22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.
That word forgets is the Greek Word ἐπιλανθάνομαι epilanthanomai (ep-ee-lan-than’-om-ahee); and, the term “looks like” is the Greek Word ὁποῖος, οία, οῖον hopoios (hop-oy’-os). I want you to stick a pin in both these words, will come back to them later.
James compares the Word of God to a mirror because you look into a mirror to be able to see yourself in effort to make changes to your appearance.
Looking in the Holy Scriptures is like looking in a mirror. It reveals to us as God sees what’s in us, the same way a mirror reveals how we appear to ourselves on the outside. The Word of God reveals to us the truth of us, not how we think we appear to ourselves. To look into God’s mirror and do nothing about what we see, is nothing but, as it says in vs. 22 “deceiving ourselves”. The word “deceive” is παραλογίζομαι paralogizomai; means, to beguile, reason falsely; reason contrary to truth. In other words, we make excuses to ourselves, beguile, mislead ourselves by using false reasoning to placate ourselves about the truth of what we see in the mirror.
For example, someone who just gossiped, telling all about someone else’s personal business; but, they say to themselves, “o’ I’m not gossiping, I just wanted to tell other’s so they would pray for them.
Most Christians tend to view their relationship with God based on ostensible or outward sin; such as, lying, stealing, killing, fornication, adultery, using drugs, etc., which is furthest from the truth. What God looks at is what is in a person’s heart. Not, what they do outwardly. Remember, Jesus told the extremely outwardly religious people of the day, Matt. 21:31: “Verily I say unto you, That the tax collectors and the harlots will get into the kingdom of God before you.” Also, remember the parable of two men that went up to pray, Luke 18:10-14:
“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ 13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ 14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God.
Here’s the thing, it does not say that the tax collector did not do the very things the Pharisee claimed to have done, pay his tithes, fast, etc. Because, the tax collector may have very well done those things as well. However, what Jesus pointed out was the major difference between the two, and that was, the tax collector, humbled himself before an all holy and righteous God, not seeking self-righteousness before a holy and righteousness God. He instead sought God’s forgiveness and mercy as a sinner. The Pharisee only concerned himself with his outward appearance of religion rather than what God knew of him.
If we are to use God’s mirror profitably, then we must truly behold ourselves in truth of ourselves, as God see us. If, I see my reflection in God’s mirror, and I see, I’m not fully trusting God, or maybe, I am not showing love to my brothers and sisters. Maybe, I’m not doing what God called me to do; or, I’m not putting God first in my life. Maybe I’m a gossip; I’m lazy; I’m a procrastinator; I lie to myself or others; I have a bad attitude; I lack faith; I’m selfish; I’m still holding on to old sin; I have spite in my heart; I don’t pray like I should, I lust and covet; I’m a hypocrite; etc. Then, before a holy all righteous God, I should seek forgiveness for the things I know to be true about myself.
God’s mirror reflects what is on the inside, not the outside. To many of us focus on the outward appearance, still failing to realize the great teaching of Jesus, Matt. 23:24-29:
“Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. 25 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. 26 Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. 27 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. 28 Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.
Many of us still go about trying to change the outward appearance to look and seem more religious, with less concern of what God sees of us inwardly. Truth is, most of wretchedness is not openly seen by others, and cleverly disguised outwardly; such as our coveting, selfishness, prides, lust, spite and bitterness, doubt, and a host of others.
When I look into God’s mirror of the soul, it will and does expose, and reflects back to me what I see of myself.
When the Apostle Paul looked into God’s mirror, he saw the true reflection of himself before God.
8But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting….O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? 25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.
It is not the outward appearance God’s mirror reflects back at us, it’s the matters of the heart we see in the mirror. This is what the Lord wants for us to truly understand.
Matt. 13:15; Jesus says in “lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted and I should heal them.”
Let’s look at three key words in this passage:
“understand συνίημι suniémi (soon-ee’-ay-mee); meaning, to understand, or consider, perceive, discern, put together and arrive at;
“converted, ἐπιστρέφω epistrephó (ep-ee-stref’-o); to turn, turn towards or I come to myself;
“heal” is ἰάομαι iaomai; to make whole or to bring about one’s salvation. Salvation simply means “be delivered or rescued”.
So, what Jesus is saying is, “if we would see our errors and sins the way God sees them, and hear what He has to say to us about them, and understand συνίημι suniémi (soon-ee’-ay-mee), consider, perceive and discern in our heart – the truth of our inward motives and intents, as God sees it, not our own rationalization of ourselves, and be converted ἐπιστρέφωepistrephó (ep-ee-stref’-o); meaning, to turn from ourselves unto God, seek His forgiveness, His cleansing, then Jesus grants us “healing” – ἰάομαι iaomai, deliverance, rescue.
Let’s take this principle of Matt. 13:15 and apply it to the story of the woman caught in adultery.
