Everyone admits to the need for truth. No matter the enterprise, no matter the endeavor, truth figures into the result. Truth is what is verifiable, what can be shown to be right; it’s what has authenticity, what is real. Truth suppresses ignorance; it encourages progress; it precipitates growth, promotes usefulness; truth is the basis for all improvement.
But you have to apply truth. Just because you know the truth by no means argues its effectiveness. You have to do something with it, make it work, not just admire it. And it takes courage to apply truth to a given set of circumstances, especially when it’s unpleasant to do so. It certainly is true what the proverb says, “truth sometimes hurts,” but in the long run, truth is necessary to any occupation or project. Sometimes you have to hurt to get better.
James says, "But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed” (James 1:22-25).
Notice some things about truth and our personal relationship toward it.
It takes honest evaluation. Truth is necessary for good introspection–for looking inside yourself. It’s hard to be objective when you are looking at your own motives and desires, hard to not be prejudiced in favor of yourself. First, you have to admit to the need of truth before you will apply it. A kind of intellectual humility is necessary to bring yourself under the scrutiny of the word of God. You have to divest yourself of your pride and admit to the need. If you’re not careful you will rationalize and excuse yourself. Looking into the mirror for the soul is not a pleasant experience sometimes, but it’s always a necessary one. And it takes considerable personal integrity to do it.
It’s easy to be deceived. If we are not very careful we will think ourselves justified just because we know what is right. For instance, we can have a kind of corporate view of religion, thinking that we are just fine spiritually because we attend a sound congregation, listen to sound preaching, and have good concepts of what the New Testament church is. Don’t be deceived. Until we get active in all those areas we are not sound. James says, “be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” We have to look past our preconceptions and see ourselves as we really are. Not, mind you, as we want ourselves to be, but how we really are.
It’s easy to procrastinate. James predicts that “whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the word, this man shall be blessed in his deed.” This necessarily implies that we can know what is right and forget it–that is, we can ignore what we have seen when we look into the mirror. It doesn’t mean we didn’t see, just that we don’t want to do anything about it right now. God never gave man a command on which he could not start right now. All truth is that way. It will not tolerate delay and postponement. It makes no sense to put off doing the truth, anyway. First of all, it’s foolish to know what is right and not attend to it immediately. Further, it is inviting trouble to do so because it becomes easier and easier to put it off until it finally becomes ineffective to your calloused heart. To put it off is to ignore truth–for the present anyhow.
There are numerous blessings which result from obedience. When we do what truth says, we derive great benefits. James says, “this man shall be blessed in his deed.” Each deed we do, each accomplishment we make, each good act we perform results in blessings for us. Those blessings can come right now or they can come in eternity, but they are nevertheless great in either case. It’s never out of order to do right–never. It may seem difficult, but it’s always right to do right. It may seem hard, but truth is still truth, no matter the consequences. And it may well be that doing right in the smallest matters is the greatest illustration of truth.
How do you look today? Did you take a look in the mirror before you came? Do you remember how you looked when you left the house? When you looked, did you find anything wrong? And if you did, did you repair it? When? Right then or sometime later? And when you looked did you look at just certain areas or did you look at all you could possibly see? When you went to the rest room before services, did you glance into the mirror?
Now, think about your spiritual being. Have you taken the time to look lately? Maybe it might be a good time today to take a few minutes and see yourself for what you really are–see the real you, the one that will live forever–somewhere.