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Do Not Merely Listen

Do Not Merely Listen

2 Timothy 3:10-17

James 1:19-25

Several years ago... the pastor of one of the largest churches in the United States (Rick Warren), was asked, to give his opinion, as to which translation of the Bible is the best for personal use. Now... we all have opinions... and opinions are a lot like noses. We all have one, and most all of them smell!

I, or anyone in this room, could offer you our “favorite” translation... we could tell you which version of the Bible we use the most... our “go-to” for study and devotion.

But this pastor was asked a different question: he was asked which translation is “the best.” And he responded, the best translation... the very best of all... is “When you translate [God’s Word] into your life.” When YOU translate God’s Word, into YOUR life! Good answer, right?

In other words, just reading God’s Word, or simply gaining cognitive understanding of God’s Word, (or as James say, “merely listening”) - isn’t enough.

Of course, that’s why we endure sermons... and attend Sunday school... and Bible Study... daily devotional time. Our hope and goal... our aim and purpose... is MORE than just “head knowledge” - our goal is transformation... to ever-more reflect the image of Christ as we grow in our understanding of God, and mature in our faith as followers of Christ.

That’s what gathering in this place is really all about. If you’re not translating God’s Word into your life, if you and I fail to incorporate the teachings of scripture into our daily living (you know, Monday through Saturday, not just on Sunday), then we’re missing the whole point.

The fact is... God has given us His Word, his holy & inspired Word, the Bible, to transform us, not simply inform us. It should give us a bigger heart, not a bigger head.

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do. what. it. says” (James 1:22).

In other words, God wants our spiritual beliefs, to become productive... to have an effect on our lives and the world around us... or to produce fruit, as the Bible puts it! (Matthew 3:8 & Galatians 5:22-23).

And the purpose of God’s Word is explicitly laid-out in 2 Timothy 3:16-17: “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong - and - teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work”(NLT).

That means, the purpose of the Bible’s not just to tell us what to do, and what not to do... it’s not just a listing of “dos and don’ts” or “shalls and shalt nots”! God’s Word is TRUTH (with a capital “T”) that transforms... revealing to us God’s Will, while empowering us and equipping us to serve God in practical, effectual ways.

Of course, the Bible itself describes its purpose in a variety of different ways. For example, God’s Word is like “fire” and “a hammer” (Jeremiah 23:29). It’s like a sword or scalpel (Hebrews 4:12... “the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart”). All of these things bring transformation... or radical change. God intends for His Word to dramatically change our lives.

Of course, God’s Word, God’s Truth... is also described as milk, water, bread, and meat. Which is to say, God’s Word is what sustains us! If you don’t eat or drink, regularly, you’ll die. We were never meant to live without the sustenance of God’s Word. Jesus himself said, “man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4)

God’s Word is essential to our lives because it gives us life. In fact, Jesus himself, is the Word of God, in the flesh. John 1:14 says, “So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son” (NLT). God gave you, he gave me, the Living Word, in Jesus, as the author and finisher of our faith, and he has given us the written Word... to prepare us and equip us... to live out our faith in Christ.

The Bible is more than just information; history; poetry. It is the Word of God. Authoritative words of life... that are wholly, fully, sufficient to meet our needs as followers of Christ.

John Calvin, as we modern-day Presbyterians, had a very “high view” of scripture... and he considered the Word of God to have "inherent efficacy" (Institutes, Book 1, Section 7), that we’re to "lean and rest upon it" (Institutes, Book 3, Chapter 2, Section 7), that it is "pure" (Institutes, Book 3, Chapter 2, Section 15), that we are to "cling to the word of God" (Institutes, Book 3, Chapter 2, Section 31), and that you cannot err when you trust what is "dictated to [you] from the word of God" (Institutes, Book 3, Chapter 4, Section 22). It’s infallible.

How do you see God using His Word to transform your life? What does it mean - what does it look like - when you and I actually “do the word?” - as James puts it.

For Jesus, “doing” the word of God involved some pretty hard things: like...

forgiving the unforgivable...

loving the unlovable...

going the extra mile...

turning the other cheek...

For Jesus, “doing” the Word of God involved “doing unto other as you would have them do unto you.”

And, ultimately, “doing” the Word, for Jesus... meant giving ones life away, in order to truly find life that’s worth living.

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

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