James 2023 Bible Study (Authentic: Real Faith When Suffering)

James 1:22-27, Faith To Be Convicted


We have been noticing how James is giving good counsel for how to have faith during trials and hardships. James has been telling us that God is at work in our trials. James began this chapter telling us that your faith is being tested to produce steadfastness so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing. Trials are exposing things in us about our faith. It is showing us what desires are in us that are giving birth to sin. Trials are showing us the moral filth and evil overflow that is in us that needs to be rooted out the by word implanted in our hearts. There is exposure that is happening to us. God is revealing our character. God is revealing our weaknesses and shortcomings. God is showing us who we are and what needs to change. This is where James goes with his teaching at the end of chapter 1. Look at James 1:22.

But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (James 1:22 CSB)

Making Trials Useless (1:22-24)

James has an important question for us to consider. Are we going to do what we have learned or are we just going to hear it? Next level faith comes from doing something about what is being exposed in us. It is so easy to just see the problem in us and do nothing about it. It is so easy to see our evil desires and do nothing about it. It is so easy to have trials expose all of our sins and all of our weaknesses and do nothing about it. But James illustrates the foolishness of doing this with God and our faith. Look at verses 23-24.

Because if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like someone looking at his own face in a mirror. For he looks at himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of person he was. (James 1:23–24 CSB)

James pictures a foolish situation. You go to the mirror and see the problem but do not do anything about. The hearer is pictured as a person who sees the weaknesses and problems that have been exposed but do not do anything about it. Who goes to the mirror, sees something that needs to be fixed, but then does not do something about it? If you see something on your face, you fix it. If you see your hair is messed up, you fix it. If you see something on your clothes you fix it. You do not see the glaring problem but do nothing about it. But the hearer of the word is pictured as someone who does that very thing. The trial has shown them something about themselves. They see the problem. James does not say that they do not see the problem. They see the problem but they do not make any changes. They do not learn. They do not adapt. They do not work on what has been exposed. Notice James says that such people deceives themselves.

Please notice something else that James says. James that not only does this person not do something about it, but they forget what kind of people they are. They look and see the problem but does nothing and then forgets what they saw. In other words, the trial has accomplished nothing. Not only did nothing change because of the trial, nothing was learned from the trial. They forget what their weaknesses and deficiencies were that were exposed. This person is never going to change because they forget who they are and what was shown to them. I do not know if there is much worse in life than to go through traumatic experiences and deep, painful trials and not let those things expose your heart and change you to be more of what God wants you to be. It compounds pain upon pain. The trial was painful enough. But not growing from the trial compounds the pain all the more.

Making Trials Transforming (1:25)

So what is the solution? Look at verse 25. Start at the end of verse 25. There is a person who is blessed in what he does. Who is the blessed person in trials? Start back to the beginning of verse 25. The one who looks intently into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres in it, not being a forgetful hearer but a doers who works, is blessed. Now there was a lot that James said there that we need to consider so we can be the blessed person.

The blessed person looks intently. The word gives the picture of looking in the mirror and then leaning in for a closer examination. Remember that mirrors in ancient times were not made of glass. Mirrors were made of polished metal. So to see yourself clearly in the mirror, you had to lean in and look carefully. Paul makes that point in 1 Corinthians 13:12 where he says that we see in a mirror dimly. So you had to look carefully and intently to see yourself as best as you can. James says that we are going to look and then we are going to keep on looking. You see this in the middle of verse 25. This one looks intently and perseveres in it. You just keep looking for weaknesses. You just keep looking for flaws. You just keep looking for problems. This is not fun to do. We want to just take a quick peek and continue on in our self-deception, thinking that we look good spiritually. The one who is blessed does not take a cursory look. Those who are blessed look and they keep looking and they keep looking.

