Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Thursday, 1 October 20:
James 3:1, 13, 17-18 — Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness…. Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom…. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
There is an old Chinese proverb that says, “I hear, and I forget. I see, and I remember. I do, and I understand.” Talk is cheap, and actions speak louder than words, though words are still required. We certainly need to communicate the truth, but we also need to demonstrate the truth. The regalia of the true professor is the fruit of the Spirit, beginning with love and ending with self-control – “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
We don’t really understand, or know, what we don’t practice, and we can’t teach what we don’t understand. When we attempt to teach the truth while living no differently than the world around us, we appear to invalidate the very truth claims we are proclaiming, bringing discredit upon the Gospel.
- 1 John 2:4-6 — Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.
Ray Ortlund in his book, The Gospel, observed the following –
“In his prophetic book, Witness, Whittaker Chambers tells of a young German woman whose father had been fervently pro-Communist. The he became strongly anti-Communist. Why? She said, ‘You will laugh at me, but you mist not laugh at my father. One night, in Moscow, he heard screams. That’s all. Simply one night he heard screams.’ This happens in our churches too. People come to hear good news. But then they hear screams. They hear cries of anguish and distress in churches that preach the Gospel in concept but inflict pain in reality. That is shocking, but it is not new. The prophet Isaiah writes: ‘The vineyard of the Lord Almighty is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are the garden of delight. And he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress.’ (Isaiah 5:7, NIV) How many people in our cities are ex-Christians, and even strongly anti-Christian, because they went to church to hear “good news of great joy” (Luke 2:10) but it was drowned out by strife and trouble?… The problem was not what they [churches] believed doctrinally but what they had become personally, and they didn’t even realize it.”
When your deeds don’t match your words, you bring discredit to God’s word. James goes as far to say that hypocritical teaching is “earthly, unspiritual, [and] demonic.” (James 3:15) What did Jesus say? “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:15-20) James echoes Jesus’ words – “Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water. (James 3:11, 12) Jesus also said, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak.” (Matthew 12:36) Careless words are not only rash or inappropriate words, they are also true words you couldn’t ‘care less’ to obey yourself.
We are called to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that [Jesus]commanded.” (Matthew 28:19-20) However, we must be very careful to teach and lead by example – “Set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12)
- John 17:3 — And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
- John 14:6 — Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
- John 8:31 — So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
- 1 John 2:20-21 — But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth.
- John 17:22-23 — The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.
Just like witnesses can only testify in court to what they have seen or have experienced personally (secondhand knowledge is hearsay), teachers can only teach what they know personally from experience. You will teach the Jesus you know, and the Jesus you know will be revealed by your love. If your doctrine doesn’t match your behavior, return to the feet of your Teacher, Jesus.
- Luke 10:38-42 — Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 1 October 20: Proclaim the truth in word and in deed to God’s glory. Don’t be a hypocrite (the Greek word for stage actor) while you serve and Christ’s ambassador.