Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. James 1:22 (NIV).
How ought we to engage with God’s Word? It should start with confession of sin. “Get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word” James 1:21. The reasons why people don’t read the Bible go far deeper than ignorance, busyness, disinterest or secularism. Sin prevents us from connecting with God’s Word. So when we read the Bible we must start by seeking forgiveness for sin and asking God to strip away our pride.
Once we’ve confessed sin we should study the Word diligently and intently. “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” James 1:25. One of the reasons why people don’t develop in their engagement with the Word is because they only read it. Bible reading, in and of itself, is not enough for spiritual health and growth. But Bible reading coupled with Bible study helps Christians mature in their faith.
Studying the Word should be accompanied by Scripture memorization. James 1:25 urges us to not forget what we have heard. One way to “not forget” the Word is to memorize it. Are you memorizing God’s Word? Every year American elementary and high school children pit themselves against each other in a spelling-bee-style competition known as the National Bible Bee. The contestants have to memorize more than 2,000 verses. After several months of eliminations 300 children and youth compete in the finals. If young people can do it, so can you.
Confession of sin, studying intently and Scripture memorization should lead to an important fourth action – we must respond to God’s Word. If Bible knowledge doesn’t move us to action, we’ve missed the whole point of reading the Word. The acid test of Bible engagement is whether or not we’re becoming Living Epistles. If we read the Bible and don’t do what it says we deceive ourselves (James 1:22). Sadly, there are many people who read the Bible but don’t do what it says. When we read the Bible but don’t do what it says we’re like people who look in a mirror then go away and forget what we look like (James 1:23-24). So do what the Word says. For to have the Bible and not live by its directives is a spiritual catastrophe!