Monday, September 26, 2005

The Man in the Mirror: James 1:22-25

If you are coming to church, coming to youth group, or occasionally reading your bible, with out letting it have an impact on you then you are putting yourself in a dangerous position. You are deluding, or deceiving, yourself into thinking that you are living right just because you know all the answers in Sunday school. But the truth of the matter is that all a person like this has had is a superficial encounter with Scripture. This person is a sermon taster who has never tasted the grace of God. You can deceive yourselves, but you cannot deceive God. You can ignore what the Bible says about your sin problem, but God will not ignore it. Do not fool around with this. You cannot dip your toe in the shallow end of the pool and call yourself an Olympic swimmer. You are saved by faith --- believing. How can you say that you know what God’s word says, and that you believe it and not do it? If you hear God’s word and believe it will impact your life.

James gives us a very vivid picture of what he is talking about. If we hear God’s word when it tells us that we are sinners and do nothing about it then we are like the man who looks in the mirror. This man gets up in the morning looks into the mirror and sees that his hair is messy. He promptly walks away without combing his hair and the rest of the day he thinks he looks great. This man is either denying what he saw in the mirror, or he does not believe it. When we look at God’s word without letting it impact our lives then we are either pretending that we don’t know what it says, or denying that it is true. As is true with the man in the mirror, any failure to respond cannot be blamed on a lack of understanding. This man made a foolish mistake with his natural face, how much greater a mistake would it be for us to make this mistake with our souls? God’s word, His heavenly doctrine, is a mirror in which we can see who we truly are in light of who God is. We must not look at this mirror and walk away. For the man looking into the mirror it was “out of sight” “out of mind.” Is it the same way for your study of God’s word? Doctrine that is merely heard and not received into the heart is worth nothing because it will soon vanish.

The benefit from God’s word will come when we believe it and do it. James says that the doer of God’s word looks intently on the perfect law of liberty. It is as if he was walking along and then in the mirror he saw the perfect law of liberty and it caught his attention. Unlike the distorted mirrors of James’ time (that were made out of various metals until the well after James was written) the law is perfect and able to give an undistorted view. The law showed him who he really was, and what he looked like. It showed him that he was a sinner that had fallen short of God, and that through Christ he could be saved. This perfect law of liberty is that same word that has been implanted in believers. This law is the word, and the liberty is in its power to save souls. This law is the law that Jeremiah spoke of in Jeremiah 31:33. God has made us His people through Christ, and he has put His law in our hearts (through the Spirit) so that we can finally be free to live the way He created us to live.

As you submit yourself to the transforming power of God’s word this law of liberty will work in your life giving you the ability to do God’s will joyfully. This is a matter of the heart. “As long as the law is preached by the external voice of man, and not inscribed by the finger and of the Spirit of God on the heart, it is but a dead letter, and as if it were a lifeless thing.” (Calvin)

Not only does the doer give his attention to God’s word, but he stays with it abiding by all that he learns. He does not soon forget what he has seen in God’s word. He is like a man who looks in the mirror, sees that he needs to comb his hair, and combs it. Not only has this man heard the word, but he is also allowing the Spirit to change him through the word. This man is being transformed by the word of God. He is effective in doing God’s will because he is affected by God’s Word.

The man who not only hears God word, but also does God’s word will be blessed in what he does. He will be blessed because what he is doing is God’s will. If you want to find the secret to life and happiness look no farther than God’s word. Scripture makes it very clear from Genesis to Revelation that if you do God’s will you will be blessed. You will be blessed because God’s way is the best way. When we are commanded not to do something in Scripture it is not because God wants to be mean; rather it is because God wants to protect us. When we are doing what the word commands we will be protected from consequences of sin. For if I sin there will be consequences, just like if I stick a fork in an electrical outlet there will be consequences. God wants to protect us from the “shock” sin can bring in our life.

Sometimes our blessedness will not look so much like blessedness. Remember this is what the first chapter of James is all about. But even in earthly trials those who effectually do the word have a blessing. It is an eschatological blessing. Those who do the word demonstrate that they believe what it says, and thus demonstrate that God’s saving grace has been made manifest in their lives.


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