“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”
Imagine you’re the parent of a ten-year-old child, and this evening you want your son to go clean up his messy bedroom. You go into the living room and find him and say, “Turn off the TV now, and go clean your room.” He nods, agreeing to do what you’ve said, so you go into the kitchen to start making dinner.
A few minutes later, you listen to the sound from the next room and realize that the TV is still on. Incredulous, you walk into the room and your son is still sitting right where he was when you told him to go clean his room. Raising your voice a bit to get his attention, you say, “I told you to turn off the TV, get up, and go clean your room.”
And he looks up at you and responds, “I know — I heard you,” and turns his head back toward the TV screen again. He sits there confidently, as if you have absolutely no reason to be upset with him.
A little louder now, you say, “Get up now, and do as you’re told.”
“I’m not ready yet,” he says. “I might do it later. But either way, I want you to know that I fully understand what you’re asking of me. You want me to stop watching this program, turn off the TV, and get up and go clean my room. So there is no need for you to repeat yourself, because I was listening closely and I heard you. That’s all that matters, right?” And once again he returns his focus to the television.
How would you respond to that blatant disobedience and rebellion?
Before you answer that, think about this: Is there an area of your life in which you’ve been just like that in your relationship to the Heavenly Father?
You’ve heard God’s commands that you witness to the lost, but are you obeying them?
You’ve heard God’s commands about sexual purity, but are you obeying them?
You’ve heard God’s commands that you give to His work, but do you do it?
You’ve heard God’s commands to praise and worship Him, but do you do so?
James warns us that we can deceive ourselves into thinking we are accomplishing God’s will just by knowing it. “Don’t kid yourself,” he says. “God is not pleased that you merely hear His word, but that you obey it.”
Partial obedience is disobedience. Delayed obedience is disobedience. Understanding God’s word and failing to obey it is sin. It is worthless to know the will of God if you refuse to do it. As one pastor put it, it is far less important how much you mark your Bible than how much your Bible marks you.
If you’ve made it your habit to listen to God’s commands and then pick and choose which ones you will obey and which you’ll ignore, some repentance is now in order.
God is great and glorious. He is our Maker and our Father. He is King of kings and Lord of lords. And He is completely worthy of our immediate obedience in all things at all times. Let us come into His presence with a renewed attitude, saying to Him, “Speak, Lord, Your servant hears with a willingness to know and to do Your will.”
And remember what Jesus told us about His commands: “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” –John 13:17