James 1:22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. (ESV)
I have to be honest and say that passages like this used to bother me. If you read them with a wrong perspective it can feel like stepping back into a law relationship. If the enemy inserts his deception, it just becomes more doing and doing and self-effort and toiling and struggling with all your junk and condemnation with no hope of ever being finished until you are dead. It can be the death knell, literally. You never get free of working and self-improvement programs and moral conformity until you are saved by your death. Then and only then are you free from your evil, sinful, dark, fleshly nature, right? Does any of that sound like Grace? Does any of that sound like the finished work of Jesus? Does any of that reflect the nature of our Papa in Heaven? Have you ever been taught that sort of “doing-to-be-pleasing” kind of thing? I bet most of us have learned that concept growing up either in or out of church. Why? Satan. This is one of his favorite lies. He absolutely wants to trap us in self-reflection and introspection and self-effort so we never ever look up and out. He wants us to stay in our selfish little isolated swamp to never come up for air. Well I’ve got some really good news. The devil is a liar and has no claim over you. None of that “doing to be pleasing” stuff is true, whatsoever. If you are born again you are a new creation. You are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. Your sin nature died on the cross. You have a new nature, a divinely implanted nature. God is very pleased with what He has done in you.
Check this out. Go back to James and look at verse 21.
James 1:21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. (ESV)
This is an awesome verse. I want to unpack it a little for you. Of course filthiness and wickedness mean pretty much what they say. To “put away” however is interesting. I could mean to put off or get rid of. Think of a coat you are wearing. It isn’t part of you so you can just take it off. The word “meekness” implies surrender with trust. What are you trusting in, the “implanted word.” “Implanted” could be translated engrafted like when you splice in a new tree into an older tree. I have heard that is the way they get apple trees to grow. It also comes from a root word that means to blow or puff up with the breath like when Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit on the Apostles. The word “word” is from the Greek logos. It is the nature, essence, very person of God like “the word became flesh.” Think about it. The Spirit of Christ is in us. The fullness of God is in us. He is in us and we are in Him. The word “saved” is sozo which is the whole package, saved, healed, delivered, set free, redeemed, restored, etc. And the lastly “soul” is the place of our conscience, our mind will and emotions, our gateway from spirit to flesh. So if you put it all together you would get something like this in the Lance Literal Translation (LLT).
Shed that stuff that is clinging to you and sliming you. It doesn’t belong. It isn’t part of you. It is not part of your new self. Instead let the very nature of God, your new nature guide you because, he is in you and sets you free. Then you will be free of internal conflict and strife. Your very soul will be liberated from the condemnation of the enemy. (LLT)
I call this an identity verse. They are all over the Bible. Every time you have “one of those passages” where your selfish nature is aroused by all sorts of good-and-bad lists, you will find an identity verse like this one:
Galatians 5:24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (ESV)
This is one of my favorites:
Romans 8:9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.(ESV)
If you are born again, a new creation, by definition you have the Spirit of God dwelling in you! Come on that is good news. I am not a slave to the flesh. I am not a slave to condemnation. I am not a slave to some old sin nature. I a free and alive in Jesus! So let me wrap this up with these verses.
John 6:27 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”
The battle ground of the enemy is the mind. The renewing of our mind is to learn to think like Jesus, to believe in Him and what He has already done. Then we step out in faith, we believe and trust. If you ever feel like you are struggling to change something about you, some behavior, remember the beginning of transformation is right believing not your “best effort.” When you find yourself in one of these passages where you realize you are wearing some attributes of the “naughty list” then find your identity verse in that passage, declare it and believe it. The real you, the new you, the Jesus-in-you you does not possess those qualities. You are believing a lie from the enemy. Now step out and live from your actual identity. Take that coat off and live free.
So this section in James is about knowing who you are and believing it is true. You look into the law of liberty, what Jesus has done, who Jesus is, who He has made you, just like a mirror, and you are transformed. Your doing is believing. When you believe, your very nature reflects the image of God. Your actions are Jesus to those around you. You shine like the light that God has made you. You “get to” do stuff that Jesus did. It isn’t or ever was intended to be a self-improvement program. That makes it about you and your effort, not Him and what He has already done. We tried that self-improvement stuff under the law and it didn’t work, couldn’t work. Only the transforming power of God can change a person. We “get to” believe it is true and see the results. That is Grace. That is Jehovah Jireh. So go ahead and look into the mirror. You should see Jesus looking back at you. If not, find your identity in Christ, believe it and don’t forget it.