Into the Word - Into Your Life

James 1:22-25

Illust – Familiarity of Sin
I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve known someone who had a wild animal for a pet. And I’m sure you can imagine the potential dangers that go along with that. Julie was a young woman who had found a baby raccoon in the wild and nursed it to health and raised it as a cute adorable pet. An adult friend of hers who had been a zoo keeper warned her that raccoons go through a glandular change when they become adults and become wild and unpredictable. Julie’s reply was, “It will be different for me. Bandit wouldn’t hurt me, I know he wouldn’t.” Three months later she was undergoing plastic surgery for several facial lacerations when Bandit suddenly attacked her for no reason.
Or the Romero family whose family pet was Sally, a Burmese python. They got her when she was only a foot long, but eight years later, she was 11½ feet and weighed 80 pounds. She suddenly turned on their 15 year old son Derek, and strangled him to death. And they were stunned that their family pet that they had loved and cared for could have done such a thing.

We’re always surprised when a wild animal acts exactly like we know it can act and does exactly what we know it has the potential to do. And we’re always surprised when sin does exactly what we know I can do and the consequences are exactly what the Bible promises they will be.

Illust – Harry’s Sunday School Class

I’ve observed something over the years – Bible knowledge doesn’t always equal godly living. In fact, some of the most brilliant Bible students I’ve known have done some of the most immoral things I’ve seen – Elders and Bible class teachers and Deacons and Christian college professors and yes, even preachers do things they absolutely know they should not do, and yet they do them. And they’re always surprised at the consequences.

Where’s the disconnect? How could you know God’s Word and not live God’s Word?

Paul saw the same thing happening with Christians in his day. In Eph. 4 he described Christians who were living just like the worldly Gentiles - darkened in their understanding, separated from the life of God, ignorance due to the hardening of their hearts, lost all sensitivity, given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.

Look at vs. 20 -- “You, however, did not come to know Christ that way.” Did you hear him – not “know about Christ,” but “know Christ.” You can know lots of information about Christ, and never really know Christ. It’s the difference between reading a biography and having a relationship. Sin isn’t countered by information, but a relationship with Jesus Christ. I can tell you all day long that the wages of sin is death, but until you commit to a relationship with Jesus Christ, you will never be compelled to turn away from it.

Let’s be fair – Satan is a brilliant deceiver, and he can twist us like a pretzel until we think we’re doing God a favor by sinning – he’ll provide the excuses and the rationalization and the alibis – and make it seem like sin is the only logical thing to do. So don’t leave Satan out of the picture – he is “a prowling lion looking for someone to devour.”

But James also lays the blame squarely on our front porch – “…each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” (James 1:14-15).

Nobody is exempt – Paul wrote to Timothy and said, “Flee from evil,” // “Flee the evil desires of youth.” About his own life he wrote, “I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize” (1 Cor. 9:27).

In fact, it is in that context that Paul talks to Timothy about how important the Word is in his life: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. Their teaching will spread like gangrene” (2 Tim. 2:15-17).

I want us to spend a few moments in this passage, because Paul makes a significant contrast here. On the one side is the Word of truth. Correctly handle the word of truth and the result is a life approved by God. The contrast is with someone who indulges in godless chatter – and the result in their life is ungodliness, and even worse, it infects and poisons others.

I want you to hear how Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase, The Message words that last thought: “Stay clear of pious talk that is only talk. Words are not mere words, you know. If they’re not backed by a godly life, they accumulate as poison in the soul.”

Peterson makes a powerful observation – godless chatter isn’t talk about ungodly things, it’s talk about religious things that is ONLY talk – if it’s not backed up by a godly life. If all it is is talk, you’re wasting your breath and insulting God – if you don’t intend to live it.

Correctly handling the word of truth isn’t just about getting the facts straight and your doctrine sound. In fact, I did a study a while back in which I looked at the occurrences of the phrase “sound doctrine” in the NT. “Sound doctrine” is never used to describe the content of what you believe, but the character of how you live. It’s not just right teaching – it’s right living. Let me give you a couple of examples:

1 Timothy 1:10 “We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers--and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.”

