Have you ever been a part of that group, or had those friends that were a bad influence? Your parents may have told you to stop hanging around those people because they gossip too much or they make bad decisions.
Even though we'd hate to admit it, it's true that we become like those we hang around.
It's true of all relationships. Whether it's a friend, coworker, or acquaintance — we typically reflect the people around us and environments we spend time in.
As followers of Christ, we are people that are changing all the time. The longer we walk with God, the more our lives should imitate God. This process is called sanctification. The change that should be taking place within us is good, godly change. It's like spiritually growing up. And it's a reality for every single believer.
Our life should be continually reflecting our Creator.
Paul understood this in his second epistle to the Corinthians.
For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God's word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ. (2 Corinthians 2:15–17, ESV)
Christians have been identified by the Apostle as "the aroma of Christ." Have you ever thought about that before? What a responsibility!
This aroma will be perceived differently among people groups. He basically says we smell really good to Christians, and to non-Christians we smell really bad. We simply won't smell good to everyone. The fact is, as we spend time with Christ, we will smell like him.
Maybe some of you had parents that told you not to hang out with that one group because they smelled really bad!
We believe that God is good. He is never not good. And our lives should be pleasing to God, reflecting his goodness and truth more and more.
A devastating misunderstanding that has crept into the minds of many is believing that we cannot reflect God. One true counter belief to this is the common phrase, "You may be the only Bible someone ever reads." I'd rather side with Paul and believe that we are "the aroma of Christ." I'd agree that we will never be a god, or be equal with God, but we are taught to be like him.
Faithfully reflecting God involves this weighty word — obedience.
By this, some of you just threw your hands up in the air. "I'm done!" Well, hang with me here and let's see what James has to say about this.
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. (James 1:22-27, ESV)
Becoming more like Christ is the core of our faith. Christianity is simply about growing more like the Word and less like the world each day.
Many wrongly throw up their hands apathetically to this. Many think we don't need to obey God because we can't perfectly obey God. Since we can't, why try? It's true that our obedience to God will be imperfect, but it should be existent. Christians aren't excused from obedience.
Now, we know that we are justified by grace through faith in Christ alone. Entering heaven is not a result of our works. However, if we have true faith, it will produce actual obedience in this life.
That is why James mentions later, "So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, 'You have faith and I have works.' Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works" (James 2:17–18, ESV).
A helpful picture is given to us in the earlier passage from James chapter one. He mentions looking at your own face in a mirror. Most of us look into a mirror every day.
When you look into a mirror, what does common sense tell you to do? Make a change — adjust your hair; wipe something off your face; pick food out of your teeth. When we see ourselves clearly we make a change. And we all have imperfections that need attention.
If you think I'm wrong, try not to make any adjustments after looking in the mirror for a couple of days... Good luck!
Why does James bring this up? What does looking at ourselves in the mirror have to do with anything?
One reason could be that opening the Word reveals some things in our lives that need to change. It's impossible for Christians to hear truth — hear instruction — and not try to follow it. If the Holy Spirit resides in us, we are compelled to obey.
That is why Paul said "we are not, like so many, peddlers of God's word." And James said, "Be doers of the word, and not hearers only."
You cannot look into the mirror and not clean yourself up. Likewise, Christians cannot hear biblical truth and not make changes in their life.
Making changes in our life is indicative of hearing from God (reading the Bible). An obvious reason many lives don't look biblical is due to little Bible reading. How often are we really spending time alone in the Word?
Again, are we becoming more like the Word or like the world? It makes sense that we would become like the world if we are not spending time in the Bible.
Christians must be Bible readers! It's true that we cannot know everything about God, but we can know everything we need to know by listening to what God has told us in Scripture. We shouldn't expect to become more like Christ if we don't know anything about him, according to Scripture.
Looking into the Word is a lot like looking into a mirror. We learn more about God and we learn more about ourselves. By it, we see the perfection of Christ and our imperfections. Apart from the truth of God's Word, we wouldn't recognize our great need for a Savior, and we wouldn't be able to see the small steps of obedience to take in our walk with him.
Upon hearing the Word, we are commanded to actually do what it says. There is grace and forgiveness available when we fall short; however, to apathetically throw your hands up and not try to do what it says is deception, according to James.
Who sees something harmful on their face in the mirror and just walks away without wiping it off? That is just crazy!
James writes, "If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless" (James 1:26).
It makes me think of this — when the Holy Spirit prompts us to not say something, and we admit, "Ah, I probably shouldn't say this, but I'm going to anyway," we should yield to the Spirit and actually keep quiet. James says that if your religion hasn't actually changed you, your religion isn't worth anything — you might as well not even have it. What's the point? It's dead.
The big picture we're given from this passage is that actual obedience is required. If there is no change produced in our life from hearing God's Word, what's the point of hearing? It's not worth anything at all. You might as well not have it.
Instead, we must be regular hearers of the word, and regular doers of it too. In doing so, we will be blessed and our faith will be alive!
Is your life becoming more like the Word or more like the world? Getting into the habit of hearing from God in the Bible daily will allow us to learn more about God and ourselves.
When we see our face in a mirror we recognize our imperfections and should make necessary changes. It's deception to read the Bible and not do what it says. Thankfully, grace will carry us along as we stumble trying. Grace will be there to pick us back up every time we fall short. By the power of the Spirit, we simply cannot remain hearers only, but must become doers also.