By Benjamin H. Liles
Listen, people of Israel! The Lord our God is the only Lord. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. ~ Deuteronomy 6:4-5, Expanded Bible
As I start off this article I want to be a bit more accountable on this issue. A lot of you read the articles and the blog posts I put up and I realize how far off I am from doing what I truly want and need to do. I apologize for not posting daily. I started off doing this and it's not a hard thing to do. The truth of the matter is I get angry easily. I find myself at times getting mad, even frustrated over things that are trivial. Some things matter to God, where others matter more to people.
Some time back, while I was apologizing to my wife for one of those outbursts of mine, I saw how much my personal walk with Jesus isn't up to standard (or rather my own)with what I write for you. Recently, without meaning do I ended up doing a word study on listening. It's the basis of this article. It has to do with how Moses addresses this particular book, Exodus, towards Israel.
There is a small disconnect between what is meant for Israel as well as Christ's Church. What is meant for Israel in the Old Testament is usually meant for Israel. However, it can be applied to the Church. How well do we listen and put into action what God says? Do we obey His word? Do we truly show the love and respect that Jesus our Lord and Savior showed to others? I plan on touching on these points in this article.
For myself, I have no excuse. Listen to what God says on the issue of anger: "Tremble, and do not sin; Meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still" (Psalm 4:4, New American Standard). Paul rewords this psalm in a letter he pens: "Be angry, yet do not sin." Do not let the sun set upon your anger" (Ephesians 4:26). Don't get me wrong here. I'm not admonishing anyone on this issue of anger. I'm aiming it at myself. Do I honestly practice what I preach? It's the main reason I took a lot of time off, and may still do. I want to live what I say I believe. And it boils down to how well do I "listen" to God's word.
James says it this way: "Do what God’s teaching says; when you only listen and do nothing, you are fooling yourselves. Those who hear God’s teaching and do nothing are like people who look at themselves in a mirror. They see their faces and then go away and quickly forget what they looked like. But the truly happy people are those who carefully study God’s perfect law that makes people free, and they continue to study it. They do not forget what they heard, but they obey what God’s teaching says. Those who do this will be made happy" (James 1:22-25, Expanded).
In other words, listening means you're doing something about what you just heard. Earlier today my wife and I discussed why some people are easy to take action and why some don't. Some people find it easy to follow Jesus. Others, like myself, we kind of kick and scream. Are we any less Christ's followers? No, we're not. We just need to find our way back to Him and learn things. Remember, Jesus said, "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls" (Matthew 11:29, Berean Study).
The problem the Israelites had was the fact they had God's word and they didn't just hear it from Moses, but from others who God used to bring Israel back on track. From the times of the judges all the way up to the book of Malachi the people of Israel forsook their God. It is why God used numerous prophets up to Malachi to speak to the hard-hearted people of Israel to "As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?" (Ezekiel 33:11).
The way I heard it being said is that the people of Israel heard, but yet they didn't obey the voice of God. Imagine you are a ruler of a people. You hear the word of God and it humbles you. So, you issue a proclamation of His word to the people. Do they actively listen as you have and turn from their own ways and devices or do they continue on as they already are? This is the problem God has with Israel, and as His Church, we are getting it as well.
Don't misread me. I'm not condemning the Church. Not at all. Overall the Church listens and does God's commands. We listen, we obey, we rend our hearts and not our garments. We are humble; we give to the poor and the widow, we build houses for those who need it (Habitat for Humanity), we help those who are in need of: food, water, and from time to time help with utility bills. But the things that truly matter are forgiving each other debts we can't begin to pay.
It is for this reason we have the scripture verse: "Let no outstanding debt between you remain except that of love" (see Romans 13:8). Again, I say we the Church listen and do God's word. Just as Jesus fulfilled prophecies in the Old Testament, so has the Church as well: "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh" (Ezekiel 36:26, Holman Christian Standard). But our actions have to be in line with what we hear.
When Paul speaks of faith that saves, he is saying "that we are justified by faith alone" (Romans 4:5). James wrote that while "we are not justified by faith alone means that the faith which justifies does not remain alone" (from Desiring God). John Piper adds on: "These two positions are not contradictory. Faith alone unites us to Christ for righteousness, and the faith that unites us to Christ for righteousness does not remain alone. It bears the fruit of love."
By choosing to actively listen to God, His word, and others that He uses to teach us it's a call and encouragement to keep on doing what is right. It is the mark of those who follow Christ. After all Christ Himself said: "Remain in Me, and I will remain in you. Just as no branch can bear fruit by itself unless it remains in the vine, neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me" (John 15:4). I'm choosing to actively listen and to do what He calls me to do.
Father, thank You once again for the things You show me. I realize my temper and that I need to focus on You and Your ways, not how I should respond in my flesh or in my way. I do feel when I do wrong that I discredit You. And yet when I come clean about such things You forgive and forget the things I do. You love me regardless of myself. You chastise me for my own good. Then You turn around and command me to return to doing good. I'm truly not worth the love You give, but You gave it at the cross through Your Son Jesus. Him I uphold always, and Him I will always show to the best of my ability. In Jesus I pray. Amen.