What is the first thing you do when you get up in the morning?
Well, it is probably the same thing every day. Everyone seems to have their own special ritual to get them going in the morning. Maybe you have a cup of coffee before you start the day. Maybe you make your bed as soon as you get up,..... maybe you jump right into the shower. Others have to brush their teeth before they can do anything else. Some start their ritual the night before; Putting coffee and water in the automatic coffee maker.... laying out the clothes they will wear the next morning.
But some part of everyone’s morning ritual.....is coming face to face with the mirror. Most of us probably get our first glance at ourselves while we are still pretty scary looking. Our eyes have that bleary, dazed look. Our hair is sticking out in strange places. And even normally clean-shaven guys.... have some scruffy overnight growth on their face to deal with.
Facing our mirrors first thing in the morning is NOT that pleasant.... of an experience. Mirrors are very honest little things. They do not compromise. Real mirrors do not lie. They do not gloss over our defects and tell us we are better-looking.... than we really are. They show us every wrinkle..... every gray hair. In fact,.... the better the mirror,.... the more flaws we will see.
So why do we all have mirrors.... in our bathrooms?
As unpleasant as it may be to confront our own faces first thing in the morning, We know..... if we do not take a look at ourselves,......and make some minor...... or in some cases major adjustments,.... the rest of the world is going to see.....that morning face! So,.... It is better to "face" the truth,.... and make the changes... So we are somewhat presentable..... to the rest of the world.
Every part of the book of James is for the purpose of self-examination. What image do you see when you look in the mirror? Who is that person in the reflection?
None of us can see ourselves as clearly as we should. There are some people who do not see much at all. They look at themselves in a very tiny mirror.
They try and fix a little something here or cover up a little something there, and if they can’t fix it....or cannot cover it up.....they move the mirror away...... so they don’t have to look at it anymore.
But if they’re honest..... that image that they think they’re covering up.... or ignoring.....is seen not only by God..... but by those around them. It’s not that they can’t get a bigger or better mirror. It’s that they have become comfortable with the false image.... Or Maybe they have even convinced themselves.... that if they ignore it long enough it will go away.
And....There are other mirrors like those in a house of mirrors at a fair or carnival?
Some of the mirrors make you look like you are much taller than you really are. Have you every let your image be warped into thinking you are taller....that you are better....than someone else. Maybe you placed yourself on a little pedestal and were looking down on others. Often we do not even know that we are looking into this mirror. We just ignore certain people around us. We might walk by the poor, the sick, those that are different than we are,.... the neighbor down the street..... the homeless. Paul must have known some people like that in the early church— “For through the grace given to me, I say to every man among you, not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think....” Romans 12:3
On the opposite side..... Some will look into a warped mirror and see an image of themselves; that is much smaller... much shorter..... than they truly are. People who use this mirror often believe that they can never be special. They only hear the voice that says, "You can’t do that",...."who do you think you are anyway". They see themselves as failures and are paralyzed in fear.
There are still others who look into a warped mirror and see themselves as much thinner than they really are. All they think about is their lack of faith. They concentrate on every little fault and failure they have. People who view themselves in This manner may not be "eating" enough spiritual food. They would not think of starving their bodies from food yet they often times starve their spirit.
We each see ourselves differently..... because we are seeing a reflection..... of who we think we are. But where is that reflection from? What kind of mirror are you looking into?
If we are going to be.... all that God wants us to be,.... then we must have a clear vision of who we are..... and a clear vision of what needs to change in our life.
We need to look into the perfect mirror to see the real person that we are. The only perfect mirror is the Word of God, and the only perfect image is Jesus. James tells us how to look into the mirror: (Early Christians nicknamed him “James the Just” because of his reputation for righteousness.)
1 19 Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. 20 Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires. 21 So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls. 22 But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. 23 For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. 24 You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. 25 But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it. 26 If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. 27 Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.
