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Sermon preached on Labor Day Weekend, September 2, 2012,

at St. Thomas Anglican Church, St. John’s, Newfoundland,

by Bob Rowlands, OPA

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Scriptures: Mark 7: 1-23 & James 1: 17-27 “Be doers of the word and not hearers only.”

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SIX WAYS TO PRACTICE “REAL” RELIGION

 

 

In the gospel reading that we just read, Jesus calls for the practice of “real” religion that comes from the heart.

 

He quotes the prophet Isaiah who says: “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines.”

 

Jesus maintains that “real” religion is not to be found either in vain ceremonial, or in fine words.

 

 

And in our epistle reading, James says essentially the same thing. James says: “Be DOERS of the word & NOT hearers only.”

 

And James says this with good reason, because he knows that we can live successful Christian lives, only by cutting-out the fine words and being “DOERS of the word and NOT hearers only.”

 

Be doers of the word, and not hearers only” — this is a “life-rule’ that is intended to enable us to live the successful lives that God wants us to live.

 

So, if following this life-rule is going to enable us to live the successful Christian lives that God wants, how can webe “DOERS of the word, and NOT hearers only”???

 

That’s what I want to talk to you about this morning……………….

 

There are several ways that we can be “doers of the word, and not hearers only…………..

 

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I/ The FIRST way that we can be “doers of the word, and not hearers only” is by BELIEVING.

 

Because, we cannot live the successful Christian lives that God wants us to live unless we believe — that is, believe in God & believe in Jesus Christ, the Human Expression of God.

 

Now, I want to make it clear just what I mean by “believing in God”……………………

 

By “believing”, I do NOT mean giving mere “intellectual assent” to the assertion that God exists.

 

Obviously, giving intellectual assent to the assertion that God exists is necessary if we are going to “believe” in God. But “believing in God” means considerably MORE than just that.

 

After all, even Satan, even the devil, acknowledges that God exists, knows that God exists — and trembles! So, giving mere intellectual assent to the fact that God exists, is not [in itself] enough.

 

— “Believing in God” means having a RELATIONSHIP with God.

 

— “Believing in God” means having a LOVING relationship with God in which we reach-out to accept His love for us, and we respond to His love for us, by loving Him in return.

 

— “Believing in God” means having a PARENTAL relationship with God, in which we relate to God as our ‘Heavenly Father’ — and not merely as our ‘Creator’.

 

— “Believing in God” means having an intimately PERSONAL relationship with God.

 

— “Believing in God” means getting to know God on a one-to-one, heart-to-heart basis, as His individual children, as His individual sons & daughters.

 

That’s the first way that we can be “DOERS of the word, and NOT hearers only” — by ‘believing’ in God in every conceivable way that the word implies.

 

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II/ But, if we are going to have a loving, intimately personal relationship with our Heavenly Father, we’ve got to TALK with Him, we’ve got to LISTEN to Him, we’ve got to have a MEANS of relating to Him.

 

And, that brings us to the SECOND way that we can be “doers of the word, and not hearers only” — by WORSHIPING God.

 

The worship of God is not an option for the Christian. It is an essential. It is non-negotiable.

 

Because………….

 

In worship, we give to God the praise that is His due. We thank Him for the many blessings that He has bestowed upon us. In worship, we acknowledge our utter dependence upon God.

 

In worship, we get it ‘straight’ in our minds, we get a realistic perspective on, the exact nature of our relationship with God — that only He is ‘God’, and that all we are, are the creatures that He has made, His handiwork. (Realizing our “creatureliness” can be a humbling experience!)

 

In worship, we join with our brothers & sisters in the Church. And, together, as a FAMILY,

we celebrate our oneness with each other, within our oneness in Him.

In worship, we commune with God in such a way that He enters our hearts, and our spirits intermingle with His Spirit.

 

‘Worship’ not an option for the Christian; it is an essential.

 

And, that’s why WORSHIP is the second way that we can be “DOERS of the word, and NOT hearers only.”

 

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III/ But, there is a THIRD way that we can be “doers of the word, and not hearers only.”

 

The THIRD way that we can be “doers of the word, and not hearers only” is by PRAYING.

 

It is true that ‘prayer’ is an important part of formal community worship. But, if we are going to have a personal relationship with God, we cannot limit our prayer-lives to formal community worship. We must also engage in private prayer, where we meet with God in solitude, one-on-one.

 

The Bible tells us to “pray without ceasing.” (I Thessalonians 5:17) That means that we must spend a lot more time, than some of us are currently used to, in conversation with God.

 

Let me ask you something: Is it possible to have a MEANINGFUL relationship with anyone without talking with them???

 

Continuous verbal communication is a necessary part of maintaining any healthy relationship.

And, our relationship with God is no different from any other relationship that we might have.

