The Fatal Distraction–Section 2
God’s Word is Important, But…
In Section 1 we looked at “Information without Formation Leads to Spiritual Devastation” and how learning God’s Word without that learning translating into a changed heart leads to legalism and self-righteousness. In today’s installment of “The Fatal Distraction” we’ll look into how studying God’s Word must prompt action or it is merely another churchy “check box”.
So many times I have taught studies from God’s Word things that profoundly changed my heart and forced me to take action based on what I had learned. But when the teaching time was over no one remembered from one week to the next what had been taught. The attitude of those who attended was one of “Bible Study”, “Check”! But in studying God’s Word, many times tears of joy follow tears of sorrow as I realized how short I have fallen but how God had provided a way for me to have eternal life in spite of my own sinful nature. God’s Word speaks clearly into my life by the power of His Holy Spirit. Each time I read and study God’s Word, things in my heart change. I truly understand what the prophet Jeremiah felt when he wrote Lamentations 3:22-23 “The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.” So how is it that so many people can hear God’s Word taught clearly, but have no sense of responsibility to allow the Holy Spirit to work in their lives so as to result in action?
Knowledge without Action is like Fireworks with No One to Watch
This answer is simple but startling. In almost all cases the expository method of teaching and preaching focuses on knowledge rather than action. In 1 Corinthians 8:1 it tells us that “…Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies.” But the fact is that action is required when knowledge is acquired!
Action is Required when Knowledge is Acquired
Note in Corinthians 8:1 it talks about two very different results. Knowledge which makes arrogant and love which edifies. One is a state of mind but the other is rooted in action. Action forces one to ponder what they have learned and figure out how God wishes them to apply that knowledge. This is the process by which God’s Holy Spirit can work something from the grey matter between our ears to the that which pumps life through our being. But action implies accountability and accountability implies transparency and transparency implies discipline and discipline implies self-denial. Self-denial, the very thing we are called by Jesus Himself to do (Matthew 16:24 “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.”) is something that we as Americans have created a counter culture against. Self-denial! I am self-reliant, self-sufficient, independent and capable; Right? That is what we have been taught from our earliest life but is absolutely contrary to God’s call in our life and is not what Jesus called us to do in Matthew 16:24. Jesus clearly foretold how He would be killed by the ultra-conservative religious institution of that day and age. He would carry His own cross and be brutally nailed to it and suffer death by asphyxiation which is the most horrible means of torture ever conceived. He did this because He loved and had compassion for those whom God had created but who had grievously fallen into a sinful state. Namely us, and He has called us to take up our cross and follow Him.
It’s God’s Power not Our Strength.
So why the earlier reference to fireworks. Well, I’m glad you asked. Because the fact is that learning God’s Word is important but allowing His Word to be formed in our hearts by the Power of the Holy Spirit is paramount to power and effectiveness in Christ Jesus. When God’s Spirit works His Word into our hearts we are not fearful of the perception by, rejection of or persecution from others because we have power that only God Himself can provide. That power comes from the Holy Spirit. In Acts 1:7 it says “… you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you;…”. The word used for “power” here is from the root word dunamis (doo’-nam-is) from which we get our word dynamite. It is a power that is uncontrollable and contagious but this power is completely under God’s control. Unlike dynamite, that creates overpressure that simple annihilates or completely disrupts everything in it’s proximity, this power is absolutely focused on God’s will without regard for personal concerns and it confronts those in it’s proximity with God’s Word by His power alone. So knowledge without action is like fireworks with no one to watch. Potential energy rather than kinetic energy. An extremely powerful lamp kept under a bushel basket!
Actions Speak Louder than Words
So many churches have expository preaching and teaching that is viewed as beneficial to the believer but few of these churches have any sort of accountability for what has been taught. Amazingly, in institutional education it is expected that students will be accountable for what they have learned through testing. That being the case why would Christians expect to simply learn and not be accountable? God’s Word tells us in James 1:22 “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” So, according to God’s Word, hearing without taking action on what has been heard is self-delusion! Uh! Um! What! Every time a believer reads and studies God’s Word it should prompt action. What has been heard should be learned and learning requires action.
The goal of teaching should be to please God and do His will, striving in every way to please Him. So what is His will for Christians? We can start with Matthew 28:19-20 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
So many times evangelical Christians have been taught that it is the preachers responsibility to evangelize and that it is the responsibility of the believer to invite people to church. What a glowing deception from the devil. I have shared this before but inviting someone to church is not sharing the gospel and certainly not fulfilling the “Great Commission”. Inviting someone to church is the grandest cop-out in the history of the church. Why is this the case?
Church is not a Building
First and foremost, the church is not a building or a meeting or any other institutional undertaking or even a gathering where you invite folks to come hear the gospel. The church is us, we believers in whom God has placed His Holy Spirit. Never is the church spoken of as a place in the Bible which, with regard to the church, always references the people of the Way, Christians, us!
The Gospel is not an Invitation
Secondly, the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ is not an invitation but a proclamation and a spiritual confrontation! Those who are perishing must be confronted with the fact that their relationship with God is broken and they are eternally separated from God because of sin, but that Jesus died for their sins and offers them the opportunity to transfer their trust from their sinful, selfish will to Jesus who is the eternal author and finisher of faith.
What if they don’t come to Church?
Finally, what if the person we invite never comes to “church” and never hears the gospel, subsequently perishing in their sin? None of us would ever intentionally do something that would bring physical harm or death to anyone else. But every time we resist the urge to share the gospel and revert in stead to inviting someone to church we have put that person in peril of never hearing the gospel and never having the opportunity to accept or reject the free gift of salvation from God. When we do this we have placed that person in peril of eternal death and, more importantly, we have done it intentionally.
In the next section we will delve into “The Fatal Distraction”.
The Scripture of the Day
19Remember my affliction and my wandering, the wormwood and bitterness.
20Surely my soul remembers
And is bowed down within me.
21This I recall to my mind,
Therefore I have hope.
22The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail.
23They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
24“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I have hope in Him.”
25The Lord is good to those who wait for Him,
To the person who seeks Him.
26It is good that he waits silently
For the salvation of the Lord.
The Prayer of the day
Heavenly Father, make Your Word come to life in my heart. Cause me to meditate on Your Word with newness that changes my heart as I seek You. Let the meditations of my heart be pleasing to You and let my actions glorify only You. Give me the opportunity and courage to stand up for You and share the light of Your Gospel with those around me.