Mirror Mirror

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“…Don’t just listen to God’s Word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the Word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. 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.” James 1:22-25 (New Living Translation)

I used to read the Bible because I was supposed to. They teach you that, when you become a Christian. So, in the beginning, it is often an act of simple obedience, which is good. Because it’s true, we do need to read the Bible every day. For a multitude of reasons we don’t always know or understand up front, we need this book to live.

Sadly, it is the struggle of nearly every Christian I’ve met to keep the habit. I’ve heard plenty of reasons from Christians about why we can’t seem to stick to it, and I’ve heard plenty of pleas and explanations from teachers and preachers (of which I am one!), attempting to convince us that we need to. Still, the age-old quandary exists, and we remain in a constant state of instability because of it.

Maybe you’ve heard, like I have, that the Bible is food for the soul. Our spirit needs it like our bodies need food. Without it, we will die, spiritually speaking.

Or maybe you’ve heard, like I have, that it’s like vitamins. We don’t always feel the effects instantly – like an energy drink or a good cup of coffee. But over time, it builds health and strength and vitality into our souls.

Maybe you’ve heard that it’s where and how you’ll get to know God: what He’s like, how He speaks, what He’s done.

Or maybe you haven’t heard any of those things and you just know you should be reading it every day…but find yourself struggling to want to. I’ve been there, more than once. And thankfully, God has always brought me back around to His table for another chance to eat. And through the years, I’ve come to understand something that has changed my perspective and my hunger for the Word of God.

It’s true that the Bible is where we begin to know God. It’s where we learn about how He’s moved in the past, about why He’s moved as He has, about His heart for moving the way He does today, and why He’s promised certain things for the future. It’s more than a history book, though. And it’s more than a biography. The Bible is alive.

So when we read – by faith – we are actually interacting with the person who wrote it. We are entering into relationship with the same Spirit Who inspired the many different writers, and we are being led into the same inspiration, the same understanding, which He intended for us to know when it was written. That’s amazing!

As we read, we are being influenced by the same Spirit Who influenced the writers! We are being invited into the same heart of God that wrote the book in the first place! We are being brought into knowing Him on much more than a superficial, informational level. John 17:3 says this is the whole point of eternal life: knowing Jesus, and God Who sent Him! So, truly, as we read, we live!

But there’s more to it than even that – as amazing as that is! When we read the Bible, we not only get to know God; we also get to know ourselves. This book tells us all about what God had in His heart when He created us, what He has planned for our future, and what He has intended for our lives to look like as we live in Him.

Sometimes we miss His heart in this, though. Sometimes we get stuck trying to look like Him by merely imitating Him. As a disciple, and as a minister, I have run into a little bit of trouble with the Bible here. I’ve also seen other ministers – others who want to not only worship but serve God – run into the same. Sometimes, we are tempted to read the Bible like a how-to manual. We want to be more like Jesus, because we know we are supposed to be (Romans 8:29). So we read the Bible to learn how to do what He did. Sometimes we teach people the same way. And while I think there is value in the heart behind this, the methodology can really mess us up, if we’re not careful. And it can leave us a bit disoriented in our attitude toward the Bible.

Because the Bible was never meant to be a manual. It was always meant to be a mirror.

In the Word of God, inspired by His Holy Spirit, our eyes are opened to see Who God is, Who we are, and how we can become like Him. Not merely by doing what He does, although that is expected to be the natural outcome. But through relationship with Him, by His Spirit producing within us the same life that Jesus lived. I love how the Passion Translation writes verse 25 from the passage above:

“But those who set their gaze deeply into the perfecting law of liberty are fascinated by and respond to the truth they hear and are strengthened by it – they experience God’s blessing in all they do!”

When we understand that the Bible is not a how-to manual, not a list of rules and regulations, not a list of “to-do and not-dos,” but a law of liberty – of freedom – through which we see God and ourselves as we truly are, everything changes. Then, as we read, by faith, we become. And as we become, we experience the life God has always meant for us to have. Not drudgery, not burdensome, but full of joy, peace, purity and power.

We become as little children with treasures at our fingertips. Life becomes amazingly full of possibilities! The Bible is no longer a strict teacher or guardian, but a bearer of the Good News that we have inherited a Kingdom full of riches, and been adopted into a family and an identity of royalty!

When we don’t understand that the Bible is more than a binding set of behavior codes, then we will hesitate to read it, being afraid that we’ll only be confronted with our failures there. And as we meet with the biggest failure of all – the failure to read it – we will forget who we are, and continue to live in perpetual chaos and struggle. The Passion Translation puts it plainly in verse 24 of James 1:

“You perceive how God sees you in the mirror of the Word, but then you go out and forget your divine origin.”

I see it all the time, and I’m sure you do, too: people who have forgotten what they were made for. People who have settled. People who don’t know their own value, and so give themselves to lesser, worthless things. People who suffer deeply because they don’t know they are sons and daughters of royalty, with a Father who has died to give them incredibly rich satisfying lives.

Yuck!!! I’ve been there, and I know how that feels, so I’m not casting judgment. But neither am I sugar-coating the reality of what that means. It means the loss of hope, the loss of identity, the loss of purpose, and the loss of true freedom!

Dear Woman of Breakthrough, return with me to the Word! Open it up and let it radiate its light into your soul! Devour it daily, whether you “feel something” or not. Whether you understand or not. By faith, believe that the same Spirit Who raised Jesus from the dead, Who now lives in you, Who wrote the book in the first place, is able to bring you into understanding and identity as you continue to read and obey.

Remember, this is a lifelong journey. Don’t reduce it to a feeling or a moment. Just read, and become convinced that you will there find the life appointed for you! When we come with this kind of childlike faith and expectation, we will be amazed at what we find in there that we couldn’t see before! The Bible is a book full of promise! It is the deed to your Promised Land! It holds the mirror up before you, so that you can see yourself as God sees you, as He created you to be. And it supplies the grace, the power, which enables you to become her.

Don’t trade that for counterfeit treasure, for fool’s gold. Chase the treasure waiting for you in God’s Word, and you are promised to there discover your best life! I have tasted and seen that it is truly good. I hope you will soon be able to bring back the same testimony…

{Photo Images courtesy of http://www.pixabay.com}




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