Scripture: James 1:22-25
1. A Haze In The Mirror – (deceiving ourselves)
- When you can’t see the forest for the trees
James says: “Do not merely listen to the Word and so deceive yourselves.”
It is a curious thing that our refusal to live by what we understand will cause us spiritual blindness. Any other information in the world we can accept without having it demand something of us but the gospel seems to be different. God doesn’t seem to be looking for our agreement – he will be satisfied with nothing short of everything that we are and everything that we have laid in surrender before Him. Blinded by the light that we refuse to walk in.
All the information in the world will not save a person. If we are waiting for sufficient information then that day may never come.
I think that our degree of openness to walk in the light determines the light that we have.
People who talk about prayer but never pray.
People who say tithing is right but never tithe.
People who want to belong to the church but never attend.
People who say the Bible is God's Word to man but never read it.
People who criticize others for things they do themselves.
People who stay away from church for trivial reasons and sing, "Oh, How I Love Jesus."
People who continue in sin all their lives but expect to go to heaven.
-- Church Bulletin Bits
Does something in your life need to change? Here are four realizations that can help you in making important choices in your life:
1 The Step of Honest Humility: I don't know the answer. Long journeys and big decisions start with the words I don't know. When confronted with God's truth, it's human nature to feel inadequate. If you can admit this to yourself and to God, the words I don't know can free you rather than panic or defeat you. Instead of turning inward and relying on yourself for answers, you can turn to God and rely on Him for the understanding, direction, and strength to move ahead. You will experience the blessing of humility. Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble" (1 Peter 5:5).
2 The Step of Joyful Obedience: I will do what God says. Once you admit you don't have all the answers, the door to receiving new understanding, opportunity, and direction for yourself will open. Understanding that God loves you unconditionally gives you the ability to obey God. The question of what to do with the rest of your life, facing you now or waiting somewhere down the road, can be filled with anxiety and unknowing. When you come to that turning point, God is ready to show you the way - if you will acknowledge that your life belongs to Him. He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:6).
3 The Step of True Identity: I know who God made me to be. Obeying God means belonging to God. In Him is your security, familiarity, and trust. When you depend on God, He will reveal your inner strengths, gifts, and talents to you, the makeup of your true identity.
4 The Step of Destiny: Ultimately, my life belongs to God. Whatever you have been given in life does not belong to you. You are a steward who's been commanded to share what you have with those who have not. If you make the choice to live your life for the Lord, He will reveal to you the impact you made for Him. It may be years before you understand, but that is one of the faithful blessings of God: to show you how you fit into His kingdom.
2. A Glance In The Mirror – (depriving ourselves)
- When you don’t remember what a tree looks like?
“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.”
Most of us have memory problems when it comes to our spiritual experience. Even with life in general we may flatter ourselves just a bit too much. We forget about some of the most important things.
Events and circumstances awaken our religion, as though there were no need to pray to God except in illness and sorrow. As soon as affairs take a turn for the better and the danger is past, our devotion vanishes; the most we think of doing is to thank God for the successful end of our troubles; after a short act of gratitude we forget him and think of nothing but our pleasures. The necessities and accidents of life form the main subject and the actuating motive of the prayers of the ordinary Christian.
Jean Nicolas Grou (1731-1803)
ü We forget about the vows that we took when we stood at the altar promising to love and to “cherish”. It was there then all the emotion of new love and the prospects of a life to be lived together. All of that uncluttered by the everyday responsibilities that cause us to neglect the greatest assets that we have in this life.
ü We forget about the desperate prayers that we breathe to God when the answer comes and we skip away like 9 of the 10 cleansed lepers, caught up in our good fortune. We quickly forget the “very good God” who answered that prayer because he saw the fear and distress in your heart. Even though he has assured us a thousand times that He would never leave or forsake us, we quickly forget when we see the wind and the waves.
ü We forget about the health that we have enjoyed this day, the small blessings that are priceless by their absence in someone else’s life. Merely by thought we will our legs over the side of the bed onto the cold floor and the sensations of a new day assault our bodies. We have done many things already this day unconscious of the benevolent hand of God that allows us this great privilege of life. We have opened our eyes and actually seen – where many blind eyes have opened this day already without altering the permanent blackness that surrounds them 24/7.
ü We forget about the miracle of birth and the gift of God that children are when they try us and usher us to the very brink of our ability to be patient and understanding. We forget that they are not us and although we know ourselves to a degree, we do not know our children to the same degree. We forget how immature that we were at their age and how we were irresponsible at times but we have come through it and even overcome. We forget that we are put here in a unique position because we are the only people in the world capable of loving these children unconditionally. We can look at their darker sides and still love them. That is our job and our responsibility and the only thing that we can do like no one else. There are those times as well when our children must be released to the hand of their heavenly father – when all that we might do does no good and we wonder where we went wrong and what we might have done better – let me remind you dear ones that a miracle of God is in order and only He can do the supernatural thing. Only God can change a human heart. Give them back to God, don’t forget that they came from Him in the beginning.
