James 1: 22

But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not just hearers who deceive themselves.

This can be a difficult verse to teach because of the lack of good examples. The other challenge is distinguishing dead works from the work of the gospel. I think I have a good example today. To tell this story we venture back to the recent Fall Foliage bike ride in the Shenandoah Valley.

Remember my friend and neighbor Andy I told you about? Well, there was this other chap named William. William was camped on the other side of me. Frankly, he didn’t make a great first impression but later he was hanging out in front of mine and Andy’s tents. He did not hide his Christianity, but I was less than sure about the sincerity of his heart. I am usually guarded when I hear people popping off about being Christian. It is an easy thing to say, but not an easy thing to live and I find that in the Bible belt, there are a lot of what I call “cultural Christians.” You know what I mean, right? They were raised to be Christian, live in a Christian culture and proclaim their sainthood. As I told a friend, when I practiced law, I often encountered people who began a consultation with a disclosure of their sanctity. Through years of experience, I began to hear “I am a Christian” as “I’m not going to pay you.” So, pardon me if I am a bit jaded when people tell me, not about the greatness of Jesus, but about their Christianity as soon as we meet. This guy really had the smell of one of those folks, but I adopted an accepting posture.

He threw some scriptures around and Andy commented as did I. All of a sudden Andy stopped, looked at me and said, “You must be a minister.” I was quite surprised. First, he is Catholic right? And I am a woman. Second, I certainly was not dressed in any fashion that would indicate clergy. I was in shorts and a t-shirt, and no makeup. What did he hear? Clearly, he heard something that went off in him, but that is, perhaps, more a testimony about him than about me. The spirit within him registered something, responded to the Word of God coming out of me. Frankly, I was taken aback.

Time passes and it is dawn of the next day. Everyone was busy getting ready for the ride. I too was busy with my preparations, but the urge came upon me to pray. I usually do pray before my bike rides, but the nudge seemed to be to pray then rather than later. So, I sat down on my cot and prayed for all the riders, the organizers and the ride itself. I wondered, at that moment, whether other Christians were doing the same. I also thought that it was my duty, not only as a Christian but, as a minister of Christ’s gospel. Then, done praying, I exited my tent to begin loading my bike, etc. Andy was getting his stuff together too. As we greeted each other somehow a discussion regarding prayer came up. Sitting here now it seems odd that it did but there you go. I told him that I had already prayed for all of us and for our safety. He lit up responding that he had too! Right then I saw the gospel at work. Neither of us were going around doing “good works”, especially not good works to be seen by men. We had each quietly and privately been “doers of the Word.” However, there was a rejoicing together knowing that we were one with Christ and with each other that morning. There was a unity even though we prayed individually. The minister in me was joyful to see that Andy’s faith was real. Do you know, before we left that morning, Andy corralled another guy camped near us and led a joint prayer. He provided leadership that I didn’t.

You know, I may never see Andy again. Although we follow each other on Strava, we live far apart. None the less, I will always remember him. He was a living example of Christ with us, Christ in us. I love it all the more that he is Catholic because he is an iconic example that we should not judge each other based on labels. We may not believe all the same things, but when it comes down to brass tacks, I have no doubt that I could trust his faithfulness. He blessed me that morning by being a person of prayer, not because he prayed for me, but because he did the work of the gospel. He lived out his faith right there before my eyes. I was humbled and gratified.

Let us all be doers of the Word not merely deceived hearers. Let us not boast in our Christianity, but as Paul said, only in Christ and him crucified. And, let us pray! Let us put aside all of our prejudices, anger, and reasonings and just let Jesus be Lord. Let us be followers of Christ and devoted disciples of the faith.

Thank you, Andy, for being a shining example of the true love of Christ!

Doing Christianity

Psalm 119: 112

I have inclined my heart to perform Thy statutes forever, even to the end.

The New Testament equivalent of this verse is found in James 1: 22 where James, the half-brother of Jesus, importunes us to “prove” ourselves “to be doers of the word, not merely hearers.” James teaches us that it is not enough to go to church and listen to a minister tell us about the Word of God. We need to take the word we hear and put it into action.

The psalmist from this passage in Psalm 119 has made that transition. He knows that his success is tied to applying the statutes of God, not only hearing them and learning them. He has decided, has set his heart, to doing all he sees in the Word of God.

We all need to be like the psalmist. We need to make a quality decision that we will let the Word of God lead us. We should let God’s word be the final authority in our lives. Everyone wants to hear from God. Meanwhile we have His Word lying on our coffee tables and yet ignore it. He is speaking to you; it is His Word; His words to you. He is trying to lead you to the calm waters and into the green pastures but many of His kids are not listening. He wants to lead you to the paths of success, happiness and joy.

It seems that it should be enough for us that God Almighty has made a decree. That ought to be reason enough for us to set our hearts to obey. But when you begin to understand why He has made the decree you ought to want to run to perform all that He has said because everything that He tells you to do, every rule that you fuss over, every bit of guidance He is giving you is for your benefit. He is not leading you into dark alleys where something bad is laid in store for you. He is leading you into your promised land. Rush quickly to do all that God is telling you to do. If you don’t think He has told you something specific for you to do, then pick up your Bible and He will show you something. There is plenty there for us to work on. Make up your mind that you are going to dedicate yourself to doing all that you find in the Word of God. Decide that you are going to devote yourself to performing all of His statutes. Then you will find favor and every blessing.

Living Truth

James 1: 22 (Amplified Version)

But be doers of the Word [obey the message], and not merely listeners to it, betraying yourselves [into deception by reasoning contrary to the Truth].

Jesus said we would be known by our fruit (Matthew 7: 16). It will not be by what we say but rather the evidence of how we behave by which we will be known to Jesus as His own. Probably we all know someone who talks a good game but doesn’t seem to really have the proof in the pudding. In other words, they know the right things to say but their life really doesn’t represent the love that Jesus invested in them. I know someone like that. This person seems to read the Bible, listens to tapes by Christian leaders and reads Christian books and yet, the love of Christ and the Truth of Christ is not readily apparent, and I fear that, perhaps, the same could be said of me.

Now we can all make mistakes and we fall into carnality at times but we really should endeavor to do all that Christ is teaching us. The Bible is not a book for intellectual meditation as much as it is an owner’s manual for each of us. We are to apply what we read there. When it says, do not judge, forgive, pray for those who persecute you, love all, pursue peace and the rest, we are actually supposed to give ourselves over to those behaviors. We’ll not do it all in our own might though. Here is where the love of Christ in our lives manifests itself. In all humility we ask our Dad to help us; to create in us a heart capable of behaving like Jesus. Then we surrender to His ministrations as he makes us into an exact image of Christ exemplified in us. Hallelujah! All this is possible in Him. Let us do what we see in the Bible including letting Him, with our help, transform us into the very image of His dear son. Be ye doers of the Word, not hearers only.