On the very last page of my Bible, I am slowly developing a list of questions—mostly ones that I come across in my reading, but some which come about through reflecting. I call these ‘heart questions;’ they are ones which I ask to my heart, in a very broad sense, ‘how am I going at this area of life?’ I also use it as a method to remember things I have been struck or convicted by in past reading to ensure I continue to focus on and invest in pursuing Christ and growing in His likeness. They are not questions based on spiritual disciplines (e.g. ‘How have I been going at reading my Bible?’ ‘Am I praying every day?’), but are rather the practical, fruitful outworking of these things; they are an indication of being in a posture allowing the transformation of the Holy Spirit. This might be something along the lines of, “Am I aware of God’s peace in my day to day life?” “Does my life demonstrate to others that I have complete trust in God,” etc. As I was spending time with God recently, I came across another of these questions to add to my list, and thought that putting together such a list could also be helpful for others as a reference to prompt prayer or reflection, or for considering ways to be growing in greater obedience to God. I will compile them into a page (which you can access from the home page), and plan to include a link to the short post I write about them when they are first added to provide a bit more context to the questions.
My first question from my recent meditating is:
“CAN YOU POINT TO EXAMPLES IN YOUR LIFE WHEN YOU HAVE DONE SOMETHING (OR REFRAINED FROM DOING SOMETHING) SIMPLY BECAUSE YOU WANTED TO PUT JESUS’ WORDS INTO PRACTICE?”*
This stems from a section of Luke Chapter 8, which talks about the parable of the sower (Luke 8:4-15). We recently had a sermon at church focusing on this same parable in Mark’s gospel, so due to this, and having few tricky aspects in it, it is one that I am still working through – reading widely and thinking deeply to try and understand the meaning of Jesus’ words and the extent of their implication. However, what is made very clear in this passage is the significance of hearing God’s Word and responding to it, and that there are growth-related consequences riding on this. The parable refers to seed falling on a number of different surfaces, and the consequential outcomes for the seed’s growth and life. As explanation of what this means in terms of people hearing the Word of God, in verse 15 we read about the seed falling on good soil, “As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.” I think most of us would say that we want to be this good soil, holding fast to the Word of God and the fruit it bears in us.
In reading Luke 8, I became aware that following this passage, Jesus’ disciples tell Him that His mother and bothers are trying to get through the crowds to see him, to which Jesus responds, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.” (Luke 8:21) He is saying here that there is a family which is closer than biological family – spiritual family. The Son of God’s family, his siblings, are those who hear God’s Word and do it. In the book of Matthew, this same story comes directly before the same parable of the sower (Matt 12:46-50, Matt 13:1-23) – it is no accident that these passages are essentially next to each other. For God’s Word to be growing in good soil, to be bearing fruit, and for us to be a part of God’s family, we need to hear and obey God’s teaching.
I think I was so motivated to share this question on the blog due to the recent series on ‘The Reading Rut’. I thought it was such a good reminder that whilst yes, God absolutely transforms us as we faithfully and obediently read His Word, we also need to be working to do what it says, to put it into practice. And so the idea behind this “heart question” was not so much identifying the ways that our living matches up with the Bible (e.g. ‘I was loving to a stranger this week by giving them some bus money because God tells me to love my neighbour’), but more along the lines of how reading the Bible causes us to respond in obedience (e.g. ‘I read in the Bible that tin order to love my enemies, I am to be generous and vulnerable with everyone and anyone (Luke 6:27-36), so I made a deliberate attempt to do this by buying coffee for and sitting and talking with my work colleague that really frustrates me’). Now both these examples are great, and I am certainly not saying that the first is not truly bearing fruit or being obedient – because it is! But I hope you can see the intention displayed in the second example, and how this is something we should be pursuing, as it demonstrates the personal nature of our relationship with God. It is a key way of how we listen to God in His Word, and respond to the promptings and convictions of the Holy Spirit – hence is an outward example of our relationship with Him. The actions we take simply on the basis of wanting to put Jesus’ Word’s into practice can often be things we find challenging and, to a certain extent, unnatural. However, in our obedience, we are demonstrating that we are not doing these things for any earthly good that might come to us as a result (people reciprocating our generosity, being well liked, feeling good about ourselves) but purely out of love and reverence to Christ. It is visible evidence to ourselves and to others that God’s Word is growing the ‘good soil’ of our hearts.
* Thanks to Mike McKinley in Luke 1-12 For You for the gist of this question