But be doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. James 1:22 NKJV
He was a committed guy – no doubt about that. He knew his Bible and believed the letter of the law should be followed with the strictest discipline. He had high standards and very little tolerance for sinners.
Our story took place many years ago when I was a youth leader. This man (let’s call him Marvin) had teenage sons in our youth group. Marvin was never comfortable with the way we ran our program, but the straw that broke Marvin’s back happened when a few girls came to youth group inappropriately dressed. He wanted them to be banned from the program, because he felt they were a bad influence on his sons. He was not satisfied with the way we were giving the girls t-shirts with an explanation for the required clothing.
I listened to Marvin vent his rigid standards in a meeting with the leadership team. Our youth pastor asked me to respond since I was also a parent of a teenage boy in the youth group. I explained how we believed it was better to handle delicate matters of modesty with loving yet responsible measures. The last thing we wanted to do was reject a young person seeking Jesus that hadn’t yet learned Godly standards.
That was the moment my forehead grew a bullseye. Marvin didn’t appreciate the mouthpiece that explained our stand. He felt that our faith was compromised, watered down. In the end our youth group stood by the convictions God had placed on our hearts. And in the end Marvin left the church.
My mind cannot revisit Marvin without seeing the same weave of Caiaphas, the high priest who was always taking aim at Jesus. The Author of the Word continually faced the raging bullets of Caiaphas’ philosophy, a philosophy hard wired toward the law and frosted with a heavy coating of human rules.
Marvin and Caiaphas created their own gospel. Both men applied so many rules to God’s Word that they no longer captured God’s heart. Both men avoided sinners. Instead of leading them into the light, they chastised them for being dirty. Neither one was motivated by love. In fact, I am hard pressed to find loving gestures in either one’s storyline.
There was a time in my life when I leaned more toward rules than love. Not to the raging degree of Lord Caiaphas or Lord Marvin ~ thank God! Nonetheless loving gestures felt foreign and awkward to me. Since I am militant in nature anyway, living close to the rules was an easy detour for me on the road to spiritual maturity. There was no risk involved as long as I hung close to the law. But there was also little sacrifice. And my life, in many ways, was bringing more harm to others than good.
Prior to the accident I had in 2003, I was very good at stockpiling Biblical knowledge. The doctrines I learned rarely transferred from my head to my heart. My hands and feet were not moved to compassionate service. Without realizing it, the spiritual arteries in my heart were blocked. I had a heart condition. To this day I ask myself if I really took God’s Word seriously by only storing knowledge in the six inches between my ears.
After my accident I was in lock down for months. That’s when the Lord began to gently show me things I couldn’t see in myself. He showed me that I took pride in the vast amount of knowledge that I collected on Sunday mornings and in my private devotions. He showed me that I wasn’t practicing what I believed since my service for Him and for others was not in motion. He showed me that my faith was a noun, a philosophy, an ideal, a library of mental knowledge with no hands or feet.
Honestly I never realized that I was a noun in God’s Kingdom. This knowledge made me sad. All the effort ~ all the time spent pining over God’s word and I was just a noun. I lacked the most important fruit of the Spirit ~ love. Was I wasting God’s time? If felt like it. As hard as this revelation was to take in, it also turned my faith upside down. And I’m so glad it did! God saved me from myself by showing me how to love Him and others the way He wanted me to.
Though I can’t begin to explain my transformation, I remember it well. I felt a strange shift deep inside. My heart came alive. I started seeing the world through a new lens. My manner softened. The storms that once raged with anger within my heart became calm and settled. God performed open-heart surgery on me. Truly, truly only the Great Physician can change a heart!
After that amazing season I became a new creation. My heart was pumping with a healthy flow of God’s love. My spiritual arteries were open. Doctrines I had collected over the years were on the move from my head to my heart. My faith had grown hands and feet. I became a verb, a movement, an action, no longer just a hearer of the Word but a doer.
It is so liberating to have an active faith. To me there is nothing more heart warming than to be the hands and feet of Jesus, to view people through God’s eyes, to love them as He loves. Heaven multiplies within the hearts of God’s children when we touch the broken. Just as the faithful widow’s jar never ran dry in I Kings 17:16, our hearts never run dry when we pour ourselves into others.
May the orchard of our hearts overflow with robust fruit bursting with the sweet taste of heaven, drenched in the dew of the Spirit, feeding a multitude of starving souls.
Isn’t that what this thing we call faith is all about?
Question to Ponder
Are you a noun or are you a verb in the Kingdom of Heaven?