What are we to be intently looking at? Look again at verse 25. We are intently looking into the perfect law of freedom. We are letting God’s word expose who we are. But I want us to think about what James calls God’s word. He calls God’s word the perfect law of liberty or the perfect law of freedom. Why do we want to look intently at God’s word? We want to do this because this is the perfect law that sets you free. God’s word does not trap you. Sin traps us. God’s law does not constrain you. Sin constrains you. God’s law frees you. Sin enslaves you. We should want to hear God’s word, read God’s word, and study God’s word because it will set you free. We need to look at the word of God as freeing us from our sins, freeing us from our failures, and freeing us from our weaknesses. This word is the perfect law of freedom. So the blessed person slows down and leans into God’s word, carefully considering what God is showing them.

Finally, the blessed person is a doer who works. Please notice the emphasis on being a doer. Once our weakness have been exposed, we slow down and lean into the law of freedom, and then we do something about what God has shown us. Are we willing to do something when we have been convicted and need to be make changes? The hard work is admitting that we need to change. This is a big problem with our culture today. Our culture tells us that you need to be your true you. The idea is that you do not need to change who you are. You just need to be who you and do what you want to do. God does not tell us to look in the mirror, see our flaws, and then be happy with our flaws. God tells us to look in the mirror and change. There has been such a pendulum swing in our culture. Instead of trying to be a better you, we are now being told to not try to be better but just remain the terrible you that you are. God wants us to move toward holiness and not remain in our sinful ways. The blessed person hears and then does the work to actively be transformed by the perfect law of freedom, the word of God.

What To Do (1:26-27)

In verses 26-27 James illustrates some of the ways that we can be found to be hearers only, and not doers. One area that we deceive ourselves, James says, is by not controlling our tongues. Notice that James says if we do not control our tongues then our religion is useless. Whatever we profess is completely nullified by not keeping a tight rein on our tongues. What a crushing application that James makes! Whatever activities you are doing for the Lord are completely useless when we do not control our tongues.

Further, James says that pure and undefiled religion is to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep ourselves unstained from the world. Why are orphans and widows noted as a picture of what pure and undefiled religion looks like? They are certainly people who are in need. But there are many people that we could point to in the world who may need to be cared for in their distress. I think the reason these two categories of people, orphans and widows, are chosen is because they have no means to pay us back or return the favor. We are more apt to help people when we think we can have some sort of repayment. You do me a favor because I did you a favor. Or we will do something for someone because we think they can pay us back. But orphans and widows are people who are ignored and destitute. They have no way to give back. Pure religion is helping others with no expectation of receiving anything back. Pure religion does what is good because it is good. Pure religion does what is right because it is right, not because there is a personal benefit.

Pure religion also does something else. Pure religion is keeping ourselves unstained from the world. This is an important truth. The world stains, pollutes, and defiles. The world is not pure, right, clean, or holy. What a picture! God’s people do not hear God’s word about our evil desires and temptations and then go ahead and cave into those passions. Pure religion fights to keep ourselves from being polluted by the world. In fact, this direction seems to come from the words of Isaiah.

Wash yourselves. Cleanse yourselves. Remove your evil deeds from my sight. Stop doing evil. Learn to do what is good. Pursue justice. Correct the oppressor. Defend the rights of the fatherless. Plead the widow’s cause. (Isaiah 1:16–17 CSB)


So what is James telling us? First, do not make your trials be useless. God is exposing things in our lives through our trials. Do not look in the mirror and see the problem and then walk away. Do not see your weakness and do nothing about it. Do not forget what you saw in you during your trials.

Second, make your trials useful and transforming by looking into the perfect law of freedom intently. Persevere in looking at God’s word and do something about what you saw in your trials. The change you are making is a continuation of your journey to liberty. Live out what you are learning. James says these people will be blessed in their doing. Do not nullify your faith by not letting your faith be observed in your actions. Control your tongue. Care for people who cannot do anything back for you. Keep yourself unstained from the world. What do you see in the mirror? Keep looking and then be transformed by the word implanted in you so that you can be mature and compete, lacking nothing.

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