While out in the garage several weeks ago I noticed my wife's bike sitting there collecting dust. I remember when we bought it two years ago and in that time it has only traveled around 10km. As I reflected on this I noticed that a bike has all the right parts. Handle bars, a good seat, pedals, wheels, the whole bang lot. A bike is designed to be ridden. It is built not only for leisure purposes but also for fitness but if the bike isn't used then we receive no benefit from it at all. Like the illustration of the bike the bible is very much the same. The bible is the blueprint for our lives and contains everything we need to live a blessed, fruitful life which generates true spiritual growth. The problem is if we don't use it; if we don't allow the words to transform us then it is simply just another book. The words without action is totally useless. The book of James tells us alot about the 'How Too' of Christianity and he addresses many of the issues we face today as Christians. Below is part of a sermon I shared with my own church on Sunday in regards to James 1.
Practice the word
For James and for the Christian this is where the rubber meets the road and so my main focus will be on what it means to practice the word of God as we continue on our spiritual journey. James reminds us that it is simply not enough to hear the Word; we actually have to put it into practice. Like the illustration of the bike, if we do not actually get on and ride it the bike is of no benefit to us at all. Many in the church today have mistakenly believed the lie that if they simply hear a good sermon or attend a good bible study then they will naturally grow and receive the blessings of God. Did you know that Australia is the highest consumers of Christian materials (per capita) in the world. We love to buy CDs, the latest books and videos on how to grow in our faith. James however, reminds us that it’s not listening or hearing how to do something that brings the blessings but rather we actually have to put it into practice. How many people here this morning like to highlight their bible and write in notes? I do this all the time which is great. Marking our bibles is important but what is more important is whether our bibles leave a mark on us. Does what we read transform us and leave us different to how we started? James uses the analogy of a mirror to illustrate his point and so I am going to focus on three ministry ideas that stem from this.
Why do people own a mirror? What is its purpose? Mirrors allow us to see ourselves and to make ourselves look good. They allow us to fix up the flaws in our appearance. God’s word is like a mirror. The scriptures allow us to see ourselves as we really are. As we meditate on God’s word however there are several mistakes that are often made.
1. We don’t study ourselves as we read through the word of God. For some, the reading of scripture is a religious exercise because we feel obligated to do it. If the bible is going to seriously impact us then we need to look at ourselves in relation to the word.
2. We forget what we see. Often as we read the scriptures they may challenge us at the moment we read, but as we enter our day we forget what God has said to us and as a result there is no transformation.
3. The final mistake we can make is that we fail to obey what the bible tells us to do. Many Christians think that hearing is as good as doing and that is not true. As mentioned before Australia is the highest consumer of Christian material. We seem to love substituting doing, for reading or talking. We hold endless meetings and conferences about evangelism and church growth but then we don’t actually do anything about it. These things are great but they need to be followed by action. If God’s mirror is to make a difference in our lives then we need to look into it carefully and seriously. We need to examine our hearts and live in the light and victory of God’s word. This is tough because it takes time and devotion. Five minutes a day in the word of God is simply not enough to accomplish a deep spiritual examination.
The second ministry is that of restoration. The mirror of the word does not only examine our hearts and expose our sin; it also helps us to be cleansed from our sin. I don’t know if you have ever noticed but our world fills our minds and hearts with so much junk. But as we meditate on God’s word, it begins to cleanse our minds and hearts from the worldly influences and free us from spiritual defilement. It is the blood of Christ that cleanses our guilt but it is the water of the word of God that helps wash away the defilement. But we cannot stop at examination and restoration otherwise we will miss the full benefit of God’s mirror and so that leads us to the final ministry element.
After we have been restored by the Lords grace He wants to take us further by bringing about transformation. He wants to change us so that we will continue to grow in grace and not commit our past sins again. Many Christians confess their sin and claim forgiveness but for some reason they never grow spiritually. Psalm 139:23-24 says “search me oh God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Friends the word of God when studied, meditated upon and then allowed to transform us, is a powerful tool to walk in the victory and freedom of our faith. We cannot simply read it and then not put it into practice. If we do, then the bible is no different to any other book and it’s message is worthless. Our faith is a living faith and the word of God is the Rhema word of God. That is that it is alive. God never meant his teachings to remain in a book; He meant that we would live it out and share it with those around us. If we are to have complete victory and freedom in Christ then we need to be hearing and doing the word of God. James encourages us to raise the bar in our spiritual walk. He challenges us to understand and to not be deceived into thinking that reading and hearing will bring about spiritual growth. If we are to grow and receive the spiritual blessings of the gospel then we must practice what it commands us to do. If we are to be all that God tells us that we are then we need to read it, meditate on it, claim it and then live it.
Are we being transformed by the word of God? If we are claiming to have faith in Jesus; if we are claiming that the bible is our blueprint for living; if we are claiming that the bible is the absolute and living truth of God then we need to be stepping out in faith and living it. True victory and freedom comes from living out God’s word and walking in the blessings.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.