[In the fairy tale "Snow White a beautiful but vain and jealous queen has a magic mirror with supernatural knowledge. When the queen would ask "Mirror Mirror on the wall who's the fairest of them all?" the mirror would answer "you my queen are the fairest of all". But as young Snow White grew into a woman her beauty began to rival that of the queen, until the day came when the mirror gave an answer the queen did not want to hear.
Mirrors are a funny thing, because they reveal so much about us, not just about how we look but how we respond to what we see in the mirror. Most men don't spend a lot of time in front of the mirror, because there is not much we are going to do with the information the mirror provides. Many women though can spend an hour in front of the mirror fixing and adjusting her hair and makeup and clothing until she achieves the desired look.
Today in the second half of James 1, we are going to look into a mirror. This one, like the Queen's mirror has supernatural power, the mirror of our Christian regeneration; a mirror that instead of revealing our own likeness, will reveal our Christ-likeness, or lack thereof.]
19 So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; 20 for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
[Angry words just feed our anger, sometimes we are too quick to respond when we feel it is a personal criticism. Listening first before answering can cause is to understand the fears of concerns of others instead of just reacting with our pride. The path of anger does not lead you to the righteousness of God.]
21 Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
[Filthiness, would be a moral vice, this we are encouraged to lay aside like you would remove dirty clothing, and wickedness would be an evil desire or intent and these are listed as a hindrance to receiving the Word of God. Contrast those with meekness, which enables you to receive the word of God.]
22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; 24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.
[So once you look into this mirror of Christ likeness, first we must ask what do we see, and next we are told to take action, be a doer of the Word, don't just look at the mirror and walk away without changing anything. Works governed by Word will be blessed by God.]
26 If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one's religion is useless.
[Religious refers to the outward ceremonies of worship, so this is a warning against those who learn to play the religion game, without a change of heart. The evidence of real change is the self control demonstrated in what you say, and how you say it. Notice it says "thinks he is religious", aiming squarely at those deceive themselves with religious activities, when the evidence of regeneration is not there.]
27 Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.
[Again we have a contrast between a religion that is useless (the unbridled tongue), and one that is pure and undefiled. To show compassion to widows and orphans is a true demonstration of faith in God, and his reward, because with the widow and orphan you would have no expectation that they could pay you back. The second is to keep yourself unspotted or undefiled by the evil world system. So compassion and self control are evidences of regeneration, that Christ likeness is being revealed in you.
If you are skeptical of this mirror, and maybe thinking to yourself this sounds like works based salvation or even legalism, look back at verse 25. This is not a law of bondage, but a law of liberty. We are free to pursue Christ likeness because he has saved us, because we have been born again, because of the supernatural regeneration brought by the Holy Spirit when we repent of our own sinful will and trust in Jesus as our savior.
Real freedom isn't doing what your flesh desires; that is the law of sin that leads to death (verses 14 & 15 we studied week before last), but the law of liberty is found in fulfilling God's purpose. "For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son" (Romans 8:29). God's purpose in salvation is not to make a better you, but to glorify the sacrifice that Jesus made, by making us over in His image.
So look in the mirror, not your shaving mirror, or your makeup mirror, but look in your Christian mirror and consider what you see. A mirror is not a photograph that saves a moment in time, but it is dynamic revealing each day what needs to be combed, shaved, or cleaned in order to conform us to the image of Christ. And that Christ likeness is revealed in our compassion toward others, and our self control toward the world.]