January 15, 2011: Ezekiel 33:30-33 & James 1:21-25 Devotional Sharing

Submitted by Andy Tung, Gracepoint Hsinchu

Ezekiel 33:31-32

These verses provide a scathing indictment against Ezekiel’s audience.  What was their attitude in listening to God’s word? Their attitude in listening to God’s word was that this was something they had to do because it was already a habit. This was something they usually did as our text says. And so it had become such a regular habit to just come before God to listen, but not to put things into practice. It was almost the expected norm to just listen to a lot of commands of God, to listen to the repeated words of God, and not have any intention of changing their life or values.

What does the analogy to “one who sings songs” communicate about the way they listened to God’s word? This shows that they listened to God’s words almost like it was entertainment. Perhaps they came with the attitude that they wanted to hear a new nuance into a text. Perhaps they came with the attitude of wanting to feel some emotional tug on their hearts. In the context of listening to messages, like bible studies or sermons of today, they may have wanted to hear some good stories or illustrations that would move their hearts; causing them to laugh or bring them to tears. But they had no intentional of allowing those emotions to ever really penetrate into their hearts to affect change. So even in hearing the word of God, their attitude was very selfish.

James 1:21-24

What does it mean to “merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves”? To merely listen to the word implies that you heard what it said, you were possibly even convicted by some part of it, but as our text says, you didn’t put it into practice. Why would it be that someone deceives themselves after they heard the word? It may boil down to an emotional response verses a response with our actions. When we hear God’s word there is that temptation to respond with a feeling; like I felt convicted by God’s word, or something really struck me. And so we leave that time feeling like God really spoke and addressed my issues. But once we leave that time, we don’t put what we felt into practice. I personally can recount numerous times when I felt convicted by the word of God, I felt like God was addressing something in my life, but then I finished my devotion time or the message ended, and suddenly I get caught up in the busyness of life and completely forget what I had committed to or felt during that time. But then my attitude is that this was a good dt or message, I felt hit by the message and I deceive myself into thinking that this was the same as listening to God.

Ezekiel & James

What lessons from both of the passages regarding listening to God’s word do I need to heed? The obvious lesson is that I need to put into practice what I hear. When I come to the word of God, I first need to have the attitude of expectation that God can address me through this message or this dt. I need to go into each of these times with the attitude that this could change how I live or what decisions I make. After hearing the message, if I was struck by some point, I need to find someone to share it with. I need to share any commitments I made immediately because otherwise I know that I will forget it. This also gives me accountability and causes me to take my commitments more seriously because I’ve shared it with someone else. Sharing my commitment can also help to make something that may have been vague in my mind become something that is more flushed out as I put into words what I’m feeling or how I felt like God was speaking to me. Another way to solidify what I heard is through reflection. I think an important practice that my leaders have taught me is to reflect on a weekly basis; to take time out each week to think about what happened in the previous week. I need to take these times seriously so that I can properly process all the ways God spoke to me in any given week.

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Submitted by Joyce Lee, Gracepoint Austin

James 1:21-24

What does it mean to “merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves”? It means to just hear the word of God, but neglecting to integrate the truth of it into my life.  I think we can deceive ourselves into thinking that by listening to the word, we are living by it.  I can deceive myself, that because I am reading God’s word, doing my devotional each day, having good realizations about God, and myself, going to church on Fridays and Sundays and being addressed by God, being challenged, that I am actually living out a good Christian life.  But if this doesn’t translate to concrete action in my life, then there was no use in the word of God that I heard.  I am deceiving myself.  Just merely hearing the words of God doesn’t mean that I actually believe and live out its truths.  In so many places in the Bible, the importance of obedience versus just hearing is stressed.  Romans 2:13 – “For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.”  Matthew 7:24 – “Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock…” For example, if I am really hearing and believing the warning regarding a fire that is approaching my house, then I would respond appropriately by evacuating my house.  I would make adjustments in my life that fits with the truth I heard.  In the same way, if I really am hearing and believing in the truth that God is my Provider, that He is trustworthy and faithful, but this doesn’t lead to concrete acts that show that I actually believe this, then I am deceived because the truth of what I heard does not stay with me, and I soon forget it.  If I just merely hear the word of God, and don’t take any action, then in what sense am I living by the truth, in what sense am I living out my Christian life?  I am deceiving and lying to myself.

Ezekiel & James

What lessons from both of the passages regarding listening to God’s word do I need to heed? To humbly accept the word planted in me, which can save me…  I need to listen to God’s word with a humble attitude.  Whenever I approach the word of God, either through devotionals, through messages, and through people God has placed in my life, I need to approach it with a much humbler attitude.  I need to deny and lay down my desires for approval, desires to be “successful” in ministry or at Christian life – knowing that I am at the core a sinner, knowing that there are many areas in my life that needs to be corrected, that needs to be chiseled, and shaped… so that I won’t build a wall around myself, so that I can actually hear what God has to say to me and humbly accept whatever truth may be shown to me, and be able to experience repentance, forgiveness, and transformation.

Look intently into the perfect law that gives freedom… not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it… I need to heed what James says about looking intently into God’s law, meditating on the truths of His words, and not forgetting it.  In light of yesterday’s devotional, I see how quickly my heart can become a path, rocky, thorny soil, forgetting the truths of the words that I heard, the things that I was addressed by, giving into mental laziness, letting situations and circumstances dictate my actions and responses, passively returning to my old patterns and habits, not proactively allowing God’s word to have an effect on my decisions and actions.  I recognize that I need to engage in a lot of hard work to keep my heart tender and good soil that can respond to God’s word and live out the truths of it in my life.  And I see that it really is going to involve hard work on my part, much more diligence, thought, awareness, alertness, vigilance, especially because passivity is my default and comfortable mode.  I need to remind myself each day God’s truths through times in devotionals, meditating, reflecting, and be thinking throughout the day, actively looking for opportunities to live out what I learned and was challenged by.  This is the hard work that I want to commit to doing, so that the word of God can do its work of transforming my life, giving me freedom, and bearing fruit.

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