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The Epistle of James - Godly Values

Part 9 - The spiritual mirror

James 1v21-25

11th May 2018

Last time, we were thinking about human anger. That's just one kind of what James calls moral filth but there are plenty of others. You'll find several in:

Galatians 5v19-21
The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

James tells us:

James 1v21
Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent, and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

James is writing to Christians. Sadly, although we're saved by faith in the redeeming blood of Jesus, there's still moral filth in our hearts and in our lives. James tell us to "get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent". We all have areas of moral filth and evil in our hearts, or our attitudes, or our words, or our actions, that we're quite reluctant to get rid of, or even acknowledge. May God grant us repentance. He will, if we truly seek it.

James also tell us to "humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you." All Christians are very willing to humbly accept the Good News that God loves us, and Jesus died for us, and our sins are forgiven, and we will inherit eternal life. But we can be reluctant to humbly accept clear Biblical instructions about our sin and the need to repent.

James reminds us that "the word planted in you... can save you". Salvation isn't just about the moment of conversion; it's a life-long experience. You have been saved and you are being saved. The Gospel saved you, and the whole of Scripture is saving you. It's teaching you what is right and what is wrong and, I hope, it's giving you faith to believe in what is right and faith to receive the power and the cleansing we need in order to live according to what is right. The word of God works.

Tragically, there are many churches in our country that don't humbly accept the word of God. They pick and choose which parts of the Bible to believe. But we must accept all of it. It's all God-given. By God's grace my church intends never to compromise the Scriptures. When we study a book of the Bible, we teach every verse in it, including the ones that are difficult to understand. We teach the unfashionable verses, those that go against what the world is teaching. We do this because we know that the word of God is perfect.

But even if we study every word of the Bible, even if all we become excellent theologians, skilled to teach others, it's no good to us if we don't obey what it says. James tells us:

James 1v22
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

We can feel holy, because "I read 5 chapters of Scripture today" but can we remember what we read? Many of us are busy people, and many of us can easily be distracted. We can forget important lessons. Only if we read the bible, allow it to speak to us, and respond to what it says, will it change us.

The Bible is a mirror:

James 1v23-24
Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.

When you look in a mirror and see a smudge on your face, that's the best time to wipe it off. In the same way, when you read the Bible, and it says something about your life, or your heart, or your attitude, that needs to be changed, and you realize you need to repent of something, don't say to yourself, "Yes, I do need to repent. When I get time, I'll think this issue through, and then I'll repent". Repent the moment the Bible speaks to you! Don't wait, because you might forget.

When I was in my twenties, I looked in the mirror one morning and noticed that I had some marmalade on my shoe. I realized that I really should wipe it off before I went to work, and decided to do that before I left home. But I forgot. When I got home that evening, my wife asked me why I had marmalade on my shoe. That morning, I'd looked in the mirror, and I'd intended to do something about what I'd seen, but I didn't actually do it. I let something distract me, and I forgot. I felt very embarrassed going to work the following morning.

The Bible is a mirror given so you can see yourself clearly. It will call you to repent. To quote one of my old pastors, a man called Dave Halls, "If the Bible doesn't burn you, you're not reading right". And when the Bible really speaks to you, stop. Never mind what appointments you've got; stop and repent at that moment. Repent the moment you discover that you need to repent.

If there's some shaving foam around your ear, you wipe it off when you see it. You don't say "I'll do it in a minute". You do it now. And when the Bible tells you that some moral filth in your life needs to be dealt with, repent before you leave the prayer room, even if it makes you late for something else. You don't want the smudge of that sin on you when you go out to represent Jesus.

James 1v25
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.

The Bible is a mirror, given to us. Use it well.

God will bless those who choose to walk holy before Him, humbly accepting His word and doing what it says. We need to allow the Bible to show us what we're truly like, and where sin is smudging and staining us. As James said in verse 22, "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says." And God will bless you.

The perfect law that gives freedom is the law of Moses. James can't mean the New Testament, because the New Testament didn't exist when James wrote this letter. The Old Testament brings us conviction of sin and leads us to Christ, but it also brings freedom. If we obey the law that says "Do not murder", other people will be free to live. If we obey the law that says, "Do not commit adultery, other people will be free to have a happy marriage. And so on.

The law of God is good, and God blesses those who seek to keep it:

Psalm 19v7-11
The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple.
The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes.
The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring for ever. The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous.
They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb.
By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

God rewards holiness of heart, holiness of thought and holiness of living. The law is good for us, especially for those of us who are Christians, who know God has planted his law in our hearts and is giving us the desire to obey it. But obedience to the law depends on reading the Bible - so we know what the law of God is - and repenting when it speaks to us.