James 1:22-25 says, “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 someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it – not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it – they will be blessed in what they do.”

Recently, a new thought related to this verse came to mind. I realized is it possible to hear good news to the point of repeatable articulation but not to the point embodying a living demonstration. This is why James says don’t just listen and so deceive yourself. If the gospel is not about performance then what is James getting at in this passage? I wonder and puzzle about this passage at times, and in this experience I realized familiarity with revealed truth is common and the offspring of that journey is believing you know something intellectually that you don’t know by experience.

I’ve also watched others own someone else’s revelation that when time-tested truth is suggested again the response is, “yeah, I know that already.” But the truth is we don’t always know it. The ability to repeat a phrase that is not joyfully at work in our lives is the deception that James cautions against. And the solution given is not “try harder” or “do better” through the over use of human effort and self-will. The solution is to listen and look intently and CONTINUE to listen and look intently UNTIL you learn to act in alignment with the truth of who you are in light of Christ taking up residence within you. That’s why James calls it the law that brings liberty and why Jesus said truth sets you free!

Consider Romans 10:17 that says, “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.” Did you catch that? Faith comes or emerges by hearing what Jesus has done. Why is faith important? Romans 1:5 says that obedience comes from faith. In other words when we hear good news of what Jesus has done or who we are because of what He has done faith rises in our hearts. And authentic faith, rooted in the person and work of Christ, always expresses itself in our actions.

Intellect alone is not faith. Articulation alone is not faith. Authentic faith is trust. And trust radically re-orients, re-thinks, and re-forms to align with what the one in whom we trust. To trust God is to re-orient and align with what He is like to us, in us, and through us. So, don’t let this James passage scare you, it’s actually good news! Let’s enjoy the Patient One who leads us into a deep dive into what He has done in Jesus and given to us through His Spirit! I promise you, as we awaken to this truth, action is a natural response. It’s all good news!