? First, we need to face it. We need to say, you know, I'm angry here. Second, we need to find out why we're angry. Third, we need to own it. We need to ask God to give us the grace so that we don't vent our anger in a way that's destructive. So that we don't say or do or behave, that we don't stew, that we don't carry it with us. But that we go and say God by your grace, let me let it go and help me to be open to your truth. You know my anger, what would you say about me that needs to change?

You see here's the reality, what James is addressing here is teachability. And he's saying that it is possible for us, because we are self-absorbed or proud, to be people that are, that are not quick to listen; we're not slow to speak, and we're not slow to become angry. But by his grace each of us can change in those areas.

So, what needs to change in you today? What are you going to do owning your own tendency in your own weaknesses? If you're slow to listen. How are you going to change that? How are you going to stop yourself and go, you know, I'm not listening right now? God, by his Holy Spirit, will direct you in that as you allow them to. But let's just don't hear this and walk out and say we're good. Let's put it into practice.

Recorded in Frisco, Texas.
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Frisco First Baptist Church
7901 Main Street
Frisco, Texas 75034