“God desires that we become Bible-hearted practitioners, not just Bible knowers.”
“…there is a great deal of disappointment expressed today about
the character and the effects of Christian people…”
Following Jesus is about change. Change in our thoughts, speech and behavior. In fact, that good church word “repentance” literally means to “turn around and go the other way.” It is to change direction. Jesus came to us to show us another way to live. Knowing with considerable clarity what Jesus taught has no value to Jesus – none. That is, none unless it is followed by change.
The church is populated with people who “know” the Bible. The Pharisees mentioned in the pages of the New Testament “knew” the Bible. Perhaps no one knew the Bible better than the Pharisees. But notice something else. The Pharisees drove Jesus nuts. Certainly they “knew” the Bible but their hearts were unchanged. Consequently, Jesus’ only mention of them was always as an example of what not to be. Klaus Issler is right – God desires that we become Bible-hearted practitioners, not just Bible knowers.
Bible “knowers” are easy to recognize in the church. They are the ones who are always offering “helpful” criticism to others. The words that come over their lips rarely “grace” anyone – rarely encourages or praises someone. Bible knowers not only know their Bible. They know how to “do” church better than anyone else. Fresh baked cookies for the fellowship hour, never store bought. The music should be softer in worship or the pastor shouldn’t be reading from such a worn copy of the Bible (this really happened!). It often surprises me just how many Pharisees there are in the Christian church. And I stand with Jesus – they drive me nuts!
If the truth be told there is a little Pharisee in each of us. Each of us has had a moment here or there when we want to offer our opinion – to be “helpful” of course. But the best of us recognize those moments and cringe. We simply do not want to be that way. So we try to be different, to change. The difficulty is that every action, every thought and behavior and word spoken comes from the heart. Unless the heart is changed, willful determination to change will always fail.
Heart change is the work of God. It is not our work. Yet we do have a responsibility. God’s empowering, formative “heart-work” in each of us is accomplished as we place ourselves in accommodating circumstances. Simply, God requires time with us in the silent places. Jesus demonstrated this for us time and time again. Regular time alone with God reading scripture and prayer and sitting in silence listening for God’s whispers in our hearts accommodates God’s work in us.
It is well documented that sleep deprivation diminishes our mental clarity and physical health. We simply require sleep. Similarly, “God deprivation” diminishes us spiritually. Willpower alone can never carry the freight of living into the character of Christ. We will always be defeated. Fortunately, we are never asked in the Bible to live by our own strength. God changes hearts. But time alone with God regularly throughout the week is required. If we give this time to God, we will not be disappointed.