James 1:23-24 “For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.”
James is using a very familiar analogy in these verses. Ancient mirrors were usually made of polished brass or bronze. The reflections seen in them were generally fuzzy and hard to make out unless the person was willing to move the mirror around, studying it in order to find the best angle. James says that when a person listens to God’s Word intently, going to church and looking the part, but doesn’t then do what God’s Word says, that person is just like one who turns those ancient mirrors to and fro trying to find the perfect angle for reflection and then goes away forgetting what he just saw. The Word is a perfect reflection of our imperfections, showing us what we should do while simultaneously revealing how utterly inadequate we are on our own to do those things. When we really listen and then apply what it says, only then can we find the answers to these imperfections, which is our Lord, Jesus Christ. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and we find Him in God’s Word. We must do what it says in order to say that we are His. (1 John 3:10)
Study/Meditation: What is an example of looking intently into God’s Word and then not doing what it says in your everyday life? What can you do today to alleviate that issue?
*Father, thank You for Your Word which shows me my imperfections while also showing me the way to You through Jesus. Forgive me of my daily faults and inadequacies in obeying Your laws and help me persevere in them. Amen.
James 1:22 “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”
In any given church on any given Sunday one will find many in attendance. From the outside they are attentive, well-behaved, and in many cases even smiling. They listen to the sermon, nodding at the appropriate moments and giving a hearty “Amen” when prompted. To all outward appearances, they are dedicated followers of Christ. But what do their lives look like? Jesus said that you would know good trees when they bear good fruit. (Matthew 12:33) This good fruit is shown in a life that exemplifies what it hears of the Word. Don’t deceive yourself, James warns. Just because you go to church and listen to the Word as it is taught does not make you a Christian. We must listen and then do what we hear. We must live as those who know this life saving truth, showing a dying world how precious is our Jesus. By all means, we should attend church and hear the teaching of the Word, but then we must apply what we hear when we leave that building. This is a good warning for us all.
Study/Meditation: How does Jesus’ teaching about good trees bearing only good fruit coincide with James’ teaching on being not only hearers of the Word but also doers? How can you personally improve in this area?
*Father, help me to apply Your Word in my everyday life. Give me wisdom in this life to remember Your truths and live a life worthy of this calling. Amen
James 1:21 “Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.”
James is reminiscent here of what Paul tells us when he says we are to put off the old self and put on the new. (Ephesians 4:24) In this case, James is specific in reminding us that we are to put away “filthiness and rampant wickedness” that comes primarily from our speech. Again, if we will listen, particularly to God’s Word, then we will be sanctified to Him. As James has already alluded to, this takes humility, or “meekness.” Listening requires putting self aside and engaging our minds on things that are not from us. As believers, our responsibility is to listen to God’s Word, which then becomes a part of us when we listen to it. And again, we often fail at this in the midst of trials and troubles. During those times, let us depend on the Word of God as our guide, listening to it and speaking less. This humble obedience will not only save our souls, but it will save us plenty of heartache.
Study/Meditation: Why do you think James refers to God’s Word in this verse as the “implanted word”? How can we be sure that it is implanted?
*Father, help me to be a more active listener to Your Word. Forgive me for my pride when I speak instead of listen to You. Thank You for loving me and for Your patient mercy toward me. Amen.
James 1:19-20 “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God requires.”
Yesterday we looked at the first part of this verse where James tells us we need to listen more than we speak. One of the biggest reasons this is the case is so that we will be slow to anger. Remember that just before James speaks of these things, he wrote about how we must behave in the midst of trials and tribulations, behaving correctly because we know that God has made us the firstfruits of His creation. James is still reminding us of how to behave while on this earth in terms of the troubles here, now by describing how we need to respond with our speech. This will greatly determine our propensity toward anger. It is truly amazing how much anger we can avoid if we will but stay silent instead of speaking quickly. This anger which is born of man-centered indignation does not result in the righteousness required by God, and as the firstfruits of His creation, we must seek to attain to that sanctified righteousness.
Study/Meditation: Why do you think being slow to speak equals being slow to anger? What is the difference between the “anger of man” and God’s “righteous indignation”?
*Father, forgive me for the times that I allow my sin nature to dictate my emotions. Help me to be patient with my fellow man and to project only Your love and Your ways. Amen.
James 1:18 “Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.”
There is nothing more comforting in this world than the truth for believers: God chose us before the foundation of time. And not only that, He chose to create us, by His own will and for His good pleasure, to be foremost among all of His creation. That is truly amazing, and in that amazement, it is also somewhat astounding that we would ever doubt Him. James reminds us here that remembering who we are and Whose we are will put these ever present trials and tribulations into their proper perspectives. He loves us, He created us, and He takes care of us. He does only good on our behalf and He will keep us until the glorious day of His return. Nothing in this world, whether wonderful or not, can compare to that truth.
Study/Meditation: James tells us that we are the “firstfruits” of God’s creation. What does that mean? How should the truth of that statement affect the way you see this life’s troubles?
*Father, thank You for loving me so completely. Thank You for choosing to create me and keep me through this life, promising me a glorious eternity with You. I love You. Amen.
James 1:16-17 “Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation of shadow due to change.”
“Father of lights” was a common Jewish phrase used to describe God. Even though lights twinkle and can vary in their brightness, God is the Author of these lights and in that He does not vary in His majesty. When we are in the midst of trials and troubles, we must not be deceived into thinking that God would bring evil upon us. Romans 8:28 is in every Bible. Our Father is in the business of working all things for our good and to His glory. Only good will come to us (though it may hurt at the time), and these good and perfect things come from God. He doesn’t shift like the twinkling stars or the raging sun. God is constant and the Keeper of all promises. He has promised us that our days are ordained and known by Him, that He knows the plans He has for us, and that those plans are for our good. Our truth must lie there.
Study/Meditation: Why is it so hard for us to interpret the “bad” things that happen as being “good”? How do faith and trust have to play a role during these times? What promises must we hang on to?
*Father, You are good and gracious and merciful. Forgive me when I doubt these things in You and give me the wisdom to trust that You are working all things for my good and to Your glory. Amen.