Hearers and Doers: Valuing Proper Practice
I used to be of the opinion that if I could just renew my mind in God’s Word then I’d be well on my way towards living a sanctified life. I believed that head knowledge was half the battle and that right thoughts would surely mend wrong actions and motives.
In my circles, “Think Bible” was emphasized, and it’s important. But right thoughts are just the start.
There’s a plain, old, unromantic concept that seems to be up for grabs in our culture and that’s the idea of right practice.
Christian living (aka: doing right) may be out of fashion, but it is just as important as mental ascent to the right doctrine and is essential whether you feel like doing it or not.
So while much of the blogosphere emphasizes correct doctrine, I’ve noticed a failure to connect doctrine to local living. Yet, doctrine is not to be learned in a vacuum. Doctrine informs our living and demands our obedience.
Grace is the great enabler that propels us on to obedience, not a loosey-goosey spineless do-whatever-you-want stance. God would never push you to live more like the world but enables you to live counter-culturally and kingdom mindedly as we love others as He loved us. We can’t hold heaven in one hand and hell in another. Neither can Kingdom citizens live like God doesn’t care about holiness.
Psalm 37:3 Trust in the LORD and do good; Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.
We have churches full of people who know all the right things. We live in a time of unparalleled access to lexicons of Biblical information but we need to ask whether the church’s practice is better off for it.
Has all of this knowledge fallen on deaf ears or hard hearts?
Knowledge that doesn’t inform our desires, can never reform our lives.
I’m sure you’ve heard someone say that they feel like a total hypocrite if they do XYZ and they didn’t feel like doing it.
“I don’t feel like going to church, so I don’t want to be hypocrite. I have to be true to myself.”– as though actions must always be proceeded by correct feelings.
Sometimes you have to put your big girl pants on and do the right thing.
Any good mother will tell you this.
I rarely feel like getting up in the middle of the night with a cranky toddler, but I do it every.single. time. Changing sheets at 2 am has never been/never will be on my bucket list. But my mother-love and desire for my kids to be cared for and the knowledge that love is sacrifice informs my actions to get up and change sheets and give hugs and reassurance whether I feel it or not. My actions may feel hypocritical in the feelings department, but they are right and good just the same.
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. I Corinthians 10:31
For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. I Corinthians 6:20
Anyone who has been married for more than five years can tell you that the practice of kindness– whether you feel “in love” or not– is the great glue that keeps the home happy, and is the right course of action despite hormones, circumstances, or disappointments. It doesn’t mean you don’t acknowledge disappointment, but it means that it doesn’t become an excuse to go postal on your husband.
At the end of the day, I realize that my desires at the moment have to be re-evaluated and put into their proper place behind right practice. It looks a lot like consistency–boring old self-control–informed by the mind but practiced in the local sense in your home and sphere.
Correct practice has taken a hit in Christian circles because we don’t want to be like the stereotypical church person, the one who knows all the right things but uses that knowledge as bludgeoning tools to look down on others or be the self-appointed church police pointing out everyone’s faults, when their own life is not so hot either. (Have you noticed that these types usually have “glaring faults” and you’re like, really!? You have time to point out other’s faults, but haven’t spent much time worrying about your own? But I digress. lol) We don’t want to be that person. We’ve over-emphasized the heart and put walls up around judging outward actions.
But I need to judge my own actions and ask, Am I loving God with all my heart, soul, mind, strength? Am I living according to His Word? Loving my neighbor as myself?
When I self-reflect, I can see that I need right practice more than I need more knowledge, and I think many, many woman are with me in this. We know quite a bit. We want to live it out, but we get stuck in the moment to moment choices.
How can we take practical steps to embrace correct practice and good old self-discipline, and embrace God’s wisdom for living, that, as it pans out, looks an awful lot like consistent Christianity?
Well, start with what you want and desire?
Most likely, if you are born again, your desire is to live a life that loves God and glorifies Him in a real way, vs a life that seeks self glorification.
Proverbs tells us that following after Wisdom is better than anything else you might desire. (Prov. 8:11)
And when we have that wisdom in hand and heart, we are to be “doers” of the word and not hearers only.
“What God commands, He provides the power to accomplish.” David Powlison
And a quick read-through of the book of James shows us how our desires drive our choices and our everyday walk.
So, If you can’t figure out why you can’t stop hating someone even though you know all the scripture about hate being like murder, and the command to love, etc… and you realize it’s not for lack of knowledge but for lack of desire that you will not obey (desire drives actions), you have to pray for new desires, and good news!!!—-> The Holy Spirit will help with this transformation, because that’s His job, and His desire for your life before you even recognized the need.
(God wants you to do right. He’s on your side in the obedience arena. You just have to make the choice to walk in truth!)
Then we trust and OBEY.
“Lord, you want me to love that person. I want to love you by obeying you. Help me to love that person as you would.”
So, how do you identify your true desires underneath the head knowledge? Just look for the areas of conflict or tension in your life. It’s really that simple.
Ask yourself, What do I love so much that
I’m willing to sin to get it
I’m willing to war with another person to get it
I’m willing to withhold love/punish to get it
I’m willing to neglect the Lord over it
I go to it for comfort.
I’m willing to isolate myself and ignore sound advice to get it. (Pr. 18:1)
These questions help me to expose any unholy desires that smack in the face of God’s Word.
Look for the sin. But then look to Christ and ask the Holy Spirit for enablement and correction.
“Lord, why am I falling in this area?”
“Why am I so prone to this sin?”
“What lie am I believing about the source of my identify and happiness?”
Then take practical steps that may seem foreign to you and may make you feel like a hypocrite but that you know are exactly what the Lord wants you to do.
Be kind to that woman who has always tried to undermine you.
Don’t return an angry response, but offer a blessing.
Put away the Kettle Chips if you are trying to diet. Stop even buying them.
Be consistent to spend time in God’s Word.
Walk in the Spirit. Desire to love God most and first knowing that His desire for you is your sanctification so you are both on the same page when you want what He wants.
Written by Sarah Beals of Joy-Filled Days. Used with permission.