Friday, October 29, 2010

James: Mirrors

It seems my friend Val and I have been prompting each other to think about Scripture.  Always a good thing.  Proverbs 27:17 says, "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another."  Val and I are both women, but you get the idea.

After I wrote about faith without works being dead, Val wrote from James 1:22-25.  I'm going to paraphrase:
Don't just listen to the words from the Bible.  And don't just read them.  Put the words into practice.  Otherwise you're like a woman who looks at her face in the mirror and then immediately forgets what she looks like.  
That totally resonates with me.  I picture myself a certain way.  In that image, I'm about 35 so there aren't any wrinkles.  In those days I hardly ever wore makeup--except for mascara.  My hair is much blonder than it is now.  I weigh about 15 pounds less than what the scale says now.

And then I look in the mirror and the image is a little disconcerting.  I see a woman who is several years older than the picture I have in my mind, and she weighs more than I'm comfortable with.   She needs a haircut, but is too lazy or too cheap or too busy to go get one.  I see spots and wrinkles.  I think, "She needs to start eating better.  She needs to exercise.  She needs to get her hair cut.  Maybe colored."

And then I walk away, and I forget all of that.  I don't eat better.  I don't exercise.  I don't call and make an appointment to get my hair cut.  And if I bothered to put on lipstick before I left the mirror, I don't reapply even though I know it's worn off.

In the same way, when we hear a sermon or participate in a deep discussion in our Life Groups, when we encounter God's presence in worship, when we read God's Word, the Holy Spirit often reveals things about ourselves that we aren't comfortable with. Perhaps he convicts us of sin.  Maybe spending too much.  Or watching too much T.V.  Or lack of forgiveness.  Or being unkind or unloving.

And we confess our sin.  We beg forgiveness, and we walk away, ready to change. But then we forget.  And we don't change.  Kind of like the way I always mean to exercise, but I don't.  If I could see the image in the mirror all the time, I would definitely have motivation to change!

Sometimes the fact that I know I've failed to exercise or eat right means I don't WANT to look into the mirror.  At that point, even more things don't get taken care of.  Maybe I don't pluck my eyebrows.  Or take my makeup off at night.  Make sure my clothes look okay.  You get the idea--if I never look into the mirror because I don't like what I see, I don't take care of things that need taken care of.

And so I want to take this metaphor back to the passage.  James 1:24 tells us that we will be blessed when we look intently into God's perfect law (the Bible) that gives freedom and also put the ideas into practice.  The more time we spend in God's Word, the more God's Spirit equips us to live what we see there.

Val wrote this:
I need God to direct me.  I need the Holy Spirit to guide me and convict me.  I need his word to be my sword.  Think of a jungle.  What defensive weapon is most needed?  A machete to create a path.  You see, the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, is not only useful against spiritual and earthly foes; it can be used to make our path straight and visible!  We cannot walk the path God has put before us on this jungle without the sword to clear the path.  In order to even see what direction we should go, we need that sword!  The word of God is alive and it will keep us alive, but we need to wield that sword and follow the path it creates.  We have not yet arrived at our destination. We are still on a journey, a blessed journey. 

Back to the mirror analogy.  I mentioned that sometimes I don't even want to look into the mirror. I  don't always like what I see there.  But if I don't, I actually end up looking pretty awful.  

We might want to avoid spending time in God's Word precisely because it makes us feel bad about the way we look spiritually, but it's important to remember Romans 8:1.  There is no condemnation in Christ.  God's Word isn't there to condemn us, but to empower us.  There is freedom in God's Word.  There is freedom when we allow him to equip us and give us strength.  When we begin to put the words into practice.  

Okay.  I could write on the book of James for another week, but it's time to move on.  

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