It’s not about you! We would never be guilty of making worship about us?!? Would we? We would never take the focus off of God and place it on ourselves, would we?
How many times have you left a worship service only to complain, “I didn’t get anything out of it today!”? We say things like:
• “Why can’t we sing more songs that I like?”
• “I don’t think the preacher should talk about that!”
• “I can’t believe so-and-so didn’t talk to me today!”
• “No one ever notices what I do in the church.”
If you are ever guilty of saying such things, then your worship has become about you, when it should be you encountering God and responding in kind.
Worship isn’t about getting anything; it’s about giving. I give everything to God! Worship should be an attitude of adoration toward a holy God. If not, then we become idle judges, rather than active participants. We become Christian consumers and we end up asking God, “What have you done for me lately?”
Then, if the church is too big or too small; if the church is not traditional enough or not contemporary enough, if the church doesn’t have enough ministries or is too busy; if the church building is too ornate or not pretty enough; then, we become judges, rather than worshippers.
We ask: “What have you done for me lately God?” And God says, “wrong question… the right question is: what have you done for Me lately?!?”
Essentially, this is what is asked of us in James 1:22-25. TURN THERE - READ
James tells us that when we come to worship and hear the Word of God read and preached, there has to be a difference made in our lives. We must not be people who only hear the Word and then leave unchanged.
In fact, James paints a picture of the Word of God as a mirror. [have one on stage]
He says, you’ve got a mirror in front of you and your family every Sunday morning that has three purposes.
Three purposes of the Word of God (the mirror):
1. To Help Us Make Adjustments – vs. 22
When you encounter the Word, there are two actions that MUST take place:
• First, you HEAR it – too many stop here!
You can be a “hearer” of the Bible, but not be a Christian. This word “hearer” is only found in James and it describes a person who listens to the Bible as if it were a poetry piece read, recited, played, or sung.
Ezekiel 33:31-32 (NIV) - My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to listen to your words, but they do not put them into practice. With their mouths they express devotion, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice.
“Ah! I love this stuff! I can sit and soak in it for hours.” But do you know what the result of only sitting there and soaking in the Word is? It is deception – it turns sour quick!
When you think that going to Church is enough… When you think that having the Bible read to you from the pulpit is enough… When you don’t realize that actually listening to the Word is only the beginning… YOU ARE DECEIVED!
There is a parasitic logic, a deluded "truth", a false reasoning that dangerously captures your soul. You start to believe that just because you go to Church you are better than them that don’t.
James says that listening is not enough. This mirror is given to you so you can do something, not just soak it in! You are to make adjustments, not just enjoy it!
There is a needed second action: you hear it and then…
• You DO IT
James 1:22 - But be doers of the word...
We are commanded to do whatever it says. If there is a command, we obey it. If there is an example, we follow it. If there is a promise, we claim it. If there is a principle, we live it. If there is a doctrine, we believe it. If there is a needed action, we follow through and do it. Jesus even said:
John 8:31-32 (ESV) - If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
But where does all of this Bible-following lead?
Some people believe that becoming a bible-doer will make you a more religious person. They say this in a negative light. If I start to listen to the Bible, then I will become more judgmental, more of a perfectionist, and more about rules. The Bible tells us that true doers of the Word have a different result:
They don’t add more religion by listening to the Bible, they add love.
1 Peter 1:22-25 (NCV) - Now that your obedience to the truth has purified your souls, you can have true love for your Christian brothers and sisters.
The Bible is given to us so that we can make adjustments so that there is more love in our lives. There is also a second purpose of the Word:
2. To Reflect Your True Nature – vs. 23-24
You see, we might think that we can have love in our lives without following the Bible. We look at our neighbors who don’t go to church and say, “they’ve got an OK marriage. Their kids are OK. They seem to have love in their lives!”
And this is why we need the Word to reflect our true natures.
When he built the first place of worship, called the Tabernacle, Moses took bronze metal and made a huge basin for water out of it. He put this between the Tent of Meeting, the place where the people met, and the Altar, the place at the foot of the presence of God. (Read Ex. 30:17–21 for details.) This basin served a dual purpose:
• It was filled with water, so the priests could wash their hands and feet as they approached God, and…
• This basin reflected their image so that they could see what needed washing in the first place.
Moses in the first place of worship put a mirror for people to see their dirty selves before they approached the loving God of the universe. Why?
Because they were guilty of the same thing we think – we are OK! We don’t need to clean ourselves up as we approach God. A mirror that reflects our true nature says something different – we are not as OK as we think we are! We need some washing!
My grandmother’s favorite movie is Snow White. She tells the story of her first experiencing a movie in color for the first time. She stood in a long line as a little girl when Snow White came out and loved every minute of the movie.
