“Receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” (James 1:21)
It was French philosopher René Descartes who famously said, “I think therefore I am.”
As father of modern philosophy, Descartes concluded that the only thing we as rational creatures can be certain of, the only thing we shouldn’t doubt, is our ability to doubt. He chipped away at reality by doubting until all that was left was the doubter himself. And from that, he developed his understanding of reality.
We bring this rationale with us to church on Sunday mornings more than we realize. How could we not? After all, we’re major-league sinners from birth. And to make matters worse, our culture sides with Descartes, brainwashing us on a daily basis to create our understanding of reality from within ourselves.
Have it your way. Get yours. Follow your heart. Blah. Blah. Blah.
It’s no wonder that all of us, at some level, have a skewed view of church. We want Sunday mornings to impress and inspire us when it was never really meant to do either of those things. No, it is meant to form us in the Gospel. But ever since Genesis 3, we’ve bought the lie that evaluating the world around us begins inwardly. So why should church be any exception?
However when we start listening to God, something flips. He reminds us that we are not the measure of all things, but that we are the ones being measured. And we are found wanting. In fact, Jeremiah 17:9 says that, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” This means there is evil at core of our being that hinders our ability to understand God, ourselves and those around us with sober judgment. Contrary to Descartes’ philosophy, we really don’t know what’s real because we can’t know ourselves to begin with.
That’s hard to swallow, but God loves us enough to tell us the truth. He wants us to know that His grace abides wherever people are learning to wholeheartedly embrace His Word. That’s why He darts right past the pretension of our self-determined realities and calls us to abandon them, so we can walk with His Word as a lamp to our feet and a light to our path (Ps. 119:105).
Letting The Word Get Under Our Skin
James 1:21 provides three words to get us going: “Receive with meekness…” Our whole experience of church can change based on how we handle those three words.
The problem is that we don’t know what to do with them. We often think we are being meek and receptive when, in all actuality, we’re secretly being self-deceptive numbskulls.
Let me give an example. After listening to a sermon, we’ve all thought something like this: “That was an excellent sermon on obedience. So-and-so needs to hear that. He’s been struggling with obedience lately. I’ll be sure to forward him the link to the podcast this week.”
Instead of allowing our own hearts to be pierced by the all-searching power of God’s living and active Word, we apply the sermon to someone else’s problems. What about our own struggles with obedience? It’s not as if we don’t have any. And what’s worse, we often feel noble for thinking this way. We fool ourselves into believing that we’re helping a struggling brother when the real issue is that we fail to see ourselves for who we really are. Why? Because we aren’t meek.
It’s high time we let God’s Word get under our skin. That’s the path of meekness. It’s hard, but it’s the only way we grow. And we have everything we need to start right now. Through James, God wants to make sure we know that. He tells us that His saving Word is “implanted” within us. This points to the reality that the indwelling Spirit of Christ brings the teachings of Scripture to bear on our lives, making us more gentle, loving and holy—that is to say, more meek. And there’s never been a church that was too meek.
So as we gather this Sunday, let’s trust that our lives will be profoundly impacted by the the preaching, singing, praying and reading of the Scriptures. Let’s expect to meet with God together in front of our open Bibles. Whether or not we advance in true godliness depends on our capacity to receive His implanted Word. Will you let it get under your skin? Or will you side with Descartes?
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