Did you hear the things that were contrary to “sound doctrine”? It wasn’t that you got the wrong answers on questions of doctrine like once saved always saved or pre-millennialism, but that in spite of what you believe you murder, commit adultery, lie and steal – that in spite of how many Bibles you own your life is unaffected by what you know.

Titus 2:1-3 “You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine. Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance. Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good.”

Did you hear what Paul described as “sound doctrine”?: worthy of respect, self-controlled, faithful, loving, enduring, reverent. Sound doctrine isn’t a checklist of correct teaching on divorce and remarriage or instrumental music, it is in what you do with what you know.

Please don’t misunderstand. I believe that what you believe is very important. I am not saying that it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you’re a good person. Correct doctrine is important – it does matter what you believe about biblical subjects. But I’ve known a man who would teach brilliant Bible classes and go home and molest his daughters. I had a friend who taught a great (and correct) class on divorce and remarriage and two weeks later walked out on his wife and family to shack up with a woman he worked with.

When Paul told Timothy and Titus to teach “sound doctrine” he was telling them to teach people how to live godly lives. The power of the Word isn’t just in changed minds, it is in changed lives. I don’t care if you do show up for church every Sunday and take notes on every sermon I preach. If your life doesn’t show that the Word is making a difference in your life, you haven’t learned a thing.

That sounds a lot like what James had to say about the power of the Word of God: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:22-25).

It’s not just that you get into the Word – it’s that the Word gets into you.

We do a lot of “deceiving ourselves.” We listen but don’t do. And in a lot of ways we’ve set ourselves up for failure. We come to worship and during the worship assembly you hear a 20 minute sermon. Then it’s followed by 20 minutes of visiting with your friends in the foyer, then you head to the restaurant. You get home and you either take a nap or mow the lawn or watch a ballgame on TV. By 4:00 this afternoon you’ve forgotten what I preached about this morning – by tomorrow morning, I’ve forgotten!

And I realize that this sermon isn’t your only source of Bible learning…( it isn’t is it?) Let’s assume that you also participate in Bible class on Sunday morning, you’re here on Wednesday night for a Bible class, and you spend some personal time every day reading and studying the Bible. In fact some of the ladies add a Wednesday morning Bible class. And I know that describes a lot of you. You spend a lot of time with an open Bible.

But most of it is with somebody standing in front of you telling you what it means. And that’s okay as far as it goes. Most of us preachers think that’s a good thing that people want to learn what the Bible means.

I’ve got to stop and ask you to be honest with yourself – how much time do you really spend reading God’s word in any shape or fashion? Some of you haven’t opened your Bible in so long you wouldn’t even know where it is. Let me beg you to do one thing: if there is one thing you do every day besides brush your teeth it needs to be a few moments reading the Bible – to remind you of whose voice you’re going to listen to every day.

But have you ever wanted to stand up in the middle of the sermon and say, “Now stop there just a minute. I hear what that says, but how am I supposed to apply that? Let’s stop and talk about it. Help me get a handle on it.” We don’t get a lot of interactive application time. We know lots of facts about the Bible, we’re just not sure what they mean in my life. And the best preaching in the world doesn’t substitute for sitting down with a small group of people with open Bibles and talking about how to live out what we’re learning.

That’s one of the things I’m excited about with our Life Groups. Life Groups are the ideal setting to take the Bible from “what does it mean?” to “how do we live it?”

Remember our four-legged table – Relationship building, Bible study, Evangelism and Service. This is the second leg. But this isn’t just another Bible class to gain more Bible information. It is a time to apply the Word to our lives. Part of the effectiveness of our Life Groups will be in their focus on the Word.

Let’s go back to Timothy for a moment. Paul keeps taking Timothy back to the Word, not just as a foundation for his own life, but as the prescription for the troubles the church is facing. Listen to 2 Tim. 3:14-17 “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

The Word is the power of God to change lives – “teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” It’s the power of God to change you and me – it’s the power of God to change the church.

That’s application – that’s getting the Word off the page and into our lives. And that is what our Life Groups are all about.