Listening and Doing

Introduction
This morning, we are continuing our new sermon series “Let’s Climb” based on the Book of James, and our focus is ‘Listening and Doing’.

I’d like to share one survey research regarding how non-Christian people think about Christians and how we can share the love of Christ with them. It says that about 70 – 80 percent of unchurched people do not think that Christians’ words and actions match. They also think Christians are intolerant and judgmental. Their view of us seems very critical. What they basically say is that many Christians do not live out the word of God and still tend to judge others.

Do you think they just have the misperception of Christians? Can we say, ‘they are totally wrong’? What are making them think about Christians that way? I don’t think they are fully right, but there may be some failings we need to identify and should work on.

Then how about Christians’ view of themselves? Could it be much different from what non-believers think? One non-profit organization asked self-identified Christians 10 questions to know how well they are measuring up to the Bible’s teachings. The questions were about how they would react in real-world scenarios and how they have changed after accepting Jesus Christ as their Lord and savior.

Based on their answers, the participants are classified into four different Christian groups: Christian far from Christ, worldly Christian, good Christian, and spiritually mature Christian.

I am not sure if ‘Christians far from Christ’ or ‘worldly Christians’ could be the right terms to use. But I think we can understand what the survey results are telling us: there are Christians who are living apart from Jesus or still pursuing this world. In other words, some Christians have never changed or are not that different than before.

The leader of the survey project added this comment: ‘even for long-time Christians, just going to church doesn’t make us good, mature, transformed Christians. Jesus was a lover of People. How well do you love others in your daily life?’
Now, let’s honestly think about ourselves. Do your words and actions fully match as a Christian? Have you in fact made any meaningful changes in each area of your life? Do your words and deeds reflect the love of Christ?

We are all called to become spiritually mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Are you really serious about that calling? What have you been doing for that? Would reading the Bible or listening to the word of God in a worship service like this be enough to respond to the call?

Listening and Doing Goes Together
James says, ‘No, merely listening to the word doesn’t go far enough. Do what it says. Listening and doing goes together.’ In other words, you should live out the word of God every moment in your life.

James 1:19-27
19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

We come to church to join worship services on Sundays. We praise God and hear the word of God. We are blessed, encouraged, and emotionally feel good. We feel like we have grown one step further in faith. After a service, we often enjoy sharing our thoughts on a message with others. I mean it is so essential and truly a blessing for us.

But if there are no actions taken between Sundays, and if we don’t even remember what we heard last Sunday, God’s blessing for us would be very limited. It would be hard to expect us to grow mature in love and faith. As a result, you may feel like there are no positive changes in your lives, and that disappointment may make you think attending worship services doesn’t impact your life as much as you desire.

Some Christians join a small group or other ministry gatherings. That is good. They read a scripture passage together and share their reflections. Sometimes they discuss it deeper. They feel they have learned something good and have grown in their knowledge and wisdom.

Again, that is really important. But if there are no actions taken between their ministry gatherings, and if they don’t even remember what they discussed at the last gathering, they will miss out the blessings that God has prepared for them through His words.

Then, you will continue to struggle in your Christian life because you think you are making effort but feel like you are not growing in love and faith for a long time, and repeatedly experience the same kind of life issues without any progress.

Then, you may become less excited to join worship services or other discipleship gatherings, thinking “I will put low priority on church gatherings”. Eventually, that decision will cause you to drift away from the Lord. It is a serious issue for us.

If you feel that way about your Christian life, you need to get out of your own idea, go back to what the Lord says about the issue and follow His guidance. James says inn verse 22, ‘Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.’

Temptation
I believe all of you have already heard of and know today’s passages. Then, why are we still failing in doing what the Bible says? There is always temptation around us.

James 1:13-18
13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.

TemptationYou Should Still Be Fine
Do you remember what Satan said to Eve when he tempted her? He said, ‘you will not certainly die even though you eat fruit from the trees.’ In other words, ‘you will be ok even though you don’t do as God asked you to do. You can ignore the truth. You should be fine.’ The same temptation continues to be around you today.

If you do not exercise what you heard, put it off, or ignore it, at first, it may seem like nothing serious is happening to you. You think you can stay where you are at for now. But doing nothing doesn’t mean you would stay on the same spot in your life. Apart from the Lord, you will be constantly polluted by this world, and there will be serious consequences.

The Bible says, ‘your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.’

If you ignore the truth, and smoke, drink, continue unhealthy habits or treat your body like your own, it may seem like you are ok until some point, but you will face serious health issues someday. You might even permanently lose your health as a consequence.

The Lord teaches us about the right loving relationship with our spouse, kids, or parents. If you ignore His teaching and continue to focus your time and energy on your work, pursuing pleasure, getting power, or what you think is more important, someday, you will find yourself in a marriage crisis or suffer from broken relationships with your kids or parents, not knowing how to resolve the issues.

Then, you may want to blame God for your difficult situation. But James says, ‘God does not temp anyone. Each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire.’

The Satan is deceiving you today, saying, ‘Did God say, ‘you should put His word into practice? You don’t need to use your time and energy for it. Ignore what God says or put it off. You should still be fine’.

But you won’t be fine. If you ignore the word, keep putting it off, or do not exercise what you heard, it may seem ok at first, but eventually, you will face what God wanted to protect you from.

