But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

I was reminded the other day of a classic episode of the early ’80s sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati. The plot centers on a promotional stunt the manager of a radio station has organized for Thanksgiving. Part of his plan is to release live turkeys from a helicopter. Of course, disaster ensues, and the radio stations gets the kind of publicity it does not want.

Towards the end, the station manager, still in shock, walks back into the main office. His employees make feeble and unsuccessful efforts to assuage his bruised ego. After disappearing into his office, he returns to deliver the now-famous line: “As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly!”

Basing our decisions on faulty premises often leads to undesirable results. Whether it’s the aerodynamic abilities of turkeys or the nutritional properties of that extra piece of cake, once we’ve talked ourselves into a bad idea, the consequences are sure to come.

In this verse, James is concerned about a delusion that is all too common in churches today: the notion that sitting under the teaching of the Word of God on a regular basis has, in and of itself, some sort of intrinsic value before God.

And from where I sit, there are many, many people who have convinced themselves of this false idea. They are in Sunday School and church, week in and week out. They listen to the lesson, sit through the sermon, compliment the preacher on their way out, and make absolutely zero changes to their lives based on what they have heard. They have convinced themselves that they are fine just as long as they perform their weekly ritual of listening to the message.

They might as well throw a turkey from a helicopter.

James is crystal clear on this point. If you are content to hear, without applying what you hear to your life and putting it into action, you have effectively deluded yourself as to your relationship with God. Saving faith, a renewed mind, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit – all of these propel the true believer to actively put off his old ways and put on his new life in Christ.

Don’t convince yourself of a lie. Rather, be convinced by the Word.

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