Note: I’ve been posting devotional thoughts on my facebook author/speaker page for some time. From now on, I’ll endeavor to post them here as well. If you follow me on facebook, this is the same devotion I posted there this morning.
My friend Dianne bought a magnifying mirror. When she looked into the mirror, her face—enlarged seven times—didn’t even look like hers! She got rid of the mirror. Her story reminds me of my past relationship with Scripture, especially passages like James 1:23-25:
“Anyone who hears the Word of God and does not obey is like a man looking at his face in a mirror. After he sees himself and goes away, he forgets what he looks like. But the one who keeps looking into God’s perfect Law and does not forget it will do what it says and be happy as he does it. God’s Word makes men free” (NLV).
My approach to reading the Bible used to be like looking into a magnifying mirror. I read Scripture to scrutinize every blemish. When I did this, I fought feelings of unworthiness, shame, and failure.
But this week I saw something different—and exciting!—in this passage in James. In verse 25 James talks about God’s “perfect law.” Other translations use words like “perfect law of liberty” (KJV) or “perfect law that gives freedom” (NIV). While theologians disagree on which law James refers to, many believe it is the new covenant living ushered in by Christ’s death and resurrection.* So the “perfect law” is what Paul calls the “law of the Spirit” (Romans 8:2). It is the new “system” that Ezekiel talked about, when God fulfilled His promise to give us a “new heart and put a new spirit within” us (Ezekiel 36:26). It’s the New Covenant life where we are a people with a brand new heart, the heart of Jesus, beating within us.
So James is telling us to look into the New Covenant mirror. This understanding fits with the context of this passage. James is talking about living a life that overcomes sin. In verse 21 he wrote, “Receive with a gentle spirit the Word that was taught. It has the power to save your souls from the punishment of sin.” Other versions tell us to receive the IMPLANTED word. Friends, the only Word that is planted within us and can save our souls is the living Word, Jesus Himself.
THIS IS GOOD NEWS!
When James talks about overcoming sin, he tells us to look in the mirror and remember who we are. He wants us to look in the mirror and see ourselves AND the implanted Word. There are TWO people in that mirror: Jesus and us. And we are seen as people “in” Jesus. Scripture says we are “new creations” in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17) and “righteousness” of God in Christ (Philippians 3:9).
So HOW do we view ourselves when we look in the mirror James talks about? We view ourselves as whole, forgiven people who have beautiful new hearts. We remember that because Jesus indwells us through the Holy Spirit, we have been CHANGED. We are no longer people who WANT to sin. We are no longer people who are hidden in shame. We are no longer unworthy, shame-filled creatures who constantly fail to live up to God’s goodness. NO! We have been transformed by Jesus. He took our sin upon Himself, and we’re brand new.
What joyful, glorious, empowering news! When you look into the mirror of Scripture, you are not magnifying it seven times to find your blemishes. When you look into the mirror of Scripture, you look to see who you REALLY are: A new creation who is being made into the image of Jesus (Romans 8:29).
We read Scripture to remember the wonder of our salvation. We read Scripture to discover the goodness of God. We read Scripture to better know the One who has transformed us. We look in the mirror of the Word to remember that we have received a whole new identity in Christ.
When God looks at us, He sees us and Jesus. When we look in the mirror, we see the same thing—Jesus and us.
I don’t know about you, but being beaten down by my blemishes never empowers me to act differently. But remembering that the Living Word, Jesus Himself, has made me different empowers me to live out the new identity I’ve ALREADY been given.
I don’t overcome fault by focusing on it, beating myself up, and working hard to change. I overcome by remembering that I’ve already been changed and that there are two people in the mirror—me and the Jesus who cleansed me from sin. Me and the Jesus who empowers me not to sin.
Oh friends! James wants us to look in the mirror and remember we are a people who embody the implanted Word of Christ. We are a people who are forgiven. Whole. Beloved.
We look in the mirror. We see. We remember. Then we go out and live like the new person we are!
Precious God, What a wondrous thing You’ve done. You’ve changed me and given me the power to live as the new person You made me to be. Next time I look into the mirror—whether it is in my bedroom or my Bible—remind me to see myself as You see me. And help me to tap into the grace to live—to behave—like the person You say I am.
Until Next time,
* If this is a new thought for you, consider this: If we look at the New Testament as a whole, then we read James in context with the other NT writers and passages like Galatians 5, which show that Christ’s work on the cross set us free from sin and death. Paul often refers to a new “law,” the law of the Spirit, which gives liberty. In Romans 8:2 he writes, “For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” (ESV). In this context it doesn’t make sense that James refers to Old Testament rules, but to new covenant living—freedom in the law of the Spirit, the new “system” put in place by the Christ’s death and resurrection. Scripture never claims that living the law sets us free. The only freedom claim it makes is living free in Jesus and the grace He offers. For more thoughts check this out.