After a recent Family Ministry class, several folks were talking in the church foyer about recent sermons or lessons and the effect on their lives. I made the comment that I really enjoy when a sermon seems to be directed at me, when I hear it and say, “ouch … I did that.” There are so many times that has happened, and as I considered each of them, I recognized that those messages were times when God was pruning the unwanted branches in my life, and how valuable it is to be receptive to God’s word.
I can’t say that I have always listened to the sermon or read the scripture with an eye only on myself. There have been many times when I thought of others and prayed that they were truly listening. I’ve also been guilty of reading for the sole purpose of judging the actions of another. As I’ve grown in my faith, I’ve come to realize that the scriptures were written so we can learn how God wants us to live our own lives, and then go about making choices that are in line with His Will for us.
The more I read and learn God’s word, the more I try to turn that moment when others come to mind back onto myself and ask myself if I am perfect in this area, or if I would be better served to examine myself. What behavior am I projecting away from myself that I need to examine? I think sometimes we need to ask ourselves if we holding others to a perfection that we ourselves do not possess.
Don’t get me wrong, the scriptures can be a tool for helping others when we are called to do so, but if we are using them with the sole intent to scrutinize and accuse others of their failures, we are missing the conversation God is trying to have with us!
Over the years the Bible has become my looking glass – a full size mirror that I stand in front of to examine myself. How does God see my actions? Where have I failed in my obedience to God’s commands? What are my weaknesses? What is God trying to teach me? How do I need to change?
James tells us the importance of listening to what God is telling us, but that its even more important that we follow through and DO what He is telling us. Consider your time studying scripture and listening to your pastor’s sermons – has there been an effect on your behavior and attitude? If not, ask yourself why. Could it be that you are listening, but not really examining yourself and hearing God’s instruction?
Believe me when I tell you, I fail to put God’s instruction into action too. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to take a step back and apologize for saying or doing something that I knew I shouldn’t. It takes a lot of work to do what the Bible tells us. It goes against our sinful nature to live a holy life, and we will struggle every day to do what is right. But we must do it – our eternal lives depend on it!
“Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it — not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it — they will be blessed in what they do.” James 1:23-25
Heavenly Father, thank you for your Word. Thank you for the lessons you teach us. Thank you for softening our hearts and opening our eyes and ears to the Truth. Please teach us to look into the mirror of scripture and see how we can apply it to ourselves that we may grow in our faith and be blessed in it. I ask that Your Will be done in my life, the lives of those I love, and the lives of those reading this blog. In Jesus’s holy name, Amen.