TemptationMy Way Is Better for Me than God’s Way
Going back to the Satan’s temptation to Eve, he said, ‘when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God’. The same Satan is deceiving you today, saying, ‘your way could be better for you than God’s way because He could be hiding something better from you. Use your time and energy to do what you want to do rather than doing what God says. Your life would be more excited and fun for you.’

I was in a conversation with single people before, and they made some comments like this: ‘I don’t want a too sincere Christian spouse because the person would put priority on God rather than me. That makes me jealous.’ People are influenced by the sinful world every day, and their minds could change at any time.

If your spouse puts priority on God as the Bible says, God would continue to fill your spouse with His love. But those single people still wanted to find a properly sincere Christian in their view because they think that would still be better for them.

Many years ago, I happened to talk with someone who was saying, ‘I am gifted with interpreting and understanding the word of God but not gifted with doing what the Bible says. Everybody has a different gift and I think I am good. I will continue to grow in faith this way.’ He thought that his way fitted him better than God’s. He had his own spiritual confidence to allow him not to exercise what the Bible says.

Hebrews 10:24-25 says, ‘let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together’
We know that there are Christians who are avoiding meeting together or interacting with people. Some of them even do not come to church because of the reason. They think that is better for them whatever the Bible says.

I know that for some cases, relational hurt led them to that direction. I understand that pain and you may need some time to recover from it. What I am saying is that doesn’t mean we can go in the opposite direction. God knows what we need more than we do and is still encouraging us not to give up meeting together. We may be struggling at some point, but we still need to move on in the right path.

I had a chance to meet a person who loved reformed doctrine a lot. He was spending so much energy and time to debate or argue with people to convince them that he was right. That was it. There was no action after to do what it says. He didn’t go to a church either because he thought that there was no church in Calgary that was teaching reformed doctrine as he knew. He was not pursuing the Lord but his own understanding of reformed doctrine and pride.

I have shared some examples but maybe all of us are doing similar things in some areas of our Christian lives. We often choose our way rather than God’s way. We do what I want to do rather than what God says. We think we can pursue a better life in our own way, but our life will become more complicated and filled with pain in the end.

We may not want to admit this, but when we think our way is better for us than God’s way, we are playing God in our own lives. That is our own evil desire, and verse 15 says, ‘after your evil desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.’

Two Foundations for Your Life
Christianity is all about loving relationships: loving the Lord, church families, and neighbors. If someone says to you, ‘I know well what love is. I studied so many books and materials for a long time. You can ask me anything about love.’ But if the person has never experienced loving others, what he knows would not be love. It would be just his own imagination about love.

If you are married, how did you grow in love with your spouse? You need to meet, spend time together, learn about each other, and do good things together. When the person has become more important than you, and you want to serve the person for the rest of your life, you decide to get married. The journey towards marriage is full of learning and taking actions. If no actions were involved, there would have been no chance for you to grow in love with your spouse.

We are all called to become more like Jesus individually and more like the heavenly church communally. Loving relationship requires God and others and direct involvement. What God says can be understood only when we actually put them into practice.

When you hear familiar scripture passages, you may think, ‘oh, I already know this well and it’s boring.’ Remember that Christianity is not about me but all about loving relationship with the Lord and others. If you have never put them into practice, you still do not understand the familiar scripture passages that you think you already know. Simply, no practice, no understanding. The word of God is not the foundation for your life yet because you don’t truly understand it.

Here is what Jesus says about it.
Matthew 7:24-27
24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.

26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

Where are you building your house on? On the rock or sand?

Remember, God is on your side. He does not intend to burden you or make your life more complicated. You were suffering when you were in darkness. Your life was full of pain and worries without hope. You were a slave to sin.

You are now God’s children, and He doesn’t want you to continue the hopeless life. He wants to set you free and wants you to experience ultimate satisfaction and fulfilment in your life. That is possible when you hear the word of God and do what it says. It is painful for God to see that you are still tempted to ignore His word or put it off and live in darkness as a consequence without experiencing any meaningful changes or transformation.

Let’s Climb
Let me read verse 25 again.
25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

Did you get the two key words? Freedom and Blessing. When you do what the Bible says, you will experience freedom and blessing in all you do.

Some new believers asked me this question before. They said, ‘when I didn’t have faith, I didn’t know what to do to resolve my life issues. Now, I have faith and see so many things to do in the Bible, and that burdens me.’

I am not talking about legalism. Let’s say, you are asked to visit, support, or serve someone who you don’t know. Everything you should do would become a task. If you are asked to continue, you would feel burden.

But when you do the same things to someone who you love, that would be totally different. You are not doing them as your tasks. You would enjoy visiting and serving the person. All you do for the person would be just expressions of your love.

As you hear the word of God and do what it says, you would truly understand it and taste the love, the truth, and the power of Christ more and more. And then, as you experience the sweet fellowship with the Lord deeper, your life would more reflect the life of Christ.

It is not possible for you to remain unchanged because God’s love and power is transformative, and His love will flow naturally from your heart to others. Actually, you are not alone. He will be revealing His presence in you more and more. You will find yourself enjoying expressions of love in the Lord. Your life will be full of freedom and blessings as the Lord promised.

I believe many of you have made new year’s resolutions to improve your lives or to stop unhealthy habits. As Christians, you may also have resolutions to nurture your spiritual life. The most common ones are reading or studying the Bible or praying more often. These are important and great goals to set. But let’s not stop there. I’d like to encourage you to add this, ‘putting the word of God into practice’, and let’s climb together supporting each other on our spiritual journey.

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