Ask yourself a question: are most of the Christians you know merely hearers of the word of God or do they actually do what it says? I am, of course, referring to James 1:22, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” Here’s the passage in context. This isn’t necessarily a black and white issue. There are different levels of “doing.” Let me give you a few.
Some people assume that if they go to church weekly and are part of the Christian or their church’s sub-culture they are doers. Frankly, I’d call that a mere hearer of the word. Others feel that if they listen to sermons and have a vague Christian spirituality, trying to be nice people, that they are doers of the word. Is that really “doing what it says?” Others look at all the Biblical commandments and use this as a pattern for their moral life. Is that being a doer of the word or just being legalistic? Some discuss, church life, doctrine and Bible verse with other Christians all the time. Others try to implement biblical principles into their life, such as following Jesus’ statement to “love as I have loved you” (Jn 13:34). Have we gotten there yet? Still others see that living the word is a matter of the Spirit living in their lives, speaking the law into their hearts and minds, then giving them the will and power to live the life God wants from them? Finally some are even more intentional. When they read a Bible passage, they actually ask God how they can put what has been read into immediate practice, then they go out and do it under God’s guidance, control and power.
So, where do you and I fit in this continuum? Are we really hearers or are we doers? This has all come to mind for me because I am discipling four men I have led to the Lord in a small group. I am trying out a simple program called Discovery Bible Study, by David Watson. In that study the last of three simple steps is to write “I will” statements. Here’s the idea. We study the Bible together, then we individually write three I will statements on how I personally am going to actually put what I’ve learned into immediate practice. Then we come back the next time and report to each other about the experience. It is pretty simple in concept, not so easy to actually do.
Last week was the first week we actually gathered to do this together. Three of the men were guys I’ve led to the Lord over the last three years. One of the guys was someone I led to the Lord two weeks ago. While I’ve been discipling the first three for awhile, they have also become involved in various traditional churches. I found it interesting the difference in response between the new Christian and those who have more experience.
Vitorio wanted to do the study and wanted to do the “I will statements” but struggled a bit on how to come up with ideas. The other guys gave him suggestions and he settled on his three “I will” statements and agreed to put them into action this week. He also commented that his other church experiences never actually expected him to do something with what he had just learned.
Cesar came up with two “I will” statements right away. He asked for help to come up with a third. At one point he was actually in tears as he described how much he wanted to learn how to actually follow Jesus more effectively.
Toño, actually refused to do “I will” statements. First he said he couldn’t think of anything. I told him we’d go to others and come back to him later. He still refused; then offered that he’d send me some “I will” statements on Facebook later. I suggested that he should participate and be held accountable just like everyone else. He again refused and said he couldn’t be at the study next week but would come in two weeks.
Then there was Edwin, the new Christian. Edwin embraced the idea with enthusiasm and vigor. In the study he kept saying, “Hey guys, this is about living, not just talking about the Bible.” He had no trouble coming up with “I will” statements and couldn’t wait to get started. When I dropped him off at his house later he thanked me for sharing the gospel with him and for teaching him how to follow God.
Pick a question and respond:
- How much of a hearer and how much of a doer are you when it comes to living the word of God?
- Can you think of a way to be a more intentional doer? Do you think God could help you with that?
- What did you notice and/or learn from the different responses of my friends?
- What would you do about Toño?