One of my favorite visuals from the Bible is James 1:23 – “Anyone who listens to the Word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in the mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.” Strangely enough I find myself doing that at times. I get up, wash my face and go about my day. At some point I’ll go into a restaurant or store bathroom and look in the mirror as I wash my hands. I almost shock myself when I see what my hair looks like or how old I look.
I also do this with obeying the Word of God. I get up in the morning, read my devotionals and Bible studies then head out into the world. At times it may take all day before I forget the Word, other times it’s my first encounter with another human as I leave my street. I get angry, snarky, unforgiving, worried, maybe even a bit vengeful. I forget God’s admonition – that if I want to receive mercy then I need to be merciful. If I want to be treated kindly then I need to treat people with kindness. I tell people that the actual act of being a faithful follower of God takes work. It takes practice. Some days it takes every single ounce of strength to keep my mind fixed on Jesus. The world wants us to take the easy route. They want us to forget what we look like. The world says “it’s ok” to chip away at what we know to be right. Those “almost right” temptations are what give the devil his footholds.
There’s been great debates over time about grace vs. works. I’m not a world-renowned Bible scholar. I don’t have a degree in theology. But I can read James 2:14 which states,
“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?”James 2:14
Throughout the New Testament it’s made clear that faith without deeds is really no faith at all. The Book of James speaks to my Martha-like spirit. But it also is for Martha’s sister, Mary. Because deeds come in all forms. Martha showed love by cooking and cleaning. Mary showed love through adoration and giving.
James is only five short chapters. But they are packed with Jesus follower gems. The foreward in the Bible study book, James, Faith that Works, says “Unlike most books of the New Testament, the letter of James is best known for the people who don’t like it. It’s seen as a scalawag among the obviously Christ-centered letters of Paul, and the love-concerned writings of John.” I personally like being a scalawag.
We feel the sting of James. But without an occasional admonishment, we humans are extremely prone to skipping along dangerous paths. As a parent, I know the two most important roles I played while raising my girls was 1) setting and holding them to rules and 2) loving them even as they broke those rules. Isn’t that what God does for us each and every day – when we turn from the mirror and forget what we look like?
Join me, starting September 7, 2020, as I take a chapter in James each week to spur us on to action – to be doers of the Word, not just readers. Through James we can learn to take practical steps to living out our lives as Christ followers.
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