To truly overcome trials (the Bible’s definition of success), we have to align our thoughts, emotions, and actions with God’s word. It is not enough to set aside the old self (verse 21), we have to put on the new self. A transplant begins with removing the bad heart, but if it stops there, what good has it done? We need a new heart, a new perspective, a new way of doing things.
This is how the law is fulfilled within us. Only through a transformed heart. And we are only transformed if the change makes its way into our behavior.
James talks about a man (the translation doesn’t mean “human”; it means “male”) who looks at himself in a mirror and then walks away, forgetting what he looks like. Women are more focused, more intent when they look in the mirror. They don’t leave until they look exactly right. Men tend to do only the minimum.
James says we delude ourselves when we think we are growing in godliness but give our character only a passing consideration.
There are three things we control: our actions, who we trust, and the perspective we take. Are we going to trust the world or the Lord? Will we adopt the world’s perspective that success is accumulation and earthly prestige? Or will we adopt a true perspective and invest in something that brings peace and will last forever?
Choosing to trust God and adopting a true perspective about life lays a foundation to actually do good deeds. To not only hear and implant the word, but to choose to put it into action. The goal of a healthy inner life is to have it overflow into our actions.
“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 1:22-25