ü We forget quickly how much it cost Christ to forgive us of the sinful tendency in our hearts to go counter to His will in our daily lives. We forget what we were like when we were younger in the faith or before we came to faith at all. We forget how long it took us to grasp particular truth and fully apply it in our lives. We display that bad memory when we look in judgment upon another brother or sister in the Lord
It was his understanding of what I have called a PDI principle that made John Bunyan the great man of God we know him to be. In his spiritual autobiography he modeled the repentant lifestyle with these comments:
I find to this day 7 abominations in my heart:
1) inclinings to unbelief
2) suddenly to forget the love and mercy that Christ manifesteth
3) a leaning to the works of the law
4) wanderings and coldness in prayer
5) to forget to watch for that I pray for
6) apt to murmur because I have no more, and yet ready to abuse what I have
7) I can do none of these things which God commands me, but my corruptions will thrust in themselves; when I do good, evil is present with me.
n Grace Abounding, From Rebuilding Your Broken World, by Gordon MacDonald
ü We forget about the pain that our bad decisions have brought us. We forget that hasty words cut deep and scar forever. We forget about times like these today when we sit in a sanctuary and contemplate during a sermon the Word of God and His providential will for our lives. Occasionally in these types of settings, God moves in a mighty way, He speaks to hearts and perhaps about things that have nothing to do with the specific nature of a verse or a point in the sermon – but He speaks – most likely He is busy doing just that – right now. When I say that today is the day of salvation we silently respond – “I know”. Let me tell you something about that my friend – as soon as you turn away from the mirror, your memory will fail you. An hour after this message is over there will be some of you who will not be able to tell another human being what in the world I was preaching about this morning. Do you know why?
It is because God’s Word is meant to be immediately acted upon. We learn it truly when we do it. James says that the man who does not act upon the word goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.
It’s a mere glance in the word that we take every Sunday morning. Because we are most always on our way somewhere else. Let me challenge you to come before Him when you have nowhere else to go. Let me encourage you to make Him your agenda – we talk about this day as the Lord’s Day. We worship on the Lord’s day – a day given to Him. We don’t need to rely on the legislators in our province to make this day such. Really we can never define the Lord’s day by the things that we don’t do. It is best defined when we make Christ our pursuit on this day. Unless you act on what you are hearing, you won’t remember this long.
3. A Gaze In The Mirror – (developing ourselves)
- When you remember that it takes a lifetime to make a tree.
You can choose to groom yourself by whatever standard you choose. Your “style” can be determined by many different people and or influences. James says that people who are groomed in the mirror of God’s Word have a certain love for it and even a preoccupation with it for it reveals the pleasure of a benevolent Father who wants to make us over in the likeness of His Son.
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.
To the artist He is the One Altogether Lovely.
To the architect He is the Chief Cornerstone.
To the astronomer He is the Sun of Righteousness.
To the baker He is the Living Bread.
To the banker He is the Hidden Treasure.
To the biologist He is the Life.
To the carpenter He is the Sure Foundation.
To the doctor He is the Great Physician.
To the educator He is the Great Teacher.
To the farmer He is the Sower and Lord of the Harvest.
To the florist He is the Lily of the Valley and the Rose of Sharon.
To the geologist He is the Rock of Ages.
To the horticulturist He is the True Vine.
To the judge He is the Righteous Judge.
To the juror He is the True Witness.
To the jeweler He is the Pearl of Great Price.
To the editor He is the Good Tidings of Great Joy.
To the oculist He is the Light of the Eyes.
To the philosopher He is the Wisdom of God.
To the Printer He is the True Type.
To the servant He is the Good Master.
To the student He is the Incarnate Truth.
To the toiler He is the Giver of Rest.
To the Sinner He is the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world.
To the Christian, He is the Son of the Living God, the Savior, the Redeemer and Lord!
