Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror… But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. James 1:22-23, 25
“If I told my kids to clean their rooms, and they only memorized my words, would that be enough?” asked Francis Chan, author of Crazy Love and The Forgotten God. That’s a pointed question, isn’t it? But, the reality is that we only believe the things that we actually do.
Most of us are car alarm atheists. How many of us ever run to investigate a car alarm in a parking lot? None of us do. We just assume that the shiny new SUV that’s never actually been driven off-road just got a door ding or something. Car alarms don’t call for an emergency, unless it comes from the cars in our driveways. We run outside because we don’t want to disturb the neighbors. We don’t actually think they’re being stolen.
If we truly believed what the Bible has to say, what would our lives look like? How would it affect our outlook and attitudes? What would be the quality of our relationships? Again, I’m not writing these things to make you feel guilty or discouraged. God has a vision for your life. He wants to mold you into the person that He’s designed for you to be. Not some ill-fitting version of what a Christian ought to be, but the person that He has called you to be.
If we truly believed what God’s Word tells us, then we would:
1. Understand that we don’t know better than God does. Even the things that God says about turning the other cheek (Matthew 5:39) and treating others like we’d like to be treated (Matthew 7:12) often don’t make sense in a business setting, God knows better than we do. His ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:9), but not in a goodie two shoes sense of things. God created everything and everyone that exists. God has a plan for each of us. God is sovereign over everything (Acts 4:24). Who has a better understanding of things than God?
2. The behavior that comes naturally from us is a result of the Fall. I’m not talking about our gifts, talents or personalities. I’m talking about our impulses and our reactions. What seems right to our natural selves is a result of our fallen nature. It’s the part of us that needs to be redeemed. The Bible says, “They follow their natural instincts because they do not have God’s Spirit in them” (Jude 19). God certainly has a higher calling for us.
3. God gives us everything that we need to successfully live our lives for Him. In and of ourselves, we become weary in well-doing. We just run out of steam. But, whoever said that it was up to us to provide all of the steam. There are some commands in Scripture that just might seem impossible to achieve. Left to ourselves, that’s probably true. But, for every believer, the Spirit of God lives inside of us (Romans 8:9). The same power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead is available to help us live the lives that God intends (Romans 8:11).
What’s standing in our way? Some of us just don’t believe these things. How do I know? I know by the things that we do. If I believe that God is for me (Romans 8:31), then what do I have to complain about? If I believe that in the end God’s Kingdom is victorious (1 Corinthians 15:57), then why do I get so bent out of shape when ungodly people act in ungodly ways? Isn’t that their job? If I believe that God’s Spirit is working to conform me to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29), then why do I so stubbornly resist His nudges?
God wants to give you the life that you’ve dreamed of. I’m not saying that God wants to make you healthy and wealthy. God wants to make you into the person that He’s designed for you to be. It’s up to you to decide how much you want to resist God’s work in your life.
If you would like to learn to study the Bible, there are some great classes at BrookwoodU starting in January. Hermeneutics teaches the art and science of interpreting Scripture. New Testament Survey gives you the background and overview of what the New Testament of the Bible is all about. Register by January 16 at brookwoodchurch.org/brookwooduclasses.
A great place to “try on” the truth of God’s Word is in a small group. Many small groups at Brookwood Church are starting a study of the book of Esther, Perry’s new series, beginning the week of January 16. For a list of Open Small Groups: brookwoodchurch.org/smallgroups.
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