Today I had Chinese takeout for lunch. The end of the meal always consists of eating the fortune cookie. It said something like don’t just think about it, act on it. Though I am not into fortune cookies, despite finding them tasty for being crispy bits filled with air, the words on the little slip of paper are a great reminder to us all.
See we can all think about living for Christ. We can all think about being a shining light. We can all think about what is good and pure and holy. We can think about how it is good to help the needy. We can think about how it is important to love others. But where does thinking get us? What happens if we all just sit and think and no one does a thing?
Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Today I pray that thinking isn’t the only thing you are doing. Actions speak louder than words. James said to be doers of the word. It’s important to ponder things. It’s important to not rush into things. But if we do nothing else but think, if we never be the hands and feet of Christ, then we miss so many great opportunities. Take advantage of each opportunity. God put these people in your path for a reason.
“But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.” – James 1:22 [NIV]
I often will call for my children. At times it is because it is time for dinner. At times it is because we are going to be leaving soon. At times it is because they have some chores to do or I have a question to ask them. Sometimes they get irritated because they have to come to listen to what I have to say because I won’t yell anything other than their names. If I would yell something else, they wouldn’t hear much anyway.
Today’s verse says that we are to come and to listen. If we come with ears open wide and listen, Isaiah writes that we will “find life.” The first part, the coming, is difficult. It requires us to have ears wide open. That means we come with the intention of listening to hear what is being said. We come ready to listen. We come open to listen.
God is ready to speak with each of us. He has a beautiful plan for each of our lives. He has so many things to tell us. First, we must come and listen. He’s already done the work. He already has the message prepared. We must act. We must come with an open heart and open ears. He promises that when you do you will find life. Life with him is so much better.
“Come to me with your ears wide open. Listen, and you will find life. I will make an everlasting covenant with you. I will give you all the unfailing love I promised to David.” – Isaiah 55:3 [NLT]
“They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people understood what was being read.” – Nehemiah 8:8 [NIV]
I love this scene. They were gathered together reading God’s Word, and there were actually people there trying to make sure that the people understood what was being read to them. Some people cannot read. Some people cannot understand what they read. They may pronounce the words properly. They may be able to read everything on the page, but they might not understand what they just read. The comprehension is important. The NLT says “clearly explained the meaning” and “helping the people understand each passage.” Each passage. I just love this.
It is important for us to understand what we read, whether it is a letter from our insurance provider, our bank statements, an article in the newspaper, a work memo… and it is crucial that we understand what the Bible says. We can read it every day, but we need to be able to understand it to actually apply it.
If you notice in Nehemiah 8, first they read the Law, then they interpret the Law, and then they apply the Law. This is what Bible reading is all about. This is exactly how we are to read our Bibles. First we read His word, then we see what God has to say to us in the context of the passage, and then we then apply it to our lives—we do what He says. Read – Understand – Apply! That’s why it is important that we understand. If you don’t understand, don’t hide and pretend; seek out some godly assistance, purchase a reputable Bible commentary, and pray about it. Read – Understand – Apply!
I remember when I was a little girl and I would see someone put on an act. Everyone has seen someone put on an act at some point in life, and I believe that everyone has taken their attempt at trying to be a bit deceptive to the human eye as well. We leave ourselves very vulnerable if we allow our true selves to be seen. Plus some of our wrong decisions and our faults are embarrassing. Yet we are all sinners– we all fall short.
A big issue that has really impacted the feelings nonbelievers have for Christians has resulted from people trying to put on an act. There are some people who accept Christ into their lives and they begin to change, but all the changes are not positive. They take a step forward, believing that they are better than those who have not yet received Christ. For some reason the people fail to remember that they are still sinners saved by grace. At the same time, they have forgotten that the invitation remains there for nonbelievers and that they are to show the love of Christ to EVERYONE as they try to work for God’s purpose.
Recently I was questioned as to whether or not I would keep an old friend in my life who believed I was “religious.” The question arose because the person felt I would be judgmental of sin. The person deemed me “religious” simply because I shared Scripture and Christian music. To me, I feel not only that it is my duty to share God with everyone, but I also hope that in some way it will benefit someone who hears it. I have been shown many times how God works in amazing ways to touch the lives of others, even with something as crazy as Facebook. He can use anything for His glory.
So here I was with a message from an old friend who was putting me in a position to either condemn the person with my own personal judgment or show love. The reason that I was sent the message was simply because too many Christians are out there pointing fingers rather than reaching out. Too many Christians are showing hate, rather than showing love. The issue is that when we show love for a person, we are not choosing to love the sins of the person. There is a big difference. That is what bothers me so much about so many situations. I am disturbed when I see people lashing out at others for their sins. We understand that we are saved from our sins, but we need to also accept that if we look in the mirror, we are all still sinners saved by the grace of God. We are only cleansed because of Christ’s work on the cross, not by anything that we have done. In the end, we are all still sinners.
Therefore before we decide to put on our act of being better than others, we need to recognize that no one is better. We are all in the same boat. It’s just that some of us are wearing our life preservers already and some have not taken the time to put one on. The preserver is still there. Perhaps we all can grab a few and start handing them out. The Holy Spirit will guide us to do that, but we must change our attitude to one of gratitude and complete devotion to Christ. We need to start showing God’s love to all and let Him do the rest.
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” – Romans 3:23-24 [NIV]