Together in Christ: 'Obeying the Law Written on Our Hearts' — James 1:25

Tuesday, December 3, 2024

But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don't forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.
— James 1:25 NLT

Key Thought

To best understand the focus of this verse, we need to read it in context:

So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls.
But don't just listen to God's word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don't obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don't forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.

When James is talking about "the perfect law that sets you free" he is talking about "the word God has planted in your hearts" that "has the power to save" us. At first glance, this may appear to be contradictory to Paul's repeated statements in Galatians and Romans that we are free from law-keeping as our means for justification and salvation. [2] However, James is talking about the coming of the new covenant relationship with God we have in Jesus. [2]

Paul explains this principle in a special rabbi-styled commentary in 2 Corinthians. [3] This "law that sets you free" is rooted in the prophecy of Jeremiah, which talks about the time when God puts His law in the minds and hearts of His people. [4] God fulfilled this prophecy in His New Covenant people who have received the Holy Spirit to lead and guide them into the freedom that comes from living an obedient life. [5] The Spirit works in us, teaches us, and transforms us into the kind of people who need no written law because we are becoming holy and Christ-like through "the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death."  [6] James reminds us that when we focus on the Spirit's leading and teaching and then do what Jesus calls us to do, we find God's blessing and our freedom to become the people we desire to become — Christlike people. Talking about rules, principles, and laws can lead us to forget what God's goal is for us: becoming like Jesus. [7]

Jesus taught us how to live as He lived in His Sermon on the Mount. He closed His powerful message with an emphasis on not just accepting His words as truth but ALSO obeying those truths in everyday living. [8] Jesus also ended His time on earth by instructing His disciples to go into all of the world and not just teach what He taught them, but also teach them how to obey what He taught. [9] James point is that freedom and blessing come when we obey "the perfect law that sets you free" that God has written on our hearts. [10] As James emphasized, "God will bless you for doing it."

God wants us to live righteous and holy lives consistent with His righteous character, gracious compassion, and faithful lovingkindness and justice. We live to honor God by obeying what He leads us to become through the Holy Spirit: people who live and love like Jesus. Once again, we circle back to the key principle of all relationships: our relationship with God must be the central defining relationship of our lives. When we do, we find life, freedom, blessing, and salvation in everyday living!

[1] James 1:21.
[2] Hebrews 8:6-12.
[3] 2 Corinthians 3:1-18.
[4] Jeremiah 31:31-34.
[5] 2 Corinthians 3:13-18.
[6] Romans 8:2. Also see Romans 8:1-4; 2 Corinthians 3:17-18; Galatians 3:22-23.
[7] Luke 6:40; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Ephesians 5:2; Colossians 1:28-29.
[8] Matthew 7:21-29.
[9] Matthew 28:18-20.
[10] John 13:17.

Today's Prayer

Almighty God, my tender Father in heaven, please guard my heart so that it always holds you as holy and yearns to honor You through my obedience to Your will. I commit to honor and obey You as the Holy Spirit writes Your law on my heart. I want to do more than have the desire to hear Your truth; I want to obey it with joy and step into the freedom, blessing, and salvation that obedience brings to every facet of life. I ask, Lord Jesus, that You continue to pour the Holy Spirit into my heart to help me as I seek to become increasingly more like You. In Your name, Lord Jesus, I pray. Amen.

Related Scripture Readings

  • Romans 8:1-4; James 2:16-17
  • Matthew 7:21-29; 2 Corinthians 3:17-18


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Illustration of James 1:25 NLT — But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don't forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.

About This Devotional

Together in Christ is a daily devotional that focuses on what Scripture teaches about godly living in relationships.

'Together in Christ' is written by Phil Ware.

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.