I love studying the scriptures. I love the breadth and depth of the Word. I love how it cuts right to the heart of issues and, is centuries old, but is still so relevant today. I study it. I memorize it. And I see life application of the Word to my life daily. But I have a real problem with the Word of God. Sometimes I am more of a hearer than a doer. Aren’t we all?
Remember this verse: But be doers of the word, and not hearers only (James 1:22). Becoming a doer is the key. To be sure, we cannot imitate Christ if we do not study the Word to see who He is, to know His character, and this is the Hearing of His words. But it is impossible to be conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29) by hearing about Him only.
In fact, knowing the teachings of Jesus, acknowledging the Truth, but following your own way rather than the LORD’s, is the result of a hardened heart that does not see its own sin. Jesus knew some people like this: Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness (Matthew 23:27-28).
We are transformed into His likeness by Doing the Word we have heard, by living the Word we have learned.
Here is an example of how we must connect hearing the Word to doing it. Sometimes my mouth gets me in trouble. Not in the sassy way. In the I-say-exactly-what-I-am-thinking way…okay, so I guess maybe sometimes that is sassy. In any case, I have grieved over saying the wrong thing at the right time or saying the right thing at the wrong time. I have seen how my words can be life or death to relationships.
Speaking your mind can be good – if your thoughts are good. But for me, my mind is the battlefield. This is really true for all of us. And here is where we need to apply the Word to our behavior – here is how we start to be a doer and not a hearer only. This is how we choose God’s way over our way.
Let’s begin at the beginning. If we are to be God’s people, we must make Him our role model. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:14-16 And in another verse: Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:1).
I always got stuck there. Knowing my sin, my hang-ups, my baggage, how can I ever be like the LORD? How can I be like Jesus? How can I bear fruit that is pleasing to Him? If I stop here, at the hearing of His Word, I am discouraged rather than encouraged. But the Word also includes the how-to part: I am the Vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in Me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. (John 5:5).
And so I considered What does it mean to abide? The Greek word “meno” is used in this verse and it means to live but it also means to wait for, or to remain. In English, the dictionary definitions of “abide” are very useful for connecting with this verse: to wait for, to endure without yielding, to bear patiently, to accept without objection, to remain stable, to continue in a place, to conform to…
For me, abiding in the Vine is summed up in this scripture: You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You (Isaiah 26:3). For me, “abiding” is keeping my mind on Christ and on His Word. My thought-life is the place where I must choose His way over mine. Basically I have to decide where I want to live, where I want to abide – in peace or in chaos, in obedience or in sin, in love or in selfishness. I have to replace my own thoughts with something of His.
Teachings about controlling your thought-life are throughout the Word. But today we’re exploring the connection between what we think, and what we say. This is the example we started with, the specific example from my own life, of the need to develop a filter for my mind, so that I can filter my speech. Here are just a few verses…this is the hearing part:
- And He called the people to him and said to them, “Hear and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person…what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. (Matthew 15:10-11, 18).
- The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things (Proverbs 15:28).
- For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace (Romans 8:5-6).
If we start dealing with sin, while it is still in the mind, change is as simple as making a choice. If we wait till we have a “behavior pattern” and try to address it, control it, from the outside only, we will constantly fail. Thoughts form our actions, actions form our habits, habits form our character.
Left to our own devices, we choose sin every time. How can we begin to make better choices? If we desire to change, but are stuck, how can we make progress? For me, the answer is found in something Jesus said, But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you (John 14:26). When we dwell on (abide in) the words of Jesus, Who is Himself the Word of God, the right seeds are planted and the Holy Spirit causes the right fruit to grow. He brings to remembrance the Words we have heard, the scriptures we have studied, a bit from a great sermon, a memory verse, a devotional we have read.
When we choose to honor the Word in our hearts, over our own desires, it is truly the work of the Holy Spirit. As I discussed in my last post, the Word is a change agent. The Word works in concert with the Holy Spirit, Who then speaks to us, in our hearts, and teaches us the right thing. If we make a bad choice and mess up, He does not give up. He continually reminds us of the right way.
And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules (Ezekial 36:26-27).
The Spirit helps us to do what is right. In my case, He is teaching me to think before I speak, to compare my speech to the Word, and to desire to glorify God with my words. I still stick my foot in my mouth plenty, but I can see and feel Him working in me daily.
How is He working in you?
On Monday, we will continue this discussion by looking at the example of God the Father – how He shows us the importance of thoughts and Words.
So remember to read the Word…then…Just Do It!
justAgirl…just like you