Nobody likes to be deceived. In fact, we dislike it so much that we will often refuse to believe we have been deceived. Our talent for being self-deceived is bad, real bad. It’s worse than we know.
The solution is not to conduct an investigation into our own heart but to look courageously and wholeheartedly at the word of God. To let it shine it’s light into our heart and illuminate the darkness.
The opening chapter of James mentions three common deceptions. Keep in mind that these are not addressed to unbelievers but to believers.
The first is in James 1:12-16 and has to do with temptation.
Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. (James 1:13)
So, you see a girl walking down the street. “Ah, God is watching to see if I will go after her”. No. God is not in Heaven conducting a moral experiment on your soul.
Your ogling her is a function of temptation. God is not testing your appetite for sin, He is trying your faith in Him as all satisfying. He is drawing out your faith so you will continue to grow up into maturity (James 1:18).
Don’t be deceived about what comes from where.
The second deception is found in James 1:22-24.
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (James 1:22)
Hearing and agreeing to the the Word is not enough. You are wrong if you think that eating without exercise is somehow good for you.
You are deceived if you think that all you have to do is read a book, turn up to church or download sermons from the net. No. Those whose faith is real will manifest that faith through obedience to Jesus and good works throughout the day and increasingly throughout life.
This is tied to what James called the “Law of Liberty”. The Law of Liberty is the law of substitution. It’s perfect. What all other laws could not do, this law does.
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. (James 1:25)
The Law of Liberty says that Jesus has set you free from slavery to sin and delivered you from judgement under the Law of Moses by nailing it all to the cross. It is a law that guarantees your aquittal.
But the Law of Liberty is a two sided coin: Freedom from judgement and slavery to sin (A work of grace) and the new commandment to lay down our lives for others (A work of love).
The Law of liberty when you look at it (which is to say, when you look at Jesus) states that having been freed from those things that condemned you, you are now able to live a life of holiness, empowered by the Spirit that now dwells in you.
But don’t be deceived. Faith without works is dead faith.
And this leads to the third deception: Thinking that this new liberty in Christ frees us to say and do whatever we want. Thinking that grace frees us to be lawless.
If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. (James 1:26)
Grace is good. It saves us. But it also teaches us to say no to ungodliness (Titus 2:11-12). Grace therefore is manifest in our lives by our willingness to say no.
The law of liberty is not a liberty to do and say whatever we want, but the power of God to finally do and say what God wants. To so speak and so act as one whose life is chartered by holiness and obedience, starting with charity toward the helpless and the afflicted.
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. (James 1:27)
James’ wisdom is not complicated. The next time you receive the word of God, don’t ignore it, bury it or dismiss it. That would be deception. Instead, go and put it in to practice. Put it into practise at the next turn. Put it into practise in the next thing you say.
God has given you new life in Christ. And one of the keys to this new life, and this is all important, is not found in looking at yourself in the mirror, deceiving and justifying what you see.
It’s found by looking intently and deliberately and consistently at the perfect law, the Law of Liberty found in the Word of God (James 1:24-25).
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