Forgetting What You Look Like

What’s really behind temptation? Where does it all begin? Answering this question correctly, significantly helps your ability to fight against temptation!

Transcript

INTRODUCTION

Morning.  David Sorn.  Lead pastor here at Renovation Church.

You know what’s frustrating?

When you ask someone to do something (your kid…your employee…your friend...you name it), and they don’t do it.

Want to know what’s more frustrating?

When you ask someone to do something for you, they say, yes, then don’t do it!

For example: Say you’re going to move, and you ask two friends to help you move to your new place.

 One friend says, “Sorry.  Can’t.  I’m busy this weekend.”

It’s a little annoying, but you’ll get over.

But your other friend says: “Yeah, totally.  Would love to!  I’ll be there at 8am sharp!”

But then they never show.  

That’s much worse, right?

And as we continue in our series on the Book of James, we’re going to tackle the tough subject of when WE do that to God.

We say, “Totally, God!  I love it!  I’ll do it!  And then we do nothing.”

Let’s dive in:

(Page 977)

(Renovation App) 

As you’re finding it, just as I said last week, James is an “in your face” sort of letter.

He doesn’t, as we like to say in America, beat around the bush.

So, weekly, bring your seat belt to church during this series. 

Prepare for God to challenge you.

(James 1:19-27) – NIV

19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 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.

26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

 

 

THE PROBLEM:  WE LISTEN BUT DON’T OBEY

Here’s what James is saying:

In the beginning and the end of the passage, he’s pointing out all of these inconsistencies we seem to have as Christ followers:

We’re not slow to speak, we don’t listen, we get really angry. 

We don’t seem to really care about orphans, we don’t actually take real care of widows, and our life is mostly full of moral filth.

Happy 4th of July!

Who’s encouraged?!

It get’s worse.

Every week, we seem to come and hear the word of God and say, “That’s great!  I love God!

And during the week, we read the Bible and say, “That’s great!  I love Jesus”  

And somehow, it’s doesn’t seem to translate to our lives like it should.  

Our faith, as our series is titled, often doesn’t seem to be anything more than words.

We read the recipe, but never bake the cake.

This is the theme of this entire letter, that faith, real faith, always results in action.

Faith is something…if real…that your co-workers & your family ought to absolutely see in you.

James, as an example of that, picks two of things that are hardest for us to live out

We could call them issues of purity & charity.

But they are two great demonstrations of faith being ‘more than words’ in your life.

If your faith is real, you’ll take inner purity seriously.

If your faith is real, you’ll take outward charity seriously.

But if it’s not real…you’ll probably just come to church and say some words.

Many of us are somewhere in the middle.

We have glimpses of our real faith in action (maybe at the end of a serious trial, or on a missions trip)…but for most of the “in-between spaces” in our lives, we’re more apt to, as James says, be hearers of the word, and not doers of the word.

This is a weekly, if not daily real-life challenge for most of us.

You hear the Bible preached, and you feel challenged to fix your marriage.

And yet nothing happens.

You’re reading the Bible on your phone at night, and you feel convicted about the manner in which you’ve been talking to others lately

And…you do nothing.

This is the story of our lives, right?

We may write it off as just “being human,” but there’s a level of ridiculousness to it that we aren’t owning up to.

For example: Lindsey and I spend a lot of time talking “about” parenting and how we can do it better.

But if every night I said, “Well, maybe tomorrow we could try some sort of positive reinforcement to get them to change this behavior.  Or perhaps even take something away this time.  Or let’s tomorrow morning begin in prayer for this to change…”

And every night, as I laid my head on the pillow, I thought, “Wow, what a productive discussion tonight!  So full of great ideas!

And then the next day, I do nothing about it…what kind of man am I, really?

And it’s time we start asking hard questions like, “What kind of followers of Jesus are we…really?”

Are we followers?  Disciples?  Or are we still in the crowd?

How is it possible that we could weekly, sometimes daily, feel conviction from the Word of God, and yet do nothing?!

I want to give you 4 reasons why we tend to listen, but not obey…as American Christians in particular.

  

REASON #1:  WE THINK KNOWING IS ALWAYS GROWING

#1:  We think knowing is always growing

There is this magnificent thing that happens when you hear the Bible preached or you read it for yourself…

Our minds delight in having the truth declared.

When you hear truth…and you experience this feeling of, “How did I not see that before?!  This makes sense”

It’s a great experience. 

It’s more than an intellectual experience…there are feelings involved.

It’s a spiritual experience!

And it gives you the illusion that you’re growing.

And I suppose you are…but barely…just barely.

It reminds me of one of my absolute favorite terms that journalists have coined in the last 5 years:  Slacktivism.

Slacktivism is the idea that by “liking” or “retweeting” a social cause on social media, you will bring about change.

Remember when millions of people liked and shared the “Save Darfur” movement on Facebook?

Nothing happened because of it.

They actually did a study on it afterwards.

99%, in fact, 99.8% of people did absolutely nothing about it…except “like it” on Facebook

Or remember when millions upon millions of people watched and liked the KONY 2012 video…the video about guerrilla leader, Joseph Kony in Uganda?

Nothing happened.  

The idea in doing a Facebook campaign was that giving people knowledge about the problem would lead to action…but it didn’t!

A bunch of people FELT something.  Maybe even registered their discontent. 

But nothing happened.

It reminds me of one of my favorite internet memes

(KonyMeme)

And church can be a lot like that.

We come here and register our discontent with the way things are going (in the world or in our lives)…but then do nothing.  

Because information does not automatically lead to transformation.

The Bible is like an amazing map that can you lead to an incredible destination.

But we aren’t going to get anywhere by just reading the map.

We DO need to read the map…but at some point, we need to get in our car and start driving.  

And if you’re going to do that…we need to begin to change how we interact with it.

It’s time to change the game.

I’ve been teaching the Bible on Sundays, basically weekly, for about 12 years now. 

But I can remember, back in college, when I was a regular church attender.  

I had this thing where, I’d always get mad at my friends if they started “debriefing about the church service” before we got in the car.

I wanted to hear everything, and so I made up this rule that no one could talk about the service until we were all in the car and could hear.

And we’d get in, and what would we say?

We would say, what you all probably say every week!

“What did you think?”

“Did you like the worship this week?”

“What did you think of the message?”

“Well, I thought his conclusion was a bit off, but he did have one good point this week.

We all spend our rides home asking, “What did you think?” when we should be asking, “So what are you going to do?”

Better yet, “What will we do?”

In fact, I dare you to start making that a weekly habit.

Get in the car and ask, “What are we going to do about what we heard in God’s word today?”

See, we love to say, “What did you think?” because then we can hideaway in our intellectual discussions.

This is what James is talking about when he says in verse 22:  Don’t be deceived:

(James 1:22) – NIV

22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 

Our culture, unlike some others in the world (or from the past) is obsessive about knowledge.

We have crowned knowledge king, and put a royal robe on it.

But knowledge isn’t the end goal. 

And knowing isn’t always growing. 

Your end goal as a believer is not to fill your head, it’s to put what you learn into practice. 

But many Christians have simply allowed their knowledge of God’s Word to outpace their practice of it.

 SO remember, knowing is not always growing.

 

 

REASON #2:  OUR SINFUL NATURE DECEIVES US INTO FORGETTING

Okay, reason #2 that we tend to listen, but then not obey:

#1:  We think knowing is always growing

#2:  Our sinful nature deceives us into forgetting

There are some similarities here with what we talked about last week:  We, as humans, are naturally sinful.

It’s easier for us to choose sin than it is to choose the right thing. 

And part of the reason we keep reading the Bible and not doing what it says, is because our sinful nature wants us to forget all about what the Bible says.

James uses the illustration of a person looking in the mirror

(James 1:23-24) - NIV

 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 

James says that when you read the Bible (or listen to someone teach the Word), and you nod your head in agreement, and then do nothing about it…

It’s like looking in the mirror, and the mirror reveals to you that you’ve got ketchup all over your face (you oughta do something about that)…but yet, you walk away and forget all about the ketchup!

See, this is what the Bible does for us.

(Hebrews 4:12) – NIV

12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

The Bible is like a mirror, and it will show you your flaws and how God can redeem them.  

