12/13/2016

Self-Deceived Christians (James 1:22-27)

Imagine that reading and studying the Bible and listening to good preaching could make you worse!

"But be people who do the word, not merely people who hear it and deceive themselves" (James 1:22, N.T. Wright).

"Mirror, mirror on the wall..." What do you see when you look in the mirror? Beautiful eyes? Fantastic flowing hair? A look to die for? A cool tough masculine look? Some facial hair to enhance your manliness? Or do you see a balding hairline, wrinkles, crow feet and sagging bags under your eyes?
  1. Trials are Beneficial: Overview of James.
  2. Horrible Days (Jas 1:1-4) or The Way to Maturity and Completeness.
  3. How to Know What's Going On (James 1:5-12) or A Prayer that God is Always Happy to Answer.
  4. When Trials Become Temptations (James 1:13-21) or God Never Tempts Anyone.
What do you do after you see what's in the mirror? In my case, since I'm balding, I decided to shave off all of my hair so that it gives the impression that I am not as bald as I actually am. I acted based on what I saw.

James makes a similar point. The Word of God is like a mirror, he says. Seeing what is says, listening to it, hearing the Word of God is not enough. It's doing it that brings the blessing we want. If all we do is listen to the Word, but we don't do what it says, we're then simply fooling ourselves if we think that blessings will come to us. What we want out of life--love, joy, peace, wholeness--comes only when we actually do what Scripture says. Jesus said so (Jn 14:15, 21, 23). Isaiah said so (Isa 56:1). Micah said so (Mic 6:8). Deuteronomy says so repeatedly (Dt 6:1-3).

James is writing to former members of his congregation who are going through some tough times, some difficult trials, some horrible days with uncertain futures. He encourages them to persevere during those painful trails because God wants to bring good to their lives (Jas 1:2-4) and be like one who has received a crown and a wreath (Jas 1:12). But for this to happen they should not allow their trial to become a temptation to sin (Jas 1:13). Next, and most importantly, they must act according to what the Word says, and not merely listen to it (Jas 1:22).

James says that the Word of God is like a mirror that tells you what you need to do (Jas 1:23-25). It's the perfect law that sets you free and brings blessing from God (Jas 1:25). The law is not advice. It is not a suggestion. It is not one possible option. It is "the perfect law" that comes from God. It is mandatory and non-negotiable, though we are free to make light of it, ignore it, disobey it, or regard it as negotiable. But if we do, the consequences of not obeying the law will be inevitable.

How does obeying the Word of God give freedom and bring blessing?

When I obey the law and love my wife (Eph 5:25), there is tremendous freedom and overflowing blessing in our marriage over the last 35 years since we married in 1981. When I obey the law to be gentle (Phil 4:5; Prov 25:15)--with repeated failure--God awakens me to how constantly ungentle I am. In 1980 soon after conversion, when I struggled to obey the law to seek first his kingdom (Mt 6:33), I have indeed experienced "all these things" freely given to me, none of which I deserve. When I obey the law and testify primarily to the grace of God (Ac 20:24), God delivered me from legalism and inflexibility over non-essentials, such as particular dress codes and particular religious practices and traditions, which have unfortunately become a sort of tribal law, but not the perfect law that gives freedom.

Not doing what the word of God says might be the greatest self-deception of religious people and legalistic Christians (Jas 1:22).

Ask yourselves/myself, What does the mirror of God's word tell you about:
  • the condition of your heart?
  • your friendships and relationships?
  • your finances and giving?
  • your love and concern for the well-being and blessing of others?
  • what you truly love...God or someone/something else?
In Jas 1:25-27, James concludes the first section and previews the next section of his letter. If we consider ourselves religious--i.e., seriously committed to God as a Christ-follower who is eager to obey his word (Jas 1:22), then we should:
  • control how we speak [email or blog or twitter] (Jas 1:26; 3:1-12).
  • love the most unfortunate and needy among us (Jas 1:27a) by not showing favoritism (Jas 2:1-13).
  • avoid the world's polluting ways of handling trials and difficulties (Jas 1:27b; chs. 3-5: Jas 3:6, 15-16; 4:4).
When those outside the church are faced with stress, trials, hardships and difficulties, their typical response is to lash out against those they think are causing them distress (3:1-4:12) and they attemjpt to insulate themselves from futher trouble by accumulating wealth (4:13-5:6). Christ-followers should avoid the world's polluting behaviors of blaming others and finding worldly security by trusting God to bless us and complete us (Jas 1:4).

When we trust God during our horrible days and painful trials we will keep his word (Jas 1:22) and receive the crown of life, which is blessing on earth, which is maturity and wholeness (Jas 1:4).

Reference:

  1. Sunukjian, Donald R. Invitation to James: Persevering through Trials to Win the Crown.
  2. Preaching James by Don Sunukjian (40 minutes).