How do you see the Bible? For many years I saw it as a book filled with great stories, lists of names and lots of rules. I would hear my pastor talk about it being God’s love letter to us, and just kind of shake my head in confusion. I just couldn’t see it. I really wanted to grow, so each night I would pull out my Bible when I went to bed. Needless to say, most nights I would wake up a couple hours later with my Bible still open, waiting for me to dive in, only to find myself too tired to try.
It wasn’t until I got into my first Bible study that the Bible really began to come alive for me. Each week as I met with a small group to discuss what we’d been reading and how God was working in our lives, I began to see past the surface and really discover the goodness of God’s words. I dug a little deeper and discovered so much that I’d never seen.
It was incredible! I even began to understand what my pastor meant when he referred to the Bible as God’s love letter to us. It was so much more than a book filled with rule; it was a gift written to help me. There was so much wisdom, truth and practical advice for navigating my life.
Many people see the book of James as a hard book to read. I know I did early on. I avoided it. It seemed to talk so much about works, and I just saw judgement. Now I realize that my thoughts couldn’t be further from the truth. James' desire was to see men and women have genuine faith. The central truth of James is that genuine faith will inevitably produce good deeds. It’s important to note that it doesn’t work both ways…good deeds don’t inevitably produce genuine faith. The good deeds are the product of genuine faith in God.
I love James 1:22-25...
"But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it."
I love this whole thought that reading God’s word and not putting it into practice is like looking in the mirror and forgetting what you look like when you walk away. When we stare intently into God’s Word we begin to see the truth about our lives. Attitudes, thoughts and actions are revealed, and we can clearly see changes we need to make. The key to not just hear the word is opening our hearts as we stare intently into it allowing the truth to sink in. James is saying, “Don’t just hear it…do it…be transformed by it…be a reflection of Christ.”
You’ve probably heard the phrase - “Be in the world and not of it.” God has called us to take the message of Christ to the world. To do that, we must be in the world. If we aren’t careful, we allow the world to rub off on us. In time, instead of growing more like Christ, we begin to grow more like the world. What testimony do we have when we are a reflection of the world instead of being a reflection of our Lord and Savior? James knew that our behavior will either reflect the character of God or it won’t. We will either draw people toward God, or we will push them away. His desire was to see men and women live out of genuine faith in Christ.
How do we live in the world and not let it rub off on us? Romans 12:2 has the answer.
"Do not conform to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God."
How do we renew our minds? We stare intently into the mirror of God’s Word. We do this by being intentional when we read the Bible. I use the ACTS acrostic I learned through Impact when reading the Bible.
I ask God to show me:
- Attitude I need to change
- Command I need to obey
- Truth I need to believe
- Sin I need to confess
Psalm 139:23-24 is my daily prayer.
"Search me, oh God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."
I hope you will make this your daily prayer, as well, and open your heart to the truth of God’s Word. May you dive deeper into His Word and be transformed.