Pure Religion

James 1:26-27 (NIV)

26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

What is religion?  In Christian circles, we often talk about the difference between being religious and having a loving relationship with God.  Religion is all about what you do to be saved, while true Christianity is all about what Jesus already did on the cross for us to be saved.  James, in his letter to first century Christians, describes the outward expression of the inner condition of a born again believer in Jesus Christ.  For those who have been saved, what does being a Christian look like?  James’ letter is all about the intersection of faith and deeds.  We cannot earn our salvation through our deeds.  Rather, our deeds are the proof of the fact that we are saved.  They are the evidence of God’s Holy Spirit working in our lives.
James describes two kinds of religion in these two verses:
  • Deceptive and worthless religion (vs 26)
  • Pure and faultless religion (vs 27)

What kind of religion does the Father accept?

  • Keeping a tight rein on the tongue (vs 26)
  • Looking after orphans and widows (vs 27)
  • Keeping oneself from being polluted by the world (vs. 27)

James will get more into the subject of the tongue in chapter 3.  As far as widows and orphans, James calls us to pay special attention to the most vulnerable people in our midst.  Widows and orphans in his day were often oppressed and unable to provide for their needs.  As Christians, we should follow the example of the first century church and make sure we are looking after those who are vulnerable.

Finally, we need to be like spotless, unblemished lambs in this world.  Rather than conforming to the pattern of the world, we must keep ourselves from being polluted by it.  The world is a dirty place and we come into contact with it every day.  We must be proactive in keeping ourselves pure and spotless.  It does not mean going out and starting a commune to avoid the world.  It means shoring up our defenses, putting on the armor of God and being in God’s Word on a regular basis.  We must guard our hearts from becoming too much like the world.  From out of the heart flows our actions.  If we fill our hearts with the pollution of the world and do not fill them with the goodness of God’s Word, we will be in danger of becoming more like the world and less like Jesus.
PRAYER:  Father God, help me to be pure and faultless in my religion.  I know that I need to be holy as You are holy.  I need to care about those who are in distress and who are being oppressed.  I need to keep a tighter rein on my tongue.  I fall so short of Your glorious standard.  Forgive my worthless religion and help me to be religious about the right things.  Thank You for saving and forgiving me.

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