Article by Pastor Adam WallerElder at GraceLife London
Sundays are precious times for the body of Christ. Jesus rising from the dead on a Sunday led to the church choosing the first day of the week as “the Lord’s Day” (Rev 1:10; cf. Acts 20:7). These gatherings of the church were consistently times of fellowship, sharing meals, observing the Lord’s Table, and praying (Acts 2:42-45). But at the centre of Christian worship was the focus on the “apostle’s teaching.”
The outworking of the Christian life will be founded on the doctrine of the church that is taught from its pulpit. God’s word clearly declared to God’s people will make all the difference in what a church believes and what a church does. This has always been the way God has worked among His people. It is no wonder that Paul instructs his son in the faith Timothy to “give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching” (1 Tim 4:13). Paul goes on to warn the young pastor to “pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation for yourself and for those who hear you” (1 Tim 4:15). Surely we must hear God’s word taught, with exhortation and application to our lives.
But the process does not end on Sunday when the service is over. The purpose of preaching is not entertainment, amusement, or even knowledge. The goal is that hearers would become doers. The work is not done after we have set for an hour of explanation and exhortation. The work is done when those who do believe God’s word, have received God’s word not just in their ears but as part of their lives.
This is what James 1:21-25 teaches the Christian. We find in this passage several principles for how to most effectively apply God’s word.
1. Come to the word of God with purity (James 1:21)
It would be foolish to think that sin does not affect the way we receive and live out God’s word. If sin is operating in your flesh and you are feeding it, the Holy Spirit is grieved and you handicap yourself to walk by the Spirit (Gal 5:16-21; Eph 4:30). A believer wants no distraction or hesitation in obedience. We should come to God’s word with hearts that have been examined expecting the Bible to continue the process with sins we have not seen ourselves.
2. Receive the word of God with humility (James 1:21)
The attitude that we bring to the Scriptures will affect the way we apply the Scriptures. A person must come with the attitude that they have come to be operated on, not to question the surgeon. The preacher is not the surgeon but God’s word is as it is clearly and accurately conveyed to the congregation. Hebrews 4:12 tells us that the word of God is able to cut even as far as judging “the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” The believer must gather with the saints to have their hearts exposed, not to cast judgment on God’s word.
3. Apply the word of God immediately (James 1:23-24)
It is true that what we do not use, we lose. How critical is this in regards to the Holy Scriptures! James commands us to be more than hearers; we must be doers also. But it is not just applying but apply immediately. James speaks of the man who forgets immediately and the one who looks intently so as not to forget. When we have heard what God commands, to hesitate to transform our thinking and actions is sin. Our worship is only acceptable to God in as much as it comes from a life committed to obeying God’s word. The Old Testament prophets constantly reminded God’s people that God’s priority for His people is obedience over sacrifice (1 Sam 15:22; Jer 7:22-23).
Are you making the most of God’s word as it is taught to you? We will each be held accountable for what we have learned from the Bible as to whether our hearts and behaviour are conforming to it as it shows us our Savior.