Am I like a person who looks at his face in a mirror, studies his features, goes away, and immediately forgets what he looks like? James 1:22-25

You won’t be surprised to hear me say that time spent in diligently studying the Bible is never wasted. However, when we next set the Bible down, we put it back upon our bookshelves, turn around and go on and turn around and to live life as we always had, we leave the Bible behind us to gather dust, without heeding the following advice from the book of James, we are fooling ourselves into thinking we did something noble to grow our faith. Do God a favor – please avoid looking into any mirrors. God does not want your image to be seen – but only wants His.

We simply enjoy looking back at our smiling elves quite enough during the day. Do you get tired of looking at yourself in the mirror? James certainly hopes so!

Come along side with me as I walk through a passage of Scripture phrase by phrase, reviewing its context, interpreting, and offering an application. Some of us – including me – learn best by watching somebody else. That is what I am now inviting you to do with me today as we study through James 1:22-25:

James 1:22-25 The Message

22-24 Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don’t act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like.

25 But whoever catches a glimpse of the revealed counsel of God—the free life! —even [a glimpse] out of the corner of his eye, and sticks with it, is no distracted scatterbrain but a man or woman of action. That person will find delight and affirmation in the action.

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

Let’s dive in and explore the context: James is writing this letter to a number of believers scattered across regions. They likely scattered when they ran away from persecution in Jerusalem after Stephen was stoned to death for preaching about Jesus (Acts 7-8), Saul went on the “warpath” arresting, jailing followers. 

The Book of James begins by exhorting them to consider their current trial joy in light of how it can grow their faith. They fear for their lives because of the threat of persecution, but James is urging them to trust without wavering just like God does not waver. (James 1:2-18)

Having already warned them not to be prideful about their earthly wealth, James now addresses their attitude of anger and calls on these believers to get rid of all moral filth and evil by humbly accepting the Christian teachings and warnings to follow.

This is where we step into today’s passage with verse 22 AKJV: 

22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.

James doesn’t play around, nor does he mince his words. He tells all of these believers plain and simple what he wants and what he expects from them:

“Obey God’s Word! Do not just listen to it being read or just read it yourself and feel exceedingly great about “devoted Christian self” Actually DO what it says! Do not just read the Scriptures then nod your head and smile in a not-so-subtle pretense of thoroughly understanding what you just read. Read the Scriptures! Then perk your ears up, listen to what God is trying to communicate into your heart and unto your soul. You read Scriptures, you are definitely talking to God!

Even though this sounds excessively simple, like a natural extension of your soul, ask yourself a question – is it a natural extension of your heart and soul?

Let’s take a look at each phrase because that’s when we learn more than we expected to learn or substantially more than we actually wanted to know.

“Do not merely listen to the word…” Why is he talking about “listening”? Don’t most people read God’s Word? It’s not exactingly like they had the King James Bible APP on their Smart Phones reciting the Bible back to them verse by verse.

Exactly, and neither did most first century Christians have a copy of the Old Testament or letters by the apostles in their home. The church leadership likely had possession of a copy – as letters such as this epistle usually traveled from church to church – and they were read when the community gathered. Most first century believers only listened to these teachings being read to them. 

“… and so, deceive yourselves.” Ask yourselves, “Who are we hurting when we walk away from the Bible unchanged?” The answer is we hurt ourselves. We are severely hurting ourselves by deceiving ourselves into thinking we are “good Christians” for having read the Bible today when, in fact, we are not living out our faith. James’ clearest command is this; “Do what it [God’s teaching] says.”

As James likes to do, he brings his point to us in an analogy in verses 23 and 24:

23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his [a]natural face in a mirror; 24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, [b]he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. [NASB]

How is reading the Bible like looking into a mirror?

When I do a quick once-over before I leave the house, I make 100% sure all the zippers are zipped, my shirt matches my pants, my necktie does not clash with my outfit, my socks and shoes match my pants, and my hair is neatly combed.

Let’s say I am on my way to a business meeting, or a formal event and I spot a giant stain on my shirt. I see the stain – it’s loud and clear – but I leave for my function without changing. What’s the point of looking in the mirror in the first place? I make it to my gathering with my giant stain, and somebody asks me a little sarcastically, “Don’t you own a mirror?” and my response is, “Of course I do. I took a long look at myself in said mirror before I left, too. What else could possibly be the problem here?” I just gave the appearance of a careless dresser.

This scene is so ridiculous, yet this is how we sometimes act with the Bible.

James 1:19-22 New American Standard Bible

19 [a]You know this, my beloved brothers and sisters. Now everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger; 20 for a man’s anger does not bring about the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore, ridding yourselves of all filthiness and all [b]that remains of wickedness, in [c]humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. 22 But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not just hearers who deceive themselves.

