Summary: We may not always like what we see in the mirror of God’s Word but what we see there is always the truth and always the best!
“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does. If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” (James 1:22-27)
Charles Spurgeon once told of sitting in a nice restaurant. As he ate he kept noticing a rather angry looking man across the dining room who scowled at him every time he looked his way. Finally Spurgeon decided to go over and speak to the man to see what his problem was. However, as he stood he realized that what he had been seeing was his own reflection in mirrors that lined the walls across the room. We may not always like what we see in the mirror of God’s Word but what we see there is always the truth and always the best!
I. How Do We Approach God’s Word ?
A. Some Approach God’s Word with a Conscious Forgetfulness (vv.23-24).
That may seem like a contradiction in terms but if it does you have obviously never had children. They can plan to forget what you say even before you say it!
James is not talking about people who have never heard God’s Word. This person he speaks of is a serious hearer of God’s Word. The words observing (v.23) and observe (v.24) indicate someone who is considering something. When Moses saw the burning bush he drew closer to observe the bush (Acts 7:30-31). James is speaking of serious listeners to the Word. These are people who have taken time to be taught and consider what God has to say. They are not spiritual ignorant!
Unfortunately this a serious hearer who doesn’t intend to apply what he hears. He looks at God’s Word and then forgets what kind of man he was (v.24). The Phillips paraphrase says he leaves “without the slightest recollection of his what sort of person he saw in the mirror.” There are many people today like that. They have a serious disconnect between what they know and what they do about what they know.
There are several reasons people don’t respond to what they see in the mirror of God’s Word.
* First, there are some who don’t look at all. It is hard to understand how these people could be believers.
*Secondly, there are some who are wearing too many distractions when they do look in the mirror of God’s Word. Verse 23 says we must look at our natural face (with no makeup or adornments). I once knew a suit salesman by the name of Hasan. He could convince a monkey that he looked good is a suit in front of a mirror. His customers weren’t seeing themselves – they were seeing the suit. We need times of quietness without all the garb of religion to mask who we really are before God.
*Finally some believers are too busy looking at other people to see themselves.
Whatever the reasons, the results are the same. James is warning us against listening to God’s Word but then allowing other things to get in the way of applying that Word.
B.Other Approach God’s Word With a Continuing Faithfulness (v.25).
Faithfulness begins by looking into the perfect law of liberty. Christian liberty entails three things:
* Freedom from the tyranny of sin and death (Romans 6:20-23).
* Freedom from the Law (Galatians 5:1; 13-18) - This does not mean that there is no place for the law of God in our life. Keeping the Law was never intended to be our spiritual life but rather to lead us to spiritual life in Christ.
* Freedom that comes from following Christ as Lord (Romans 8:1-4) - We fulfill the Law of the Old Testament when we submit to the Lordship of the New Testament.
Once the faithful listener looks into the perfect law of liberty he continues in it. This is not a one-shot revival time experience for this person. It’s a habit of life. Mountain-top experiences are great but it is in the valley of daily life that our trust in God’s Word is really tested.
The faithful listener continues as a doer of the work. I Thessalonians 1:2-3 says, “We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers, remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father.” We are blessed when we allow what we see in God’s Word to be translated into the actions of our life! When we do that we are blessed. That is why Jesus said, “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them” (John 13:17).