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Appropriating the Truth

CH Spurgeon once said, “The same sun which melts wax hardens clay. And the same Gospel which melts some persons to repentance hardens others in their sins.” This quote reminds me that the Word of God is going to have an impact in my life, whether I fully realize it or not. If I reject it, my heart will grow hardened, cold, indifferent, and callous to God. If I embrace it, my heart will grow soft, tender, and sensitive to my sin. 

Jeremiah 23:29 says, “Is not My Word like fire? declares the LORD, “and like a hammer which shatters a rock?” What does fire do? It takes out everything in its way. What does a hammer do? It crushes to smithereens everything that it hits. If this is so, then why is it that many Christians are not maturing, spiritually-speaking, and becoming more holy? Could it be that the Word is “not” like fire and like a hammer, which effectually does its work in our hearts?

I believe James 1:19-25 gives us the clear answer. Having reminded these Christians of the beautiful truth that it is through the Word that they have been given life (1:18), James then speaks about the ongoing work of the Word in their hearts (1:19-25). In doing so, he outlines some important principles for them (and us) to implement if they are to be “doers” of the Word.

First, with regard to the Word, we are to be “teachable” (1:19). Rather than being quickly opinionated, combative, or angered, we are to be “quick to hear” the Truth. This requires humble teachability. None of us is where we need to be. This is the whole point of sanctification. It is the “process” of becoming more like Jesus. Why is this needed? Because we are “not” perfected. We all have issues to work on. Thus, we must be teachable to what God has to say to us by means of His Word. We should never come to the point where we are obstinate, stiff-necked, people, not willing to listen to God or His people, speaking the Truth to us.

Second, we need to get rid of sin. “Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness…” (1:20). When was the last time you were hungry for healthy food after eating a bunch of junk food that was not good for you? I have done this on a number of occasions, and my appetite was non-existent. This is the way it is in the Christian life. If we want to have an appetite for spiritual “food,” the Word of God, then we must get rid of our sin. Confession and repentance precede hunger for the Word (1 Peter 2:1-3). This goes for public sins, and more so, secret sins that no one knows about, except God, who knows all things.

Third, with regard to the Word, practice deliberate application. “In humility receive the Word implanted, which is able to save your souls. But prove yourselves doers of the Word, and not merely hearers who are self-deceived…” (1:21-22). Note, the humble Christian “receives” the Word, which means “to embrace, welcome, appropriate” to one’s life. It is somewhat synonymous with what he says later to “prove yourselves doers of the Word.” It is not enough to “hear” the Word. In Mark 4, the Lord Jesus exhorted the multitudes to “hear,” but that was a hearing with the intent to obey what He was saying! Again, this requires humility, but it also requires “intentionality” in applying the Word.

So along these lines of being “doers” of the word, what kinds of questions should we ask ourselves if we are to apply the Word “deliberately?” As you meditate upon the Word, ask yourself questions such as:

  1. Is God revealing something about Himself that is “inconsistent” with Whom I have understood Him to be? If so, then we must confess this to Him, and proceed to worship Him as He is, not as we have “created” Him to be.
  2. Is there a sin, in thought or action that I must confess, not in conformity with His holy character?
  3. Is there sinful and harmful conduct that I must “put off” and conduct that I must “put on”?
  4. Are there ways that I am thinking about others that is sinful, or ways that I have treated others that is dishonoring to God?
  5. Is there something I am “failing” to do in obedience to God’s Word? God not only holds us responsible for sins of “commission,” but also sins of “omission” (i.e., things we “fail” to do in obedience to His Word, such as loving and serving others intentionally).
  6. Finally (for non-Christians), have I committed my life to Christ? Many people sit under the Word of God for years, hear the Gospel, and are “hearers” of the Word but not “doers,” who bow the knee to King Jesus.

In conclusion, the problem is “not” that the Word of God is ineffectual. The problem is that Christians don’t appropriate God’s Word to their lives. We all continually fall short, and will fail into the future. However, remember that God holds us accountable for how we respond to His truth. To help us be “doers” of the Word, He has given us His precious Holy Spirit, His life-giving Truth (His Word), and the church (other believers) to help us and stimulate us to love and good deeds. Take advantage of God’s “graces,” so that you become a “doer” of the Word, and not merely a “hearer, who is self-deceived.”