 

Continuous communication is necessary to the maintenance of a healthy relationship with God, also.

 

And, that’s why PRAYER is the third way that we can be “DOERS of the word, and NOT hearers only.”

 

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IV/ The FOURTH way that we can be “doers of the word, and not hearers only”

is by READING — by reading God’s word as it is recorded in Scripture.

 

The Bible is the written-record of God’s revelation of Himself to humanity.

 

And, God wants to reveal Himself to us through our reading of the SCRIPTURES. God wants to reveal to us His will for our lives.

 

The Bible is our ‘instruction manual’— it’s our ‘textbook’ for Christian living.

 

God inspired deeply-spiritual individuals to write it — and He expects us to read it.

 

 

God doesn’t expect us to put our Bibles on a shelf, or a coffee table, as an ornament for the sole purpose of gathering dust.

 

He expects us to read it every day. Not just when we “feel” like it. Not just when we have to look something up. And, not just when we get one of our rare, sporadic, urges to “feel” spiritual!

 

God expects us to read His word daily. He expects us to make it a habit. He expects us to make it a discipline — because we NEED it.

 

Reading the Bible — That’s the fourth way that we can be “DOERS of the word, and NOT hearers only.”

 

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V/ But, all this reading of scripture & praying & worshiping is FOR A PURPOSE.

 

The purpose is to LEAD us to SERVICE — Service to God & Service to God’s Church.

 

And, that brings up the fifth way that we can be “doers of the word, and not hearers only.”

 

 

The FIFTH way that we can be “doers of the word, and not hearers only” is by WORKING.

 

………….Specifically, by working IN God’s Church, FOR God’s Church.

 

 

There is more to being a part of God’s Church than just ‘being a part’ of the worshiping community. (That’s important, but there is more to being a part of God’s Church — a lot more.)

 

We have to work IN God’s Church, FOR God’s Church.

 

And, this applies to us all — not just the few who are willing to take-on onerous parish responsibilities. It applies to everybody.

 

So, we should (each one of us) ask ourselves:

 

“What am I doing to be of service to God’s Church?”

 

“Do I have a specific ministry in God’s Church?”

 

“And, if I don’t, is there something that I can do?”

 

There are many different ways that we can serve God’s Church, if we just take the time to think about it. There are literally dozens & dozens of jobs in the Church that we can do.

And, we shouldn’t wait until we’re asked. We should step forward aggressively, and volunteer.

 

Because, working IN God’s Church, working FOR God’s Church, is the fifth way that we can be “DOERS of the word, and NOT hearers only.”

 

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VI/ But then there’s our work OUTSIDE God’s Church, in God’s world………………

 

—- And it is especially important that we consider this on this Labor Day weekend.

 

 

No doubt you’ve heard of what historians & sociologists call the “Protestant Work Ethic.”

 

The Protestant Work Ethic has its roots in the Reformation doctrine of “The Priesthood of all Believers.”

 

St. Peter tells us that we Christians are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood.” (1 Peter 2:9)

 

And, from that, the Protestant Reformers deduced that ALL Christians (not just the ordained clergy) are called by God to be His priests, His ministers, in the world.

 

………..Because ALL work is a sacred ministry if it is done “as unto the Lord.”

 

 

The Apostle Paul is explicit about this. Paul says, “Whatsoever you do, work heartily, as unto the Lord, and not unto men.” (Colossians 3:23)

 

So, it doesn’t matter what our chosen profession is………….

 

We can be butchers, bakers, or candlestick makers. We can be teachers or preachers, homemakers or care-givers, carpenters or plumbers, police officers or librarians.

 

It doesn’t matter what our chosen occupation is, so long as we pursue it “as unto the Lord.”

 

 

And that’s the SIXTH way that we can be “doers of the word & not hearers only,”

 

—– by regarding whatever it is that we do in the world as a ministry, as a SACRED ministry.

 

 

If we do this, the quality of our work will never suffer.

 

If we do this, our professional reputations will soar, because, whatever it is that we are doing, we will be doing it with all our might because we will be doing it “as unto the Lord”.

 

And, by doing everything that we do as unto the Lord,”we will find ourselves being “doers of the word, and not hearers only.”

 

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This command from God, given to us through St. James, that we be “doers of the word, and not hearers only,” is a “life-rule”.

 

It is a “life-rule” that is intended to enable us to live the successful lives that God wants us to live, being the best that we can be, realizing our full, God-given potential.

 

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Brothers & sisters, let us carefully & prayerfully consider the fact that God has placed us here, in this parish, in this congregation, for a purpose — to be His ambassadors in a world that is lost without Him.

 

We can fulfill this glorious purpose that God has set for us if we will only make-up our minds to be “DOERS of the word, and NOT hearers only.”

 

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