This evening Pastor Tony preached on the last few verses of James 1.
22Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror 24and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.
26If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. 27Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
verse 22 tells us that we are deceived if we just listen to the word, but don't act on it. We are given the truth of God's word to set us free, but we must act.
v.23-24 speaks of the man who looks at his face in the mirror and then goes away and forgets what he looks like.
Pastor Tony pointed out that the word forget refers to something not being at the for front of your mind. It's like we each do in the morning after brushing our hair or teeth while looking in the mirror. At the time we think about what we look like (and maybe see how bad our sunburn is!). But once we go about our lives, we are busy and other things occupy our minds.
That's what the person who just hears the word but doesn't do it is like. He realizes that things are wrong in his life, but forgets about it and allows his mind to be set on other things.
The comparison is to the one who looks in the perfect law of liberty and puts his full attention on it. He continues in it and doesn't forget about it. This person is constantly applying God's word and he will be blessed (see Psalm 1).
How often you you (or I) think about and meditate on the world of God throughout the day? Do we apply what we've heard to our daily lives? We as Christians think we love one another and know all about forgiveness, but what about the times when we are hurt deeply (whether in a real or perceived way)?
The Bible says to forgive (70x7 times) and go to the person. When we are challenged by what it says, and don't do it, it is sin. It's easy to rationalize and justify our selves, but that's self deception.
Verse 26 turns to another important issue - the tongue. It says that if you think you're religions (which is the outward practicing of an inward confession) but don't bridle (to put a bit in your mouth: note that a bridle controls a more powerful animal like a horse) your tongue, you deceive yourself and your religion is useless.
We know we shouldn't gossip or speak in anger, or demean with sarcasm, or tell bad jokes, but what do we do? If you don't bridle your tongue, the walking out of your faith has no value - that's pretty harsh, but it's what the word says.
Examine your conversation at home, at work and with friends. Religion always starts at home. If it's not real at home, it doesn't matter what it looks like at work or church.
Out of your heart, the mouth speaks. A good tree bears good fruit. Let your speech be seasoned with grace. Too much junk is discussed by Christians. If your tongue is not significantly changed by your religion, it's a useless religion.
It's not just your speech that shows your faith, we're also told what is considered to be a pure and spotless religion: to visit orphans and widows in their distress and to keep yourself unblemished by this world.
The picture to bring to mind is of a woman wearing a white wedding dress and walking through a coal mine. She will be extremely careful to keep the dress clean. In the same way, we must purpose to keep ourselves pure in this filthy world.
We are told to go to people in trouble. We are to see the needs and act on it. It's not just saying we ought to religiously go physically visit people (although that's good to do). The world visit means to see that their needs are actually being met. When God reveals a need to you, you should act on it.
Make certain that your life matches what you profess in practical ways.