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Doers of the Word

Pastor Dennis Smith

Some believers deceive themselves into thinking they are spiritually mature when they are not. True spiritual maturity grows from a right relationship with God through his Son and his word. It is only by his word that God through the agency of the Holy Spirit shapes and transforms our lives, not just changing us from objects of his wrath to objects of his love at salvation, but making us more and more Christ-like in our thinking and ultimately in our doing. That’s really what the apostle Paul was talking about in Romans 12:2. And if it is true that God uses his word to work his desired changes in us, then our knowledge and application of his word should be among our most important pursuits.

Read James 1:21–25. There we find that we have two responsibilities toward God’s word: 1) receive it, and 2) practice it.

First, James says that we should “Receive with meekness the engrafted word…” (By the way, if it helps, by “superfluity of naughtiness” in v. 21 James basically means abundance of evil.) By receiving the word he is saying we need to accept or welcome, as coming from the hand of God, the word that has been implanted in us. I would point you to Acts 17:11 where we find the same verb, to receive, used in a very similar way regarding the word of God. The engrafting of the word of which James speaks surely refers to that work of the Holy Spirit whereby he makes our heart and mind receptive to the things of God, as we see in 1 Corinthians 2:12–14.

Second, we must not only receive the word, but practice it. It is good to hear the word, but it is necessary to do it. We must allow the word to change us by acting on it; just hearing it produces no lasting change. If we do not let God’s word change us by doing what it says, we are in effect not receiving it but, just the opposite, rejecting it. When we look into the word of God without a willingness to act on it or apply it, it’s like those times when we check our appearance in the mirror as James says: as soon as we walk away from the mirror our thoughts go elsewhere. But by contrast, when we look into the word of God with the intention of being guided by it, our lives can be changed to the glory of God.

So how about it? How are you approaching the Bible on your faith journey? Are you content to read a short passage so that you can check that duty off your daily to-do list? Or do you take regular Bible study more seriously, meditating on it and consciously intending to be a doer and not a hearer only? This is not really new with James — David was saying much the same thing a thousand years before, in Psalm 1:1–3.

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