In our previous three posts, we’ve looked at how James1:19-27 calls us to be hearers of the Word, receivers of the Word, and doers of the Word. Now our objective is to explore one possible method for doing the Word.
If you’ve become convicted of a particular sin, that sin has most likely become a strong habit. So, following the biblical model for change (Eph 4:22-24), you have to put off the sin and put on something in its place. Kill the sinful habit and replace it with a godly one. As an example, let’s say you are an habitual gossip. (My definition of gossip is engaging in a conversation--talking, listening, or both--about a third party in which what is shared is not either good or for their good.)
The first thing to do is to determine how that sin is manifesting itself in your life. Maybe you have an insatiable desire to know what is going on in other people’s lives. Maybe when you find out a secret, you have a compulsion to tell someone else. Maybe there are certain people you gravitate toward because you know they will engage in gossip with you. Write those things down.
Second, determine what you are thinking each time you are tempted to that sin. It may be, “I wonder what is going on there…” It may be, “Oh, so-and-so will not believe this…I can't wait to tell...” Whatever it is, write those things down.
Third, determine what you are wanting in those moments. It may be a distraction from your own problems. It may be sheer entertainment. It could be a way to get back at someone who has hurt you. Perhaps, you want to “correct” someone’s favorable opinion of the person you are talking about – in order to elevate or vindicate yourself. It may simply be that talking about someone else’s big sins makes you feel better about your own small ones. Write down what it is that you are wanting.
Fourth, determine when that sin is manifesting itself. When do you find yourself tempted to talk about someone behind his or her back? Perhaps it is when you are with a certain person or group of people. Perhaps it is during the boring hours of the day, whenever that is for you. Or maybe its at church. Also, where are you when you are tempted to listen to gossip? Write it down.
Fifth, go to the Word and find out what the Bible teaches about that sin and the opposite Godly virtue. (Here is an old blog series on gossip.) Write that down.
Now we’ve got all that information written down. What do we do with it? The how tells us the specific actions we need to put off. The thinking tells us what thoughts we need to replace. So if the thought we’re putting of is, “I wonder what’s going on there…,” I need to construct a biblical thought to replace it, like: “I should strive to build others up rather than being a busybody” (1 Tim 5:13). Write down that new thought.
The wanting tells us what we’re worshiping that needs to be replaced with worship of Christ. If we want “the scoop” so much that we will sin to get it or sin if we don’t get it, it’s an idol. We need to recognize it as such and determine that in the moment of temptation we will focus on worshiping and pleasing Christ alone.
The when tells us the specific times when we need to prepare ourselves for temptation. If we are tempted when we are around certain people and we cannot avoid those people, we should take time to review all the material we’ve accumulated: the sin that we are avoiding and the godly behavior we want to exhibit in its place…the thoughts we are going to resist and the godly thoughts we will strive to think instead…the idol that will be calling our name in that moment of temptation and the excellencies of pleasing Christ that we will focus on instead…and all the Scriptural truth. And then we should pray for God’s grace and strength to withstand the onslaught of temptation. We should acknowledge before God we can’t do this alone. Only His grace and strength will enable us to obey as we trust in Him. And we should commit to the Lord that we will strive to be faithful.
We should go through that every time we are about to go into a situation where we know temptation will be waiting. If those times for you are very predictable, set an alarm to remind you to do that. Remember that looking intently at the gospel is what fuels the fire of our devotion to the Lord, giving us the very desire to obey.
This is just one method of taking what we hear in the Word and putting it into action. Whatever method we choose, we have to do something. Taking copious sermon notes won’t cut it. We’ve got to put it into practice where the rubber meets the road. That means actually sitting down and coming up with a plan for how to obey.
I know it sounds like a lot of work. That’s because it is. Which is why Peter writes in 2 Peter1:5 make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue. Expend energy on this. That’s why Paul commanded Timothy in 1Tim 4:7, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness. In v10 of that chapter, he says to toil and strive. That’s why Paul writes in Philippians 2:12 to work out your own salvation as God works in you.
The key thing to remember is that we do it trusting in the Lord’s strength, not our own, and focusing on the gospel, but we do have to do something. Isn’t that the spirit of James 1:19-27? Be doers of the law, not hearers only who deceive themselves. Look at the perfect law of liberty and persevere.