By Rick Cowman
The New Testament letter of James is written to us as a textbook on Christian character. It sums up how we are to live and respond to life. And don’t we all need that? In James 1, verse 19, we find the words, “this you know, but…” James is reminding us of what we probably already know, “but” have not fully learned!
The verses following show us that most of us don’t need to KNOW more truth, but need to APPLY the truth that we do know! Verse 21 says we must learn to “submit to God and accept His words (TEV).” In other words, we must place ourselves in submission to what God says, choosing to turn toward the truth and conform our lives to it. You see, God’s truth is not given to us for information, but for transformation! The next verse tells us, “don’t merely listen to the word and deceive yourselves, but do what it says (NIV)!” It’s so easy to fall into the deception that God’s word doesn’t apply to us or to a particular situation.
You may be saying, “But I don’t feel like doing it God’s way!” To that I say (and to myself), “Do it, and then maybe you’ll feel like it!” Feelings always follow obedience when we act in faith! Or, perhaps you’re thinking, “But I don’t want to do the right thing!” If this is the case, we need to be asking God to give us the “want to”! Maybe you have given up on trying to walk in obedience because you’re tired of failing to measure up to perfection. I have a word for you: God doesn’t expect perfection from us (Jesus filled those shoes), but He does expect progress! And progress is measured in the little steps of obedience. As we obey God in the little things, He leads us to obedience in bigger things. We can trust Him to do it. This is important to understand because we will go no further in our walk with Christ than our last step of disobedience!
In verses 23-25, we are told God’s word is like a mirror. Every time we look into it, we have a decision to make. We can turn away from it and stay the same, or we can act on what we see and let God change us. Each morning when I get up and look in the mirror, it’s obvious I need to shave and comb my hair. Having recognized this, I can choose to take those steps to correct the problem, OR I can turn away from the mirror and forget what I looked like. Here’s verse 25: “But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it, he will be blessed in what he does (NIV).” If God’s word is going to make a difference in our lives, we must look at it intently. We’re not talking about glancing at it casually, but carefully studying it. Not just looking at it for the purpose of helping someone else get “their” act together, but to fix ourselves! It’s a look that asks the Author, “How does this truth apply to ME?” Looking intently means to look with the “intent” to change!
The effect of our obedience, our doing what is right even when we don’t feel like it or want to, is God’s blessing (vs 25)! While being blessed can mean to be happy or fulfilled, it more importantly has to do with being at a place where we become fruitful and useable. Are you seeing God’s blessing (fruit) in your life? Let me clarify this. We can expect God to do what He says He’ll do, when we do what God expects us to do! Why? Because God honors His word! And when we do God’s will, God’s way, God blesses. Our heavenly Father is waiting to bless our socks off, but we’ve got to be in a position to be blessed! And that is a position of obedience! We’ve got to determine to put God’s word into practice tomorrow morning, and JUST DO IT!