In the book of James, we meet a follower of Jesus who is going to sit us down for a little chat. And fair warning here: James isn’t really too concerned about your feelings, or how comfortable you are with someone you don’t know nor have ever met getting pretty personal with you. Because he’s not concerned so much with what you think about him, but about your soul.
James is writing to Jewish Christians spread out over a tremendous amount of geography. And inspired by the Holy Spirit, and with a confident understanding of the human experience and human heart, he writes in a way that will reach them all. He writes in a way that assumes their knowledge of the story in the OT (as good Jews) and their knowledge of the teachings of Jesus (as good Christians).
But they’re in danger of losing their way. They're in danger of thinking that wisdom is only intellectual, and has nothing to do with how you live. They’re in danger of thinking that Bible-believing doesn’t actually mean living according to the Bible, but merely that you believe the Bible is the Bible, and you can then go and live your life in that knowledge alone.
So James writes to set some things straight, because their lives—and ours—depend upon it. Here’s how he starts the main part of his argument….
Be Doers of the Word
James 1:19, 21, 22-25, NLT
Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen,…and humbly accept the word…But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.
For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like.
But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free,
and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard,
then God will bless you for doing it.
I think this is the heart and soul of what James has to tell us, and it is why we desperately need the Word of God.
You see, James understands this massive problem for human beings in this world in which we live. It is a problem called sin, a desire within us ever since the Fall. And sin, when allowed to grow, causes a kind of fracturing of the human soul (of who we are), which leads to death (James 1:13-15).
But James also knows that when God created us, he created us in a state of wholeness (as opposed to fractured), that when we were originally brought forth, it was in perfect shalom, perfect peace. And all human beings have within them that echo of wholeness and integrity, and what James wants to do is help us become “perfect and complete, [whole,] needing nothing” (James 1:4). This idea of wholeness is a theme he comes back to 7 times in this letter.
And so he gives us this metaphor for how to see both of those realities—the metaphor of a mirror…
I invite you now to watch or listen to my sermon from James’ letter, where I’ll show you how helpful this metaphor of the Bible as a mirror is for our everyday living.
And if you’d like some additional resources on this book, head on over to the Bible Project page for this part of the Whole Story.
May God use his Word to inspire you to help just one other person move one step closer to Jesus.
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