Take The Journey (Day 4)

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
— James 1:22 NIV

What started routine almost ended in tragedy.

Chicago Police Officer John Wrigley was thirty minutes from the the end of his shift when he and his partner conducted a late-night traffic stop.

The driver got out. He was agitated and aggressive. Efforts to calm him proved fruitless. A tussle ensued. Then the driver pulled a 9mm semiautomatic handgun and began firing at Wrigley. The officer was hit twice, one round pierced his arm, the other hit him square in the chest.

What should have been a hole in his heart ended as a mere bruise on his body. Wrigley was wearing a bullet-proof vest. Sadly, not every officer experiences this happy ending. An FBI analysis of police officer deaths reveals that:

Of the 46 officers killed by firearms in 2014, 11 were not wearing bullet resistant vests.

Wrigley's experience and the FBI's analysis illustrate that it is not enough to know the life-saving truth about bullet-proof vests, an officer must put it on to reap the benefit. James' words echo in my ear:

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

Doing what God says is much more than blind obedience or cold duty. It is saying "Yes" to God because we know His word is true. It is saying "Yes" to God because we trust that he loves us. It is saying "Yes" to God because we want our obedience to honor him and bless others. 

Application matters

Obedience is doing what God says. It is applying what we read from God's word to our lives. Application matters. We see this through the Scripture:

  • "To obey is better than sacrifice." 1 Samuel 15:22
  • "Walk in obedience to all that the Lord your God has commanded you." Deut. 5:33
  • "Do not merely listen to the word ... Do what it says." James 1:22
  • “If you love me, you will keep my commandments." John 14:15
  • "Jesus answered him, 'If anyone loves me, he will keep my word.'" John 14:23
  • "Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?" Luke 6:46
  • "And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments." 1 John 2:3

Since doing what God says is so important, let's think about how to apply it.

How to apply what you are reading

To apply the Bible to our lives, we need to think Head, Heart, Hands.

  • Head: How does my thinking need to change?
    Applying the Bible doesn't always mean "doing something." Sometimes it means changing the way we think about something. Read Philippians 4:8 for an example of how God wants our thinking to change.
  • Heart: How does God want me to feel differently?
    At times we can ignore the important part feelings play in our lives. Reading Joel 2:13 helps us to see that God wants heart change, not just blind obedience. "Rend your heart" (feel it deeply) he says, don't just go through the motions of obedience. Feeling differently means sometimes sitting with a truth until it penetrates the soul.
  • Hands: What practical step does God want me to take?
    Sometimes God's message is very straightforward: "Get 'er done now!" Read Matthew 5:23-24 for a great example of what it means to take action immediately in order to practically apply God's word to our lives.

As we read the Bible and make observations, we must always remember to ask God how he wants us to apply it. Okay, let's get started on today's SOAP. First, a quick review:

The S.O.A.P. Bible-reading plan

SOAP is an acronym that stands for Scripture, Observation, Application, and Prayer.

S is for Scripture
Open your Bible to your daily reading. Take the time to read the passage and let God speak to you. When you are done, look for one verse that particularly spoke to you. Write it down. For this five-day journey, I have provided a daily Scripture passage for you to examine. Moving forward, you will need to establish a daily reading plan. Consider reading a chapter a day from Proverbs or John's gospel. Both can be easily read in a month.

O is for Observation
Observation is looking closely to discover things you did not previously see. What is God showing you in this scripture? Ask the Holy Spirit to "open your eyes," to teach you and reveal Jesus to you. Paraphrase the verse. Write it down in your own words.

A is for Application
Personalize what you have read, by asking yourself how it applies to your life right now. Perhaps it is instruction, encouragement, revelation of a new promise, or corrections for a particular area of your life. Write how this Scripture can apply to you today.

P is for Prayer
This can be as simple as asking God to help you use this Scripture, or it may be asking God for greater insight on what He is revealing to you. Write out your prayer. Remember, prayer is a two-way conversation. Take time to listen to what God has to say!

Your SOAP for today:

Read the passage below. It is about listening and doing. Once you read the passage, follow the SOAP plan. Time is always in short supply, but try devoting fifteen minutes.

19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:19-27 ESV

Scripture: What is the one verse that God used to speak to you?

Observation: What did you discover in this verse? What is God saying to you? Try writing out the verse in your own words (paraphrase it).

Application: How does this apply to your life right now?

Prayer: Take time to ask the Lord to help you do what he revealed to you.

A closing thought

The finish line is in sight. Tomorrow we will conclude this little five-day excursion into the word of God. I'll provide a few "next step" opportunities you may find helpful. Until then, stay on the journey. God is taking us to new places . . . and we are learning to fish!

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

  • Officer John Wrigley's story from "A simple traffic stop . . . not it was a gun battle" in http://www.cpdmemorial.org (accessed March 30, 2016).
  • FBI statistics from "Bulletproof vests, seat belts not worn in police officer deaths" in USA Today, May 12, 2015. http://www.usatoday.com (accessed March 30, 2016).
  • Application questions adapted from Creative Bible Teaching by Lawrence O. Richards and Gary J. Bredfeldt. Chicago: Moody Press. 1998