In eight days I preach on James 1:22-25. For a while I have been preoccupied with the concern that “read what God says, do it, and God will bless you” could come across as legalistic. I have pulled away from that now as though its good to have in the back of my mind, it is not producing fruit in terms of what I should speak about. I have therefore gone back to thinking afresh about the main ideas of the passage and how they apply to us.
These things occur to me are:
1) We have no shortage of the word of God, we have lots of bibles, TV radio, internet preaches etc
2) The quality of teaching in our context is generally good.
3) But are we doing what we hear?
4) And if not why not?
5) And what can we do about it?
More and more I am intrigued by the question of why I do not always put into practice what I find in God’s word. Why do I, to all intents and purposes, “forget it” when it comes to living it out. Bingo! The content and structure of the preach just fall out of the answers to this question. Lets see how many answers I can think of to the question of why I/we do not always do what I/we read in God’s word?:
1) We do not see its relevance to our lives. We think that it is good in its own right. Like looking at a painting. The point is to admire it but not to do anything about it. We go away and get on with life. So this answer sees the bible as a kind of art gallery.
2) The second reason that occurs to me (or will occur to me any minute…it hasn’t yet and I am hoping it will come as I type this) is that … I just don’t believe it. I do not think it is true. This reason sees God as a kind of used car salesman. Untrustworthy. (Apologies to all the honest, used car salesman’s out there, but I need to borrow the rather unkind caricature of your trade for a moment.) God says stuff but we just don’t believe it.
3) There is a third and, it’s this (yes I do have something in mind this time) we think it is too hard for us to take God’s word on board into our lives. This view sees God’s word as asking the impossible. for us. We just can’t implement it in our lives. Either we are too scared to walk in what we find in God’s word, or just can’t see how we can do it. Or perhaps we have tried it and it has not seemed to “work” for us. (I need to read Ravi Zacharius “has Christianity failed you” book to follow up on this a bit more).
4) I bet there is a forth. Think, think. Why do I not always do what I read or hear. Well, maybe I’m just not sure I have understood it correctly. It may well be God’s word but how do I know I have heard him correctly. On the one hand God’s word is simple, yet if so why are there so many differences of opinion on the matter (this passage is no exception), and why does it take me days to work out what a passage says before I preach it? Is God’s word that incomprehensible? Here I think I will need to spend some time looking at the “clarity of scripture”. I think that is what the doctrine is called.
Addressing these things from a biblical perspective, basically turned out to be the main content of my preach. At this point I can relax because I have something but the hard work of shaping, illustrating, and filling out content begins.