“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.”
“What was this morning’s sermon about?” my friend asked me one Sunday night. My mind was blank. I struggled to respond. I remembered the sermon had been really engaging. I had left church in the morning feeling both encouraged and challenged, but for some reason I couldn’t seem to recall what it was about. It took me a moment to remember what Bible passage we had looked at. It took me even longer to remember what the main point of the sermon had been. That experience hadn’t been the first time I had forgotten about the details of a sermon on the same day I heard it. Perhaps many of you can also relate to this experience.
Many of us have the privilege of being surrounded by churches with great Bible teachers, or being able to attend a Bible study regularly, or access the internet where we can listen to endless great sermons with a few simple mouse clicks. Yet, if we don’t make time to reflect on the Bible passages we are learning about, we can easily gloss over or forget what God is teaching us. If we are not careful, we could end up allowing countless hours of great Bible teaching to pass through one ear and out the other without letting God’s Word truly sink into our hearts and change us.
James understood the importance of not just hearing God’s Word but also applying it to our lives. In his letter to Christians throughout the Roman empire, he wanted them to understand how vital God’s Word was to their lives. God had planted his Word into their hearts, and it was through his Word that they had received salvation (James 1:21). He also wanted them to understand that true religion was more than just being listeners by showing up for sermons and Bible studies every week. More importantly, true religion also involved being doers of God’s Word. In fact, he compared hearing God’s Word without taking the time to really apply it is as being as foolish and meaningless as forgetting our own reflection after staring into a mirror!
As we seek to become doers of God’s Word, it is important for us to not allow good Bible teaching to simply slip to the back of our minds as soon as we leave the church building. Imagine how much more God’s Word could change our lives if we took the time after each sermon or Bible study to intentionally reflect on what we have learnt from God’s Word and how we can live by it. Our reflection could be something as simple as setting aside ten or fifteen minutes to pray for God to help us apply the Bible passage we have learnt about, and to read through it again, reflecting on its main message and thinking of one or two ways that we can respond to it in the week ahead. Perhaps we could also make time to chat to another church friend who also went to the same church service or Bible study and ask how the particular Bible passage has impacted them. In Jesus’ words, let’s be like the wise man who built his house on rock through listening and obeying God’s Word (Matthew 7:24-25).
I thank you for planting your Word in our hearts which teaches us the good news of Christ’s death and resurrection. I thank you that your Word teaches us how to receive salvation through faith in Jesus. I pray that as we hear your Word being taught each week, help us to make time to intentionally reflect on its meaning, and give us the strength and wisdom to live by it for your glory. In Jesus’ name,