Read time: 2m 01s
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. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. (Jam 1:23-24)
All my life these verses were illustrated like this: "Imagine looking in the mirror and seeing your hair all messed up, peanut butter on your cheeks, and eye-crusties dangling off your lashes, and then walking away and doing nothing about it!" In other words, Scripture shows us how big of screw-ups we are. If we listened to Scripture rightly, we'd get the comb, the wash cloth, and whatever is necessary to make ourselves presentable.
What kid-me heard: "you're a screw-up, but the Bible can help you get your act together."
But what does the text actually say? "Forgets what he was like." That's the person who doesn't "do" the Word. It's not that they saw their screw-ups and failed to apply Scripture, but that they looked into "the implanted Word, which is able to save your souls" (v. 21) and saw...what? Their salvation. Who they are in Christ. And then forgot it.
The "doer" is one who remembers what Christ has done for them. Who they are. What they are like.
Do you see what you are like? Do you know who you are?
You are not just what you see in the mirror, or hear described in your thoughts. You are not who you once were. You are not who've you've been told you are.
You are who Jesus says you are. You are who the Gospel says you are.
Scripture does call us to address our sin and pursue righteous living. But only from this perspective: that doing so is more true to who you are as a believer than not doing so.
As Paul says to Timothy, "God has not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and self-control." (2 Tim 1:7) We need to remember the truth, what Jesus did for us, what we now have in Him, from Him. Something this world, our lives, makes slippery for our minds to keep hold on.
Remember what you are like. Look intently, James says, and remember. So the image of the Gospel-remade self is burned over the images of all the other selves we've received or constructed. For it is true. Because the Gospel is Truth.