Obedience to the Word of God
Iím convinced that one of the greatest problems facing the Church today is disobedience to Godís Word. Among evangelicals at least, there is a firm commitment to the authority of the Bible. Thatís not the problem. We believe the Bible is Godís Word. Our difficulty is in doing what it says. We have Bible studies in all of our churches, but are we doing what the Bible says?
James gives us the clear command in James 1: 22: "Do not merely listen to the Word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says." I believe this sort of self-deception takes place in churches all over the world. We have literally trained ourselves in self-deception. Let me show you what I mean.
You go to the worship service on Sunday morning and hear a powerful message on how we must love one another. You are literally brought to tears by the power and force of the message. And you leave the service inspired and feeling so very good by what you have heard. The first steps of deception have taken place. It occurs when we hear the Word preached, and feel good because we agree with it. For so many of us, thatís where it ends. No action taken. No doing of the Word.
Godís clear call to the Church is to be doers of His Word. James goes on to give an illustration of what it is like to hear the Word and then fail to act in obedience upon it.
"Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing itóhe will be blessed in what he does" (James 1:23-25).
It is not hearing that changes us. It is acting on what we hear! We need to build the sort of expectancy in our lives and churches that what we hear we will begin to implement. When a sermon on loving one another is preached in a church, there should begin to be manifestations of that message all through the congregation. Christians will be inviting one another over for supper. Church members will be calling to see how they can pray for one another. Cards will be sent to other Christians encouraging and building them up. Christians will actually be loving one anotherÖnot just agreeing with a message they heard last Sunday.
James gives us a wonderful promise when we do the Word. He says in verse 25 of the first chapter that the one who does the Word will be blessed in what he does. In other words, this will not be empty activity. When Christians make a commitment to walk in obedience to Godís Word, God steps in to bless that commitment. As they do the Word, they receive blessing from God in that activity.
Paul describes what God will do in 1 Thessalonians 2:13: "And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe." Listen to the implied promise of supernatural power here. The Word of God is actually at work in you. There is a partnership that begins to be effective when you act upon the Word of God. You begin to walk in obedience and the Word begins to work in you. The King James version says that the Word is "effective" in you.
Thatís what I want in my lifeÖfor Godís Word to be effective in me. I want the promise of God that His Word would not return to Him voidÖempty Öineffective. The power of Godís Holy Spirit is set free in our lives as we move into the arena of being doers of the Word of God.
This commitment to obeying Godís Word will not only change an individual but has the power to change a church or even a whole nation. There is a wonderful example of that in the life of Josiah, King of Judah. Young King Josiah had inherited a kingdom that had fallen away from God. Idolatry and every kind of sin was rampant. Previous generations of kings had ignored the Word of God and followed their own desires. Josiah, however, was different. At age 16, the Scriptures say he began to seek the God of his ancestor, David. When he was 24, he sent workers to the Temple to begin cleaning and purifying it from the years of abuse and neglect. An astonishing discovery was made during the cleaning. The Book of the Law given to Moses was found.
Josiah tore his robes in grief over this neglect of the Word of God. Second Chronicles 34:21 records his words upon seeing the long lost Scriptures: "Great is the LORDís anger that is poured out on us because our fathers have not kept the word of the LORD; they have not acted in accordance with all that is written in this book."
Josiah called together the leaders of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem and read to them the words of the covenant. Look at the kingís response and that of his people to the reading of the Word: "The king stood by his pillar and renewed the covenant in the presence of the LORDóto follow the LORD and keep his commands, regulations and decrees with all his heart and all his soul, and to obey the words of the covenant written in this book. Then he had everyone in Jerusalem and Benjamin pledge themselves to it; the people of Jerusalem did this in accordance with the covenant of God, the God of their fathers" (2 Chronicles 34:31-32).
With this commitment to obey the Word, revival broke out in Judah. Idols were removed and Israel walked with God. There was a celebration of the Passover in Jerusalem like none ever seen as the people worshipped the Lord and rejoiced in the restoration of His Word.
God is desiring today to once again revive His people.
This revival will not come in just a burst of emotion, but in response to a
praying people who have recommitted themselves to be doers of the Word of God.