“Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. 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; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:21-15, NASB).
Jesus is the Word, John tells us, and when He is vitally abiding within us, we are saved by God’s grace in Christ for all eternity.
In this passage I see that we need saving grace in two ways: first and foremost being the eternal salvation of our souls through belief in and surrender to the saving grace found in the Lordship of Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection paying the price due. But then we need step by step salvation from acting out in the flesh to walking steadfastly in the truths of God, otherwise we would just believe in Jesus and continue on our own path without any difference found in our life through Him.
Every word of God is useful to cut away the things of the flesh and grow us in the truths of God and His way, so that we are able to choose life over death in our day to day circumstances, and thus restoring in us the very image of God (Hebrews 4:12).
Jesus, in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, brings His Word to life in us. He uses His Word to equip us to understand, putting all together so as to help us to know and grow in His ways and to know how to apply His truths to our daily circumstances. Thus, through His Word applied to life, He saves us choice by choice as we see and walk in that truth day by day, keeping us through His word from falling away from Him, where our ability to relate with Him is hindered. The word implanted, becoming more and more who we are and dictating more vitally our lives and paths as a result, saves our souls, our fleshly bodies, from walking contrary to our God.
That being true, when we have the word truly implanted in this vital, life directing way, it proves us to be His as we become doers of the Word, living it out as He did, rather than hearers who are deluded. Did you get that? Those who merely hear God’s word and never apply it to their lives are deluded. How are they deluded?
Hearers who do not do are those branches spoken of in John 15: the ones that fall away, dry up and are burned. You see, we are grafted into the vine of God’s people, Israel, through Christ (Romans 11). When a person hears the truth, they may momentarily bump up to the vine as if to graft with it. Desiring eternity without giving self to the relationship, they fail to become vitally united with it, thus drying up for lack of the food of the Word and the Living Water of His Spirit. Having no vitally growing root in them, they fall away and are burned.
These hear of God’s grace in Christ and accept it as a truth in their mind, seeming to attach to Him, but then they never feast on Him so as to remain in Him. They die on the vine, never fully committing to His Lordship, failing to be changed by His word, and they fall away with no root in them. Then because they know He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life in their head, they, believing they are safe for all eternity, go on living their lives of wanton pleasure, and never realize they are still lost in sin because they failed to have The Word Implanted. They are deluded, having a form of religion, without truly belonging to the Vine, which is Jesus. So they struggle, wavering back and forth like the seas, wondering why they never get anywhere with the power of others they see growing in Him.
Am I saying people can lose their salvation? No. I am saying that people can have a head-knowledge of Jesus that sets them up against the vine as if to graft to it, but that never gets into their being to unite them to the vine for all eternity. They are like the demons who know of Jesus, but refuse His Lordship. (Luke 4:34; James 2:19)
God uses His Word, implanted in us, to transform us from the fleshly person we are who has the image of God in them distorted by sin, to one who is restored to that image through grace and the Word, living and active within. For this to happen, God’s Word of truth and righteousness has to become part of who we are, the very makeup of our being and personality. To habitually read God’s word and be encouraged to do better in an area of life, only to consistently turn away and immediately forget what we read, returning to our own way, is like looking in a mirror to see who we are to be, only to forget what we look like when we turn away, never truly becoming Christlike in nature.
People who quickly forget the good word they hear, waver back and forth from hope with faith to destitute poverty of soul, never being changed by God’s revealed will. But those who receive the word into themselves, making it the vital, life-giving seed that works in them this change into godliness, find liberty and blessing that transforms their lives to the abundance and effective example that God desires us to be in Him. Such bear within themselves the very image of Christ that makes them whole and empowers them to stand, firm in faith and faithful in Him.
Does this mean that a true Christian will never waver? No. We are each on a journey to perfection, being continually transformed day to day into His likeness, but our flesh does not give up easy (Philippians 1:6). For us, we will look in the Mirror of God’s Word, see who we ARE in Christ, only to walk away and forget to live it in that area of struggle; but we do eventually grasp the word and transform to the image. God does not generally lead us into perfection over night. It is a process, growing us to greater depths of righteousness, here a little, there a little, as we are able to bear it. We have times of struggle when He leads us to deal with deeper root issues; and times of great growth, when we bear the fruit of His image in the power of His Spirit, never to fall back into the old-man-ways in that area of maturity again.
I have about 50 rose bushes in our yard. They put on big, beautiful roses for the most part, very hardy, lasting in beauty for the entire summer. But some of my bushes are obviously grafted to other roses to effect a change in them that is meant to make them the hardy bushes they are. From time to time the grafted bush will put on wiry, sprawling branches with less desirable small roses that destroy the beauty of the bush. If I let those branches keep going, they will take over the bush, destroying the larger roses. So I have to cut those sprawling branches away, allowing the transformation of the bush to take root and produce the desired fruit.
It is the same with us. When we are vitally grafted to Christ, we will as a branch in Him, grow to produce fruit in keeping with righteousness and glorifying our God. But then on occasion, our old nature will sprout forth, bearing fruit in keeping with our old habits and ways. That is when we see God’s discipline come in, pruning away the fruit of death so that the fruit of life more abundant and full can take full root and grow strong. As we fully surrender to His pruning shears, we graft more fully to Him producing the desired fruit.
Just as we can know the bad tree—the ungodly person—by their fruits, so the godly person is known and revealed by theirs. As we are daily changed into greater depths of His likeness by His Word implanted, we prove to be His children (Matthew3:8-10; 7:15-22; Hebrews 12:1-13).
So the Word of God is a mirror for us, revealing to us what we look like in Christ. And that Word, implanted into our very being, equips us to walk away from the mirror as living proof of Christ in us. The important thing is that day by day, as we look in that spiritual mirror, we see more of Him, and walk away from the mirror with that image intact, being more like Him throughout our days.
“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith” (Romans 12:1-3).