Dear brothers and sisters of RCAC,
Last time I shared on “receiving the Word” (James 1:19-21) In this article, I am going to conclude with “practicing the Word” (22-25) and “being true to the Word” (26-27).
- Practicing the Word (22-25)
The contrast of the hearer of the Word only verses the doer of the Word is obvious and the illustration of the actions after looking at the mirror is most illuminating, as the Word of God is indeed like a mirror, showing us clearly who we are. Someone who just hears but does not act upon what one sees is either just glancing at oneself from the mirror, or forgets what one sees in the mirror, or fails to act on what one sees.
In contrast, the doer of the Word is “the one who peers into (examine) the perfect law of liberty and fixes his attention there and does not become a forgetful listener but one who lives it out.” (1:25, NET) He is blessed as a result.
I notice that James refers to the Word as “the perfect law of liberty,” as the function of the law is not to restrict our freedom but rather to liberate us. We live in a world that pays high premium on freedom and human rights, and therefore we feel that the law takes away our freedom. But Jesus Christ Himself teaches us with these words: “Hold to My teaching, then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32).
So “practicing the Word” is first of all deeply examining ourselves and then make changes needed accordingly based on the Word of God. Paul teaches us: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim 3:16, 17) Yes, all inspired Scripture is “profitable” for changing our lives around. The perfect law is the law of liberty, that can make us “complete” and fruitful in our lives.
- Being true to the Word (26-27)
The one who is truly “religious” is the one who can demonstrate adherence to the Word by controlling his tongue, that is, his own words and interaction with others. Paul teaches us: “Rather, speaking the truth (practicing the truth) in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.” (Eph 4:15)
Being “religious” can merely means external observances or ritualistic practices which are commendable but ultimately “worthless” and superficial, and they can be just self-deception (misleads or seduces his own heart) (1:26).
Paul describes this type of people this way: “They will maintain the outward appearance of religion (godliness, ESV) but will have repudiated its power.” (2 Tim 3:5, NET) Being outwardly religious is of no worth and devoid of true power to live our lives in the true image of God.
In contrast “pure and undefiled” religion before God is first displayed in action, caring for those who are disadvantaged or suffering, and secondly, it is derived from a life with godly character, “keeping oneself unstained from the world” (1:27). True “religion” is not just superficial religiosity or ritualism. For true “godliness” (religion from living godly lives) is living out the true character of Christ, which is compassion and integrity of heart.
The description “Pure and undefiled” reminds us of the sacrifice of unblemished animals in Old Testament times. We see Jesus as “the lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world.” Paul says, “Therefore I exhort you, brothers, and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a sacrifice—alive, holy, and pleasing to God —which is your reasonable service. 2 Do not be conformed to this present world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may test and approve what is the will of God—what is good and well-pleasing and perfect.” (Rom 12: 1,2, NET)
As before, it is my prayer that we are all hearers as well as doers of the Word. Let’s practice the Word and be true to it by living out the true character of God. Let’s “Quit kidding ourselves”!
Your servant in Christ,
Rev. Simon Lee