"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 wil be blessed in what he does."
Religion has the power to give life or take it. Pure religion, as James calls it, gives life, freedom, and blessing. However, religion today is often seen in its suffocating form. A system of rules and regulations that must be painstakingly kept in order to earn approval or recognition. It forces us into a position where we cannot live - one where it is up to us to do the work and keep the rules by our own power.
James points us to a far different form of religion. He points us to a way of life in which God has done all that was needed through Jesus. Jesus upheld the law, declared His work finished, and sent the Spirit to enable us to live as He did. This religion gives life.
How then can we live in this way? James shows us that the key is found in the Bible, where God reveals Himself. The first step is to accept the gift of new life that God offers through the Word. Before anything else takes place, God uses the Bible to show who He is and to peel back the wrong notions that we hold about Him and ourselves. Suddenly, we see that all of our actions are worthless when viewed in comparison to Him. He reveals the wickedness and sinfulness of our hearts (vs 13-15). At the same time, He reveals His greatness and goodness (vs. 16-18). This drives us to the point of forsaking our efforts and receiving the gift of His grace.
The Word then guides us in life by continuing to correct our wrong assumptions and ideas. Primarily, it confronts our need to be the center of all that happens. Our lives are lived with "It's all about me" as our motto. We are quick to spout our opinions, stand up for our rights, and angrily protest when others don't listen and respond. Instead, James said that we are to take the position of the one listening as God reveals to us His perspective on our lives. God is the true center of all that occurs and when we view our lives and circumstances from that perspective, everything changes. We are then to take the step of humbly accepting God's view of our lives as He reveals it through His Word. When we humbly bow before God, He unleashes His power in our lives; He saves us.
Finally, we must remember why the Word is revealed in the first place. It is given to us to change us, not to simply inform us. We often treat it like an encylopedia, full of new knowledge, but not really related to our lives. Instead, James shows that the Word IS our life. Our lives are transformed when we not only look into the Word and see what it shows us about ourselves, but when we take steps to DO what it says. James gives us the picture of someone looking into a mirror. When we look at the Bible, it reflects an accurate picture of our lives, not a distorted one that we have clung to. With this gift in hand, we then seek to change based on what we see. But changing does not depend on our ability to make it happen. Instead, we are empowered by the Spirit to make the necessary changes.
Our life with God becomes a process of intently gazing into the mirror of God's Word, so that we can gain an accurate picture of both our life and God. We then seek to make the changes demanded by what we see through the power that He supplies. It involves confessing our inability and clinging to God's power and promise. The Word not only corrects us, but it brings God's power to bear on our lives. It can save us. It is the power of God at work in our lives.
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