"Receive" the Implanted Word
We’ve been looking at James exhortation that we “receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21). All well and good, you say. But if the word of God is already “implanted” or embedded in your heart, how can you “receive” it? How can you receive something that is already in you? Continue reading . . .
We’ve been looking at James exhortation that we “receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21). All well and good, you say. But if the word of God is already “implanted” or embedded in your heart, how can you “receive” it? How can you receive something that is already in you?
Let me answer this excellent question by directing your attention to something Paul said in Ephesians 3.
“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:14-19).
Do you see the same problem here? If Christ already dwells in our hearts by faith from the first moment we believe in him as Lord and Savior, what does Paul mean when he prays to the Father that the Spirit might strengthen us “so that Christ may dwell” in our hearts through faith? It seems rather unnecessary and redundant.
The answer surely must be that what Paul is asking the Spirit to do is not cause Christ to indwell in our hearts for the first time but to enable us to experience more deeply and more intimately the presence of Christ who is already there. He is praying for the emotional increase or experiential expansion of what is already a theological fact. His desire is that the Lord Jesus, through the Spirit, might exert an ever-increasing and progressively more powerful influence on our lives and in our hearts. It is what I like to call, the incessant spiritual reinforcement in the human heart of the strength of Jesus and his love.
I think this is the same thing that James is describing in our passage today. He is telling us to do whatever is necessary so that the word of God that is already implanted in our hearts might exert an ever-increasing, life-changing, sin-killing, Christ-exalting work in our souls.
Now, think about this word “receive”. How are you and I to “receive” the implanted word? Leave it to John Piper to bring clarity to our ignorance. He put it this way:
“If you treat the word of God like your kidneys, you are making a big mistake. Your kidneys are implanted in you by your first birth. But you do not go on ‘receiving’ your kidneys. They just sit there doing their work, and you rarely think about them. You certainly don’t ‘receive’ them. They are already there – firmly implanted.
But James says, ‘Receive the implanted word.’ It is already in you. And you should receive it. It is rooted and planted in you. It brought you life. It is there sustaining that life by feeding faith in Christ. But it is not there like kidneys. It is there like oxygen. It gives life and in giving life, it makes you breathe, and in breathing you receive oxygen. No one says: ‘I have oxygen; look how well it is working in me; it makes me alive; I don’t need to receive oxygen.’”
In other words, as you continue to hear and believe and receive the word of God day in and day out it awakens and strengthens and reinforces the word that is already implanted within you.
But there’s even more to this word “receive”. I can “receive” a notice in the mail that I owe back taxes. I don’t like that kind of receiving. I can “receive” a ticket from the policeman for having broken the speed limit. I can “receive” a slug in the face from someone trying to mug me. But James wants us to “receive” the implanted word the way you “receive” a freshly baked pie from a loving friend or the way you “receive” news that you’re going to be a father or mother or grand-father or grand-mother for the first time. This sort of receiving is always good and joyful and a blessing to us.
So don’t receive the word the way many do when they reluctantly sit down and read the Bible from a sense of obligation or because they fear God’s judgment if they don’t. Don’t “receive” God’s word the way a child swallows castor-oil or the way I might be compelled to “receive” a serving of squash! Receive it with passion and expectation and hunger and openness to what God is saying to you.
To be continued . . .