Today's Verse

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Action is the Key - James 1:22-25

The other day my 7-year-old was singing a song called "Obedience." One phrase in the song is, "Action is the key, do it immediately." She then asked me why the song said that action was the key. My reply was to tell her the parable of the two sons found in Matthew 21:28-31. You probably remember how Jesus told of the father who went to his first son and told him to go work in the vineyard. The son replied no, but later repented and went and worked. Then the father went to the second son and told him to work in the
vineyard. This son said he would, but then he never went. Jesus then asked which son did the will of his father? Which son obeyed? Obviously the first son is the one who obeyed. Action is the key.

Here in James we see another example of action being the key. In verse 19 we are told to be "swift to hear." In verse 21 we have the admonition to humbly receive the Word of God. In verse 22 we see, "But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves." It is not enough just to listen. It is not enough to simply receive the Word. We must do what we have received. We can take the Word of God and say, "Yes, that's exactly what I need." Then we go and do what we want to anyway. We may have every intention of doing what it says, but then something comes up and we're busy or we think another way might be better this time. It all amounts to the same thing -- we are deceiving ourselves. Certainly, the listening and receiving have to take place or we will not know what the will of the Father is. However, if we think we are spiritual because we read the Word, meditate on the Word and even memorize the Word, but we put no feet to what we learn, we are not doing the will of our Father.

Verses 23-24 state, "For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was." I have the knowledge of what I look like. I've gotten up and seen that my hair is tangled up in a ball on the side of my head. I am grieved by it. I know that I don't want to go out looking as I do. Then I look at the time. I hurry off to go get the kids breakfast and soon get busy in my day. In the process I completely forget that I am walking around with a tangled mass of hair on the side of my head. I can do the same thing with the Word of God. I look. I see that my tongue is out of control and I need to use my tongue to edify and minister grace to the hearer. I am grieved by the picture that I see of myself. Then I leave. I get busy. I forget what I have seen and I never do anything to fix the problems.

Verse 25 gives the contrast though, "But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed." The words in James 1:25, "looketh into," have a stronger connotation than the word "beholdeth" in verse 24. Beholding is more like just seeing the big picture. Looking into has the idea of examining closely. Taking in the minutiae and examining it thoroughly. I like the show CSI. The way the investigators examine a crime scene is so detailed that they find the individual hairs and trace evidence left behind. We are to examine with that type of vigilance. Not content with just seeing if anything jumps out at me, but examining so closely that the picture becomes obvious.

Also, here in verse 25 we see our "mirror." It is the "perfect law of liberty." In Christ we have an amazing liberty that was unknown under the law. The law was a constant schoolmaster reminding the people of their sinful condition. Galatians 3:24-25 states, "Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster." It's like that child who sits under his teacher learning and then matures to go out in freedom into the world. No longer is he sitting under the particular instructions of his teacher. We, not being under the law, are no longer sitting under the particular instructions of our Teacher. We don't have to worry about pork or beef, whether we are wearing mixed fibers, or if we are sprinkling whatever just right. In this we have great liberty.

And yet the responsibility is greater. Before, all that child had to do was obey his teacher and he was good. When he becomes a man, he has to work and provide, he has to live his life in accordance to what he has been taught. The same with us. Under the law of liberty we have a higher standard. The issues at stake now are matters of the heart. We cannot think we can do just as the Pharisees and fulfill the letter of the law and be pleasing to God. The issues are not outward conformity to an external standard, the issue is inward conformity to Christ. 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 state, "Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." We now have a divine, incarnate example to follow. We are to be conformed to the image of Christ.

What is the result of examining and continuing in the will of our Father? "This man shall be blessed in his deed." We are like the wise man who built his house on a rock. Our actions are founded on the Solid Rock, and in that we are solid and not like the double minded man from James 1:8. Our deeds are blessed because the authority for them is found in Christ, not ourselves. Then we can know we are abiding in Christ.

I am reminded of an account I heard of a man who had Biblical knowledge that far surpassed that of many others. He could quote books of the Bible. He also was an adulterer. He would drive to meet his lover while quoting passages of the Bible. He would pray and ask God to help him. A wise person later told him that was not the time for quoting Scripture, it was the time for turning the wheel. While our decisions may not all be as dramatic, I know I am often confronted with the knowledge of what I ought to be doing and what I am actually doing. Ladies, we cannot be content to live our lives listening. We cannot be content with merely gleaning knowledge. We have to be women of action who put to good use those things which we learn in the Word of God.

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