Tuesday Re-mix –
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. James 1:22
There is a very simple explanation for why so many people outside the church accuse the church of being full of hypocrites…why people who profess to be Christians often appear to talk one way, but walk an entirely different way. It is because it is absolutely true.
I learned some time ago that knowing the Bible does not make me a better follower of Christ, and in fact, does not really change me at all. I can attend church every Sunday, attend small group every Monday night and discuss in great depth what I believe this scripture means or that scripture means…I can listen to Christian radio all day long and can subscribe to podcasts of my favorite preachers…I can read my Bible every day…I can graduate from Seminary with advanced knowledge in Greek and Hebrew…I can do all these things, but if I am only a knower of God’s Word but do not become a doer of God’s Word, I am the biggest hypocrite of all. And I am not changing for the better.
In The Gathering, which happens to be the class I have the privilege of teaching on Sunday mornings, we talk about each of us having a “next step” to take toward God. No matter where we are in our faith walk, from the strongest athiest to the most mature believer, we each have a next step to take. Scripture teaches us what that next step looks like. The same passage of scripture may show one next step for you and another entirely different next step for me. That is the beauty and the power of God’s Word. But in every case, taking that “next step” is what makes us a doer of the Word and not just a knower of the Word.
So, when I study scripture, I always have three simple questions I ask myself. My friend Dr. Ann Farris taught me these questions (in an entirely different context, but they work perfectly in this context as well). When I am honest about my responses to them and when I really press myself for right answers to them, it always changes me. The questions are simple: What? So what? Now what?
WHAT? What is God saying to me through this passage? Not just what does this passage say, but what do I believe it is saying to me?
SO WHAT? Why does God have this Word for me? What is it about my life that this Word is addressing? Why do I need to hear this?
NOW WHAT? In light of how I have answered the first two questions, then what is my next step? What do I need to do right now in order to begin to bring my life into compliance with this Word?
These questions have revolutionalized my study of scripture. I am no longer content to sit around a table and pontificate about what this scripture is saying to some unknown, third-person. I want to know what it is saying to me about me. And until I can answer that, I’m not finished with this scripture.
The really interesting thing about this process is this: I’ve been studying scripture long enough now to be going through the Bible for my 4th or 5th time as a teacher, and for the umpteenth time for a lot of these scriptures. But every time I do, these questions get answered differently, because the scripture finds me at a different place in my walk. But no matter where it finds me, it still has a next step for me.
And when I take that step, I once again become a doer of God’s Word, and not just a knower. Oh, I’m still definitely a hypocrite in so many ways! But the more of God’s Word I DO, the more of my hypocrisy falls away. And that’s a good thing.