Having been in ministry for 16 years, I have spoken many words. Words of healing; words of tearing down; words of encouragement; words that no one will remember; words that helped change someone’s life. If I had to compile my words into one last message, I would focus on what it means to leave spiritual infancy behind and to truly pursue Christian maturity.
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. - James 1:22-25 (ESV)
The person staring back at us in the mirror is most likely the hardest person we will face when it comes to change. Often, we are our own worst critic. Sometimes we need to look in the mirror and remember that we were bought for a price. The death of Christ ought to mean more than a quick glance in the mirror and then continuing on our own path because change is too hard. Our calling requires a deeper pursuit of Christ. This pursuit changes the reflection to one that is less of us and more of Jesus.
Teenagers are some of the most caring, cause-driven people alive, but their cause can change in an instant. What seemed incredibly important two weeks ago, may be forgotten today in lieu of a new crisis or cause. In an ever-changing climate that teenagers live in, I consistently witness their struggle with inconsistency in spiritual disciplines. Church engagement, personal Bible study, prayer life, and serving others can quickly take the back seat to other pursuits. How can one expect to be a doer of the Word, if one is never a student of the Word? The law in the verses above refers to the perfect law, meaning the fulfillment of the law in Christ. The original Old Testament law was impossible to keep; the new law is one of liberty (because of the truth of the gospel and the power of the Holy Spirit). Meaning, with this new law, one becomes a new creation, capable of change because you are changing from the inside out. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” This is good news.
This new creation requires valuable time with the Creator in order to mature. John Piper said, “A godly life is lived out of an astonished heart — a heart that is astonished at grace. We go to the Bible to be astonished, to be amazed at God and Christ and the cross and grace and the gospel.” There will be times you feel the weight of the world on your shoulders. You will see some people break under the strain of this weight and turn their face against Jesus. My friend, be astonished and endure, the final compensation is worth it.
Our continual devotion to hearing and doing create within us a habitual spiritual lifestyle. We learn about the life of Christ and His teachings and apply those to ourselves and those around us. We learn about faith and respond in faith in our decision-making. We learn what grace is and extend grace to others, including ourselves.
To sum it all up:
- Take God’s Word seriously.
- Be attentive to the work of the Holy Spirit.
- Be all in. Jesus was a radical and demanded radical obedience of His followers. You will encounter hostility (even from people close to you); dust it off and keep going.
- We are God’s image bearers. Live like it. Yes, you have freedom, but don’t abuse it.
- Pursue holiness.
- You aren’t alone. Not only are you empowered by the Holy Spirit, but there is also a Christian community that comes alongside you. Don’t neglect spending time with other believers.
- Don’t be content as an infant believer. GROW!
So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. - 1 Peter 2:1-3