My wife has finally decided to get her driver's license. Just because we don't have a car doesn't mean a license is not important. In our province in Canada the government requires all drivers to take a year long course which includes theory and practical. My wife must attend classes where they discuss driving techniques along with highway laws, then she gets two hours with a driving instructor where she must put what she learned into practice. It is not unlike the Church.
Imagine how useless it would be if my wife attended class but never had the opportunity to put the theory into practice. Her theory classes would be a waste of time and money. Yet this is exactly what we find in the Church. We have tons of sermons, great teaching and incredible training opportunities in small groups and other avenues but it is all useless unless we put what we are taught into practice.
This is a tricky subject for Christians because we know it is not our actions that save us but the single act of Jesus on the cross that has made salvation available to us. It is not what we do but what he did. Yet there is more to it than just salvation. Consider our Father's heart:
For not the hearers of the law just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified. (Romans 2:13)
We also know that the Spirit spoke the Father's heart through James when he wrote that we are not to be mere listeners of the Word but doers. It is great to hear that we are suppose to love each other but when we fail to do it the knowledge is useless to us. When we know we are suppose to be compassionate and merciful to sinners and yet condemn them instead, the knowledge is lost on us.
Jesus has saved us but we must work in cooperation with the Holy Spirit for the transformation process. We are a new creation but we are growing out of what we were into our new heart. We do not have the ability to love as Jesus loved, even though he commanded us to do so. However, when we desire to love in this way we open the door to the Holy Spirit to change us so we can love in this way. The only manner in which the transformation will take hold is as we desire it, letting go of what no longer belongs to our nature and taking hold of the character of Jesus. It is a wonderful work of the Holy Spirit.
As we sit through the sermons, Bible studies, and discipline classes, we need to hear what inspires but we have to say to the Spirit, "That's my desire". He will bring the conviction about the things we need to let go of and he will provoke us to the greater things; the things of love, mercy and grace. The Word is intended for us to live, not simply study, so go live it and see the world change around you.