How Do You Respond To God’s Word?

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How do you respond to God’s Word? We know we should be reading it, meditating on it, and memorizing it, but what should our attitude be toward it? James, in his “down home” letter to Jews scattered throughout the world, gives us some guidance.

James writes:

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing (James 1:19-25).

James mentions three ways we should respond to God’s Word.

1. Our first response to God’s Word must be one of attentiveness.

Have you ever been in a conversation where you really weren’t listening? True, you were nodding and making eye contact and the words spoken were being heard, but nothing being spoken was registering in your brain.

James urges his readers to approach God’s Word with an ear to hear. He wants it to capture our attention.

James also writes some warnings in regards to being attentive. He tells his readers to be “slow to speak” and “slow to anger.” It is easy to understand why he would write to be “slow to speak” as one who talks all the time most likely doesn’t listen well. But what about “slow to anger?” Well, have you ever tried to talk with an angry person? They are not really in the listening mood, are they?

2. Our second response to God’s word must be one of reception.

Remember the parable of the soils in Mark 4? In each soil, the seed was received, or so it appeared. It was only as the seeds began to grow that we witness which seed was fully received as the seed in the fertile soil grew and bore fruit.

What James is encouraging here is for us to continue to expose ourselves to the Word in order for it to grow and produce fruit. Though it is true that we must examine God’s Word, we must also allow for it to examine us.

James desires the Word to be received in a heart and life that will produce fruit. Therefore he writes that we must “put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness” and put on “humility.

There are things that creep in our lives that hinder our spiritual growth and reception of God’s Word. These sins must continually be pulled up by the roots. As the Puritan John Owen writes, we must “be killing sin or it will be killing us.”

As we battle sin, we must remember that the battle is not one in which we will lose. The battle of the “weeds of sin” is not one which will overtake the Word that is implanted in us.

Though James is straightforward with how tiring the battle might be, he is also trusting that as we approach and receive the Word with “humility,” that it will “save your souls.”

We must not overlook the the need for “humility” or “meekness” in our reception of God’s word. It is only with an attitude of humility that we can really see how needy we are. Humility produces a willingness to concede to the Word of God for our lives.

3. Our third response to God’s Word must be one of obedience.

William Barclay, in his commentary on James wrote, “That which is heard in the holy place must be lived in the market place–or there is no point in hearing at all.”

In Greek literature, the one who only hears is referred to as one who attends the lectures but never joins a group. In contemporary society, it could be compared to one who continues to takes tours of a health club, but never joins. In doing so, they only deceive themselves in thinking they are getting healthy. The same is true of one who only hears the Word and does not obey. Though one may attend Bible study after Bible study, they are only fooling themselves as real Christianity is marked by an obedient Christlike lifestyle.

As followers of Christ, we must continually persevere in God’s Word and keep it in front of us. Otherwise, we are, according to James, like the man who looks in the mirror and then leaves, forgetting what he has seen.

However, as we faithfully become attentive, receptive, and obedient to God’s Word, we will be blessed both in this life and in the life to come.

A Most Important Spiritual Principle

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Here is a most important spiritual principle…

Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God’s grace. And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God’s grace.

 from Jerry Bridges book The Spiritual Discipline of Grace

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Loathing To Be Faithful In The Small Things

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In reading through Dale Ralph Davis‘ short commentary on Joshua, I stumbled upon the following statements…

We find being faithful in little more annoying than satisfying.

The Christian’s faith is not so much proved by his courage in a sudden crisis as by his faithfulness in daily plodding.

What this translates for me is that it is sometimes easier to feed the homeless than it is to load the family dishwasher.  It’s easier to spend a week overseas prayer-walking than it is to pray daily for an annoying neighbor.

Again, Davis writes:

We frequently and strangely prove faithful in the great crisis of faith, remain steadfast in severe storms, perhaps even relish the excitement of the heaviest assaults, yet lack the tenacity, the dogged endurance, the patient plodding often required in the prosaic affairs of believing life; we are often loath to be faithful in (what we regard as) little.

It’s the small things, however, that reveal our true character. On Sunday morning, I can preach eloquently and yet speak unkindly an hour later to the waiter at my favorite Mexican food restaurant.

Jesus said, one who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.

The reality is that Christianity is pretty daily! Some days we just stumble along and nothing exciting appears to happen.

Rod Dryer writes…

Everydayness is my problem. It’s easy to think about what you would do in wartime, or if a hurricane blows through, or if you spent a month in Paris, or if your guy wins the election, or if you won the lottery or bought that thing you really wanted. It’s a lot more difficult to figure out how you’re going to get through today without despair.

Could it be that the reason we don’t deal well with “everyday Christianity” is because it doesn’t do much for our egos? We need to admit that there is a tendency to make “doing something big for God” our treasure instead of God Himself. And as a result, we will never be satisfied.

