Wednesday, February 29, 2012

40 Days with James ~ Day 8 ~ Do What It Says!

Day 8 ~ Do What It Says!
James 1:22-25  Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.  Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.  But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it-- he will be blessed in what he does.
The law that gives freedom?  What is James talking about?  After all, isn't the law that word from God which reveals our sin to us?  Isn't it the law that condemns sinners?  The law cannot free us, it is by its very nature a slave driver!  How can James tell us to look intently to the law that gives freedom?

It must be remembered that the Law of God is always at work in three ways.  First, it is warning us that, if we break it, there will be penalties to pay.  For fear of punishment we then try to keep the law.  For example, the law says, "Don't speed or else you will get a ticket."  So, we don't speed to avoid the ticket.  God says, "If you obey my commands perfectly, you will live.  If not, you will die.  Eternally."   Second, then, the law always, ALWAYS, accuses us because we know that we have sped!  We have broken the law by sinning against God's commands.  The law crushes us and kills us because we know that we cannot live by keeping it.  Here the law reveals to us our need for Christ and, in a sense, serves the Gospel as it causes us to despair of our righteousness and goodness and to cry out to God for mercy.  God's answer to the law, and to our cries, is Jesus.  Jesus kept the law on our behalf, perfectly, so that He does not have to die.  So that, when He does die, it is on our behalf, taking our sin, our guilt, and the punishments of the law away from us onto himself.  Here we are set free from having to obey the law for our salvation!

Now we are free!  But here is the ironic part: we are free to keep the law!  What does that mean?  It means that since the law no longer condemns us we no longer have to fear it.  Instead, God uses it as a guide to show us how to live in the freedom of the Gospel towards our neighbor.  We look to the law to see how it is we can live as those who have been given a new life of freedom in Christ Jesus.  We are not free to sin (that would be a return to slavery), we are free from sin, and therefore, free from the condemnations of the law.  We can look at the law to see who we are in Christ Jesus.  We can see it as a description of how our lives can now be lived.  We don't just hear what we are to be, by being possessions of the Holy Spirit, we can actually live it out!  We do what it says!

Confession:  Mighty and gracious Lord, have mercy on me.  I confess that I have despised your law.  I have even used your promises of forgiveness as an excuse to break your law, as if you sent Jesus to die so that I could sin however I want.  I have abused your grace.  I plead before you, for the sake of your Son's holy, innocent, and bitter suffering to have mercy on me, a sinner.  Graciously grant me your Holy Spirit so that I might live my life according to your will, loving you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength and loving my neighbor as myself.  AMEN!

Challenge:  Find a Small Catechism and memorize one commandment and its explanation.  Pray for an opportunity to act upon this commandment this week.

Pastor Bob

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