He was too great for his disciples. And in view of what he plainly said, is it any wonder that all who were rich and prosperous felt a horror of strange things, a swimming of their world at his teaching? Perhaps the priests and the rich men understood him better than his followers. He was dragging out all the little private reservations they had made from social service into the light of a universal religious life. He was like some terrible moral huntsman digging mankind out of the snug burrows in which they had lived hitherto. In the white blaze of this kingdom of his there was to be no property, no privilege, no pride and precedence; no motive indeed and no reward but love. Is it any wonder that men were dazzled and blinded and cried out against him? Even his disciples cried out when he would not spare them the light. Is it any wonder that the priests realized that between this man and themselves there was no choice but that he or priestcraft should perish? Is it any wonder that the Roman soldiers, confronted and amazed by something soaring over their comprehension and threatening all their disciplines, should take refuge in wild laughter, and crown him with thorns and robe him in purple and make a mock Caesar of him? For to take him seriously was to enter upon a strange and alarming life, to abandon habits, to control instincts and impulses, to essay an incredible happiness... Is it any wonder that to this day this Galilean is too much for our small hearts?
. . . H. G. Wells, The Outline of History 
We must look intently (with intention) into His Word. Nothing in this world is accidental when it comes to a relationship with Christ. Do you plan to grow in your faith relationship with God? If you do it will not happen accidentally or incidentally. It will be a very purposeful happening. People who flourish in their faith determine to do so. They come hungry and determined. Look at the examples of people who received from Christ in the scriptures. They are many. They came to Him seeking something.
I Sought Him
I sought Him where my logic led.
"This friend is always sure and right;
His lantern is sufficient light --
I need no star," I said.
I sought Him in the city square.
Logic and I went up and down
The marketplace of many a town,
And He was never there.
I tracked Him to the mind's far rim.
The valiant Intellect went forth
To east and west and south and north,
And found no trace of Him.
We walked the world from sun to sun,
Logic and I, with little Faith,
But never came to Nazareth,
Or found the Holy One.
I sought in vain. And finally,
Back to the heart's small house I crept,
And fell upon my knees, and wept;
And lo! -- He came to me!
... Sara Henderson Hay
They didn’t come to where he was – that was not enough. They had to see Him and no one else would do. Have you come here today in the same manner? No one else but Christ will do.
The Word is a mirror and it is for you – not someone else – when you read it understand that God reveals His will for you. He will not speak to you of another’s faults or failures if you listen to Him. The mirror is for you.
It must be a lifetime pursuit for God requires a lifetime to carry on His work of making you like Jesus.
Jesus of Nazareth, without money and arms, conquered more millions than Alexander, Caesar, Mahomet, and Napoleon; without science and learning, He shed more light on things human and divine than all philosophers and schools combined; without the eloquence of schools, He spoke words of life such as never were spoken before or since, and produced effects which lie beyond the reach of any orator or poet; without writing a single line, He has set more pens in motion, and furnished themes for more sermons, orations, discussions, learned volumes, works of art and sweet songs of praise, than the whole army of great men of ancient and modern times. Born in a manger, and crucified as a malefactor, He now controls the destinies of the civilized world, and rules a spiritual empire which embraces one-third of the inhabitants of the globe. There never was in this world a life so unpretending, modest, and lowly in its outward form and condition, and yet producing such extraordinary effects upon all ages, nations, and classes of men. The annals of history produce no other example of such complete and astonishing success in spite of the absence of those material, social, literary, and artistic powers and influences which are indispensable to success for a mere man.
... Philip Schaff (1819-1893)
A famous actor was once the guest of honor at a social gathering where he received many requests to recite favorite excerpts from various literary works. An old preacher who happened to be there asked the actor to recite the twenty-third Psalm. The actor agreed on the condition that the preacher would also recite it. The actor's recitation was beautifully intoned with great dramatic emphasis for which he received lengthy applause. The preacher's voice was rough and broken from many years of preaching, and his diction was anything but polished. But when he finished there was not a dry eye in the room. When someone asked the actor what made the difference, he replied "I know the psalm, but he knows the Shepherd."
David Livingstone once wisely remarked:
He is the greatest master I have ever known. If there is anyone greater, I do not know him. Jesus Christ is the only master supremely worth serving. He is the only ideal that never loses its inspiration. He is the only friend whose friendship meets every demand. He is the only Savior who can save the uttermost. We go forth in His name, in His power, and in His Spirit to serve Him.
n Wiersbe & Wiersbe, Making Sense of the Ministry
Jesus, the Carpenter
My house was falling apart...
I called upon the carpenter
Quickly he came
He looked the situation over
gave an estimated cost
I gave him the OK.
Speedily he went to work
He tore down pride and
ripped into conceit
I watched in horror with
He never answered, simply
stated, "Trust me."
I saw him pull those nails of malice
And remove selfish ambition
it seemed there was nothing left.
Then he began to build
He established faith where there
hope where once there was
I saw humility where pride
Slowly and carefully now he began
to build compassion and forgiveness.
Suddenly unsteadiness attacked!
He said, "Fear Not!" and with
patience and perseverance and
faith as the main support
He steadied my home.
He's still at work today
Jesus the carpenter at work in me.