In full disclosure, I’ll share with you a personal example. Let’s take the set of verses we just glanced over, James 1:19-20: “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”

I will freely confess that anger and impatience is a big weakness of mine and has been as long as I can remember. There have been years of taking this sin seriously but there have also been periods of giving up and basically saying, “I am an impatient person. I see this verse telling me to listen patiently and to keep my sarcasm and anger in check, but I am walking away without a change.” 

Here are some reasons why, I think, some of us walk away from God’s Word unchanged:

  • We have tried to solve this problem in our own strength, have failed and given up. Clearly, this is just how we are, and there is no hope. Not true! Jesus told us He was sending the Holy Spirit to be our Helper to remind us of everything He has taught us (John 14:16-17, 26).
  • We have forgotten why we study the Bible. It’s easy for our quiet time to become our quiet routine. Remember to start our Bible reading with prayer for focus and a heart and soul open to being convicted and changed. (Psalm 32)
  • We are scared to admit and confess our sin before man and before God. We each somehow think we will lose face – even if just in front of ourselves. We run from the shame we’d feel at the thought of our sin. Guess what?! Forgiveness is right on the other side of confession. Jesus has already paid the price, so our heavenly Father is waiting with open arms for us to confess and to grow closer to Him.

I cannot move on before mentioning that last phrase: “When we walk away, we forget what we look like.” When we close our Bible and our souls are unfazed and move on with our day, we are not likely to revisit the issue. On the other hand, if we read the passage with an open heart and feel convicted, the Holy Spirit has our attention to begin working in our hearts towards change and righteousness.

James 1 Verse 25 NASB has another promise for us:

25 But one who has looked intently at the perfect law, the law of freedom, and has continued in it, not having become a forgetful hearer but [a]an active doer, this person will be blessed in [b]what he does.

There is so much to explore in this verse. 

How is this person looking into God’s Word? Intently! It’s not an obligatory glance but intentional, focused reading. 

What do we learn about His Word, “the perfect law”? It gives freedom. The world tries to tell you that God’s rules are restricting, but obeying God rather than being a slave to sin is actually freeing. Have you ever experienced that? When we turn from sin towards Christ, we have a joy and peace beyond description.

Is it about intentionally reading God’s Word then? No, that’s just the first step.

The key is to continue in His will – that means to not forget His word but rather implement it. Of course, we do so imperfectly on earth and grow over time with the help of the Holy Spirit. But thankfully, God first looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). He knows we are “only human” (Psalm 103:14), and never gives up on us but grows our faith until the day He will perfect it (Hebrews 12:2).

And when we do God’s will… well, then God will bless us in it! What a promise.

James continues his letter to the scattered believers with lots of exhortations to love one another regardless of status or wealth, live out our faith in our actions and speech, and walk humbly with God instead of boasting in ourselves.

The book of James is full of these life lessons.

Do you seriously and over-zealously want to learn how to study them well?

I’m Gonna Live So God Can Use Me (African American Spiritual)

1. I’m gonna live so God can use me
anywhere, Lord, anytime!
I’m gonna live so God can use me
anywhere, Lord, anytime!

2. I’m gonna work so God can use me
anywhere, Lord, anytime!
I’m gonna work so God can use me
anywhere, Lord, anytime!

3. I’m gonna pray so God can use me
anywhere, Lord, anytime!
I’m gonna pray so God can use me
anywhere, Lord, anytime!

4. I’m gonna sing so God can use me
anywhere, Lord, anytime!
I’m gonna sing so God can use me
anywhere, Lord, anytime!

I’m gonna read my Bible so God can use me anywhere, Lord, anytime!

I’m gonna study my Bible so God can use me anywhere, Lord, anytime!

I’m gonna love my Bible so God can use me anywhere, Lord, anytime!

I’m gonna live the word of God, so God can use me anywhere, Lord, anytime!

I’m gonna walk the word of God, so God can use me, anywhere, Lord, anytime!

I’m gonna talk the word of God, so God can use me, anywhere, Lord, anytime!

Finally, in your contemplations, in and within your pondering and meditation over exactly whose mirror you are looking in, whose image is most preferred?

Consider well your motives for knowing versus not knowing the Word of God:

In your experience, what’s the hardest part about reading God’s Word intently?

What distracts you from taking a look at yourself in light of what you see in Scripture? And, while you comment to God, see if you can encourage a fellow believer who has also shared to keep on keeping on in our faith in Christ Jesus.

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us pray,

Heavenly Father, Author of Wisdom, thank You for the wise teachings of James. I realize how important it is to not only have a genuine faith… by trusting in the finished work of the Lord Jesus at Calvary, but to be a fruitful Christian in word and in deed. Keep me from worldly ways and from slipping back in the carnality of fleshly living, but may I grow in grace and in a knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ – as I abide in Him… and bring forth much fruit to Your praise and glory – this I ask in Jesus’ name, Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! AMEN.

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Author: Thomas E Meyer Jr

Formerly Homeless Sinner Now, Child of God, Saved by Grace.

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