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Action Briefing

James 1:22
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. (NIVUK)

Information is cheap today. The Internet is loaded with so much that we cannot even start to digest. There is no shortage of experts or advisors: plenty of people claim to know and teach the truth. So we are trained to be sceptical. We do not believe everything that we hear or read. We certainly do not do everything we are told. It all goes through a selective filter in our minds that basically allows us to know more about what we like, while rejecting what we don't like ... and only taking action if it will benefit us or those we want to please. But we still think that we are cleverer if we know more things, even though we may not take any action about any of them.

Listening to what God says starts by accepting that He is a person who has the right to say what is true, and that He only says the truth. Like any other conversation, we listen if we want to listen, because we have a relationship with Him and want to please Him (Hebrews 11:6). Listening with the intention of keeping and growing a relationship is also an act of submission – being willing to understand and accept somebody else's thoughts. Often we do not listen properly because we have no intention of accepting what is being said (Psalm 81:11).

James says that if we do that with God's Word, the Bible, we are deceiving ourselves. It is one thing to be fooled by a skilled trickster or mesmerised by an illusionist; but to fool ourselves is really stupid (Ephesians 5:15-17). This is how it happens: when we hear the Bible read (or we read it for ourselves) we make a decision whether or not we are going to accept it as a message from God to us. If we decide that this is God speaking to us, then we realise that we must do what He says. But if we treat God's Word like any other information, we will believe that we are entitled to choose if we want to take action. James says that is just fooling yourself. The Bible does not offer suggestions but commands; they must be accepted and done. God has spoken so that we will be blessed by doing what is right.

Work colleagues may accuse us of being hypocrites. The word 'hypocrite' comes from the Greek for 'actor'. Sadly, some Christians do put on an act at church or with Christian friends. But true character comes through when under pressure. If our faith is an act, the troubles will cause us to fall apart; but if we are reading God's Word because we want to please Him by doing what He says, the pressure will show the reality of our faith (James 1:2-4). That will be the true witness that will glorify Christ and make the gospel attractive to others. So choose to be humble so that you can accept that God is right, and that He will help you to do what He has said. The alternative is self-deception that will disappoint everybody, especially the Lord Jesus.

Dear Lord. Thank You for this instruction to do what You say and not deceive myself that I am a godly person when I fail to be obedient to You. Please forgive me when I have acted the part of being a believer, without believing that it is my responsibility to do what You say. Help me to change my attitude to Your Word and learn to consistently obey what You command. For Jesus Christ's sake. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams