SIGNS OF THE TIMES SERMON SERIES
“JUST DO IT” – APPLYING GOD’S PRINCIPLES TO LIFE
FEBRUARY 18, 1996
In the 1970s two men selling athletic shoes out of their mother’s living room, decided to branch out and begin a new company. This company was named Nike. Over the next two decades, Nike literally went toe to toe with the big three; Converse, Addidas and Reebock, vying for the top position in athletic shoe sales worldwide. In 1988, Nike devised a strategy that pushed them over the top. “Just Do It” became the most widely recognized phrase in America. In fact, one social historian told Time magazine and I quote, “The culture of the baby boom generation can be summed up in three words, just do it.” It took the Nike executives to popularize the phrase but this phrase has been around for thousands and thousands of years. It was first mentioned by James in the Bible. James 1:22 says “Do not merely listen to the Word and so deceive yourself but do what it says.” James said, just do it. When you think about it, Nike’s strategy was brilliant. They said that they had the greatest product in the world and that it was available to everyone worldwide. No excuses, no whining, no procrastination, just do it. And yet our loving and transcendent God tells us the same thing. God says that He has given us the greatest product in the world, available to all. The Bible is a collection of His love letters to us. No whining, no excuses, no procrastination, just do it.
How do we just do it spiritually? How do we apply God’s principles to our lives? The availability of the Bible is amazing, it is staggering. You can get the Bible on computer, on cassette tape. You can watch it on television and hear it on the radio. The Bible is everywhere, it is always the number one best seller. Over the last twelve months, five hundred million Bibles were printed in over eighteen hundred different languages. We live in the mecca of ministry, the belt buckle of Bible study, yet are we doing it? Are we practicing God’s Word directly in our lives?
Today we are going to look at seven verses from the Bible. These seven verses show us how to live out God’s loving and life-changing words to us. Now just for a second I am going to ask you to use your imagination. Think back in your past to the time when you used to race your friends. I am talking about a foot race. Let’s imagine everyone lined up behind the starting line and you are wearing a brand new racing uniform. You are ready to go, prepared, into it. Your palms are sweaty, butterflies are in your stomach, the adrenalin is pumping and all eyes are focused on the PE coach. The PE coach says, “OK now, watch me.” You know the PE coach with the polyester coaching shorts, the tube socks pulled up, the whistle. And the coach says, “Get ready, get set…” and then that pregnant pause, “…go.” That gets me fired up just thinking about that. Get ready, get set, go. That little phrase is the key to applying God’s Word to our lives.
Look at the outline which is included with your bulletin and you will see three big blanks. You can go ahead and fill them out right now. Get ready. Get set. Go. That is what James tells us. First he says, get ready. How do we get ready. We get ready by opening up our ears. James says that as you get ready to run the race, to apply God’s principle to your life, you had better open up your ears. In James 1:19 he says, “…be quick to listen…” Literally, this means to give God your full court attention. Anytime the Bible is open, anytime someone teaches a Bible study or preaches or you see a drama or you hear a song inspired from scripture, James says that you better be quick to listen.
A couple of years ago, the US Air Force did a study that is really kind of a downer to pastors. They said that individuals forget 95% of what they have heard in seventy-two hours. That means that by Wednesday you have totally forgotten everything that we have talked about here. It is kind of a depressing statistic. But, if we write it down, we remember it much, much better.
My wife and I have a dog named Dominique. Dominique is thirteen years of age, a healthy mutt. He has been with us for a long time. I love that canine. His favorite food is grilled chicken. Now we are kind of health food addicts at our home and we have chicken now and then. Sometimes to show off for guests I will slice off a little piece of chicken and say, “Dominique, chicken.” Then I will do something rather cruel, but stay with me. I will kind of rub it under his nose. He begins to drool. He wants the chicken badly. Then I tell Dominique to sit, which he will do. Then I take the chicken and place it on his left paw. He will not eat it though. This dog is as smart as a whip. He will see that chicken and look up at me. Slowly his mouth will get closer and closer to that paw. I will say, “Dominique, no.” He is just waiting for my words, “Eat it.” And let me tell you something, when I say eat it, in a nanosecond it will be gone. Now Dominique is quick to listen. He is hanging on every word his master is saying. That is what James is saying. Open up your ears, because if your ears are clogged, it is going to block God communicating with you, and the same with me.
Next James says, close your mouths. Oh, oh. Close your mouths. That is a tough one for us. We have two ears and one mouth, thus we are to listen twice as much as we speak. While we are talking, we are not listening. Thus we are not learning. And we all have a hard time with that. And the picture here is someone talking to themselves instead of listening to what God is saying. There is a man in the Bible by the name of Elijah. Elijah was a prophet who had the blues. God used him in an incredible way. After he had had that victory and been inspired by God you would think that Elijah would want to give some high fives to God and be grateful for having been used. But God’s man had the blues. “Oh, God I am in trouble. A women named Jezebel is chasing your prophet.” He began to sing the old country and western song. He had the blues, the prophetic blues. God said, “Elijah, you need to hear from me. Elijah, go up on the mountaintop and I will talk to you.” I am sure that Elijah thought that God would do something so phenomenal, that He would speak so directly that it would just knock him over. The Bible says that Elijah was on that mountaintop waiting for God to speak and suddenly a giant wind hits. The Bible says that God was not in the wind. Then a fire fell and Elijah was sure God was in the fire. But the Bible says that God was not in the fire. Then an earthquake hit. Again the Bible said that God was not in the earthquake. Finally, God spoke to Elijah with a gentle whisper. In some translations it says in a still, small voice. We have to open our ears, be like Dominique, close our mouth and let God communicate to us with His still, small voice, that gentle whisper. Every time you sit under the Word of God, He wants to say something to you and to me. Open your ears, close your mouths.
Next He says, control your temper. James says control your temper. A lot of people are afraid to read the Bible because it reveals who they really are. Oftentimes I don’t want to read that next verse because I know it is going to knock me right between the eyes. Usually, when a trusted friend of mine tells me something that I need to change in my life, my first reaction is anger. “Oh, you’ve got the wrong person, not me.” Especially when my wife says something to me like, “You know, Ed, that attitude, I have seen that before.” Now if you are honest, husbands, when your wives point out things to you, you will admit that they are right. But we don’t do that do we? No. “No, no way, not me.” James says here, slow to become angry. You need to say to God that you are going to receive His truth because it is truth no matter what. Control your temper. Anger is fine when it is used properly but we get angry oftentimes at the wrong things.
Next James says, take off your warmups. You see that? “…get rid of all moral filth. I hate to be gross, but I will. The word in the original language, moral filth is rendered earwax. Earwax. A couple of years ago I couldn’t hear out of my right ear. I told Lisa that I was losing my hearing. I went to the doctor. When he looked at my ear, he told me that I had some serious wax buildup. He irrigated my ears. He shot this river into my ear. And once he did that I could hear. Sin blocks your hearing. James goes on and says to get rid of “…the evil that is so prevalent…” You might want to parallel that with a verse in the Bible, Hebrews 12:1. It says, “Let us throw off everything that hinders us and the sin that so easily entangles us.” Here we are behind the starting line. We are to get ready. And if we are going to really run this race that God wants us to run, if we are going to just do it spiritually, if we are really going to apply God’s principles to our lives, we have got to take off the sin that so easily entangles us.
In a couple of months we will watch the Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia. When you watch the runners, the male and female athletes go around and around the track, I doubt that you will see one of them in a bulky, hindering sweat suit. You won’t see that. They will be wearing those ultrathin Nike outfits, and they throw those off so that they can run and get free. That is the picture here. The Bible says if we are going to run the race, we have got to throw off the attitude, the relationship, the sin that so easily entangles us and encumbers us and trips us up. Sin and moral problems will block your walk with God.
Case in point. Valentines Day, February 14. I wake up. My lovely wife, Lisa, had been up for an hour already. I walk downstairs, the four children are there. Lisa had cooked heart-shaped eggs, heart-shaped bran muffins, heart-shaped small muffins for the twins. She had all the candy out. For me, she had really done it right. She gave me three of my favorite magazines, one on fly-fishing, that is always first, one on health food, second and one on working out, that is third. She bought me some flowers and everything was great. I was kind of in a grumpy mood. I don’t know what the problem was. So I ate the food. It was great. I had a good time with the kids. Then I told Lisa that I would drive the car pool that morning. What a servant. So I go upstairs, get dressed and come back down. Then I decided that I would have a cup of herbal tea even though I was running late and it would make the whole car pool late. LeeBeth gave me “that” look. She is ten, so she does it well. I do the herbal tea, anyway. Lisa suggested that I not make the tea since I would make everybody late who depended on me. Here is what I said. “Lisa, give me a break. I will have my tea right here. I don’t care if LeeBeth is late.” Finally, I just got the tea and left. I didn’t say a word, didn’t kiss her goodbye, say goodbye to EJ or the twins. I am gone. It is bad, isn’t it? For that matter, I hadn’t even bought her a valentines gift yet. But don’t worry, I made up. I made up that night. I got something. So I get to work and I begin studying for this message regarding hearing from God, applying God’s principles to life. I am trying to get into it but I could tell that something was blocking the process. Something was hindering God really communicating with me through His Word. Well, about two hours later I swallowed my pride. Pride always comes with sin. Actually pride is the sin. Pride is the creature saying to the creator, “I will do it my way.” I called Lisa and admitted that I had acted like a total jerk. I apologized and asked her to forgive me. Of course, she said yes, and the minute she said that, the lines were open again. The warmups had come off. I was free now to do what God wanted me to do. But if you have not dealt with sin, with problems, with selfishness, with pride in your relationships, you will never just do it spiritually and you will never be able to apply God’s exciting principles, God’s liberating principles to your life. Get ready.
Next, get set. Here is what my man, James, says about getting set. By the way, James was the half-brother of Jesus. James did it in his life. His nickname was Old Camel’s Knees. Do you know why? Because history tell us that James prayed so much that he had callouses on his knees. Isn’t that something? Get set. James 1:21b. “…humbly accept the word…” Now the opposite of humility is pride. To humbly accept the word means to have a teachable spirit. Have you ever known someone who does not have a teachable spirit? “You can’t teach me anything. I have already gone through that seminar. I have gone to that conference. I have read that book in the Bible. I have heard that message.” James is saying that he doesn’t care if we have heard it three hundred and seventy-five times in a two-hour span, we can still learn something from it. All leaders are learners. The moment we stop learning is the moment we stop leading. All of us need to have a teachable spirit. We can learn from everyone. We can learn from all Christians. If you have been a Christian for a day or ten years or seventy years, you can still learn. Humbly accept the word. This word accept is a southern term. James must have been from Mississippi because it means hospitality. In other words, when truth comes knocking at your door you say, “Howdy, ya’ll”. You open up the door and ask truth to come in. Many times, though, when we receive truth, we receive it but then we distort it and twist it and fit it into our lifestyle. You see, instead of letting the Bible change us and cleanse us and wash us and alter us, we try to receive it and then remove one verse, then another to alter the meaning. We try to find a church that fits our lifestyle. For example, if we are involved in adultery, we want to find a church that never talks about adultery, that never talks about sex outside of marriage. Or maybe it is a problem with lying, or stealing or slander. You take the Bible and you cut and paste and take out certain sections that don’t fit your life. We are to receive the full economy of God and let it mold us and let it change us and we are to humbly accept it.
I like this next phrase, “…humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.” And this message, today, is predominately for those of us who know Christ personally. If you are not a Christian, if you are a seeker investigating the claims of Christ, this is the place for you, a place to seek. We are not going to embarrass you. We are not going to make you stand up and put a giant name tag on you. We love you and want you to come in and seek. But this verse tells us how to become a Christian. You become a Christian by opening up your life to Jesus Christ, your soil to Jesus Christ, and letting Him plant His seed into you. That is how a person gets saved, how a person knows Christ personally. And then, once the seed is in you, Jesus begins to grow you, He begins to mature you, and He begins to produce fruit in your life, as He does in mine. It is a decision that you have to make that I can’t make for you. You have to say, “OK, here is my soil full of weeds and all, sins and all, problems and all. Jesus I receive you into my life.” The moment He comes in, He will do the gardening. He will remove the sin. You just admit it is there and He will come in and your life will never, ever be the same.
Matthew 13 is a great text. In Matthew 13, Jesus was standing beside a lake. You know Jesus loved to fish. His friends were fishermen. You read in the Bible, He was always by a lake. Anyway, He was standing by a lake talking to many people when he decided to jump into a boat. I am not talking about a bass boat, I am talking about a wooden boat. He was preaching from the boat because the people were right there on the shore. He was talking and decided to use a word picture. He loved to use things that people could connect with so He saw a farmer scattering seed. And Jesus said, “You know what? The Word of God is like seed and the soil is like different responses to the Word.” The soil that I am going to talk about is the same kind of soil that Jesus talked about. The first soil is the hard soil. Some of the seed falls beside the road on hard soil and birds come and just pick up the seed for food. Some of you here, your hearts are so hard and so calloused by sin and by moral foulups in your lives, you are not receptive to hear God’s Word and it will just not take root.
Another kind of soil Christ talked about is the shallow soil. Christ said that some seed would fall onto soil that is shallow, it may look good but underneath is a big rock which limites its depth. The seed might germinate and grow quickly but then it would die. Do we have any people of shallow soil here? Another kind of soil would be weed infested. I have never heard a farmer exclaim over a beautiful patch of weeds. What happens in many of our lives is that we have all of this sin and contrary grass and when we receive God’s Word even though it begins to grow the weeds will choke the growth because we have not let God deal with the sin which needs to be pulled up by the roots. Let me tell you something, weeding is tough. I hate to pull weeds. As a kid growing up in a home with a forty yard wide flower bed, I learned to hate pulling up weed after weed after weed. As an aside, a couple of times I got kind of sly and cut the weeds and didn’t mess with the roots. Well the weeds just came back up in a couple of days. You have got to take sin out by the roots. If we don’t, sin will grow and choke the life out of something that God wants to grow.
