Monday, December 9, 2013

Are you a Self-Deluder?

But prove yourselves doers of the word, 
and not merely hearers who delude themselves.
James 1:22

We are master deluders - we can smile and shake the hand of someone we can't stand rather easily.  We say we're fine when we have a pounding headache.  We laugh at jokes that aren't funny.  And we swipe our credit card when there aren't funds to cover the charge.

We can fool those on the outside, but it's hard to fool yourself, right?  Apparently the answer is "wrong," according to our verse in James.  Apparently we can delude ourselves, as well.

Scary verse, wouldn't you say?  Looking at the context we see that James uses a mirror illustration to prove his point.  He says that those who hear God's word but don't act on it are like those who look in a mirror to start their day but then forget what they look like as the day wears on.  We envision ourselves fatter or thinner, prettier or uglier, cleaner or dirtier than we actually are, but when we look in the mirror, it reveals the truth. 

James warns his readers not to live deluded - thinking they are something they are not.  When you know what God's Word says but do not act on it then are you a true follower of Jesus?  When you know what He says but make excuses why you can't do it, are you deluding yourself into believing you are a Christian when really you are not?  

Let me clarify something first by answering this question - what makes you a Christian?  We know it is not by our works of righteousness that we have done, but solely by the mercy of God that we are saved.  Jesus exchanged places with us on the cross and paid the penalty for our sin - it's what He has done, not what we can do in regards to salvation.  

But salvation has a response; it has a transforming power. The faith God gives us to believe the gospel also transforms us into the image of our Savior.  So from a human perspective, we are called to respond - intellectually (repent of our sin and confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord), emotionally (worship Him in spirit and in truth) and physically (take up our cross and follow Him).  Our response will indicate our loyalty.  So the response is not what saves but it reveals our salvation.

I don't want to overlook an important word in our verse above - "prove."  If you prove something, you are showing - you are revealing.  Your actions speak louder than your words and this proving is not for Jesus and it's not for the world - it's for you.  In Philippians 2 Paul warns us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling - he's not scaring us into saving ourselves.  Jesus alone saves, but he is trying to sober us up about the intellectual, emotional and physical response to the gospel.  

If the gospel hasn't changed you, then it hasn't saved you.  

So are you changed?  Do you hear the Word of God and respond in obedience?  Or do you have an initial response but then as life goes on, that response gets choked out by the busyness or troubles of life?  James tells us that the proof is in the activity - your actions prove where your heart is.

Be a doer of the Word, don't just hear it and think that hearing alone is evidence of salvation.  Herod heard the truth preached and even enjoyed it, but it didn't transform his life. (Mark 6:20)  Don't delude yourself...

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