It will reveal to you where your image doesn’t look like Christ

And yet, our hearts are so deceitful (Bible says Jeremiah 17), and our nature so sinful, that it spends all of its effort trying to get you to forget what God showed you in the mirror.

And so there are a whole lot of us, that come to church on Sundays, feel the conviction of the Word, think we ought to do something, forget by Monday, do nothing Tuesday-Saturday, and start the cycle over on Sunday.

And that’s our Christian walk…minus the actual walking part!

We listen, but we don’t do.

Because we’re constantly forgetting.

It reminds me of an episode of the great show, Doctor Who.

Science Fiction is great because there are few limits to the type of storyline they can tell and the examples they can make.

In the particular episode I’m thinking of, they are fighting against an alien enemy that not only disappears every time you look away, but makes you forget that you saw them in the first place.

And so the characters in the show start making marks on their arms to remind themselves that, “Yes, it truly happened, and this is how I felt!” 

And for a lot of us, to get out of this rut of just listening, but not obeying, we need to start making marks on our arms when we read the Bible.

That may be taking notes at church..

Or take it a step further.

Don’t just take intellectual notes on the back of your bulletin, but write action steps, for your own life

Or maybe it’s taking notes on your phone

We should be in the habit of getting out not just a notes app, but our calendar app every message. 

Let’s stop writing down ideas and start writing down actions.

“Talk to my dad again…Wednesday”

Don’t just listen to the word, do what it says.  

This is the goal: that we stop forgetting what we look like.

That we say, “Jesus!  Help us not forget that we need you!”

And this is where Christian community plays a big part.

It’s why House Groups are so important to our church.

I am so sinful, and so drawn towards sin, that if I was sitting in your seat, I know that while my spirit would cry “obey,” that my sinful nature would be chanting ‘rebel’ all the way out to my car

And so part of growing in Christ and growing in obedience is selling out your sinful nature and blurting out loud to someone, “Hey!  I just need to change this!  And I need to tell someone so I’ll actually do it!”

Otherwise, your sinful nature will almost always convince you otherwise.

Your sinful nature is so strong, and its ‘trick bag of rationalizations’ so deep, the longer you wait, the lower your chances of actually obeying get every hour after you read the Bible or come to church.

So get in Christian community.

If you’re already in it, develop the spiritual discipline of selling your sinful nature out to your friends.

Get help.

 

 

REASON #3: OUR VIEW OF GOD’S WORD IS TOO LOW

Let me give you the third reason that we tend to listen, but then not obey.

#1:  We think knowing is always growing

#2:  Our sinful nature deceives us into forgetting

#3:  We don’t treat the Bible like it’s actually God’s Word

How you view the Bible is EVERYTHING to this discussion.

If the Bible is just a book of inspirational phrases that are good for cute Instagram posts and little sayings that can improve your life…you’re only going to apply it when you feel like it.

However, if it’s the inspired Word of God…and every word is from Him…than it oughta be the foundation on which you base your entire life upon.

Think of it this way: What if Jesus himself showed up in your living room, and you knew it was Him without a doubt.

And he told you to move to Nebraska by September.

What would you do? 

Would you say…anywhere but there!  Even Wisconsin!

Or would you find a way to move there?

You’d find a way to move there. 

It’s the very Words of God directing you!

The Bible should be no different.

We should trust it just as much!   

You might even be able to say, “Oh, I believe the Bible is God’s Word.  All scripture is God-breathed; it’s the inerrant Word of God.”

And yet, the evidence of our lives speaks completely to the contrary!

When you open up the Word every day, and you treat it like the very words of God for your life today…like HE is speaking to you today, it will change not just how you listen, but how you follow-up.

This is what James is getting at in verse 25:

(James 1:25) – NIV

 25 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.

When you look intently into God’s Word…and you continue to do it…treating it as the Word…you will be blessed.

Which brings us to the 4th reason.

 

REASON #4: WE UNDERESTIMATE THE BLESSING OF OBEDIENCE 

Here’s the 4th reason that we tend to listen, but then not obey.

#1:  We think knowing is always growing

#2:  Our sinful nature deceives us into forgetting

#3:  We don’t treat the Bible like it’s actually God’s Word

#4:  We underestimate the blessing of obedience

This is what James just said in verse 25:

When you obey, you will be blessed.

