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 a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it - he will be blessed in what he does. (James 1:22-25)
My husband and I were discussing this topic over lunch today. We were praying over the lifestyle and actions of an aquaintance of our family. Their situation is actually a bit scary when looked at through eternal eyes.
Here is a person that we know well, who verbally can recite the entire Bible to both my husband and myself. However, when it comes to actually living as God has called them to live... well, that's a different story. For their actions and decisions clearly are ignoring scripture altogether. In discussing their situation with Chuck, it forced me to think about these verses in James 1 and, in turn, examine my own actions and lifestyle.
In searching my own heart, I had to ask myself, "Am I living like this acquaintance? Am I fooling myself into believing that my listening to the knowledge of God's Word is merely enough? Am I someone who is savvy to study scripture (someone who hears the Word daily, indulges in Christian books and resources, etc.) only to pat myself on the back with a euphoric feeling of "spiritual wellness" simply because I showed up? However, after that, do I forget how Christ has called me to live and ignore all opportunities that He brings forth so that I might actually live out my faith?" Serious questions that will impact my future, for sure!
James warns believers that unless our hearing is accompanied by the commitment to follow through and LIVE holy, we permit God's Word to become more of a spiritual malpractice that leads to self-deception and the illusion of false spirituality.
Ezekiel 33:31-32 says, "My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to listen to your words, but they do not put them into practice. With their mouths they express devotion, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice."
Ladies, I am concerned that we are abandoning our pilgrimage after we hear God's message by failing to follow-through and practice our said obedience and devotion. Jesus notes in John 13:17 how important following Him is (not just hearing about Him), “If you understand all of this, you are blessed whenever you follow my example.”
Reading on in James, we see that someone who listens to God but does not do what He commands is like a person who looks at his face in a mirror, studies his features, then goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. Here, James is saying we could examine ourselves for hours and uncover all our sin and shame, but the process would render itself worthless if we walked away from the mirror and failed to commit our sinful image to memory. If we walk away and immediately forget how low and desperate we truly are without Christ, we will not take action to correct any visible imperfections to become more like Jesus in how we live. If there is no recollection - no action can be taken. We then stay lost... stuck in our sinful ways. This is not how Jesus intends for us to be! Hearing of the Word is rendered ineffective if its admonitions are not obeyed through appropriate actions! We must hear Christ's commands... and then we must actually "do" what He says!
From what I can tell in scripture, there are three points that describe best how a Christian should live out his commitment to the Lord: Looking, Continuing, and Doing. (1) Looking connotes the desire to search, learn, and gain useful knowledge about God. We must study to show ourselves approved and hide His Word in our heart so that we don't sin against Him. (2) Continuing suggests the commitment to sustain our efforts of looking so that we know best how to model our lives after Christ. This requires consistently staying faithful, making the devoted effort every day to know Him as much as possible. (3) Doing affirms our pledge to put into practice what we have learned and to abide by the principles we have acquired in studying His ways.
Barnes said, "If a man supposes that by a mere punctual attendance on preaching, or a respectful attention to it, he has done all that is required of him, he is laboring under a most gross self-deception. And yet there are multitudes who seem to imagine that they have done all that is demanded of them when they have heard attentively the word preached. Of its influence on their lives, and its claims to obedience, they are utterly regardless."
I leave you with this last thought... "Not everyone who says to me, "Lord, Lord," will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does (emphasis on the word "does")... only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 7:21)
Live out your faith and be blessed as you focus on resembling His image... His holiness! Praise our Lord Jesus Christ for providing salvation from sin and death and giving us the gift of a new life in Him! Let's get out there and LIVE that new life, shall we? Let's do what our Savior has told us to do! Let's be holy because He is holy!
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