I always love to watch the latest church band wagons or trends and see who jumps on and who jumps off. The biggest church band wagon or I should say! One of the biggest church band wagons that has poked it's ugly head is the expression "I love Jesus and hate the church or religion." A few months back a young man posted a video about his love for the Savior and his dislike towards religion. Very thought provoking and poetic; some of the things he said were spot on and absolutely true.....But, he was completely wrong in how he used the word "religion" in his expression about his love for Jesus. See! The biggest statement many say in the evangelical world is “I love God but hate religion”. My response to that is! If you hate religion or the church …in reality you hate God, which ultimately means you hate Christ [Because He is God is flesh] Jesus said just from Matthew’s Gospel alone "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.” Matt 5:17. In Matt 16:18 we see the foundation for the church “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” In Matthew 18 we see Jesus implementing the process for church discipline. In Matthew 26 we see Jesus implementing the importance of the Lord’s Table. In Matt 28 we see Jesus command His disciples to evangelize the lost with His religion. Ya Mike! But doesn't religion kill and destroy churches? My response! No, people do…….it our sin, it’s our ignorance to the truth that kills and disrupts churches…not religion…..otherwise we wouldn't have all these different religious groups or organizations.
Let me explain: You can go home and Google the word “religion” and come across hundreds if not thousands of religions and religious types….….for example
- Satanism is a religion
- Mormonism is a religion
- The Watchtower is a religion
- Buddhism is a religion
- Hinduism is a religion
- Islam is a religion
- The Shriner’s and Free Masons is a religion
- Judaism is a religion
- Christianity is a religion
See you are a religious person whether you want to think that or not! You can’t remove that word “religion” for the sake of what society thinks or understands of that word to be whether it has a negative or positive connotation at the end of it. Religion by definition according to Wikipedia…….. is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to explain the origin of life or the universe. They tend to derive morality, ethics, religious laws or a preferred lifestyle from their ideas about the cosmos and human nature. According to some estimates, there are roughly 4,200 religions in the world. Many religions may have organized behaviors, clergy, a definition of what constitutes obedience or membership, holy places, and scriptures. The practice of a religion may also include rituals, sermons, commemoration or veneration a god or gods, sacrifices, festivals, feasts, trance, initiations, funerary services, matrimonial services, meditation, prayer, music, art, dance, public service or other aspects of human culture.
Biblical “religion” is defined this way……. a belief in the being and perfections of God, in the revelation of his will to man, in man's obligation to obey his commands, in a state of reward and punishment, and in man's accountableness to God; and also true godliness or piety of life, with the practice of all moral duties. It therefore comprehends theology, as a system of doctrines or principles, as well as practical piety; for the practice of moral duties without a belief in a divine lawgiver, and without reference to his will or commands, is not religion.
The word “religion” occurs five times in English Standard Version of the Bible. It is, by itself, an entirely neutral word. Religion can refer to Judaism (Acts 26:5) or the Jewish-Christian faith (Acts 25:19). Religion can be bad when it is self-made (Col. 2:23) or fails to tame the tongue (James 1:26). But religion can also be good when it cares for widows and orphans and practices moral purity (James 1:27). We come to this section of James letter that addresses what true religion looks, smells, sounds and tastes like. He begins with what true biblical religion isn't! It's only a false understanding or misleading characteristic of a false religious person [unconverted] (v26) What does this look like? That person is unable to tame his tongue….his religion is? Worthless
“Worthless” means…. useless, and unprofitable to himself and others; all his preaching, praying, hearing, and attendance on the ordinances will be of no avail to him. Why? Because he or she cannot bridle their tongue….that muscles that gets us into trouble all the time. What James is telling us in this passage is that a corrupt and unholy heart will be exposed by corrupt and unholy speech. The inward heart will come to through your external behaviour. As John MacArthur said “the tongue is not the only indicator of true spirituality but one of the most reliable. Remember what Jesus said in the Gospel? In Matt 12:34“Brood of vipers! [or as the King James says “O generation of vipers….which implies “you group of poisonous snakes] How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” There are many people who follow after religious traditions and rituals all in the name of Jesus to appease their conscience. But the sad reality is that it’s a man made and man centered religion that according to James “is worthless.”As Paul Washer said “what does your profession in Jesus Christ worth? Nothing apart from the sustaining and continuing work of the Holy Spirit.”