And what does he say?

Not blessed BECAUSE of what you do, but blessed IN what you do.

What does that mean?

First of all, we need to understand that obedience is always a major catalyst for spiritual growth.

I read this recently from a pastor, and I thought this guy is literally in my head.  It creeped me out.

Here’s what he wrote:

At age 35 I got really into long-distance running. 

Soon after, I was subscribing to and reading three running magazines!

Then I pulled a muscle and couldn't run for a couple of months. 

And guest what?   Those magazines were still all over the house, but I never opened one.

The moment I resumed running, though, I started reading again.

(Which I literally do the exact same thing.  Here’s what he says)

That's when I realized that my reading was an extension of something I was a part of. I was reading for companionship and affirmation of the experience of running. I learned a few things along the way, but mostly it was to deepen my world of running. If I wasn't running, there was nothing to deepen.

The parallel with reading Scripture is striking. If I'm not living in active response to the living God, reading about his creation/salvation/holiness won't hold my interest for long.

You want to get your faith going again?  Start obeying. 

Or think of it this way:

It can be hard to remember what the message from church was about. 

Even by tomorrow morning.

But a big reason for that is because many of us are just coming to hear content.

 But do you know what the best way to start remember messages is?

To actually do something with it.

When you feel God convicting you about something…and you do it…you’ll remember the Word.

Most of the messages that I can remember hearing were the ones I acted upon.

And here’s how the cycle works:

When you obey…and you see God working…it’s a powerful feeling.

And guess what you want more of?

More direction from God!

You’re going, “That was incredible!  What next God?!”

And so you read some more…and then you obey some more.

It’s a blessing just like James says.

But if you don’t obey….

And you just keep getting information that you don’t act on…a few years from now, you’ll consider just giving this thing up.

Because your sinful nature will have convinced you it’s not worthwhile anymore.

Jesus’ epic ending to the sermon on the mount comes to mind:

(Matthew 7:24-27) – NIV

24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

When we put this into practice…and we trust God, and not ourselves…this works.

It’s a blessing as James said. 

Trust me, God knows best.

And you’ve got to make a decision.

Is this real or not?

Is this God’s word or not?

Is this the way to live life, or not?

A decision for apathy…to listen, but not obey is not a real decision.

In fact, it’s irrational.

The atheist is even more rational.

He says:   I don’t believe it, so I won’t follow it.

Wrong.  But rational.

Far too many of us are not rational.

We say, “I believe it, but I’m not following it”

That’s crazy talk.

Either believe it or don’t. 

Is God the source of all beauty and life? 

Is God the source of truth?

Is following God what you were created for?

Does God know what’s best for your life in every situation?

Is following God the wisest choice in every situation?  

 When you can start taking steps towards obedience, which will be a 2 steps forward, 1 step back sort of thing, I’m telling you, it will change your life.

I gotta think that most of us…15 times a week…we listen to God, but then choose not to obey

What if you started to just say, “No more.”

No more irrational living of where I say I believe but never carry it out.

“In God’s strength, as much as I am able…no more.”

When I see it, I want to apply it, and do it.

Not just a hearer of the word, but a doer!

Can you even imagine how different your life would be if you started obeying daily?

I’m telling you, it’s a wild ride.

It’s the hardest thing in the world, but also the best.

And I think we oughta jump start the process right now.

Under your chair right now is a card.  I want you to pick it up.

Here’s what I want you do.

I want you to think through:  What’s one area of your life…where God has been nudging you to obey…but so far you’ve just been listening, but not obeying?

And write down something really practical. 

Something you can actually do.

Don’t just write, “Love more.” 

Write something like, “Tell my co-worker I’m sorry when I see them on Monday”

That’s obedience. 

And I want you to trust the blessing of God that James promises.

I want you to trust that you are building your house on the rock.

And when you’ve written something, I want you to walk it up to the front, and stick it in this bucket anytime during these last two songs

Like it’s an offering to God. 

A first step of trust.

A way to say, “God, this week, I’m going to ‘get out of my listening seat’ and start obeying”

This week, when the Word shows me who I really am in the mirror, and what I need to do to look more like you, I won’t forget.

And I’ll follow through.

Because I trust you and love you.

Let’s pray.


Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN

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