Friday, May 18, 2018

Living the Word God Gives

This a journal entry from my quiet time of over a week ago. To see how I approach my quiet time with God, see here.

Look: “Apply your heart to instruction and your ears to words of knowledge.” (Proverbs 23:12)

This verse makes me think of the time I spend each day doing nothing: watching ball games in which I have little interest, loading up on the latest news from Washington D.C., perusing Facebook or Twitter, entertaining myself with trivialities.

Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with ball games, the news, or connecting with ideas and friends on social media. The question is how much of that sort of input can finally erode or eliminate my capacity for being a faithful disciple of Jesus?

What is the tipping point at which these trivial pursuits take over my life, making me just what the devil wants Jesus’ disciples to be: ineffectual, distant from God, spending far too little time in God’s Word or in prayer or in study and reflection rooted in God’s Word, spending far too little time living out my relationship with Christ or sharing Him with others?

I find it easy to become more consumed with the world than I am with the Word.

When I stop applying God’s instruction to my life, I’m a sap, a pushover, for the temptations to sin presented by the devil, the world, and my sinful self.

Listen: Spending time in God’s Word and God’s mission with God’s people and on my own as a redeemed saint/sinner is essential.

But I’m to be more than a reader of God’s Word; by the power of the Holy Spirit, I am called to apply God’s Word to my life.

I am to act and live in the freedom of grace given by God to all with faith in Jesus Christ.

People trained to be neurosurgeons, bricklayers, or lawyers are expected to apply what they learn.

Each is meant to enter into practice, an interesting term implying that while those trained never stop learning, they daily practice applying what they’ve learned. They perform surgeries. They lay bricks. They try cases or provide legal counsel.

Disciples are students, which is what the term New Testament Greek word translated as disciple, mathetes, means. Even as we keep learning to be more like Jesus, whatever our daily callings may be, we’re to daily apply the things we’ve learned to how we live as followers of Jesus.

Disciples are also teachers. I am called to both be and to make disciples (Matthew 28:16-20).

In fact, to be a disciple includes these two elements side-by-side: Being, making. I apply God’s Word to my life; I share that Word with others. I let the Word, Christ Himself, do its work on me; I share it so that He may do His same life-giving work on others.

And God’s Word, definitively shared in the Bible, but always new as I attend to it, not only teaches me old lessons, it keeps teaching me new ones. I then share or teach others these lessons from God, the truth of God centered in Jesus’ death and resurrection, the old and the new lessons. Jesus says in Matthew 13:52: “...every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old."

If I don’t pay regular heed and give regular, prayerful consideration to God’s Word every day, if I’m not seeking to apply what God is telling me, teaching me, and calling me to every day, I risk losing sight of God, His will for me, His grace for me, His love for me. I risk sinking into a terminally trivial life. In fact, I’m called to a life of significance, a gift of grace that God intends for everyone who comes to faith in Christ. First Peter 2:9 says: “ are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

So, I need to keep attending to and applying God’s Word to my life both to keep from forgetting all about God in my own life and in order to fulfill my mission as a disciple by sharing that Word from others. Through Moses, God told the people of Israel, speaking of His Torah, the way of life: “Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.”

Jesus warned how the pursuits of this world can crowd Him out in His parable of the seeds, representing His Word, that fell on different kinds of soil. Some seed, Jesus explains, “fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants” (Matthew 13:7). Jesus later explains: “The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful.” (Matthew 13:22) In other words, we lose our spiritual fruitfulness when God gets crowded out of our lives.

James talked about how easy it is to lose sight of God when we don’t take the time to daily reconnect with Him in prayer and contemplation of His Word, weekly reconnect through worship, and regularly apply what God is teaching us in our daily lives. “Anyone who listens to the word but does not do [apply or live out] 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.” (James 1:23-24)

Respond: God, today: (1) Give me the opportunity and give me what I need to use the opportunity to share the Gospel with a spiritually disconnected person; (2) Help me to spend time in Your Word and apply it; (3) Help me to engage in the “mutual conversation and consolation”* with sisters and brothers in Christ. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen

*This phrase comes from The Smalcald Articles, one of the basic confessional documents of the Lutheran movement meant to explain Biblical faith. You can find the Articles along with the other confessional statements in Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, available at Amazon.

[I'm the pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio.]

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