Monday, June 13, 2016

James Chapter One, Part 7

1:23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; (24) for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. (25) But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.

Go back just a little to verse 19 where we read James' admonition to be swift hearers, slow speakers and to be slow to anger. Too many words chosen from emotion rather than reason hinders spiritual progress, while being a thoughtful hearer can aid our understanding. While human emotion and anger will not lead to godliness, James informs us that the implanted word (scripture received in a readied heart) can produce such righteousness and once more cautions us to jettison the things that would hinder our ability to walk beside the Lord, learning from Him, verses 21, 22.

Now we have the Bible likened to a mirror that reveals truth to men. The first observer is the "natural" man; perhaps also being capable of being translated the carnal man. Here we have a portrait of either the unsaved man using Scripture to justify himself. In other words there are always those that use the Bible (namely some pet verses they take out of context) to defend their behavior and position, altering the Bible to suit their needs rather than permitting Scripture to transform them from within. They look and see only what they with to see, because in truth the Bible is merely a tool for them to gain advantage in their own personal ambitions. The carnal Christian behaves essentially like the unsaved, only using Scripture to salve their conscience or uphold something they are doing that is sinful. They both look, but it is not to learn or grow or change; it is rather a brief glance for shallow or selfish reasons, which gains the beholder nothing. James states that such a person looks, goes away, and immediately forgets. In other words they simply aren't paying any attention to the matter. We've all been there. Sometimes my children will prompt me to look at something they are doing while I'm busily engaged in another venture. I'll "look" but it is a surface glance that yields nothing of substance and in the end insults my poor child who just wants their father's attention. If pressed for detail I would be in a hopeless situation. Genuine remorse for such shallow treatment of my child tends to compel me to set aside what I'm doing, sit down, and really look at what I've been asked to look at. Not only do I appreciate the item in question but that item becomes a medium through which I learn more about my child, and who they are growing into. Scripture's purpose is the opposite: or at least the recipient is the opposite. I can grow in my knowledge of God and His purpose and person by truly looking into the "law of liberty", which is the crux of verse 25.

1:26 If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one's religion is useless. (27) Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.

James alone has numerous warnings against the dangers of the tongue. The Bible in general has nothing great to say of the tongue, a small member that boasts great things, set on fire by Hell itself. Paul, on a collage of OT verses from Romans, writes of the tongue: Their throat is an open tomb; with their tongues they have practiced deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips, Romans 3:13; Psalm 5:9. Solomon in Proverbs has much to say about foolish people and their penchant for hasty speech. For instance: In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise, Proverbs 10:19. Christ our Lord likewise cautions that mankind will give account for every idle word we speak at the judgment, Matthew 12:36. The word "idle" which Jesus employs means: idle, barren, yielding no return, because of inactivity.

The term "religion" used her in James indicates a careful external observance of ceremonial religion. Tis warning was, and is for those who ave a heart like the Pharisees. They observe the greater overtures of religious duty but forget what that religion was even for, instead using it for a mirror that magnified their pride and ego. Instead of external ceremony reflecting a humble, deep love for God it demonstrated human righteousness at its worst. James does not necessarily seem to have anything flattering to say regarding religion. The Jews practiced religion prior to Christ's advent and resurrection; but it was a tool God used to bring an external worshiper and transform them into a vessel that could be filled with His Spirit. Christianity is not a religion but rather an intimate relationship with Christ Himself and does not possess the ceremonial formality of worldly religion. James may well be addressing Jewish adherents to Christianity that if they still used the forms of their religion not to be caught in its external trappings but in what God had been trying to teach Abraham's descendants to that very day. James suggests that pure religion, if properly practiced in a genuine effort to please God more than the flesh, was to visit (aka care for) those who needed such care and stay unsoiled from worldly religion; in other words, not to allow ceremonial display to become the point of religion. If such religion can accomplish anything, it should be an external reminder of our genuine, deep, and abiding need for Christ in our lives from the moment we are saved all through eternity. True religion would magnify God's grace: he is our center and purpose. Anything less is self-deceit and useless religious overtures.

2 comments:

  1. Great Post, Ian. so many times religious activities are just a show to impress oneself or others rather than a demonstration of real love. It's like a guy buying flowers and dinner for a girl to get her to give him what he wants even though he has no interest in relationship with her.

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  2. The difference between religion and Christianity is very similar to the difference between etiquette and love for people. Just as a person can demonstrate what are considered good manners in a particular culture, while being extremely disrespectful and Rude, a person can be very religious while completely ignoring God.

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All Scripture is taken from the King James Bible (KJV) or New King James Bible (NKJV). Copyright 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.