Recently, Jason and I became part of a “life-group”. Or as most would know it by, a small group or bible study. After joining Northwest, we knew from the get go that becoming part of a smaller more intimate group of believers within our church was essential for our relationship with Christ and it’s growth and maturity. Finally, we did it! Last night I was expressing to Jason how much I really have loved getting together with other believers and reading directly out of God’s Word. It’s just very uplifting. Our group is very fortunate too because our “leader” happens to be one of the pastors. It’s just nice to have someone leading whose career is built around studying, knowing, and living out the scriptures. We are blessed to have someone to bounce all our thoughts off of but also he can bring us back to the Truth and what the scriptures are really telling us. (It’s very easy to misinterpret scripture so that it suits how we want to live.)
Anyway, we have launched our life group with the book of James. James has always been a favorite book of mine. He is so CLEAR with what is expected of us as Christians and how we will truly find freedom in Christ. I had never read James translated by The Message though and parts really spoke to me last night as someone read James 1:19-27 out of their copy. This is the portion in James titled Listening and Doing in the NIV translation.
God has really been working on this heart of mine within the last few weeks and every day I’m in the Word it becomes more clear what he is saying to me. Yesterday in the morning I had just simply prayed that I would not only be a reader and speaker of the Word but most importantly a doer. Enter James. 1:22-24 (The Message) Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don’t act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like. Yikes! The Message is not fooling around with its clarity. But what I was struck with last night was verse 25 in my NIV. “But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom,……” James is telling us that God’s law is perfect. It’s not a bunch of rules to make us feel as if we’re in bondage, his law is FREEING. Obeying is law frees us! I felt so FREE reading that. Only in being obedient to Christ can we experience freedom. There is NOTHING this world has to offer that can free us. As Christians we hear that all the time. Do we believe it? Verse 25 goes on, “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.” James is saying that if we are consistent in our obedience and Faith in Christ and DO what we have heard and seen in his Word, we will be blessed in what we do. Not “worldly” kinds of blessings, that essentially are meaningless. Spiritual blessings, real, fulfilling, life giving, blessings.
Originally when I sat down to post this blog I was just going to post James 1:19-27 in The Message. So that’s what I’m going to do now.
I pray that we as Christians would hear God’s Word for what it is. I pray we wouldn’t water down his message or convolute it into something that we think suits our lifestyle better. I pray we would take hold of the freedom he has to offer, in the way he offers it. I pray we would be doers of His Word.
James 1:19-27 The Message
19-21Post this at all the intersections, dear friends: Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear. God’s righteousness doesn’t grow from human anger. So throw all spoiled virtue and cancerous evil in the garbage. In simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation-garden of your life.
22-24Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don’t act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like.
25But whoever catches a glimpse of the revealed counsel of God—the free life!—even out of the corner of his eye, and sticks with it, is no distracted scatterbrain but a man or woman of action. That person will find delight and affirmation in the action.
26-27Anyone who sets himself up as “religious” by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world.