As I sit and spend time with my God, I run through my usual questions, trying to grasp everything He would have me to from Mark 8. I utilize my dictionary, my commentary, and the Holy Spirit living inside of me. I read, then meditate, then read again. At the end of my study, I am convinced of this: Christ wants faith! He refuses to give proof to an unbelieving people, who won’t believe no matter what He shows them. And, once He sees faith that He alone inspired, He calls! He calls BIG! He calls them to ACT. In Mark 8, He tells them to “take up (their) cross and follow (him)”. I am excited, alive, the way I usually feel when the nuggets of wisdom so good for my soul are revealed to me. So, as I finish my time with God for the moment, I ask, “How do I apply this to my life?” “What, in my life, needed this truth right now?” “How is God calling me to act on His word?” You see, James 2:17 tells us that faith without works is dead. This is because James gets it! James understands that faith that doesn’t play itself out practically, is no faith at all. James is not saying that our works give us salvation. But rather, our salvation, our love for the Savior who died for us, and our response of surrender to Him, is the very thing that will bring about works. Just as Christ recognized faith, and followed with a call to action: “deny himself” “take up your cross” “follow”, James gives us a marker of true faith. True faith produces works out of a natural overflow.
So, what does this have to do with us? I believe that our generation is plagued with a tendency to hear truth, and to allow it to sit stagnant upon our hearts, without any question as to how it might change the day to day. (Notice, I say “our”, as a 24 year-old woman, I understand that we are together in this.) We have spent our lives hearing philosophical “feel goods” from men and women deemed wise. But, we treat the Word of God as if it were a mere suggestion, meant to make our hearts feel better about the action, or lack of action, within us.
I would propose that Scripture leaves no room for this. In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ makes it CLEAR, our hearts are the issue, and our actions flow from them. My question is: Is truth that is known but not lived, really known at all? God has always been the changer of hearts, and writer of eternity. When you interact with Him, it always leads to something. When the saints of old experienced God, they would fall on their faces in worship. When Christ healed someone, time and time again we see them going to give an account and proclaim the miracle! There was heart change and action! Psalm 119:105 states; “Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path.” You only need a light for the path when you are in the act of walking. God didn’t intend for us to experience His truth, read His word, and remain the same!
And, it is only the word of God that can do this, isn’t it? I have read the words of great writers, and heard the quotes of great men, and overheard the ramblings of not so great people. However, none of them have ever had the power of the Scriptures, to reach my very soul, and set it into action that may just change my life. I remember being a 19 year old, reading 2 Corinthians 5, and understanding that the transformation of heart explained in vs. 17, had never occurred in me. The result was, I asked God to change my heart, to make me His. I also remember my two and a half years later, sitting in a booth in the cafeteria of Murray State University, pondering the offer before me: move to Texas, go into full time ministry, leave all your friends and family, feel lonely, and leave the only place you have ever walked with Christ. Yet, Psalm 139:7 reminded me, “ Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?” I could be known by Him anywhere, Texas it was!
Or, I can tell you of the many baby steps in between. Psalm 119:11 says, “ I have hidden your word in m heart, that I might not sin against you.” As a 20 year old college student, I didn’t want to sin against God. This verse told me a tool in avoiding that. My application: I began to memorize scriptures to help me fight specific sins in my life. I also recall my sophomore year of college, a wonderful, good looking, sweet guy asked me out. The only problem was, He was not a passionate Christian. I believed I would inevitably marry someone who I would date, and I knew that 2 Corinthians 6:14 commanded, “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?” My application of this scripture was this: If I can’t marry him, it is probably wisest not to date him. I said “ No, thank you” to the date, and prayed that one day God would save him, and maybe I would have been a light for Christ because of my obedience.
The Sparrow Conference poured truth out onto anyone in attendance. It came from Scripture, it came from stories, and it came from accounts of personal experiences with God. But, if we simply sit, feeling free, without ever actually taking the steps to break ties with the things we are being “freed” from, are we truly free? If we know our purpose, but never take the steps to develop in how we live in light of it, are we really purposeful? Did we REALLY learn about identity and truth, if our true identity is never changing the way we interact, or make decisions, or go to class, or date, or choose a career, or spend our time?
Paul explains to Timothy in his second letter, “All scripture is breathed out by God, and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” We have heard the truth he speaks of. May we seek to practically apply it everyday to the very lives Christ died to save!
Practical Questions to Ask When Reading Scripture:
Who would I be to lecture, and then leave you with no tools to help you apply what we have learned? Here are some questions to ask yourself when trying to practically apply scripture.
S- Is there a sin to avoid here?
P- Is there a promise to claim here?
E- Is there an example for me to follow here?
C- If there a command for me to obey here?
K- Is there knowledge to gain here?
Who are the characters I am studying? In what ways am I like them? In what areas should I seek to grow like them?
Are there areas of my life I am holding back from God because I won’t act on what I know?
What is a practical (possibly even small) next step in the things I have identified above?