Over these past months, beginning when we weren’t able to hold in-person worship services for a while, my wife and I have been tuning in to a few other church services made available online. Now after our own morning gathering, we still typically spend part of our Sunday afternoon enjoying the inspirational music and sermons from some of these other congregations and pastors. One recent Sunday I discovered I had gotten a little too comfortable sitting in my recliner while listening to a message. I realized I had dozed off for a few minutes. The advantage in doing so in that situation as opposed to nodding off in church is that I could simply rewind the recording and catch up on what I had missed. When I admitted my little nap to my wife, I jokingly suggested it was due to my taking to heart the subject matter being preached on that day – peace. I had simply gotten a little too peaceful for a few minutes.
Unfortunately, the more prevalent fault among us today is not overdoing it when it comes to putting into practice what we hear, but rather not letting those words actually translate into action in our lives. The familiar biblical admonition is needed today more than ever: “but be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22). I’m afraid some of us are fooling ourselves about our receptivity and obedience to God’s Word.
It’s not enough to simply acknowledge what God says or to intellectually assent to something as being true. I’m concerned that there are a number of people around who believe the truths about Jesus, who He is, and His sacrifice on the cross for our sins, but who haven’t applied that teaching to their own lives. They haven’t taken the appropriate steps in light of that reality – to confess their sins, repent, trust Jesus’ sacrificial death to save their own souls, and make the commitment to follow Him. We hear. We know. However, have we acted in response to that truth? The same could be asked about other aspects of our lives which the Bible encourages us to pursue – being filled with the Spirit, making disciples, loving others, becoming more like Jesus, and many other commands. Are we just hearing, or are we actually doing?
Let’s not forget what James says later in the same book. It declares that believing alone isn’t sufficient. Even the demons believe the facts or the truth about God. “Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead (James 2:17). Our belief needs to manifest itself in actions of trust, obedience, and service.
There are others I encounter who simply seem to embrace biblical truths as a means for discussion. They like to talk about religion and Christianity. They especially enjoy getting into deep conversations about controversial, speculative, or mysterious aspects of spiritual truths. And there’s nothing wrong with delving into such areas at times. However, we need to be careful about making those matters our primary focus while ignoring more important and obvious issues. Paul warned Timothy about those who “give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith” (I Timothy 1:4). Real Christianity is more than a philosophy to be debated. It’s a life to be lived. Let’s be sure we’re not discussing truth while avoiding putting it into practice in our lives. Discussing the Bible is no substitute for living out its principles.
So the next time your pastor preaches about peace, don’t consider it a license to take a nap in church. But let’s do try to be doers of the word, not just hearers.