Mirror, Mirror on the Wall
Text: James 1:17-25
New American Standard Bible
James 1:17 through James 1:25 (NASB) 17Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. 18In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.
19£This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; 20for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. 21Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. 22But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. 23For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; 24for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. 25But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.
Introduction: Snow white and the wicked witch of the forest. Looking into the mirror and not willing to accept what she saw. Instead of thanking the mirror fortelling the truth, she gets very angry at the mirror.
I. In order for the word to change us, we must realize its author.
--Bigger than John Wayne, or any other movie star…Even bigger than the Pope.
B. Gift Giver
*This great book is the best gift God has given to man. But for it, we could not know right from wrong.
-- Abraham Lincoln, Christian Reader, Vol. 33, no. 5.
C. Creator (life giver)
---Trust our lives to the one who gave life to us in the first place. Trust wholeheartedly in what He has written.
II. In order for the word to change us, we must receive it appropriately.
A. In Humility
--Be able to say, I have offended someone greater than me, and appologize.
*In The Essential Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson, the cartoon character Calvin says to his tiger friend, Hobbes, "I feel bad that I called Susie names and hurt her feelings. I'm sorry I did it."
"Maybe you should apologize to her," Hobbes suggests. Calvin ponders this for a moment and replies, "I keep hoping there's a less obvious solution."
When we want to restore our relationship with God, we need to remember that he has a liking for the obvious solution.
-- Norm Langston in Fresh Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching (Baker), from the editors of Leadership.
*The meek man is not a human mouse afflicted with a sense of his own inferiority. Rather, he may be in his moral life as bold as a lion and as strong as Samson; but he has stopped being fooled about himself. He has accepted God's estimate of his own life. He knows he is as weak and helpless as God has declared him to be, but paradoxically, he knows at the same time that he is, in the sight of God, more important than angels. ... He knows well that the world will never see him as God sees him and he has stopped caring.
-- A. W. Tozer in The Pursuit of God. Christianity Today, Vol. 39, no. 8.
B. Willing to return (repent)
* Lloyd H. Steffen wrote in The Christian Century how when King Frederick II, an eighteenth-century king of Prussia, was visiting a prison in Berlin, the inmates tried to prove to him how they had been unjustly imprisoned. All except one.
That one sat quietly in a corner, while all the rest protested their innocence. Seeing him sitting there oblivious to the commotion, the king asked him what he was there for. "Armed robbery, Your Honor." The king asked, "Were you guilty?" "Yes, Sir," he answered. "I entirely deserve my punishment." The king then gave an order to the guard: "Release this guilty man. I don't want him corrupting all these innocent people."
-- Donal W. Brenneman APO, Miami, Florida. Leadership, Vol. 12, no. 2.
*Repentance is not a popular word these days, but I believe that any of us recognize it when it strikes us in the gut. Repentance is coming to our senses, seeing, suddenly, what we've done that we might not have done, or recognizing ... that the problem is not in what we do but in what we become.
-- Kathleen Norris in The Cloister Walk. Christianity Today, Vol. 41, no. 12.
*Repentance is always difficult, and the difficulty grows still greater by delay.
-- Samuel Johnson in The Quotable Johnson. Christianity Today, Vol. 41, no. 11
*You cannot repent too soon because you do not know how soon it may be too late.
-- Sir Thomas Fuller, Christian Reader, Vol. 32, no. 5.
C. "All" (allow no strongholds)
On July 20, 1993, while cutting down oaks in a Pennsylvania forest, Don Wyman got his leg pinned beneath a fallen tree. No one could hear his yells for help. After digging for more than an hour to try to free his bleeding, shattered leg, he hit stone. He would bleed to death unless he did something drastic.
Wyman made his decision. Using a wrench and the starter cord from his chain saw as a torniquet, he cut off the flow of blood to his shin. Somehow he had the fortitude to amputate his own leg below the knee with his pocket knife. He crawled to his vehicle and drove to a farmer's home. The farmer got him the help that saved his life.
