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James 1:21-25 reminds us of the listener's responsibility in the process of biblical change. But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For 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; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But 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 will be blessed in what he does. (See also Martha Peace's put off/put on study of Ephesians 4).
When it comes to listening to sermons however one of the most common misconceptions is as follows. When a believer feels convicted (or encouraged, or challenged) during the message they often wrongly equate this feeling with biblical "application." During sermons that are especially application orientated it is not uncommon for a church member/attendee to thank the preacher or Sunday School teacher on the way out the door. "Great study today pastor!" In this context it's very tempting for everyone to go home assuming all is well; but is that what James 1:21-27 teaches? Is feeling convicted over our sin during a message the same thing as repenting and putting on the graces of Christ? Is feeling encouraged about the "peace of God which surpasses all understanding" as the preacher waxes eloquently on Philippians 4:6-7 the same thing as appropriating Christ's peace (John 14:27) in the midst of uncertain circumstances? Is feeling strongly about biblical church discipline (Matt 18:15-17; 1 Corinthians 5), the same thing as applying these principles when doing so upsets the financial apple cart? Is feeling especially challenged about the mandate to evangelize the lost the same thing as sharing the gospel with an unsaved neighbor? No, it is not.