The apostle James tells us:
“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.”
(James 1:23–24 ESV)
The context, of course, is being a “doer of the word” – being obedient to God’s Word, and not just a hearer. To just be a hearer is self-deception. We think we’ve done our duty, we think we’ve fulfilled any obligation we might have toward God, but we have not. Not at all. No, we must also obey that which we have heard from God. Thomas Watson, a puritan preacher of old, says, “It is not enough to hear God’s voice, but we must obey…. Obedience without knowledge is blind, and knowledge without obedience is lame.” (The Ten Commandments, Banner of Truth, p. 1)
I’ll be starting a preaching series on The Ten Commandments just after Labor Day weekend for the congregation at Cornerstone EFC in Rochester, where I’ve pastored for nearly 13 years now. I want God’s people to recognize what these laws are for, why God gave them to us. It’s one thing to do an exposition of each one and have them understand what that specific commandment demands. It’s another thing for them to know why God gave them to us and how they ought to be used by His people.
Again, I’ll quote Watson, on the use of the moral law:
It is a glass to show us our sins, that, seeing our pollution and misery, we may be forced to flee to Christ to satisfy for former guilt, and to save from future wrath. (The Ten Commandments, Banner of Truth, p. 44)
A mirror. The law is a mirror that we should come back to time and time again because, like the hearer-only in James 1, we look, but we quickly forget how sinful we are. We are so prone to think that we can. “You shall have no other gods before me.” Okay, that’s an easy one. I can do that. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image.” No problem; not gonna have any stone idols on my mantelpiece. “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.” OMG! I’ll never do that one. I’m good to go on Number 3. Bring it on! “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” Phew! Good thing this is Old Testament stuff so I don’t have to bother with that one.
You get the point, don’t you. The moment we think “I CAN” we’ve just broken the Law of God. It is a mirror that will reveal this self-centered sin faster than you can say “total depravity.” And yet, we mustn’t despair, for this mirror is also a schoolmaster, a tutor of sorts. Hear from the apostle Paul:
“So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.”
(Galatians 3:24 ESV)
Once we’ve seen how incredibly inept we are, how unbelievably incapable of obeying the law on our own, the Law itself teaches us something grand: “Look to Christ; He will save you. I cannot, but He can save you to the uttermost.”
I’m looking forward to this series. If you’re in Rochester on the Lord’s Day any Sunday between Labor Day and Thanksgiving, feel welcome to worship with us and stare in the mirror for a bit. Then be ready to run to Christ.
By His Grace & For His Glory,