Have you ever seen someone gaze longingly at their reflection in a mirror, enjoying every moment that they witness the perfection that sits before them? Fortunately, I have not seen it in person, but Amy and I recently saw a commercial for a razor in which a man shaved his face, and then took his sweet time caressing his skin and gazing into his own eyes in a way which has become normalized as we watch these types of commercials, but regardless, made us very uncomfortable.
This interaction with himself in that mirror seems to be an incredibly shallow one. There is no perception of any flaws or opportunities to progress – no logs in his eye to distract him from how good looking he is. He simply and ritualistically shows up at the mirror at the same time every day to get just one more look at the handsome man looking back at himself.
Well, I want to say that I’m so thankful for another opportunity to have preached yesterday and I am thrilled that I was able to open up the book of Jonah with you once again. I pray that it was as much a blessing to you as it is to me every time I lay my eyes on its pages. During the conclusion to the message, I mentioned the ways in which the Jews would have engaged their Scriptures. They were living in a time in which they heard these oral traditions passed down as an integral part of who they were as a people-group, or they were raised to memorize God’s Word to an extent that seems humanly impossible to our minds today. But they did – they knew the Old Testament Scriptures from cover to cover, and though we see humanity’s brokenness in the fact that they were still unable to do as God pleased, they did not even understand the concept of light devotional reading. The Scriptures were not about daily pick-me-ups, but they were about getting to know their God and integrating it into their worldview and society.
This always brings me back to James 1:22-25 (22 But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not just hearers who deceive themselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; 24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. 25 But one who has looked intently at the perfect law, the law of freedom, and has continued in it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an active doer, this person will be blessed in what he does.).
This passage distinguishes between two practices or reading the Scriptures. One is a shallow practice like the man in the razor commercial who is so blinded by his perfection that he doesn’t notice things that can actually be improved upon. Just as the man may have nicked his cheek while shaving and never thought to wipe the blood away or he may have smudged some shaving cream onto his t-shirt without taking the time to see and remove it, we as believers can so distract ourselves while engaging the Scriptures that we may completely overlook ways in which God wants us to think critically and be introspective, removing those things which He condemns and replacing them with those things that He commands.
This is integral to the Christian life, the Christian testimony, and fulfilling our roles as Salt and Light in the world. Don’t we know that salvation is so incredibly simple? That we receive Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for our sins and we will forever be received as righteous in His eyes? And yet sanctification is a whole different subject matter. We must make Jesus Christ the Lord over our lives in order to grow closer to Him and learn to walk in His will, and that will be a difficult task without critical thinking and introspection. No – the Christian life is far more about who we are in Christ and being sanctified ever further into His image than the external things which occur around us that so distract us.
As I seek to live out this calling this week, please join me for the ride. Let us be in prayer that God open our eyes to the ways in which this world and those around us distract us, and pray also that He give us the strength to look inwards and seek to be molded by His hands into the men and women that He will use to change the world. This is not done in anxiety, fear, or anger. This is done in His perfect peace and joy which surpass all understanding. Let’s look at the mirror of the Scriptures this week and notice those imperfections that It calls attention to. Then let’s rejoice that God cares enough to strengthen us in order to evermore reflect His glory to the world around us.
Love you all,
Young Adult Minister – Evan McNeff