What does he say, about what we look like in the mirror and how that reflects on what our soul will be like?
“For if any are hearers of the word, and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror...And on going away..... immediately forget what they are like.” We are to be conformed to the image of Jesus. We must compare ourselves only to the image of Jesus Christ.
Did you ever wonder where that expression The Real McCoy comes from? According to the folks at phrases.org, nobody really knows for sure, but several possibilities are cited.
Others point to Kid McCoy, a welterweight boxing champion from the late 1800’s. So many lesser fighters traded on his name, the promoters resorted to calling the champ “the real McCoy.”
Some think it came from the advertisements for a brand of Scottish whiskey from the 1870’s. To combat cheap imitators, the distiller promoted its drink as the “Real McCoy.”
Another possibility is Elijah McCoy, a Canadian inventor of engine lubricants that became popular with steam engines. When lower quality substitutes became common, he patented his product. It became known as the “real McCoy.”
Whatever the origin of the term, we know that it means—the genuine article, the real deal! That theme runs beneath the surface of the book of James.
James asks, what does real religion look like? What are the tell-tale signs that distinguish the “real McCoy” from a cheap imitator? How would you complete this statement: Real religion is ….?
Some of us can remember the days when perfect Sunday School attendance was rewarded with attendance pins or certificates. Maybe that’s what real religion looks like..
Maybe we can tell real religion by how big a Bible a person carries. Maybe it is how a person dresses or how a lady wears her hair. Maybe real religion drives a black car. Or maybe no car at all. Some might suggest that real religion sees visions, hears voices, and works miracles. People from James’ Jewish background might have defined real religion by right ceremonies, rituals, or temple sacrifices.
Pappa Ten Boom hit the nail on the head in the book The Hiding Place where Corrie Ten Boom’s family risked their lives to save their Jewish neighbors from the Nazis during the opening days of WWII. At one point in the book, Corrie and her sister question their father about why so many of their professing Christian neighbors siding with the Nazis. “They are of the same church we are,” observed young Corrie. Wise Pappa Ten Boom answer, “Just because a mouse is in the cookie jar doesn’t make it a cookie.”
James 1:19 says the “Real McCoy” is quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. 26 “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.” Be a good listener, your ears will never get you in trouble.
Think about all of the words that come out of your mouth every day. One study shows that men use an average of 7,000 words and women an average of 20,000 words per day. That’s a lot of words. Especially when you consider what James tells us here in the context of receiving God’s Word. Be swifter to hear than speak. In other words, if you speak out 7000 words in a day, how many Words of Scripture and good Bible teaching do you think you ought to take in?
If you hear a sermon on Sunday morning and Sunday night, I can tell you that you might just break even—on Sunday—if you took a nap—and stayed off the phone. But then Monday comes. And Tuesday. If you come to Bible study on Wednesday that’ll help a little. But then Thursday and Friday and Saturday. When you think about it that way, there are a whole lot more words that come out of you than God’s Word goes into you. Maybe that’s why we’re so quick to get angry. Maybe that’s why we’re so quick to use words that cut and bite and hurt. Maybe that’s why we’re so quick to get offended and get our feelings hurt. Maybe we need to be more swift to hear and read and study and meditate on God’s Word. Listen. Listen to what God is telling you in His Word. Listen to what God is telling you through other people. Listen—and when you’ve filled up with God’s words— then speak. ouch
One of the stories out of the great Welsh revival in Britain in the early 1900’s: Hundreds of coal miners were so converted to Christ that it affected the production of the mines. The miners worked just as hard if not harder after they became Christians. That wasn’t the problem. The problem was that the profanity of so many miners was so cleaned up that their mules didn’t recognize them any more and refused to pull the coal wagons.
What’s so bad about a foul mouth? The problem is that our words are windows to our soul and our mind. Our words reveal, for good or bad, what kind of person we are on the inside. The roots of dirty, foul, profane, or blasphemous words grow deep into the human soul. 21 So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls. 22 But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.