Like Don Wyman, men who want to follow Christ face tough choices. We have sinful habits we want to keep as badly as our leg. We also have a Lord and Savior who calls us to repent. It takes strength to cut off our wickedness.
-- Craig Brian Larson, pastor in Chicago. Men of Integrity, Vol. 1, no. 1.
III. In order for the Word to change us, we must reflect on our appearance.
A. Know yourself
* Behind much of the rat-race of modern life is the unexamined assumption that what I do determines who I am. In this way, we define ourselves by what we do, rather than by any quality of what we are inside. It is typical in a party for one stranger to approach another with the question "What do you do?" Perhaps we wouldn't have a clue how to reply to the deeper question, "Who are you?"
-- James Houston in The Transforming Power of Prayer. Christianity Today, Vol. 41, no. 1.
*What we see as we go through life always depends upon where we stand to look. Many a man who tries to talk as if he were standing on a mountain, shows by what he says that he is up to his eyes in the mud.
-- Billy Sunday in a sermon, "Under the Sun," from The Real Billy Sunday. Christianity Today, Vol. 41, no. 10.
*You never find yourself until you face the truth.
-- Pearl Bailey. Leadership, Vol. 16, no. 4.
B. Not deluded
“Deceiving” is from a verb used in the New Testament only here and in
Colossians 2:4. Paralogizomai means “to cheat or deceive by false
reasoning.” The deception comes from thinking they have done all that is
necessary when actually listening to the Word is only the beginning.
*In his book Modern Times, Paul Johnson notes that Stalin was short--just five feet, four inches tall. Furthermore, a childhood accident had left his left arm stiff and his hand slightly misshapen. So when the dictator commissioned his portrait, he instructed the artist to paint him from his best angle--from below, a perspective that made Stalin seem to tower over the artist.
To add to the image, Stalin folded his hands over his stomach, making them appear firm and powerful more like the pseudonym he had chosen: Stalin means "man of steel." It is human nature to put ourselves in the best possible light. But spiritual growth cannot come merely by adjusting the angle of view. God's Word is a mirror that shows our true condition.
-- Lew Button Bedford, Pennsylvania. Leadership, Vol. 15, no. 4.
*Most people are bothered by those Scripture passages which they cannot understand. But for me, the passages in Scripture which trouble me most are those which I do understand.
-- Mark Twain, Christian Reader, Vol. 33, no. 5.
C. Not a quick reflection (intent)
--Be courageous enough to take a long look
If you are religious, it is easier to read some pious book than the Bible. The Bible treats you like human life does--roughly.
-- Oswald Chambers, Christianity Today, Vol. 37, no. 11.
IV. In order for the Word to change us, we must respond with application.
New American Standard Bible
Matthew 7:26 through Matthew 7:27 (NASB) 26“Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27“The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.”
A. Rule of life
*Some time ago I was biking in Michigan and met another biker who, like myself, was a professor of theology. In the course of our conversation by the side of the road he said something I will never forget: "Bob, all I really want in life is for the Word fo God to take up residence inside of me and form me into Christ-likeness." I think this statement hit me hard because my seminary training in the Bible was never that personal. We were always asking "What does it say?" and seldom if ever made the step into a deep personal application of "How can that truth take up residence in me?"
-- Robert Webber in The Covenant Companion (Jan. l990). Christianity Today, Vol. 34, no. 4.
*I ask with all my strength what God is trying to say to us through [the Bible]; since I have learnt to read the Bible in this way it becomes more marvellous to me every day.
-- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Christian History, no. 32.
*A Bible that's falling apart probably belongs to someone who isn't.
-- Christian Johnson. Men of Integrity, Vol. 1, no. 1.
C. a blessing
He that hopes to find peace by trusting God must obey him.
-- Samuel Johnson in Sermons (XIV). Christianity Today, Vol. 37, no. 2
Let not thy Word, O Lord, become a judgement upon us, that we hear it and do it not, that we believe it and obey it not.
-- Attributed to Thomas a Kempis. Christianity Today, Vol. 37, no. 3.