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Monday, March 24, 2014

It's Not Just Hearing the Word that Makes a Difference

Mark Twain defined a classic: "A book which people praise and don't read." Later, he redefined a classic as, "something everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read." Nothing has changed in the past hundred or so years. People like to have their bookshelves filled with books they have never read.

I just don't think people realize what they are doing. They want to look good without being good. They want to have heard the right thing to do without having to do it. They want to read the stories of those who have lost weight without ever going on a diet. They do not realize that they live in ambivalence. They say and act in different ways. They agree with what they must do and never do it.

Each time I go the YMCA to workout I am amazed at the number of people who are trolling the parking lot to find a parking place closer to the door. Didn't they come for exercise? Why not park farther away and get some of the exercise walking to the door? Yet, they don't realize what they are there for. They want to go through their workout without noticing how much they avoided working out. They are people who avoid exercise in order to get to exercise. 

Each week a number of people come to church without being changed. They nod at the sermons, point out they were in church and believe that attending is all that is necessary. They have not been changed by their regular attendance in church. They are still as immature as they were when they first attended church. They never realized that they must be changed. They think that attending is all the change they ever need. It is no wonder that they can't get their family members to attend. The family members do not want to spend a couple of hours a week doing something that isn't that entertaining or life changing. 

Those who hear God's word should do it. Doing it is the evidence of the change. It isn't an exercise alone. It is a change that goes beyond the walls of the church or it isn't a real change. It becomes who the person is. It isn't just something to be done.

James wrote that we should not be just hearers. We must become doers. Becoming a doer is more than just doing it. It is becoming it. Thus, we can't merely have evangelism programs which get people to evangelize. We must see changed people who can't help but evangelize. We can't just have people who are listeners to the word. We must have people who become that word so that they don't have to act like Christians. They will simply be Christians.

I want to tell people to be what they say they are rather than merely trying to look good without making any changes. Hear the word and act on it. Never listen to it nor read it without expecting to act. Be changed by the word to become one who acts on it. Never take it for granted. Never hear it without noting what it calls you to do.

James 1:22-25 (ESV)
22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. 


Anthony Chia said...

The more I study the Word, the more I realise that we have a part to play, although, increasingly we hear of preaching of the opposite, that it is all God’s part, grace and grace and grace, no works! Even such a “pluck-out” statement from Scripture as “the words of God would NOT return to Him void”, (from Isaiah 55:11) is NOT as simple as we preach the Gospel, and there will necessarily be people who will come to Christ; or that if we speak out particular words from the Word to people, the end according to the words are necessarily achieved. Sometimes, it was due to lack of faith; at other times, it could be due to response of the people; and still at other times, principalities are hindering, or it could be any other reasons.

It is however, NOT that God is NOT all powerful or that His Word cannot achieve what God wants, or that the Holy Spirit is sleeping(!), it is more likely that we need to, through various progressions in life, come to be transformed NOT by force, but willingly (God can force it, but His norm, is perhaps, He would prefer NOT to, since frequent forcing would render men’s volition meaningless), or through OUR working with God, as is commonly said.

When we come into salvation, God does NOT turn us into unthinking robots! Unthinking robots cannot love. The Gospel is The Love Story, where God loves us unto righteousness (‘ahab love), and we are to love Him back, with the same love. We want God to continue to love us, and so, it is expected too, that we continue to love God back. And so, we have to, on an on-going basis, make choices in keeping with our commitment to love God (Love is a choice and a commitment). So, the way of God is that we are to, in real-time, on-going-ly, exercise our volition in keeping with our love for God. It does NOT work this way, for example: “God, I have said the Sinner’s Prayer, and so, I already said, down the road, you can do whatever you want, and so, whatever happens or NOT happen, afterwards concerning me, you, God, is solely responsible.”

If we are NOT going to response in action in line with His righteousness, we cannot argue that we heard the Word, but NOT our fault, that we are NOT changed by it. The Word of God is a prescription, we have to “take it in”, if we don’t, it is NOT God’s fault. A metaphor to illustrate is this: The doctor writes out a prescription for you, but you will NOT take the medication as prescribed; whose fault is it then, when you die? A World Bank economist turned God’s preacher and teacher said this: “What’s wrong with you; God gave you the food (His Word is food), and you expect God to eat for you!”

How does one “eat” the food God provides? “Go in one ear and goes out, the other”, even before we reach the car-park, after the church service?! Afterwards, you “talk the talk” or you “walk the talk”?! We need to response, and it is even NOT enough to just raise our hands or move forward to the front of sanctuary (although these are encouraged), when afterwards, we take no concrete action in line with our response of commitment. You raised your hand or moved to the front; that was only your commitment to a particular prescription, but you still have NOT eaten the prescription. It is like you did go to pharmacist, and collected the medical prescription, and you just leave them on the shelf, and NOT take (eat) them! The prescription does you no good, won’t change your condition, when you have merely left them on the shelf; so, the Word; that you allow it to go in one ear and go out, the other!”


Anthony Chia said...

cont. from above

I talked about love earlier on, how is love even related to this, some may wonder? Jesus explained in John 14:15 & 21, love for God is to be understood this way: He who loves me (the Lord) obeys my commands, and he who obeys my commands is the one who loves me. And then we read in 1 John 3:18, that it was said we are NOT to love just in words (but in deeds and in truth). What is love for God if you obey NOT, His commands or prescription? What is obedience if you do NOT follow through with action? The proof of the pudding is in the eating! Our inaction (NATO – [N]o [a]ction,[ t]alk [o]nly) testifies to our lack of obedience and love for God; and it also testifies to our lack such other things like faith. Whose responsibility is it, to obey God? To love God? To have faith? God?; we got to be kidding! “Bro Anthony, I thought it is about love and grace; what is this responsibility stuff?!” Please, irresponsibility is NOT compatible with love, and it is also NOT, with grace.

Are we perfect the moment we have entered into salvation? If you are, you have no need to hear any more of the Word! If you are like some, and there are some, who think that, you are self-deluded! When you and I acknowledge that we need to be sanctified (grow in righteousness and holiness; and so, NOT perfect yet) after being justified, we cannot be sanctified properly without “walking the talk”. Doing things according to His commands are doing things according to His righteousness, and that is good works, and good works bears good fruit. Good works and the fruit thereof testify or bear witness to your faith and my faith. Mere hearing the Word is insufficient as testimony; even faith is said to COME FROM hearing the Word, and NOT, on hearing the Word, God automatically gives you the faith!

To be transformed or changed inwardly on-going, we need to act, on-going, according to the Word, mere hearing is NOT enough. Faith is NOT mere hearing the Word; operative faith is hearing the Word and doing the Word. Operative faith is what makes the difference. Heb 11:6a said, “… Without faith [operative faith] it is impossible to please God”. I end with James 2:20-24 -

20 You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? 21 Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. 24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.

By the last verse, obviously, a person is also NOT considered righteous by mere hearing of the Word. Don’t just be hearer of the Word, but be doer, too, and in your doing, persevering at it, you will be blessed (James 1:25).

I too must NOT “talk the talk”, and NOT “walk the talk”. I must NOT be like what Ps Prentis said it as: “They agree with what they must do and never do it.”

Anthony Chia, high.expressions
PS: What about the conviction by the Holy Spirit? If you, and it is you, if you numb your conscience, the Holy Spirit may NOT bulldoze through! But, yes, it is right to encourage people to hear the Word, and get people to hear the Word, because faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Rom 10:17). Faith cannot come without hearing, but hearing the Word does NOT in itself give you the faith.