Today it feels like there’s something missing in the lives of many Christians, we go to church, and occasionally read our Bibles but it feels if that it isn’t enough. As Christians we are good at listening, pondering, and absorbing information, revelation and insights but what do we do with all of that knowledge? Do we write it down, store it away in our minds for a rainy day, or do we replace it with whatever is heard the following week?
These are the questions we must begin to ask ourselves if we want to fully reflect Christ into this world, these are the questions we must ask if we are serious about growing and developing the Kingdom here on earth. However, being able to grow personally and corporately hinges on the fact that we must begin to practice what we preach and to apply what we have learned. It is as if many churches and Christians have become drunk on knowledge but are starving for wisdom and application.
Knowledge is the accumulation of information, while wisdom is knowing what to do with that knowledge and how to apply it in real world situations and in your own life. I believe this is where many Christians get tripped up, we are good at hearing a sermon or reading a passage but we lack the ability (or discernment) to apply those truths in our own lives (or for more than a week). It is easy to sit and listen but it is much harder to act out what was heard.
Look at it this way would you invest time and money to go to a trade school (carpenter, electrician, mechanic) and never do anything except the book work. Imagine getting a master’s degree in carpentry but you’ve never picked up a hammer during the entire experience. It sounds ridiculous but this is how many of us approach church and the Bible. Each year we sit through at least 52 sermons plus all of our personal reading but rarely does a real lasting change, refinement, course correction, or new type of action materialize in our lives. What is happening here?
Christians Must Do the Do
The Christian life is based on more than just attendance and homework, it is based on action, belief and trust. You can have knowledge about Jesus and not be saved (member of the New Covenant), you can have an understanding of Paul’s writings and not be a contributing Christian and you can have insights about God and still be without a relationship with Him.
What is the tipping point between knowledge about Christ and relationship with Him? James the half-brother of Jesus and leader of the church in Jerusalem (Acts 15) wrote about how to bridge this gap.
James 1:22-25 “22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; 24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.” (NKJV)
You see it is not enough to read the scriptures, we must learn how to apply them to our lives and how to live them out. Paul in Romans 10:9-10 talks about believing in your heart AND confessing with your mouths, to receive salvation both must happen not just one or the other. My own salvation experience reflects this. I believed in my heart in April of 2000 but I didn’t make a verbal confession until July 2000. Jesus revealed Himself to me and gave me a choice, from that day I believed in Him but I didn’t speak it out until just over three months later. For those three and a half months I had knowledge of who Jesus really was but my actions to back that up were delayed.
We can take this truth in James 1 and apply it to more than just salvation, we can apply it to the entirety of the scriptures and especially the words Jesus spoke of in the Gospels. Jesus went and did, Jesus didn’t sit at home in Capernaum and revel in the knowledge of who He was. No, He went out and demonstrated the reality of His life and calling. Jesus didn’t just mentally frame the words of the magi, Simeon, Anna or His cousin John and look over them when He was frazzled with a His carpentry work. Jesus brought life to the words, promises, proclamations and call on His life.
We have to get over the trap of thinking that collecting popular scriptures, Christian catchphrases, dank-Christian memes, or simple pleasantries is enough to sustain our faith and life. We can squirrel away all of the quotes and verses that we can, but it is irrelevant if we don’t do something with them. Just think of a squirrel, what is the point of gathering all of those acorns if you never intend on eating them, or you constantly forget where you left them. You’re just running around from yard to yard hunting down acorns just for the reason of collecting them. You won’t benefit from eating them and depending where you are stuffing them they will never fulfill their own potential of becoming a tree themselves.
Mirror Mirror on the Wall, What Did the Pastor Say Two Weeks Ago?
It is that forgetfulness which is the great trap James is trying to warn us about, often we don’t act on scriptures, revelations or insights because we get busy or distracted or enamored by the next revelation, insight, prophecy, interpretation or whatever else gets our attention. When we read James 1:23 we take for granted the word “mirror.” For the people James was originally writing to a mirror was not a common household item. They didn’t have a bathroom with one, they didn’t have one in their purse or on their phone. No, to them a mirror was something rare, and in that culture it would have not been a clear glass mirror but a slab of polished bronze.
No matter how much it was polished it would always give a distorted view of the subject, so it is easy to see how someone could forget what they looked like. Even though we have high quality mirrors today, in our minds we are still prone to looking at ourselves through warped reflections. We are still prone to forgetfulness, we lose sight of who we are in God’s eyes and we disconnect our hands from our heart. What we read and study must influence what we do and say, it must all somehow contribute to the development of first our own lives and second the development of your church.
Look at it this way, each insight, revelation, prophecy, scripture, interpretation, or nugget of wisdom is like a piece of Lego. Over time you gather enough pieces to build something, the more time goes on the more you can build, at times you will build only one thing, other times you will tear down and rebuild, then there are those who will build multiple things. But that is only if you use what you have received, many people on the other hand have lives that are nothing but giant plastic buckets full of unused pieces. The pile gets bigger but nothing gets built, or worse still the bucket of pieces gets periodically thrown away because there is only so much room in the bucket.
This is what our life as Christians looks like, God gives us these pieces to build with, first to build and develop ourselves and then to build and develop others. We take our pieces and develop not just our own creations but those of others as well. Yet far to often people are content with only collecting and have no foresight to at least give away what they have to people that are building and developing. We forget that we will be judged by what we do (Romans 2:13) along with what we think. We forget the price paid by the unfaithful servant in Luke 19 who had knowledge of the type of person his master was but failed to do anything despite that knowledge.
