James36 – Is Your Religion Connected to Jesus Christ?
26 If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless. 27 Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. (James 1:26 – 27 NAS
In the previous lesson the question was raised about whether your religion was true or not. We considered the possibility that you were deceived into thinking it was but in reality it wasn’t.
The religion of the deceived person comes in many forms, but in all cases, James says, it “is worthless.” This religion may have much to offer a person and in many ways be very attractive, but it tends to center on the external and leaves the inner nature unchanged. It is an activity that may be very enjoyable, but it lacks the regenerating power of the gospel. Outward expressions are an important aspect of personal faith, but they are of little importance if they are not connected to an inner work of the Holy Spirit. A deceived person’s religion is worthless because it is an empty religion. It is a religion without a life and without a living relationship with God. True religion is a living religion in relationship with Jesus Christ. It is a life changing religion, transforming one into the image of Christ. How has your religion changed your life into becoming more like that of Christ?
Religion is important, but it is to be pure and undefiled and it must unite the effects of the gospel on the inner and outer aspects of the person. It is a religion that relates to the personal, growing relationship with God as well as helping those in need, and it does so by keeping an unstained relationship by the world.
If your religion is true then your life will produce an obedience to the word that is “pure and undefiled” before the Lord. To be pure is to be free of contaminates such as moral pollution. To be undefiled implies that you have not become soiled or stained by contact with moral evil. If your religion is to be acceptable to God it must be more than just ritual. It is to be what you do and think in a moral response to God. Anything short of that is considered worthless to God. Our God and Father is looking at our religion from a position of his nature and so the standards are high. He is the Lord God, the Almighty, but He is also our loving Father. He has an eternal, unconditional love for each of us and He wants our religion to be all that it can be to make us like he is and to stimulate a personal relationship with him, a relationship you have to experience in order to understand it.
True religion goes beyond our relationship with God. It also includes our relationship with others and our relationship with the world. Concerning our relationship to others, James lists two needs that were important at the time and still are today. The point James is making is that we should be concerned enough about social issues to be involved directly in some way. When James says we are “to visit” he doesn’t mean just pray about the social problem, he means to get involved is some direct and tangible way. Paul said, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:3 – 5 NAS. Today this might result in our involvement with children or families of prisoners through Prison Fellowship. There are the homeless and children from broken families. There are single parents in need of help. There are so many that we could encourage by showing some interest in them with a loving helping hand.
In addition to being concerned and having contact with and helping those in need or distressed in some way, we are “to keep oneself unstained by the world.” James is saying that there is a philosophy and a morality in the world that can contaminate us. We must be careful that we don’t become positioned in such a way that we become infected. Health care workers are constantly among the sick but manage to stay healthy. Likewise, we can reach out to those, in the world, who are in need and not become infected if we apply proper protection and use caution.
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