The final type of soil that Christ talked about is the soil that is receptive. I am talking about that moist, dark soil. Once the seed comes in, the roots really begin to spread out and the plant grows, is strong and begins to mature. Then it begins to produce that fruit that I talked about earlier. Get ready. Get set.
Most people stop right there. Get ready. See the coach. He has the whistle in his mouth. Get ready. Get set. Most Christians stop right there. Get ready. Get set. I’ll go to another Bible Study. Get ready. Get set. I’ll take another class. Get ready. Get set. Finally we have got to go. We have got to go. We have got to do the stuff. We have got to move out. We have got to run the race. We have got to claim our land. Here is what James said. “Go.” This kind of blew me away. You know what he tells us first to do as we are going? Look in the mirror. How many of you looked in the mirror today? I’m sure that everyone is going to raise their hand. We all like to look in the mirror. It is human nature. I love to stand by a mirror in a house or an office and watch people look at themselves in the mirror. Most of us try to be sly about it. James says to look in the mirror. You mean while we are running? Yes. While we are going, we are to look into the mirror. Let’s read here. James 1:22. “Do not merely listen to the word…” This word listen means to audit. I remember I audited a course at Florida State. It was great. I just took notes. No responsibility. No accountability. I just audited it. A lot of people audit God’s word, we listen. That was a good sentence, that was a good Bible Study, that was a good song, a good drama. I think if Nike did a commercial on most Christians it would go like this. Christians, They Just Hear It. “Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” I want to tell you something. We work hard at making the Bible understandable. I can’t tell you how hard we work to do that. The Bible is a deep book. It is true that sometimes it is difficult to grasp. We want to give you something that you can understand and apply to your lives. This church is also the most positive church I have ever seen in my life. I cannot thank you guys enough for the letters and the compliments that you give our staff and leadership about this church. Every week we hear this. We love compliments, don’t get me wrong. We love that. But the thing that puts the most wind in my sail is when someone tells me this. “Ed, you know what you talked about, I am going to put that into practice this week. I am going to do that.” Now that really fires me up. That is my number one prayer on Sunday afternoon while I am watching fishing shows. I pray that our church has the reputation that Nike has, that the Fellowship of Las Colinas just does it. That our people apply God’s Word. “Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man (or a woman) who looks at his (or her) face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.” The purpose of a mirror is to evaluate oneself.
Yesterday I had lunch with a family at Wendys. I had the salad bar. I piled my plate full of fresh broccoli. After I had eaten the broccoli, I drove to the health club and worked out. I talked to a number of people while working out. I didn’t realize it but I had a large chunk of broccoli on my right cuspid, hanging there. No one told me it was there. I was smiling at people, talking with people. I even lifted weights in front of the mirror and didn’t see it because I just was glancing. I got dressed, went to the church, sat in the car for awhile and studied. Something told me to flip down the visor and look in the mirror. I noticed the gray hair first, but then I found the giant piece of broccoli which had accompanied me for four hours. No one had the guts to tell me it was there. But the mirror showed me it was there. You know what this book is? It is called the mirror of God’s word. James goes on, “But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it – he will be blessed in what he does.” In other words, continually, as I go, I am to look at the mirror of God’s Word. It reveals the sin and problems in our lives. Then we have to choose to do something about it. We have got to change some things, stop doing some things, start doing some things. As I go, I have to look in the mirror. Next I am going to take a bath. We bathe regularly, don’t we. Lots of times we will look at ourselves in the mirror and decide to take a bath or shower. After a bath or shower we feel good, we feel refreshed. We feel cleansed, we feel good. Look what this verse of scripture says. Ephesians 5:26. “We are cleansed with the washing of water by the word…” This Word is powerful. So I am going, I am looking at myself in the mirror, it is telling me the problems and then I wash myself as I get into God’s Word and read it and study it. So after looking in the mirror and taking a bath Biblically, I put my shoes on. Now you wouldn’t think about going to work tomorrow without shoes, would you? Not even if the weather is good.
The Christian life is called the walk in the Bible. That is what James is saying, walk the walk and talk the talk. You know, years ago my father gave me something that means the world to me. He gave me a little Bible. This is not like a normal, everyday average Bible. This Bible is made with authentic shoe leather. You know what he told me before he gave it to me? He said, “Ed, I want you to read this and ask yourself these questions. How do I live it out. How do I put shoe leather under the truths. How do I apply it. How do I put it into practice.” The shoe leather New Testament. Every time we read God’s Word, we should think about living it out. James is saying to us, the Bible is saying to us, in essence, just do it. Just do it. Are you doing it?