Summary: Life can be narrowed down to two outcomes, either you will live life as a reflection of God or a shadow of this world, when people see you what do they see?
It is strange how life works out sometimes. Sometimes people, who show the greatest potential, fizzle out and nothing ever really comes of them. And other times people who never really seem to have it all together, end up beating the odds, and actually make something of themselves. For instance, there is a true story of these two guys. Both guys came from a history of drug addiction and problems with the law. They ended up crossing paths in a Christian drug and alcohol program where they made decisions to follow Christ. Both of them pressed into the program. They both heard the same teachings day in and day out and by the grace of God graduated the program as best friends. As they parted ways, one guy went on to pursue dreams that God laid upon his heart and the other guy walked away from the program only to gradually fall away from the Lord. The contrast between these two guys is similar to the two men James compares in 1:22-25. “James says, do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does” (NIV).
“The Reflective Christian”
I have come to the conclusion that life can be narrowed down to two outcomes, either you will live life as a reflection of God or as a shadow of this world.
The fact is that just listening to God’s word without application is deception, but applying God’s word after listening, results in the blessings of God following you through life.
At the foundation of my passage is a comparison in which James says the man who just hears the word is like the person who looks and sees a reflection of himself, but the man who hears the word and practices what he has heard is like the person who looks and sees the perfect law that brings liberty. Both men take a different direction when they hear the word. This leads them to different results. The bottom line is that you are either a passive Christian or a pro-active Christian in your response to God’s word.
(1) Passive Christians deceive themselves!
The passive Christian hears the word and that is it. They barely respond or even react. The people who James was writing to would actually go and listen to the public reading of scripture and be content with just that. James is emphasizing the fact that hearing and knowing is not enough, but what really matters is to practice what you hear and know. Trying to do it any other way will bring deception upon yourself and to those around you. If you cannot hear and apply God’s word, how can the people in your sphere of influence do the same?
At a first glance, when you see this passage you would immediately think that the man who looks in the mirror and forgets what he looks like was careless in his self-examination. But in the Greek text, to look does not mean to look carelessly, but to understand and consider attentively. Clearly, the way that the man looked at the mirror was enough for him to process the word. Since he had time to process the word, this man then chose to be passive in his response. In this mans passivity, he becomes a reflection of himself and not of God. This not only can hinder his walk, but also has the possibility to do the same to others.
To counter passivity, one must be pro-active in their response to God’s word.
(2) Pro-Active Christians bring blessings upon themselves!
A proactive Christian is known to be a true hearer of the word. To be considered a true hearer, one must both hear and practice the word on a continual basis. James compares this person to a man who looks and sees God’s perfect law. He sees the ideal character that can result by practicing it daily.
Doers of the word are not discouraged by the depth of God’s commands, but welcomes them because they know that God would not command them to do anything that was beyond their control.
Ultimately, a doer of God’s word, not just listens attentively, but also practices consistently. And it is in their consistence that they will be blessed in whatever they do.
In Conclusion, remember the two guys in my introduction. The guy who left the drug program and gradually fell back into drugs. He is my best friend, Nick. And the other guy, the one who went to follow the dreams that God laid on his heart, by the grace of God, that is me. Two weeks ago, I picked Nick up from the Reading bus station after he just was released from doing 13 months in jail. Nick said to me, if it was not for what God is doing in your life, I probably would not believe in God at all.