This is why we must continually go back to the gospel less we become adrenaline junkies moving from radical Christian venture to radical Christian venture trying to fulfill in our souls what can only be accomplished by Christ. As Augustine famously wrote, “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”

I don’t mean to infer that grace does not move us to radical action and mission. I think it does. However, we need to be aware that the radical action and mission God opens for you may be found in the ordinary routine of your life. It might just be that in the small things you do daily, the miraculous arises.

We do well to remember Jesus’s parable of the talents in Matthew 25. To those who are good stewards, the master says, Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.

Jesus Took My Place

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Christ was all anguish that I might be all joy,
cast off that I might be brought in,
trodden down as an enemy
that I might be welcomed as a friend,
surrendered to hell’s worst
that I might attain heaven’s best,
stripped that I might be clothed,
wounded that I might be healed,
athirst that I might drink,
tormented that I might be comforted,
made a shame that I might inherit glory,
entered darkness that I might have eternal light.

My Savior wept that all tears might be wiped
from my eyes,
groaned that I might have endless song,
endured all pain that I might have unfading health,
bore a thorny crown that I might have a glory-diadem,
bowed his head that I might uplift mine,
experienced reproach that I might receive welcome,
closed his eyes in death that I might gaze
on unclouded brightness,
expired that I might for ever live.

(taken from The Valley of Vision)

Does True Fellowship Involve Mission?

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As I have been reading through Philippians, my idea of what it means to have “fellowship” or “community” with other believers has deepened. Paul writes:

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me (Philippians 1:3-7).

In this passage, “partnership” and “share” is the word koinonia,  which is often translated as “fellowship.” Today, we sometimes equate fellowship with the idea of enjoying coffee or a meal with fellow believers. It is warm friendship.

However, koinonia is much more than that. D.A. Carson writes that “the heart of true fellowship is self-sacrificing conformity to a shared vision. There may be overtones of warmth and intimacy, but the heart of the matter is this shared vision of what is of transcendent importance, a vision that calls forth our commitment.”

Christian fellowship therefore, is “self-sacrificing commitment” to the gospel. The reason Paul was thankful for the church in Philippi was because they, like him, had a deep commitment to the gospel and as a result, longed to see it spread. This is why they supported Paul financially and gave sacrificially to him along with the believers in Jerusalem (see 2 Corinthians 8:1-5).

For both Paul and the Philippians, the “fellowship” they experienced was due to their commitment to the spread of the gospel. They shared in the grace of God together and such grace pushed them outside of themselves to the mission of God in which they experienced true fellowship. And I might add they experienced true joy as well.

So the question we must ask ourselves is: Can true fellowship or community exist outside of mission? Kent Hughes does not think so. He writes:

But if you are looking for true fellowship, give yourself to the gospel at home and around the world. Serve together with others in women’s Bible studies, children’s ministries, youth ministries. Do short-term missions. Join mercy work to alleviate suffering in places like the vast area devastated by Katrina. Take the good news to the poor. Join a band of brothers and sisters to pray for the world. This is how you will experience genuine Christian fellowship. 

I hear many Christians today longing for community and I wonder if we might be pushing them in the wrong direction? We make sure everyone is in a small group hoping that fellowship will emerge when maybe we should be helping people understand how they can work with others in carrying out the Great Commission.

I am not against small groups as I think they can serve as a catalyst for true fellowship in the gospel. Jesus led a small group and it ended up changing the world.

Bottom line: I think we need to examine what it means to have true community. If we have divorced it from the mission of the gospel, I think we are missing out on the vibrant fellowship that Paul experienced with “all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi.”

 

Memorizing Whole Books of the Bible

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Do you ever think about memorizing Scripture? Or does the thought of doing so bore or scare you? If so, then I encourage you to read An Approach To Extended Memorization of Scripture by Andrew Davis.

As one would expect, Davis writes that Scripture memorization is commanded and is beneficial. He also writes a few words concerning the excuses we all give for not memorizing Scripture. But what makes Davis’s take on Scripture memory unique is his chapter on why “memorizing books is better than memorizing individual verses.”

Davis writes:

Memorizing individual verses tends to miss intervening verses that the individual does not feel are as significant. If we continue to focus only on our “favorite” passages of Scripture, we may well miss something new that God wants to say to the church through a neglected portion of His Word. God does not speak any word in vain, and there are no wasted passages of Scripture.

Also, since much of Scripture is written to make a rational case, there is a flow of argumentation that is missed if individual verses are memorized. In addition, there is far less likelihood of taking verses out of context when entire books are memorized.

Now memorizing whole books of the Bible might seem impossible, but Davis helps his/her readers realize that it is doable by offering simple daily procedures. One just has to make the commitment to start memorizing. “We will not regret,” writes Davies, “one moment we spend diligently studying God’s Word and hiding it in our heart,”

An Approach To Extended Memorization of Scripture is a super short read. You can probably complete the book during your lunch hour.  And it costs less than a cup of coffee. So get a copy and start reading. It might just be the catalyst you need to begin diving in to God’s Word via memorization.

 

 

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