Summary: The first half of this message is a crash course on how to interpret Scripture. The second half explains how God’s law increases the freedom in your life.
James 1:22 But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 Because if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man looking at his own face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25 But the one who looks intently into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but one who does good works-- this person will be blessed in what he does.
I came across a website this week that had photos of people shopping at Walmart. And these people – some of them may have forgotten to glance in the mirror before leaving their house to go out in public. It is amazing how ridiculous some people look when they show up at Walmart. When I saw those pictures, I thought, “These are the people James is talking about in verses 23-24”.
23 if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man looking at his own face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.
Every morning we get up, and we look in the mirror to assess the damage from the night before. You all probably did that this morning. You looked in the mirror and thought, “Ok, I’ve got some work to do here.” This is a very common human experience – they were doing it 2000 years ago and we are still doing it today. James starts with an analogy of a mirror, but right at the end there he slips out of the analogy and gives you an idea of what he is talking about. Instead of saying he goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like, he says he goes away and immediately forgets what kind of man he is. James is making the transition from a literal mirror to the mirror of God’s Word. A physical mirror shows you what kind of face you have; God’s Word is a mirror that shows you what kind of person you are. A mirror shows the flaws in your body; the Bible shows the flaws in your heart.
The natural response of the Christian heart when you see those character flaws in the mirror of God’s Word, is to change and conform yourself to God’s will in those areas. That is our normal response, but very often we fail at that, mainly because we just simply forget. The principal we saw in the Word has not sunk deeply enough into our souls so that it pops into mind at the moment we need it, so in this section James is teaching us how to learn in such a way as to remember enough that we actually put it into practice.
This is not a small matter. Being a doer of the Word is the evidence of whether or not you are truly saved.
Romans 2:13 For the hearers of the law are not righteous before God, but the doers of the law will be declared righteous.
He is saying, “James is right – you have got to be a doer of the Word. And if you aren’t, if all you do is listen and learn all the time, then you are not on your way to heaven.”
So if you are a Christian, you are striving to be a doer of God’s Word. But that effort is hindered by forgetting, so James is going to help us with that. He is going to show us how to approach God’s Word in a way that will make the right principles come to mind at the right time.
Luke 8:18 Therefore consider carefully how you listen.
When you walk away from the sermon, God’s question for you is not, “Did you listen?” The question is, “How did you listen?” Did you listen in such a way that you will end up remembering it and putting it into practice?
James is going to give us five principles that will help us do that. I want to jump down to number five and begin with that, because that one is the motivation.
How to Remember
1) Be Motivated by Blessing
Take a look at the end of verse 25. James says the doer of God’s Word will be blessed. That is our motivation. You will have the blessing of God on your life if you are a doer of His Word. Here is a literal translation of James 1:25 –
25 But the one who looks intently into the perfect law of freedom and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of work -- he will be blessed in his doing.