Monday, October 22, 2012

trust plus obedience = transformational faith

Mt Sinai, part 2 – Naomi Maul Campbell
NOTE: the new header (at least for a few days) is taken from Naomi Campbell’s painting of the Mt. Sinai summit view.
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 someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. – James 1:22-25
This weekend, Rebekah preached about obedience (Obedience to the Lord - October 21,2012). People love to listen to sermons about grace, peace, hope and love; but obedience isn’t typically a favored topic in a North American culture rooted in the idea that rules negatively impact personal freedom, and that obedience to anything other than our own conscience is one more step away from liberty.
Preaching at First Brandon
“TRUST & OBEY:” However, understand it or not, the Bible includes many scripture passages where the thrust of the text comes back to obedience.
But obedience to God has more to do with trust than subservience (that’s the relationship element of the equation); and obedience also depends on hearing, or listening, because it’s impossible to live in obedience if we don’t – first – write the message on our hearts.
The conversation (about listening, trust and obedience) carried over into our small-group Bible-study Sunday evening. Rebekah used several scripture references in her message, and – as we talked about each one of them – some helpful ideas emerged in response to our listening together.
Small groups gathering at church
ACTIVE LISTENING: It turns out there’s a distinction between hearing and listening. Listening – and more specifically active listening – goes well beyond hearing. One of our friends shared an experience where something happened that reminded her of a Bible lesson. She then responded to the situation in light of what she had heard at church.
  • Her action transformed the hearinginto listening and the listening into learning.
  • It moved reading the word into keeping the word.
  • It changed intellectual processing into living faith.
Then, and this was the third part of the distinction between hearing and listening, she shared her experience with our small group and reflected on her journey.
You can hear a principle a million times, but it won’t become transformational until you put the principle into practice. Then, and I believe this is very important, when we share how God’s word is transforming us, we become part of the hearing… listening… doing… learning… sharing continuum for someone else.
DISCIPLESHIP: It turns out that we were talking about discipleship yesterday evening, and we didn’t even intend to.
Again, and because I like the way this is rolling out, let’s check out this sequence:
  • Rebekah preaches the message (although the preaching itself was only one item in a long chain of events that occurred in preparation)…
  • Church members hear with their ears (and, oftentimes, their hearts)…
  • We go out into the world, with the Word written on our hearts…
  • Something happens, and we put the message into practice…
  • We return to our faith community and share/process the experience of living our faith…
  • That sharing, in turn, becomes the initial hearing event for another Christ-follower….
OBEDIENCE: This is really what I’ve been writing about this morning. Not obedience in terms of, “I have to follow these rules, or else…” but obedience in the context of active listening, paying attention to the urgings of the Spirit, and putting faith into practice.
Trust in God – the relationship part of this equation – not only gives us the courage to put our faith into practice, but it also grows steadily as we discover, again and again, the depth and breadth and height and length of God’s faithfulness and grace.

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