I am on the 6th week of an 8 week study of James, as I mentioned in my previous post, and am almost through chapter 4, but I simply cannot get James 1:23 out of my head. The wording has me trapped, running loops around my brain. The implications are so deep, so profound, I see them in everything I do, read, and hear. I pray that you take this journey with me and that it hits you every bit as hard as it has hit me. Please pray that God opens your heart and mind to hear His words to you as you read this section of James with me.
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.
It is so important that we understand that it is entirely possible to hear the word of God and be filled with His Word, filled with His presence, His love, His conviction… and then forget within minutes, hours, and days every bit of what you heard and felt in that moment. We can be lifted up by the Word of God and full of Spirit, only to lose it in the midst of life and forget that which struck us so strongly before.
The words of v23b are what I cannot forget: “he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror.” We look intently at God’s Word, we look intently at what God’s Word tells us, speaks to us, convicts us, as one who looks at his own face in a mirror. We hear God’s Word intently, oh but how we can forget in a moment.
The original Greek translation of the word “natural” in this verse is γένεσις, or genesis. Do you see that word? Do you hear the incredible words of God as James penned them? “He is like a man who looks intently as his genesis face.” What do you think of when you hear the word genesis? Creation maybe? James is saying that the man who looks intently into the mirror sees his genesis face – the face God created. The face God created in His own imago Dei – the person God created in His own image for a unique, incredible purpose. The face of one chosen by God to live a life worthy of the cross, one that has been redeemed by the cross, one that was created to live in unimaginable relationship with his one and only Creator. This man sees, for a moment, the man God created him to be; but then… then he leaves the mirror and forgets the image. He walks away from the most incredible version of himself – the one God created – and leaves it behind, forgetting the incredible life for which God created him.
James says that this man is like the one who hears the Word of God but does not do it. The one who listens intently and is overflowing with joy and conviction and grace at the hearing of the Word, but who forgets the words, the joy, the conviction, the grace, upon his or her return into the world.
How many times do we fight the same battle over and over again? We, as Christians, read about victory in Christ, but we simply cannot obtain it? We struggle with the same addictions, the same bad habits, and wonder at the supposed victory Christ has given us over it. Beloved, the battle has already been won – but we cannot be the ones who hear the Words of God, who see our genesis faces when we look intently, and then never put it into practice. We have to be doers of the Word of God! We have to hold His Words close and pray to Him continually, as 1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us, and lay down every choice we make in the shadow of the cross. We do not get to pick and choose what parts of the Bible we listen to and obey, but must see the perfect law of God truly as the law of liberty, which sets us free! James tells us that it is the law which gives us victory, it is the doing of the law which gives a life of abundance, free from any addiction or bondage.
Not only am I so convicted by the words of v23, but oh how I love the promise upon which James finishes his thought: but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. Beloved child of God, this is a promise from God to you. Your doing and practicing the Word of God will not yield empty labor; it will be fully and completely blessed! Not only will your labor be fruitful, but you will fully blessed because of the doing.
God has truly made you in His image; your genesis face reflects your Creator. When you look into the mirror, see the God who made you and see the you that He created you to be. See the person He formed in your mother’s womb (Jer. 1:5), with every ounce of beauty, uniqueness, and worth that He poured into you, and see the gifts He gave you so that you may use them to do God’s Word in the special way He created you to do. Be a doer.