“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.” James 1:22-24
There is a large difference between and life of a Christian “doer” and the life of a Christian “hearer.” In the worldly sense of a “doer” we think of someone who is off getting things done, a go-getter. Then on the other-hand we think of a “hearer” as someone with a more laid back personality, maybe even considering them a couch-potato. These verses from the book of James are not so much talking about the activity level of the physical or spiritual lives of believers, but rather they are talking about how active a believer is in the pursuit of the application of truth into his or her life.
As stated in the first verse, striving to be a “doer” rather than just a “hearer” keeps a person from being deceived. The direct Greek translation for “deceived” as used in this context describes a people who purposefully blinding or deluding themselves. And what these people chose to deceive themselves from is how far from righteous they actually are. You see, in the whole context of the Christian life, it is very easy to listen to sermons, memorize bible verses, read Christian books and blogs, do bible studies, and take part in Christian fellowship. But the real walk of faith and purposeful sanctification living does not start until a believer gets beyond the personal filling these activities offer and takes the necessary steps to seek God and apply the necessary changes so each experience moves his/her life one step closer to being perfected in Christ.
Consider this, say for example you get an “aha” moment from the sermon you listen to tomorrow. I can guarantee you, the reason the truth you heard in that sermon was so enlightening to you was because the Holy Spirit allowed you to see a truth He wishes to see applied in your life. If you walk away from that sermon saying, “That was a great sermon,” and do nothing to apply that truth in your life, then you are just a “hearer.” But if you take that truth to prayer and ask God to show you how you can apply it in your life and how you can change the way you are living so that your life lines up with the truth you were convicted of, then doing the steps He shows you from there - you are a “doer.”
James relates these differing responses to truth in relation to a man looking in a mirror. The man who is purposefully blinding himself sees his natural flaws as the truth exposes him but walks away from the experience and soon forgets anything about the encounter God gave him. That sort of man is blinded by his need for truth. His own sin, pride, intellectual prowess, and/or obscured self-image have masked the opportunity that God provided for him to see the sin and depravity of his true life.
The Christian walk is not a casual one, rather Jesus taught us it would be like carrying a cross. The truth the Holy Spirit often reveals in our lives does not usually reveal pretty things about our human nature. For that reason, it is much easier to just walk away from God and decide not to deal with the truth He has revealed. But, do not allow your steps to bring you to the easier and wide road. The narrow road is the road to truth and the road to real life in Christ.