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Lesson 4: Being and Doing *

Introduction: How much advice do you get? It seems that I'm getting advice from others all the time. Some is given without me asking for it. Some I ask for and really want. Lots of advice comes my way just in the day to day details of life. A few days ago, I was helping to put together a toy car for my granddaughter that was big enough for her to sit in. The manufacturer gave me advice about how to assemble it, but I decided that some of the advice was wrong, and it turned out I was right. On the other hand, when my phone GPS gives me advice on driving directions, I take the advice very seriously. How we react to advice reflects what we think about the source of the advice. That is what our Bible study is about this week. Let's jump right in!

  1. Deceit

    1. Read James 1:22. I often hear or read advice that I think is junk. Why does James say that merely listening is some sort of deceit?

      1. Because I try not to be deceived, I don't accept junk advice. What is James' point about the listeners? (His point is that the advice is not junk. James refers to "the word," which is a reference to the Bible. The listeners don't believe the advice is junk. However, they act like the advice is junk because they do not follow it.)

        1. Where is the deceit in that? (Apparently, these listeners are deceiving themselves. They claim that the Bible is giving them good advice, but then they fail to follow the advice. If they fail to follow the advice they are deceived into thinking they are good Christians.)

          1. Do you know people like that?

    2. Look again at James 1:22. What is the cure for this deceit? (James tells us to do what the Bible tells us to do.)

  2. Mirror

    1. Read James 1:23-24. Why do you look at your face in a mirror? (I want to make sure that all is right.)

      1. How do you know if something is wrong? (You know how you are supposed to look.)

      2. Why would you "look" into the law? (The law is "how things are supposed to be" in your life. If you find that your life is not how it is supposed to be, you should change things - unless you are deceiving yourself.)

    2. Consider again James 1:23-24. If someone told you that they look in the mirror and immediately forget what they look like, what would you think? (Something was seriously wrong with the person. Not only should we generally know what we look like (how can you forget?), but we look to see if everything is right. Since we are looking for what is wrong, how can we forget it?)

      1. Can you think of some other explanation for a person who forgets - other than something is wrong with that person's brain? (If you immediately forget, it might be because you don't care whether anything is wrong. If you don't care how you look, why would it be important to remember?)

      2. What point is James trying to make? (If we look into the law and see that our life is not what the law suggests, but don't do anything about the problem, it suggests that either we have something wrong with our mind or we don't care.)

        1. Is there some other explanation you can give? (We don't think the advice is any good. If we think the Bible contains junk advice, how can we claim to be Christians? This gets us back to James' original point. If we think that the Bible contains good advice and we don't follow it, we are deceiving ourselves about being Christians.)

        2. What if we think the Bible contains good advice part of the time? In the introduction, I wrote about the directions to assemble the toy car. We followed most of the directions, but I knew some of it was wrong. Is that an acceptable approach to the Bible? (My attitude with the assembly instructions was that I would accept or reject any of the instructions. If we take that approach to the Bible, then we are our own god. We worship our own opinion, and have the arrogance to think that we know more than our Creator.)

  3. Freedom

    1. Read James 1:25. What freedom do you find by looking into a mirror? (If I look into a mirror, and see that nothing is wrong, it gives me the freedom that comes from having confidence in my appearance. I don't have to worry that I have something stuck in my teeth, or that my pants are unzipped, or I have dirt on my shirt collar.)

      1. James writes that the law gives us freedom, rather than the mirror giving us freedom. What does he mean by that? (When we studied the series of lessons on the law we determined that our Creator God loves us and knows what is best for us. The reason for His law is to tell us how to live to avoid harming ourselves. The law reflects God's love for us. The law reflects God's knowledge of how to avoid injury. That is freedom!)

    2. Look again at James 1:25. Notice that James says that the person continues to look into the law mirror, does not forget what he sees, and acts on what he sees. What is the result of that? (A blessed life.)

      1. Read James 1:17. Why does obedience to the law result in a blessed life? (God gives us good gifts. The law is one of those good gifts that makes our life better.)

      2. What about the people to whom James is writing? Aren't these people who have had to leave their homes because of persecution? (Read James 1:12. James says that if nothing else, the blessing will come with eternal life. James 1:15 explains that the alternative outcome is death.)

  4. Tongues and Orphans

    1. Read James 1:26. Is James' writing like the tongue of a frog, always darting in some new direction? What does speaking have to do with mirrors? (Read Proverbs 27:19 and Matthew 12:34-37. Proverbs 27 tells us that just like a mirror (in this case water) tells us what our face looks like, so our heart reflects what we are like. Jesus adds in Matthew 12:37 that our words so accurately reflect our heart that our words are the basis for judgment. Thus, our words are a mirror of our heart.)

      1. This raises a very serious practical question. James' solution ( James 1:26)is to "keep a tight rein on [your] tongue." Will that work? Isn't that like trying to modify your mirror so you look better?

      2. What does James say is the state of a person whose tongue reflects an evil heart? (That person is deceived and his religion is worthless. This idea of deceiving yourself is a familiar theme for James. This makes me think that James is more likely saying that your tongue should be a wake-up call that something serious is wrong with your heart. I trust he is not suggesting that merely holding your tongue will change your heart.)

      3. Re-read James 1:19. What does James suggest about the tongue here? (Think before you speak. Being more deliberate with our speech is a good starting point for keeping out of trouble and measuring our character.)

    2. Read James 1:27. The religion that God accepts is to do good works for the distressed and keep from being polluted by the world? Hello, salvation by works! What do you think James might mean other than we are saved by our good works? (Assume that James is still on his theme of mirrors. The law is a mirror by which we compare our life. Our words are a mirror that reflect our heart. That would mean helping those who cannot help us (widows and orphans) is a mirror of our religious experience. Avoiding practicing the values of the world is also a mirror of our religious experience.)

    3. Friend, if you accept the Bible as an authoritative guide for life, how do you measure up on the mirror test? If this is a wake-up call for you, why not ask the Holy Spirit, right now, to begin the process of changing your heart?

  5. Next week: Love and the Law.
* Copr. 2014, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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