But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11“No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you, Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
There are two principals at play in this story, seen outward sinfulness, and hidden sin. We see the woman’s sinfulness of adultery placed on display for all to see, and then we see inward hidden sins of those condemning her.
Jesus says to the crowd, “he who is without sin” – There it is! Jesus places a spiritual mirror in front of all those in attendance. Look at yourselves, look in yourselves, tell me, who of you does not violate God’s laws, and is free condemnation? Now, once they beheld their reflection in God’s mirror, they witnessed the sin inside themselves, and they dropped their rocks and walked away. Though, aware of their sin before God, none stayed and sought forgiveness, healing, except one! The woman caught in adultery. She stayed and faced judgment from the only one who could rightfully judge, He who was without sin! To fully receive the witness of this story, you have to understand this very important point: “no one was restraining the woman”. She was as free to turn away and walk off, as did the other sinners. Yet, she stayed and faced her reflection in the mirror – “I’m an adulterous!”
John 8:10-11: Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
Jesus basically says to the woman, “of all of those who brought you before me, charging you of the condemning sin of adultery, why is there no one left to condemn and punish you for your sin, except me?” This was Jesus way of causing the woman to think on the motives and intent of her immoral actions. Look at yourself and in yourself, behold the reflection of your soul.
You may be saying to yourself, “man, where did you get all that from?” Simple, consider the fact, the woman also heard Jesus call “he who is without sin”, which prompted each person there, to think about themselves and their sins, convicted by their own conscience, seeing their own evil intentions, motives and hypocrisy in their hearts reflected back at them, drop their stones and walk away, she also had to think and reflect on her sin, her motives and intent that lead her to committing adultery. Yet, she willing stayed and faced what she had done. This is what prompted Jesus to declare to the woman, “neither do I condemn you.” The word condemn used in this context is a judicial sentence to a particular punishment, in this case, death. So, essentially Jesus was telling the woman that He was not condemning her to death for her sin of adultery. But, instead, He tells her, “Go now and leave your life of sin.” Meaning, change those things you have seen in yourself that has led to your live of adultery.
Jesus loved this woman, He couldn’t leave her where He found her. He doesn’t leave us either. His goal for her and us is to draw us to repentance.
Now, some may say or think, “well we don’t know if the woman actually stopped her practice of adultery?” Fair enough. However, what we do know is this, she beheld herself within God’s mirror, faced and confronted it, which is the first step that leads to repentance. Jesus forgave her of her adulterous ways, and gave her a clean slate. And, I for one, believe she never returned to her adulterous ways, because I know the healing and delivering power of the Lord Jesus. Think on it however you so choose. But I know Jesus!
Nothing is more delightful and pleasing to God, than for us to live our Christian lives by faith in His Grace and Mercy. Amen!
James 1:23-24 tells us when someone hears the Word but doesn’t do it, it’s the same as someone seeing their reflection in the mirror and walks away and forgets what he or she looks like. Let’s take the pin out of the Greek words for forgets – ἐπιλανθάνομαι epilanthanomai (ep-ee-lan-than’-om-ahee); and looks like ὁποῖος, οία, οῖον hopoios (hop-oy’-os). The word for forgets, epilanthanomai (ep-ee-lan-than’-om-ahee); does not mean, not remembering, but actually means to neglect, to overlook; and the word for looks like, ὁποῖος, οία, οῖον hopoios (hop-oy’-os); means, the manner of a person. The manner of a person is their mode of handling things, or acting. It is the character of a person, their motives and intents behind their actions and behavior.
In essence, what James 1:23-24, is telling us, is that, when someone hears the Word of God, but does not act on it, they walk away neglecting or overlooking what they saw of their character.
Now, there are several applications to James 1:23-24, of our hearing the Word but not doing what is says, is like looking in the mirror and walking away, neglecting and overlooking what we saw in the mirror. However, in this particular study, we have been setting up one particular application of James 1:23-24, and that is, how it applies to our Christian walk, in terms “seeing our need to confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us of all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
To see the connection between James 1:23-24 and 1 John 1:9, we have to read 1 John 1:9 within its context.
1 John 1:5-10
5This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all b sin. 8If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.
The first thing we see is John tells us that God is “light”, and if we claim to fellowship with Him, but walk in the “darkness”, we lie or ψεύδομαι pseudomai (psyoo’-dom-ahee); meaning deceive ourselves, and do not live out the truth. To get a better understanding of what John is saying, let’s go to the Gospel of John, Chapter 3 verses 19-21, John states:
19And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. 21But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they have been done before God.
In both passages, John uses the euphemism of “light” to represent “truth”, and darkness to represent lies and deception. The phrases live out truth used in 1 John 1:6 and doeth truth used in the Gospel of John 3:21 are the same Greek words in both passages – ποιέω poieó (poy-eh’-o); which means to practice; and, truth ἀλήθεια, ας, ἡ alētheia (ah-lay-theia); which means, to deal with unconcealed honesty, in fact truth — not mere relative truth.
