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 someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. James 1:22-25
We deceive ourselves if we think that being exposed to Bible teaching and Christian ministry is enough to keep us in a high relationship with God. We can be involved in all kinds of church activity and ministry and know a lot about God’s Word; but if we do not put that Word into practice, all of our activity and knowledge is meaningless. We must develop true Godly character and a lifestyle based upon our companionship with Christ in order to truly please God, fulfill his purposes for our lives and receive ultimate spiritual salvation.
We now come to the verses where James uses the analogy of a mirror. In fact verses 23 and 24 say this, “Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.” Hearing and reading God’s Word is like looking at a mirror that reflects and reveals what is truly in our lives. It shows us the way we are and allows us to see what we need to change. With this knowledge, we can choose to respond either with honesty, by making a change for the better, or with hypocrisy, by refusing to change and pretending everything is all right. The right response is to ask and allow God to help us conform to the standard of his Word by putting it into practice.
This passage also illustrates how absurd it is for a person to receive God’s Word but not it into practice. The notion of a person forgetting what he or she looks like would be unrealistic, even ridiculous. Yet, that is what happens in a spiritual sense when we are exposed to God’s Word but then go our way without responding to what it revealed about our lives. The fact is that we truly learn and retain things only as we put them into practice. If we fail to act upon or use what we know about God’s Word, we will not retain it and it will not become part of who we are. Basically, we will forget what the Word has shown us, and it will do us no good. A good practice any time we read or hear something from the Bible is to ask ourselves, “What difference should this make in my life?” and “What should I do now that God has shown this to me?” Then, we should ask God to help us apply his Word and immediately look for ways we can put it into practice.
Today’s passage ends with this words, “But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do” (verse 25). The moral and ethical teachings of Christianity, which are based on God’s Old Testament law as embodied in the Ten Commandments, are brought to complete fulfillment and perfection by Jesus Christ. Those who receive and follow Christ now have his law internalized in their hearts through the presence of the Holy Spirit. Apart from him, we could not live up to God’s standards. Yet, through faith in Christ, we receive mercy and forgiveness for our shortcomings, as well as the desire, power and freedom to obey God’s moral law. It is called the “law that gives freedom” because followers of Christ are set free from sin, which is their own God-defying ways, and receive the desire and ability to fulfill God’s desires and purposes for their lives. Christ’s followers can say with the psalm writer: “I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought our your precepts” (Psalm 119:45). Christ freedom must never be viewed as the liberty to violate Christ’s commands, rather it is the power to obey them.
Today’s Bible Readings:
Leviticus 1-3, Mark 1:29-2:12, Psalm 35:17-28 and Proverbs 9:13-18