Finish the Circuit
Here is another way to understand the connection between Believing and Doing. Take a look at how electricity works in your house, you plug something into the wall and it does as it is designed to do. I plug in a blender and I can make a smoothie, I plug in a laptop and I can write a blog post. Now that electricity has a negative side and a positive side (not bad and good) both are necessary for the current to flow through the cables into the device and out again. Now we can look at the concept of believing and doing in the same way, but are necessary to get the power out of the wall, through the device and back into the current.
The Holy Spirit is the power and electricity of our lives He is looking to move through people to develop them, to fulfil the Great Commission and to strengthen the church. He like the power in your wall is ready, willing and able to jump into action if we connect to Him. But we must have the + side of belief, the – side of action and we must be grounded in Christ. Then He can move in our lives and bring about change, power, glory, transformation, giftings, wisdom and so on. If we only have belief, we can’t complete the circuit, if we only have action we can’t complete the circuit, and if we have both and are not grounded then we’re not protected if something fails or overloads in our lives.
When we look through the Gospel’s we see that Jesus didn’t bless the people who simply heard Him speak, but He blessed and healed those who had the truth of those words become real to them. It was one thing for people to see Jesus heal but it was a totally different level for those who saw Him as the Messiah and publicly declared that truth (Matthew 9:27, 15:22, 20:30).
With Jesus He proclaimed parables for the crowds but gave interpretation to the disciples. However, because of this the disciples where expected to live out what Jesus preached when He was gone. Jesus taught the disciples because He expected them to follow the words He spoke and to bring them to life in their own lives.
The Miracle of Doing
This concept of combining belief and action is not limited to the New Testament alone we see this all throughout the Bible. Abraham believed God and moved away from Haran, Joshua and the people believed God for victory and marched around Jericho, David believed that God appointed Him as the next king so he left the farm. We see over and over that you can’t please God or fulfill your purpose in life if you don’t have both of theses facets working together equally. If we only have one then we will never progress, or if we do have both but are inconsistent in one we will never reach our full potential.
Consider the story about elderly Elisha and Joash the King of Israel (1 Kings 13:14-19), in this story the king goes to the prophet to receive a word about dealing with the Syrians. Elisha tells the king to take an arrow and shoot it out the window, the king does so. Then Elisha tells the king to take some more arrows and to hit the ground with them, so the king does as he is told, but something happens that he was not expecting. In verse 19 we see that “the man of God was angry with him, and said, “You should have struck five or six times; then you would have struck Syria till you had destroyed it! But now you will strike Syria only three times.” King Joash believed Elisha to be a prophet, so he acted in going to see him and to do as he said. But his heart was not in it, I can imagine the king gingerly tapping the ground 3 times and thinking that was enough to satisfy the prophet.
There was a disconnect in the king between his belief, his action and his relationship with God. God was wanting the king to act out his trust and to go to town on the floor with those arrows to show an expectation for God’s help through the simple act of hitting some arrows on the ground. Because of this attitude the king was only promised a partial victory and the king’s son had to endure the consequences of that partial victory.
How much different is it with us today, we take in the words of pastors, prophets, teachers, apostles and evangelists but have a heart similar to King Joash where we take what is said and just tap the ground with our arrows. That is if we even go that far, at least King Joash went to the prophet, which is more than many of us do.
Getting Involved In What God Is Revealing To You
Jesus has an expectation for us to follow His words and put them to work in our lives and world, Jesus wants us to get involved in what God is doing and that happens through the unity of belief and action in our lives. Jesus makes it clear that those who follow them will be able to be recognized not my the amount of scriptures they have memorized or how good their church attendance record is but by their faithfulness to both believe His words and to act on them.
John 15:12-14 “12 This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.” (NKJV, emphasis mine)
Our actions confirm our beliefs, what we say and do is rooted in our heart and in what we really believe about God, ourselves and the world at large. If we claim to love, honor and serve Jesus then our lives must testify about that. A bird does not have to show off its feathers to prove it can fly it simply leaps from the tree and soars in the air. This should be how we live we don’t have to boast about our relationship with God or the wealth of knowledge and wisdom in our hearts, rather we simply walk as Jesus walked and the world will watch us soar. Yet those of us who have failed to combine their beliefs with actions are no different than a chicken or ostrich, those who have wings to fly but are forever trapped on the earth.
The Apostle Jesus loved reminds us of Jesus’s expectation in his epistle.
1 John 2:3-6 “3 Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. 4 He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God [a]is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. 6 He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.” (NKJV, emphasis mine)
John combined proof of our love for God with us following His commandments, how is this different from what James 1:22 and Romans 2:23 say? It is the same truth in action? I can’t actually love Jesus if I don’t follow Him and His words. I can follow Him, I can admire Him but I can’t love Him if I don’t follow His words. Following His words entails honor, respect, trust and seeing Him as being worth listening to. It is not just a blind love based on obedience, no it is a love which is exemplified in our actions, we do as He says because of our relationship with Him, because of our faith in Him and out of our gratitude of what He has lovingly done for us.
John again in The Revelation of Jesus Christ records a life altering statement which should force all fo us to re-evaluate our own lives, motivations, and relationship with God.
Revelation 22:14 “14 Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.” (NKJV, emphasis mine)
Now ask yourself “what will I do with this blog,” what will I pray about (personal and intercession), what will I change, what action (action, intervention, support, evangelism, ministry, service, fellowship, talking) will I take? Honestly ask yourself “what will I do with this handful of arrows?” Then challenge yourself to ask that question again every week for the next month, bookmark this post if you need to, just don’t allow what you see here to become another unused brick in your life.
The Key Ingredient Forgotten By Many Christians Cameron Conway is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.