Series Introduction: Recently our new Associate Pastor, Nigel Shailer, challenged us to be “Community Listeners” as we hear God’s Word taught each week. Focus, the ministry to seniors at FBC, has been working through this topic following Ken Ramey’s excellent book Expository Listening. This series of six articles comes from that study.
“The Bible was not given for our information but for our transformation.” – D. L. Moody.
“The goal of Bible study is not to make us smarter sinners but to make us more like our Savior.” – Howard Hendricks
Too often so-called “students” of the Word are looking for more information while forgetting the all-important step of application. We need to ask this: “How does this truth change my life?” We should not be satisfied with just hearing a good sermon. James 1:25 pronounces a blessing on what you do when you apply God’s Word to your life. The one who is described as blessed in this verse is not a “forgetful hearer,” but an “effectual doer.” A forgetful hearer is one who neglects what needs to be done. It’s like hearing a sermon, complimenting the preacher, and then waiting for a new one next week. Meanwhile, the effectual doer is one who goes to work. That’s the significance behind the word “effectual.” Listen to a sermon and get to work putting it into action.
Some good insights are offered in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 on how we can listen to scripture and use it to change our lives. These verses tell us that the Word of God is profitable (useful and helpful) in four ways.
First, it is profitable for TEACHING
Other versions use the word doctrine. The word “teaching” has to do with giving us information. Such information may be something new to us or something of which we need to be reminded. When listening to the Word of God, we should be asking questions about what we are learning. Here are some examples:
- What did I learn about ______________ (God, Christ, Church, holiness, etc.)?
- What promise do I see from what I heard?
Second, it is profitable for REPROOF
Reproof means that you are being confronted with something that is sinful, either doing something you should not be doing, or not doing something that you should be doing. The verb form of this word is translated as “exposed” or “convicted” (James 2:9; Jude 15; Ephesians 5:11). So the Bible should bring conviction in your heart that you are doing something wrong. Here are some questions to ask:
- What sins have I committed and need to repent of?
- What should I start doing (or start doing again)?
- Are there commands that I have ignored, forgotten, or not previously heard?
Third, it is profitable for CORRECTION
The positive side of reproof is correction. It sounds just like the word: correcting the wrong behavior. Something in our life is out of order, and it needs to be restored to its proper place. The Bible shows you what you have been doing and what you should be doing instead. Ephesians 4:24-25 and 1 Peter 1:1-2 offer some examples that can be found in the New Testament where we have to do the negative (“put off”) before we can do the positive (“put on”). Try these questions to help find areas of correction:
- What should I be doing instead of _________________?
- Where do I need to make things right?
Fourth, it is profitable for TRAINING IN RIGHTEOUSNESS
Training is what we do with people who don’t know how to do something, like our children, students in school or coworkers on the job. Here the object of the training is righteousness. This is not the righteousness that is to be gained by trusting in Christ alone for salvation. Rather, it is the righteousness that we are to live out day by day. We should be seeing how God wants us to think and act. Scripture shows us how we are to live. Here is what we can ask:
- What do I need help doing? Who can help me?
- Is there an example to follow (or not follow)?
These four ways of allowing the Bible to be profitable in your life will help you be a “doer of work” rather than a “neglectful hearer” and thus be blessed in your “doing.” That’s a promise!