There was one part where the Queen stood in front of a mirror and said, "Magic mirror on the wall, who is the fairest one of all?” For years this mirror has been telling her that she was the fairest maiden in all the land. Then one day she was shocked when the mirror told her the truth... then she got very angry and very jealous. Snow White the fairest?!? BAH! She doesn’t even tan! This jealousy led to her darkness and death. BUT, that’s the thing about GOOD mirrors; they always tell us the truth. Even when we don’t like what we see, a mirror works properly when it reflects the truth.
So what is the truth for us? The truth is that we are sinful people.
James 1:23-24 - For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.
Without a constant dose of truth that this mirror brings, we forget what kind of people we really are.
George Orwell once said, “On the whole human beings want to be good, but not too good and not quite all the time.”
If we are honest, and if we allow the truth mirror to reflect how we really are, we are sinful people incapable of real love.
Our response should be like Peter when he said, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” (Luke 5:8)
Or like Job when he said, “I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:6)
Or like Isaiah when he said, “Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” (Isaiah 6:5)
The Word reveals how we don’t measure up and it reflects our true nature.
James is not saying that we should truly become depressed people. James is saying that we’ve got to let the Word make us honest people – look at us! We are sinners in need of a Savior. If we don’t allow the Word to reflect our true nature, then we forget why we need Jesus in the first place.
One of my favorite sayings is “God will accept you the way you are, and loves you enough to not keep you that way!” This is so true! Once our true nature is reflected back at us in this mirror, there is another purpose of the Word of God that comes to light. This purpose is found also in Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV):
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
I let the Word reveal my true nature. Then I allow it to lead me, not to death (which I deserve), but to everlasting life.
This is a third purpose of the Word:
3. To Transform You – vs. 25
James 1:25 - But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.
James tells us to look into the Gospel – the perfect law of liberty. We are commanded to stoop down and have a hard look at this law of grace, this perfect law of liberty.
A “Law that gives liberty” seems like a paradox. The word “law” seems to imply restraint and therefore a lack of freedom or liberty. How does God’s perfect Law give liberty?
Well, think about it this way. Let’s say we see a stop sign at a corner of a street. We decide we don’t like it because it brings restraint and restriction in our lives. SO, we remove it. What would happen?
God’s perfect law of liberty, the Bible, also stops us from making accidents and brings true freedom, liberty from pain and brokenness.
This perfect law brings freedom:
• FREEDOM from pain from our own wrong doing:
2 Corinthians 3:17 (NLT) - For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
• FREEDOM from a guilty conscience:
1 Corinthians 10:29 (ESV) - I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience?
• FREEDOM from religious regulations:
Galatians 2:4 (NLT) - Even that question came up only because of some so-called Christians there—false ones, really—who were secretly brought in. They sneaked in to spy on us and take away the freedom we have in Christ Jesus. They wanted to enslave us and force us to follow their Jewish regulations.
• FREEDOM FROM DECAY & CORRUPTION OF THIS WORLD:
Romans 8:21 (NRSV) - that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
This is why we are called to continue in this law that brings freedom!
This “Perfect Law of Liberty” also makes you blessed. You are designed for something in this world. When we abide in the Word, we become blessed, because we begin to reflect Jesus to the world. In other words, we become the mirror! We begin to reflect Christ.
When Moses came off the mountain, his skin acted as a mirror: he met God and his face was shining. He did not want the Jews to see this glory fading away, so he put on a veil to hide it.
Moses’ face shone because he reflected the presence of God. Likewise, we reflect the glory of God when we behold the Word, who is Jesus Christ. The one difference, however, is that the reflected glory of God in us never fades because the purpose of the Christian life is to display Jesus.
Your purpose in life is to become so entranced by the mirror of the Word of God, that you actually become TRANSFORMED into a mirror. We exist as heaven’s advertising agency, promoting the glory of God in every area of our lives.
When a believer spends time looking into the Word and seeing Christ, he is transformed: the glory on the inside is revealed on the outside.
2 Corinthians 3:18 (NKJV) - But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.
People see God in us and thus… God gets the glory! We are truly blessed because we are doing what God created us to do.
So here we are on Sunday morning, just about to finish our morning worship service. All along God has put this mirror in front of us called the “Word of God”. Are we going to make the worship about us? Are we going to sit in our complaints and ask God, “what have you done for me lately?”
OR are we going to let God ask us: what have you done for Me?
When we look in to the Mirror of the Word, what do we see?
• We will see our flaws, so are we going to make adjustments… or look away?
• We will see our need for a Savior, so are we going to accept this or… just walk away and forget it!?!
• We will see the chance for transformation, will we take God’s blessing and be changed forever!?!
Luke 11:28 (NRSV) - Jesus said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!”