A good example of (poor-a-oh’) alētheia (ah-lay-theia) is the woman at the well, John 4:1-26. In verse 16, Jesus says to the woman:
“Go, call your husband and come back.” The woman replies:
“I have no husband,”.
Vs. 17-18 Jesus says, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now living with is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true or ἀληθής, ές alethes (all-lay-thas) alētheia (ah-lay-theia) = meaning, speaking truthfully without concealing anything.
Jesus was pleased with the woman’s response, because she did not conceal her sinfulness. You have to understand, the woman was aware that Jewish laws and customs, not only saw her as a fornicator, living in fornication, but also an adulteress, which was an offense punishable by stoning to death. The woman knew these sins were abominations before God. Yet, she did not conceal her sinfulness from the man of God.
She could have told Him any combination of things and they could all have had some truth to them. “My husband is dead.” “My husband divorced me.” “My husband left me.” “My husband’s at home – or thought to herself, well the man I’m with is my common law husband,” or any other combinations of supposed it truths. But, it would not have been (ah-lay-theia) absolute truth without concealment.
Jesus, did not condemn the woman for her sinfulness; instead, He commend her practice of being honest about herself. He then knew He could speak with her about true worship of God, that being of “spirit and truth”. She was willing to let her deeds be exposed to God’s light.
Light is truth and darkness is lies and deception.
Notice the word sin (singular) is used in verse 8, versus the word sins (plural) used verse 9.
The difference between the words, sin (singular) and sins (plural) in verses 8 and 9 marks the distinction between the root which is sin, singular, and the fruit, which are sins, plural. Sin is that fallen nature of man which resides inwardly that leads to our committing sins. As David said, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. (Psalm 51:5). The root of sin is our human nature of pride, selfishness, lust, etc., which makes us commit sins. Sins, are those specific forms which the inward root “sin” makes us commit from time to time.
There are many kinds of sins, but all from one root, sin that liveth in me, the prides, the lusts, the selfishness, etc. And, when we deny the truth of our sinful nature, we are deceiving ourselves, which makes the truth of our need for God’s salvation false.
God is light and to walk with him in the light is to see in our life as it really is, the truth about God. The truth about ourselves. The truth about our need for salvation. The truth about sin and sinfulness. The truth about how we ought to live. The truth about our thinking, feeling, and doing, measured against the light – God’s truth, and not measured against ourselves or others.
The light reveals things for what they are, and to walk in the light is to call things what the light reveals them to be, and as 1 John 1:9 says, – If we confess…Now, the word “confess” ὁμολογέω homologeó (hom-ol-og-eh’-o); means, to be in agreement with, to speak the same. Meaning, what the light reveals things to be, we are to be in agreement with the light about ourselves, our sin; if it’s selfishness, it’s selfishness. If, it’s pride, it’s pride. If, it’s lust, it’s lust. If, it’s coveting, it’s coveting. If, it’s laziness, it’s laziness. If, it’s spite, it’s spite. If, it’s bitterness, it’s bitterness. If, it’s unforgiveness, it’s unforgiveness. If, it’s unbelief, it’s unbelief. If, it’s hypocrisy, it’s hypocrisy. If, it’s gossip, greed, or whatever the light exposes in that mirror of the soul, that’s what we are to call it in agreement with the light and confess it with openness, honesty, and obedience. Once, we walk in His truth, He, is faithful and just, to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Now, for many, there is a tendency to walk away from the reflection of themselves in God’s mirror, only to neglect and overlook what they see; therefore, they do not “doeth or live” – meaning practice living in God’s Grace and Mercy to the forgiveness of their sins and cleansing of all unrighteousness.
John drives this point home, when he repeats the point of verse 8, only with stronger words. Verse 10: “If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” In other words, not looking accepting the truth of our sin is not only self-deception; it is also blasphemy. The sentence, “I am without sin,” amounts to, “God is lying on me.”
Unfortunately, there are many who are really Christians who have fallen into this trap and believe that sin merely calls for an adjustment in their thinking. But, these scriptures tell us, if you believe that, the truth is not in you, there is no light in you, for light is truth and truth is light.
One of the many insights we get from these parallels is that denying our sin is part of what it means to walk in darkness, and confessing our sin is part of what it means to walk in the light. and confessing our sin opens the channel of forgiveness and cleansing.
So, communion with God is connected with the Grace given us through Christ Jesus, and every believer should walk in the light of God. And, that spot light of a Holy God, shines bright, and the closer you get to it, the more it illuminates those dark areas showing more and more clearly those numerous imperfections and sin in our lives. To fellowship with God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ only demonstrates our abundant need of pardoning mercy.
Now, I know there is a lot more to this. But, for now, let’s see ourselves in God’s mirror and act upon what we see. Be blessed my friends, in Jesus Holy and precious name Amen!