Following the Instructions

Have you ever suddenly noticed that God is telling you something, and no matter where you turn, you can’t avoid the message? You could open the Bible to any passage, turn on the radio, have a conversation with a friend, read a book—and they’re all on the same theme.

In the past, this happened when I was doing something contrary to God’s will. In other words, I was sinning. I could try to shut out my conscience, but God was truly the Hound of Heaven, pursuing me relentlessly until I finally gave up and repented. Every sermon, every devotional, even totally secular activities such as reading a news magazine or watching TV were a reminder that God wanted not just my obedience, but me.

More recently, these “coincidences” have nothing to do with sin or obedience. It’s more that God has something on His mind and wants to share it with me. Perhaps it’s my next Big Lesson. Sometimes it’s not just me, but the entire church (as when “intimacy with God” became a hot topic). More and more often, it’s something he wants me to put into practice, then write about.

Lately, everyplace I turn I hear a message about words (or head knowledge) and works. For example, this morning I started reading Colossians. And there it was in the first chapter, verse 10:

“… so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God… .”

Bearing fruit, growing in knowledge—both are important. Yesterday I finished reading Philippians. God says the same thing in 4:9—

“Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice.”

I’m (still) reading a new book, Unfinished. Author Richard Stearns makes the same point. Referring to Scot McKnight’s contrast between “deciders” and “disciples,” he writes,

“Deciders just believe the right things; disciples seek to do the right things.”

He goes on to quote two passages, Luke 2:46 and Matthew 7:21

“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?”

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

Putting head knowledge into action seems to be a topic on God heart. We here in the West excel at learning. We have excellent sermons, Bible studies, books, articles, broadcasts—it seems that any and every medium is used to spread the knowledge of Christ. But are we putting into practice what we’re learning?

While I was reading and praying this morning, God asked me, “What is the most recent time you put my words into practice? And what will you do today? How will you be different from an unbeliever?”

That really hit home. It’s not that I never act on what I learn, it’s that I’m not intentional about it. I pointed out that we wouldn’t be living in this house here in Colorado if we hadn’t obeyed His instructions, but that was really a cop out. We made that decision over 20 years ago!

More recently, I followed God to Swaziland, but again, I signed up for the trip last January. Sure, my commitment required me to follow through, but it isn’t recent.

I find it much easier to obey God for the big stuff. Who should we marry, where should we live, what should we do for a living, even where should we go to church… those are all one-time decisions that we live with for years.

It’s the little, everyday decisions, the ones we hardly think about, that pose the challenge. How do I treat the friend who wants to talk when I’m running late on my errands? How do I react to the person who cut me off on the highway? Even seemingly small decisions—what to eat, what to wear—should come under the lordship of Christ.

I have learned that the only way I can put God’s word into practice is with the help of the Holy Spirit. I need His power, working through me. I just can’t do it on my own. Now when God reminds me to be a doer of the Word, and not only a hearer, I respond, “All right, God, but You have to change me.”

When I pray things like that, I find He offers me plenty of opportunity to put each lesson into practice. It’s like my biology classes in college—you sign up for both the lecture and the lab. Asking God to change me is a dangerous prayer, and the answer is often painful, but it’s the only way I’ll ever become more like Him.

“[Jesus] replied, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.’” (Luke 11:28)

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” (James 1:22)

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