Faithlife Sermons

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*James 1:22-25*
*Mirror, Mirror on the Wall…*
 
“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 who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror.
For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.
But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.”[1]
The Word of God has been likened to a mirror for the soul.
The idea likely finds its origin in our text.
Whether read or whether received through the preaching of men of God, the Word of God exposes the true person who lurks inside.
The tragedy of this analogy is the human condition itself, for just as we look at ourselves and rush into the busyness of each day forgetting what was reflected in the mirror, so we receive the Word, rush into our day, and forget what was reflected back to us.
This is not a new condition that afflicts only those living in this modern age.
Failure to permit the Word to have its perfect work has plagued Christians since the earliest days of the Faith.
In fact, one of the earliest letters to be included in the canon of Scripture addressed this very concern.
Join me in exploring James’ warning to pause whenever the Word is presented, permitting it to work effectively on the soul.
*The Admonition* — “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”
Hearing the Word without doing the Word is a form of self-deception.
Within our churches are a disturbing number of people who treat the Faith as passive.
They give assent to the Good News of Christ’s death and resurrection and assume all is well.
However, the Word presents a vigorous Faith in which the believer is transformed by the Spirit of God dwelling within; the child of God cannot remain unchanged.
Let me emphasise this truth: if your faith has not changed you, you need to change your Faith.
The Word of God is demanding.
The Gospel anticipates a response.
This is the reason I conclude almost every message with an appeal.
There are no demands placed on you when you read literature, or science, or history.
You do not need to take any action if you read a recipe.
Merely acquiring knowledge does not demand that you act.
However, God’s Word, whether delivered as a sermon or whether read, demands action.
The message of Christ the Lord is “repent” [*Mark 1:15*], “come to Me” [*Matthew 11:28*], and “believe.”
The Gospel of Christ demands belief, and belief anticipates transformation as the one believing is changed into the likeness of the Risen Son of God.
Our churches are filled with people who know the language; these self-deluded individuals know the words but they don’t know the melody.
They are received into membership much as though they were joining a service club.
They tolerate the occasional foray into the auditorium of the church where they endure some religious talk so long as it does not demand anything of them, and then they return to the “real world” to conduct their lives as they wish.
The issue of living as they want is so vital to them that they will seize control of the church in order to ensure that they are not disturbed.
What you profess to believe is of no value if do not possess the Faith of Christ the Lord.
How you live reveals your faith; all else is mere talk.
If you possess the life God promises, it will be revealed through the way you live.
The presence of Christ the Lord in one’s life cannot be hidden.
Likely you have heard someone say at one time, “Your life is too loud for me to hear what you are saying?”
More people are turned away from considering the claims of Christ by the godless and phoney lifestyle of professed Christians than are ever deterred by the stern demands for righteousness.
However, Christians continue to look for a way to make the demands of the Gospel palatable.
Paul identified the Corinthian Christians as his “letter of recommendation, written on our hearts to be known and read by all.”
He continued by stating that these Christians were “a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the Living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts” [*2 Corinthians 3:2, 3*].
The world does not much care what we say, but it is mightily impressed by how we live.
We need to remember that the only Bible many people will ever read is our lives.
Someone has expressed this truth in poetic form.
The Gospel is written a chapter a day
By deeds that you do and by words that you say.
Men read when you say, whether faithless or true.
Say, what is the Gospel according to you?
Dr.
McGee is undoubtedly correct when he says we could us a new version of the Bible.
He recommends a translation that is prepared by you.
It is to be known as the Doers Version,[2] for each Christian is called to be “doers of the Word.”
The Word of God is not calling outsiders to do what is written in the Word, rather James pointedly addresses Christians.
Those coming into the Faith almost always ask, “What must I do to be a Christian?”
It is wrong to ask what you can do; you cannot do anything in order to be saved.
Having believed that Christ Jesus died because of your sin and raised for your justification, you are born from above and into the Family of God.
Then, having been born again, you are appointed to do the will of Christ.
Your active faith will grow out of the inner desire to be what God has created you to be.
The tragedy of being a mere hearer is that the individual is deluded.
Moreover, it is delusion of the basest sort, for it is self-deception.
The individual who is deceived is blinded to the reality of his or her own religious condition.
Such people are mistaken as to their relationship to God.
They are living in a fool’s paradise of their own making.
In the context of contemporary Christendom, the self-deceived are those individuals who attend church, perhaps even give some time to one “ministry” or another, but their false reasoning has led them to conclude that they have done all that is necessary.
Hearing the Word is not the end of the path to life; doing the Word is required.
In other words, James focuses attention on the need for active faith, permitting the Word to be lived out through daily life.
It is not that one fails to read the Bible for a period of time each day, or even that the individual fails to attend the preaching the Word.
Rather James is confronting us with the sin that arises from being in the presence of the Word but not permitting that same Word to have any impact in our lives.
The Bible is not a popular book today.
It is the best selling tome year-after-year, but the least read.
It is not popular because it shows us who we are.
Many years ago in eastern Tennessee the story went around about a mountaineer’s contact with some tourists who had camped in the hills around his area.
Because the mountain folk didn’t see many tourists in those days, when the tourists left, this particular mountaineer went to look around the area where they had camped.
He found several things they had left behind, including a mirror.
He had never seen a mirror before.
He looked into it longingly and said, “I never knew my pappy had his picture took!”
He was very sentimental about it, of course, and took it home.
He slipped into the house, climbed up into the loft and hid the mirror.
His wife saw him do that but didn’t say anything.
After he went out of the house, she went up to see what he had hidden.
She found the mirror, and when she looked into it, she said, “So that’s the old hag he’s been running around with!”  Something like that happens when people read the Word of God; they see what is written and think it is a picture of someone else.
Whenever I preach, I can almost watch listeners mentally punching their neighbours as if to say, “You had better listen!”
However, the Word of God is revealing to each of us what we are, and this becomes even clearer in the light of the glory of God.
If we will avoid deceiving ourselves, we must permit the Word to find residence in our lives, accepting what is written as though it were written to us and applying what we discover therein.
Let me make one final observation before considering the explanation of what James has written.
He began this section of the letter by urging readers to “receive with meekness the implanted Word, which is able to save []our souls” [*James 1:21*].
Do not imagine that I am saying that hearing the Word is unimportant; James has made it clear that hearing is vital by using “but” as he transitions from one verse to the next.
If we hear without acting on what is heard, what was preached or what we have read is of no value.
It is not enough simply to know Scripture; knowledge alone is useless.
It is even worse than useless, for the person who thinks that knowing the Bible makes one godly is self-deceived.
Instead, it is */obeying/*/ /the teaching of the Word that makes one godly.
What is the source of teaching for James?
I suggest that the words of his half-brother, Jesus, were ringing in James’ ears as he penned this portion of his letter.
Jesus said, “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.
And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.
And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand” [*Matthew 7:24-26*].
This means that one can tell truly godly people by their lifestyle.
If people are gossips or filled with bitterness and malice, all of their religious practices are worthless.
They really do not love God in their hearts.
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