22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. (NIV)
James teaches us that when we listen to the Word without obeying it, we will be deceived. He is not saying there is a possibility of deception. We are deceiving ourselves.
To listen to the Word requires some form of Christian community. James is not speaking of reading the Word but also listening. Someone must be sharing, teaching, and expositing the Word for me to hear. This implies a regular habit of being in a community with people who profess to be Christian. In this community, there is prayer. There is worship. There is encouragement using church vernacular. It seems that anyone who engages regularly with Christians for the purpose of religious activity would be a strong Christian. Yet, we all know many people who are in church all the time, and others who know the Bible forward and backward, but they do not reflect the love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness of God. They are not Christlike.
The deception is the false sense of pietism. The activity however is not the end goal. Reading the Bible, studying, being in church, and listening to sermons is not the point. Anyone can do this. We know from Scripture that the devil himself loves to quote Scripture. He may do it with malintent, but the point is that listening, studying, reading, and meditating on the Scripture along with all the other religious activities is not going to move us out of our own sin and flesh into Christlikeness. These are only the vehicle to help us get there.
Imagine going to see Grandma, but all you do is drive by her house repeatedly as you circle her block. When Grandma calls, she wonders why you never came to see her. And you actually argue with her that you did go see her. This is what it is to be religious without obedience. Regular involvement in the church can cause you to think you have spent time with the Lord, but all you did was drive in circles never leaving your vehicle of religious movements.
The worst part about it is that we will have thought we were near to God. When God attempts to reveal to us how far we are from Him, we will be in disbelief thinking we are so near to Him, but we’re not.
Prayer: Lord, help me to identify where I am not doing what the Word says so that I might not deceive myself.