Pure Religion

James 1:26-27 says 26If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain. 27Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world”

Religion is a word that is tossed around to and fro a lot these days. Religion is bad, religion causes such and such, religion this and religion that; but what is religion. The word religion in these verses is translated as ‘the outward practice, the service of a god’. Pure religion has absolutely nothing to do with ceremonies, places of worship or special days. Instead pure religion means practicing God’s word and sharing it with others through 3 things:

Speech – verse 26 says “If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain”. The first phrase if any man among you seem to be religious is the first thing that’s sticks out to me; especially the word seem. It’s a great truth that many people seem to be religious when in the right company. Say, for example, there is a person in your church who acts like the holiest person on earth. Now say one night walking down the street you bump into this person walking out of a bar stinking drunk and barely able to stand. What is this person? They are seemingly religious. They act holy around the holy people, but when those holy people aren’t around they revert back to their old sinful self and live like they used to. They seem religious, but they aren’t serving Christ as they should. The verse continues and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart.  The person who seems to be religious , that is the person who seems to be serving Christ, but doesn’t bridle their tongue only deceive themselves. It is a biblical truth that the tongue reveals the heart (as we will see later in James). If the heart is right, the speech will be right. A controlled tongue is an indication of a controlled body. So the Christian who seems to be serving around other Christians but goes around swearing and cursing them to others is deceiving their own hearts. They try so hard to be holy that when they revert back to their old selves they are blinded by their own façade. The fall into their own trap. They do not realise when they are slandering or cursing others because they have deceived their very own hearts. This is not all though. The verse goes on to say that this man’s religion is vain. This word vain in Greek is mataios meaning empty or profitless. The man who acts like his vessel is full is the one emptying it. A man may seem like a servant, but if he is not serving by the things he says, then he is no servant at all; his heart is deceived and his service empty.

Service – the first part of verse 27 says “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction…” We see from the preceding verses in James chapter 1 (22-25 in particular)  that we must first see ourselves in the mirror of the Word. We then see from this verse that we must go on to see the need of others. The verse says that pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction. In other words pure service which is undefiled before God is to visit and help people in need. Notice the words visit though.  This means we have to go and see them. A phone call, or even sending someone else simply will not suffice when it comes to service. Words are no substitute for acts of love. God doesn’t want to see us paying for others to go and see those in need, He wants to see us going and doing it ourselves. This is pure and undefiled religion.

Separation – “…and to keep himself unspotted from the world”. Here we see the second part of pure and undefiled religion. If you want to be an effective servant for Christ then you have to keep yourself unspotted from the world. The world James speaks of here is the society without God. We see from the bible that Satan is the ruler of this world (Ephesians 2:2) and the lost are the children of this world (Ephesians 2-3). As children of God we are in the world physically but not spiritually. We are sent into the world to preach Christ but we are not to be conformed to the world but rather transformed from it. We are to be in it, not of it. Warren W. Wiersbe puts it this way “The world wants to ‘spot’ the Christian and start to defile him. First, there is ‘friendship of the world’ (James 4:4), which can lead to a love for the world (1 John 2:15-17). If we are not careful, we will become conformed to this world (Romans 12:1-2), and the result is being condemned with the world (1 Corinthians 11:32). This does not suggest that we lose our salvation; but that we lose all we have lived for.” Lot is offered as a prime example. Lot started off by pitching his tent towards Sodom, then he moved into Sodom, before long Sodom moved into him and he lost his testimony even among his family. When judgment fell on Sodom Lot lost everything. It was Abraham, the separated believer and friend of God, who had a greater ministry to the people than Lot did. It is not necessary for the Christian to get involved with the world to have a ministry to the world. Jesus was unspotted, and yet he was the friend of sinners. The best way to minister in this world is to be pure from defilement of it. If the world sees a hypocrite then this is not effective servitude. If the world sees a liar then this is not effective servitude. If the world sees a drunkard then this is not effective servitude. If the world sees anything less than a blemish free Christian then this is not effective servitude. Now I know no one can be perfect, but striving to be perfect is the best we can do. If we search for what is right and live how God tells us to live then this in itself will speak volumes to the world.

How pure is your service today? Is what you say glorifying to God or do you besmirch his name by what people hear you say? Do you curse other Christians? Are you always complaining? If your speech isn’t up to scratch today then search your heart and find what’s lurking inside, seek out what’s causing the problems and destroy it before it destroys you. Be careful not to deceive yourself and make your service vain. You cannot do something for God and then complain about it after and expect to be blessed through it. The act has to match up with the speech. How is your service? Do you send others to do your work because you’re too busy or can’t be bothered? Do you take the time out to go and help those in need? How about your standing in the world? Are you separated from it or still a part of it? Are you transformed or conformed? Are you keeping yourself spotless or have you let some of the world defile you? I pray that you search your heart today and figure out how effective your service is. Don’t let you service be in vain.  – Andrew.

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Posted on September 15, 2012, in Andrew's Thoughts for the Day and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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