The Real McCoy also has a softened the heart. 27 Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress. James uses concern for the needs of widows and orphans as but one example of how real religion acts. Compassion has always been the hallmark of Christian people. (Most hospitals, orphanages, and nursing homes in most nations around the world were started first by Christian people.) Christians however have always been famous for the generous manner in which they sacrifice from their own livelihoods to help others. The ancient believers commonly rescued abandoned children, fasted and used the money to feed the hungry, sold property to provide for the destitute, and dug into their own pockets to provide decent burials for the needy, even for strangers they didn’t know.
James provides a pretty close to home application of this principle in chapter 2. He asks how the church treats visitors and newcomers. He wonders out loud what happens if an obviously poor person and an obviously rich and important person walk into church on the same day. Which gets greeted first? Who is treated with the most preference? Is the poor man ushered to an inconspicuous spot, out of sight out of mind? Is the rich man catered too swooned over? Does everyone want to be seen near him or with him? The same principle could be applied to people of difference races, or cultures, or languages. Such differences of treatment—if they exist—tell an awful lot about how real and genuine our faith is!
2 1-4 My dear friends, don’t let public opinion influence how you live out our glorious, Christ- originated faith. If a man enters your church wearing an expensive suit, and a street person wearing rags comes in right after him, and you say to the man in the suit, “Sit here, sir; this is the best seat in the house!” and either ignore the street person or say, “Better sit here in the back row,” haven’t you segregated God’s children and proved that you are judges who can’t be trusted? 5-7 Listen, dear friends. Isn’t it clear by now that God operates quite differently? He chose the world’s down-and-out as the kingdom’s first citizens, with full rights and privileges. This kingdom is promised to anyone who loves God.
If a rich guy in an Armani suit comes walking in the church door, how do we treat him? Especially when he’s followed by a skater kid coming in that looks like she lost a fight with a nail gun? She took all the color out of her clothes and put it in her hair. Do we treat the two of them the same? Does the one get the handshakes and the attention while the other is left to find her own way to a seat? It’s obvious that we shouldn’t treat people differently just because they can’t afford top-of-the-line clothes. That’s obvious—but what is the point of the illustration? James gives us such a simple illustration to point out WHY we treat people differently. He wants to show us our motives behind why we treat people differently.
Our natural way of treating people is to give preference to those who will benefit us or will make us look good. Sometimes we show preference to people of high standing for the benefit of what they can do for us. But sometimes we show preference to people of lower standing for the benefit of how good they make us look when we stand next to them.
Without God’s gift of salvation, you are every bit as offensive in God’s eyes as that lost skater kid. As that lost homeless man. As that prostitute. When you see a Christian, do you see their faults and shortcomings? Or do you see the blood of Jesus? When you see a lost person, do you see their sinfulness and their behavior? Or do you see someone that Jesus loved enough to die for?
When he was a student, the famous Indian leader, Mahatma Gandhi, considered becoming a Christian. He read the Gospels and was moved by them. It seemed to him that Christianity offered a solution to the caste system that plagued the people of India. One Sunday, he went to a local church. He had decided to see the pastor and ask for instruction on the way of salvation. But when he entered the church, which consisted of white people, the ushers refused to give him a seat. They told him to go and worship with his own. He left and never went back “If Christians have caste differences also,” he said, “I might as well remain a Hindu.”
James highlights a third mark of genuine religion: the Real McCoy purifies the soul. It keeps one “from being polluted by the world” (27). We can become polluted by the world with such things as movies, television, hanging with the wrong crowd or going to the wrong places.
If I were to ask you this question, “Is it well with your soul?” Are you the “Real McCoy?” How would you answer?
Mirror Reflection--J Jeffrey Smead The Real McCoy--Roger Thomas Your own face--Andrew Moffatt Test 1: The Bible Test--Jim Drake Test 2: Preference Test--Jim Drake