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Practice what you preach

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Be doers of the word. It is a simple call of obedience to do what God has called us to do, yet to often we neglect the most important part of the calling, the part where we actually do what he has called us to do. As the body of Christ we have been called to be ambassadors who spread the good news of the gospel but as we look around at our brothers and sisters in Christ, we see a lot more sitting than spreading.

This isn’t just a problem that we see in the church today, in fact the early church dealt with this issue as well. It was enough of an issue that James addresses it in his letter:

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.

James 1:22-25 (NIV)

James wrote to all 12 tribes these simple but imperative instructions for the body of Christ to follow. In his instruction we see in the very first verse 2 important commands.

The first one we will discuss is the command which we already referenced to, be doers of the word. In the King James Version, verse 22 starts out with this command ” But be ye doers of the word.” Simple enough right? Don’t just talk about it or debate about it but live by it. Charles Swindoll wrote a wonderful example that illustrates the traps that we as the body of Christ could fall into when we don’t obey this command in his book Improving Your Serve (pg: 170-171)

Let’s pretend that you work for me. In fact, you are my executive assistant in a company that is growing rapidly. I’m the owner and I’m interested in expanding overseas. To pull this off, I make plans to travel abroad and stay there until the new branch office gets established. I make all the arrangements to take my family in the move to Europe for six to eight months, and I leave you in charge of the busy stateside organization. I tell you that I will write you regularly and give you direction and instructions.

I leave and you stay. Months pass. A flow of letters are mailed from Europe and received by you at the national headquarters. I spell out all my expectations. Finally, I return. Soon after my arrival I drive down to the office. I am stunned! Grass and weeds have grown up high. A few windows along the street are broken. I walk into the receptionist’s room and she is doing her nails, chewing gum, and listening to her favorite disco station. I look around and notice the wastebaskets are overflowing, the carpet hasn’t been vacuumed for weeks, and nobody seems concerned that the owner has returned. I ask about your whereabouts and someone in the crowded lounge area points down the hall and yells, ” I think he’s down there.” Disturbed, i move in that direction and bump into you as you are finishing a chess game with our sales manager. I ask you to step into my office ( which has been temporarily turned into a television room for watching afternoon soap operas).

“What in the world is going on, man?”

“What do ya’ mean…?”

“Well, look at this place! Didn’t you get any of my letters?”

“Letters? Oh, yea-sure, got every one of them. As a matter of fact… we have had letter study every Friday night since you left. We have even divided all the personnel into small groups and discussed many of the things you wrote. Some of those things were really interesting. You’ll be pleased to know that a few of us have actually committed to memory some of your sentences and paragraphs. One or two memorized an entire letter or two! Great stuff in those letters!”

“Okay, okay– you got my letters, you studied them and meditated on them, discussed and even memorized them. BUT WHAT DID YOU DO ABOUT THEM?”

“Do? Uh- we didn’t do anything about them.”

Many of us gather together and we discuss all the important teachings that scripture gives us and we Amen about giving to the needy, spreading the gospel, and loving our neighbor. But when it is all said and done how many are actually doing what we have been taught in scripture to do? That is what James is teaching and commanding the 12 tribes to take note of. Be doers of the word.

The second command which again is worded a little differently depending on your translation but it basically  tells us to not merely listen to the word or solely be hearers of the word. Now if you take that too literally, you might think that James is telling us not to listen to the word which is not the point James is making. He is literally saying hear in such a way that you might do.

There are three categories that people fall into:

1. Those who don’t hear

2. Those who only hear

3. Those who hear and do

The best choice of those three types of people is obviously those who hear and do. It reminds me of a lesson my dad taught me growing up. My dad always taught me to be wise instead of smart. Being smart means you know what you are supposed to do, however, being wise means putting that knowledge to use.  It is one thing to know that you shouldn’t touch a stove when it is hot, but only a wise person doesn’t touch it when there is cookies there tempting you. ( I’m still learning that lesson.)

In the same way, that is what James is teaching in this letter to the twelve tribes.  Commanding us to be doers instead of hearers because we are called to practice what we preach. It is not enough to just know the word, we must live by it. It is necessary if we are to accomplish the Great Commission that God has commanded  each of us as Christ Ambassadors.

As I sit and ponder about what God has placed on my heart, I can’t help but come back to the central message of the scriptures we find in James. As the body of Christ we must not just gather and only hear God’s word, we must put it into practice. What that looks like will be different form person to person, but the heart of those who hear and do will be hearts after God’s own. Could you imagine how far reaching the body of Christ would be if each of us would apply the teachings that we study? Could you imagine the lives that would be witnessed to? Could you imagine the lives that would be saved? If you can imagine it, then you know the importance of making this a reality in your own walk. Be doers of the Word!!!


By: Jonathan Carmack