One of the reasons for this reality is because the Holy Spirit holds back a teaching for the moment it will make the biggest impact in our lives. It has less to do with our IQ and more to do with timing.
One of the times I have experienced this happened several years ago while I read James 3:1-12, particularly verses 9 through 12:
With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water (James 3:9-12; ESV).James wrote that there are two uses for our tongues.
- We can bless God and others with our words. Our tongues can be an instrument of worship to God and an instrument of encouragement to those around us.
- We can curse God and others with our words. Our tongues can be an instrument to misuse the holy of God and an instrument to abuse those around us.
Think about how you use your tongue. Are people blessed by what you say or are they hurt by the words that come out of your mouth?
As I pondered this passage, the Holy Spirit showed me that the application encompasses more than our tongues.
Ultimately, what James taught in this passage applies to the way we live.
We can use our bodies to either sin and rebel against God, or we can use them to obey and worship God.
It is true that our actions fall on a spectrum between those two realities, but in the end we are either living in obedience or we are living in sin.
In his book Surprised by Hope, N. T. Wright devoted a whole chapter to the idea of “building for the kingdom.”
“But what we can and must do in the present, if we are obedient to the gospel, if we are following Jesus, and if we are indwelt, energized, and directed by the Spirit, is to build for the kingdom” (p. 208).This leads us to ask the question, “How do we build for the kingdom?”
In light of the passage from James, I would argue that we build for the kingdom when we devote our lives to doing good works in the name of Christ Jesus.
This is the point I want us to get today: just as our tongues can curse or praise God, our lives can either work for His kingdom or they can work against His kingdom.
I believe that sin is rebellion against God, and it has a corrupting nature, not only in our lives, but in the world.
Remember, this world was created good, and it has been corrupted through Satan, sin, and death.
For us to build for God’s kingdom requires us to leave sin behind through repentance, and join our lives to Jesus.
It is not enough just to leave a life of sin, but we also need to pursue what is right.
God called us to a life of obedience and good works. This is the practical side of how we join Him in His effort to redeem all of creation.
It is crucial to remember that our good works are not what makes us right with God, that only happens through faith in Jesus. Rather, our good works are our effort to partner with God in bringing His Kingdom to earth.
The implication of this thought is that the more we devote our lives to God’s kingdom the less we will be involved with sin. In other words, the best way to live out our repentance is to spend our lives doing good.
When we devote our lives to doing good, we are no longer participating in what brings corruption and injustice into God’s good creation. Just as salt corrupts fresh water, sin corrupts good works.
Consider what the apostle Paul wrote in Galatians:
Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith (Galatians 6:7-10, ESV).Here we discover the key to good works: being led by the Spirit.
The best way I know to be led by the Spirit is to be students of Scripture, to be involved in a church family, and to be devoted to prayer. If we care about doing what God has called us to do, if we desire to be led by the Spirit, then we will make these things a priority in our lives.
There are two ways we can live our lives. We can lives our lives in rebellion against God, or we can live our lives building for His kingdom.
Make the right choice.