James 1 (NKJV):
21 Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. 22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; 24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.
Verse 22 in the New International Version (NIV) reads … “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” This is not just about reading His word. Now, we do rightly encourage one another to read His word, to listen to it (in various forms), to take it in every chance we get. But why … to what end?
In addition to being a minister, I also am a sports official (umpire for Baseball, referee for Football and Basketball). While keeping order for the overall contest, one of my main reasons for being at any game is to make sure the rules are followed. Therefore, it is VERY important for me, as the official at the field or on the court, to make sure, above anything else, that I know the rules. Knowing them is where following them begins! Yet, that’s hardly where it all ends.
Once I’ve proven that I know the rules (and I’m required to pass a re-certification exam for each sport every year to prove that I do), I have to demonstrate I can put them into practice in a game situation. And yet, since I am not the one playing, my role focuses on helping others follow the rules they know and learning the ones they don’t. Inevitably, I’ll deal with a player or coach who gets penalized for an infraction of the rules and argues the call … only to find out that the problem was not that I misapplied the rule but they didn’t know the rule. One time that happened, the coached honestly commented … “guess I should go back and read the rulebook again huh?”
I know so many Christians who claim that they have read the bible through and through. They comment they know what it says and thus find little desire to read it again or to get involved in studying it either alone or with others. But the real test of whether you actually know it, or not, is whether you actually do it, or not. Now the truth is, in most of the cases I deal with at a game, the issue is not that they don’t know the rule but that they need to be reminded of it – they need to read it or listen to it again. So one might ask … how often should someone read or review the rule? My response would be – until you get it!
We are told that all scripture is given to us by inspiration from God – and that it produces profit (instead of loss) in our lives (2 Timothy 3:16). When we listen to and read His word, the Spirit of God works to plant it deep within to produce a harvest of profit in us. If hearing or reading His word didn’t produce that – well, then we need to read it again … because without question, the problem was not with His word. If you are having an issue with something in particular (lying, pride, moral failure, etc.) one of the things you need to do is read His word. Or perhaps the issue may be something more general along the lines of an empty feeling deep within you. Still, the most profitable course of action starts with reading read His word. But then, once having read it … we need to do it!
“But I’ve read the Bible. I know what it says.” But that’s not enough. This passage tells us that if we don’t do what we know … we are living a lie. And the one we are deceiving is ourselves. When we think that joy and true peace can be found in any other truth than the truth of His word – we have bought a lie. When we think that any method of achieving meaning or purpose in life will work other than one that follows His word closely – we are deceiving ourselves. And this would be true for those outside the household of faith. For those of us on the inside, well … we should know better.
We all stumble and fall in life. That’s not my point here. The idea I want to drive home is that when we do, the solution is not in trying some distant or worldly principle of how to achieve meaning in life. The solution will be in His word. And if you’re saying, “but I tried that. I tried following His word and it didn’t work for me.” My answer to that would be read it again and keep reading it until it sinks in. Keep reading until reading turns into doing. Keep reading it … until you get it right!
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