Sunday, February 2, 2020

Lord Build Me in Obedience


I've read that when Edward VI, the king of England in the 16th century, attended a worship service, he stood while the Word of God was read. He took notes during this time and later studied them with great care. Through the week he earnestly tried to apply them to his life. That's the kind of serious-minded response to truth the apostle James calls for in today's Scripture reading. A single revealed fact cherished in the heart and acted upon is more vital to our growth than a head filled with lofty ideas about God.

One step forward in obedience is worth years of study about it.

Chambers, Our Daily Bread, March 4, 1993.

22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

Is it too much? Is it too hard? Sometimes when we read the Bible, we wonder, can it really be done? It seems like so much, it seems like such a high standard. I’ve wondered that at times.

But I’ll tell you this, it can be done, but it doesn’t happen all at once. It happens over years and years. So we have to be patient. But we also have to be dedicated to the process.

“One step forward in obedience is worth years of study about it.” It’s not enough to sit in church and learn about what the right things to do are.

We have to come the point where we say alright, how do I put this into practice? It’s time to fight those hard, hard battles with our faults and failings.

In verse 21 of our scripture today it says, “ 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.”

Get rid of the filth in your life. Clear it out. That’s what James writes. Clear out the evil, and humbly accept the word planted in you. Many of you here have that word planted in your heart. God is at work. You’re feeling drawn to pray, to study the Bible, and to come to church. You’re feeling a discomfort in your heart with things in your life that are wrong. There is an upset in your heart, in your stomach, and you can feel it. That is called “conviction. “ Conviction is when God’s Holy Spirit which lives in our body, is telling us something we do is wrong.

We feel it when we smoke a cigarette, or we feel it when we swear, or when we lie to someone, when we tell someone we’re here, and we’re actually somewhere else. Or when our friend leaves the room, we steal something off their counter top. Or when we use a drug, or get drunk, or when we masturbate, or sleep around with people. We feel dirty. We feel the sin. And the Holy Spirit whispers to us: “Don’t do that. Put that away.”

We have free will, we have the choice to either stop, or continue. That is a sacred gift from God. But I challenge you today, don’t just listen in church, then go out during the week and do whatever you want.

Sincerely try to live it out. Sincerely try to live like Jesus each week.

In the book of James it says, “23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.”

So you’re starting your day, and you look in the mirror as you brush your teeth and get ready. And you tell yourself, “I’m a Christian, a follower of Jesus.” But then as you jump into your daily routine, you immediately forget that you’re a Christian.

You live selfishly. You lie. You steal. You gossip and slander people. You spread rumors. You yell at someone. You curse and yell at God.

You’ve forgotten who you are. You’re a Christian. How can we transfer this head knowledge, this Bible truth into our real everyday lives.

We can do that. By praying through the day, by whispering prayers in our minds during the day. We can do that by remembering the words of the Bible and storing them in our minds.

And pretty soon we will be swearing less, we will be less selfish and helping others more, we’ll be lying less, we’ll be gossiping less, and pretty soon those things will vanish entirely. But we have to remember who we are.

I am a Christian. Say it with me. I am a Christian.

So if we remember our face in the mirror, that I follow Jesus, then James says, “. 25 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.”

If we diligently seek to follow God’s ways, his perfect law, then we will be blessed in all we do.

We see this truth, of not just hearing God’s word, but living it out in the middle paragraph, and then in the two paragraphs above and below it, we see a common theme connected to this:

Verses 26 and 27 say, “26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world”

And above in verse 19 it says, Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Sometimes it seems like some of us can be quick to speak and quick to get angry. That’s not what God commands of us. Be slow to speak. Be a listener. Be careful what you say.

The tongue, our words, can be so incredibly destructive. They can also be such a great blessing. Reign in your tongue. If your someone who gossips and spreads rumors, pray to God, and ask Him to help you stop. It can feel “fun” to talk gossip, and to swear, and cuss, but it’s so destructive, and it leads to pain and misery. So don’t do it. Shut that off. And ask God for help to do that.

Now this can be challenging. And as we begin to try to practice our faith, we’ll come upon setbacks. I remember being a new Christian, and thinking wow I’m a mess, I’m not doing this right. I was smoking, I was swearing, I was living in lust and watching movies and videos I shouldn’t have been watching. But here’s the thing guys. Don’t beat yourself up.

I’ll say that again, don’t beat yourself up.

God is patient with you. But don’t play games with God either. God does not play games with us. He loves us, but he knows how we truly are. So do your best to ask God for forgiveness after you sin, and declare before God, your desire to change, your repentance, of turning in a new direction.

There will be setbacks. But keep fighting, keep praying, and you’ll see month by month, and year by year, God slowly changing you.

It’s not over when we sin. Because the word says, “If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” -I John 1:9.

God is our daddy, so run to Him when you make a mistake, and ask for His help and His forgiveness.

Let’s finish by looking briefly at the last verse, 27 which says, “27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

So here James is giving us an example of how to live out what we believe. Serve others before we serve ourselves. Go visit the elderly in their homes, or in nursing homes, visit widows, go into the jail and share the gospel with prisoners, go and share God’s love with children at orphanages. Bring some bread and food to your neighbor, or go spend time with a friend in the hospital. Get out of yourself, and all that selfishness, and help somebody else. That is the hardest thing. We’re all so incredibly selfish sometimes, myself included, wow, so self-centered, everything about me and what I want, but instead God calls us to think of others and their needs and their souls.

So that’s our word for today, and its best summed up in this phrase “22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”

Do what it says guys, that’s my battle too. It’s all our battles. Don’t just hear it, do what it says. And I find great joy from God in that. 

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