- You will know them by their fruits
- You will know them by how the face trials and temptation
- You will know them by how they respond to God
- You will know them by their love for the Saviour
- You will know them by their desire to study the God breathed scripture
- You will know them by their speech
- You will know them by their true religion
A tradition 0r ritual won’t! And can’t save you! Man centered religion won’t! And can’t save you! Hoping on the latest trend or band wagon won’t! And can’t save you. The only true religion that saves if found in Jesus Christ alone. “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." Acts 4:12. What does true religion look like? (v27)
YOUR SPEECH Which we already looked at minute ago…..a proper and controlled speech is evidence to the sanctifying work that God is doing in your life. A controlled speech is one of the ways the fruit of the Spirit [self-control] works together in the believer. Ask yourself in the mirror of scripture…..Am I changing? Is my lifestyle changing for His glory or for my shame? Is my life displaying the firstfruits to His creation about the glories of His goodness. Because as Jesus said…..Out the heart will display the truth of your life….is it Christ like or is like an open tomb [rotting corpse] full of venom as Paul explains it in Romans chapter three?
YOUR SERVICE When we have been given a new life we have a different and greater outlook on life and the people that live in it. This present world! I’m grieved all the time with the ramp sin in our world, the disregard for human life and self-centeredness each and every day to name a few. The true religion that James is talking about is that…..God implants this new passion in our hearts….which is the gospel and the love of Christ to all people groups. James picks two particular groups of people as examples………Widows and orphans. The word “Visit” means much more than to drop by for a chat. It carries the idea of caring for others, exercising oversight on their behalf helping them in whatever way is needed. If you went back into the Old Testament you would find the writers mentioning these two groups often to God’s chosen people.........For example:
- We hear about Moses instructing the people about caring for the widows and orphans [Deut 10:18; Deut 14:9]
- In Job’s letter we see the mentioning of widows and orphans [Job 29:12-13; Job 31:15-20]
- Isaiah speaks of protecting them [Isa 1:16-17; Isa 58:6-7]
- Jeremiah gives instruction about widows and orphans [Jer 49:11]
Martin Luther said “It is the duty of every Christian to be Christ to his neighbor.” David said in Psalm 68:5 says “Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.” David had such a love for God he couldn't do anything else other that have a heart for God’s people. Remember what happened after his closet friend died [Jonathan] what did David do? He displayed his true love for God by taking in Jonathan’s son. He saw this young man through the eyes of his greatest love……the LORD! 2Sam 9:6-9 “And Mephibosheth the son of Jonathan, son of Saul, came to David and fell on his face and paid homage. And David said, "Mephibosheth!" And he answered, "Behold, I am your servant." And David said to him, "Do not fear, for I will show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan, and I will restore to you all the land of Saul your father, and you shall eat at my table always." And he paid homage and said, "What is your servant, that you should show regard for a dead dog such as I?" Then the king called Ziba, Saul's servant, and said to him, "All that belonged to Saul and to all his house I have given to your master's grandson.” This same truth has been sown throughout the scriptures into the New testament were we hear Jesus speak [Matt 25] about how we are to treat the people of God! Paul instructing Timothy about the importance of widows and orphans [1 Tim 5:3; 1 Tim 5:16]
Orphans and widows were generally the neediest people in the early church. We need to understand in those times there were no life insurance policies or welfare system to get a person or child by. Woman didn't have employment as we know it today or group homes for children. Children were defenseless and helpless without parental care and assistance. James says a characteristic of the transforming work [true religion] as found in the word is an outward adoration to seek the interest of others for the glory of His name. It’s a selfless love for souls and for the gospel to penetrate the heart of the broken and the lost. It’s a genuine heart that doesn't seek praise, money or fame! They do this for the sake of our Lord…..the one who gets the glory.
YOUR SEPARATION FOR THE WORLD [SYSTEM] This is a great test for all of us! What do I love more the things of this world or Christ and His precious truth? Those that belong to God are to be characterized by moral and spiritual purity. How do we do that? By “keeping oneself unstained” (v27) is the means of its being “pure”. James isn't talking about sinless perfection. James is talking about a habitual lifestyle that doesn't conform itself according to the world’s fallen standards of morals and carnality. Paul laid the foundation clearly when he said ……“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Rom 12:1-2. Our lives are to be examples of the glories already been given through the gospel. That’s what true religion looks like. Again as Paul Washer said “A religion that gives nothing, costs nothing, and suffers nothing, is worth nothing.” That means my desires are to be His desires …which requires me to give up something….which is this world and all it has to offer. John MacArthur said “The cost of true greatness is humble, selfless, sacrificial service. The Christian who desires to be great and first in the kingdom is the one who is willing to serve in the hard place, the uncomfortable place, the lonely place, the demanding place, the place where he is not appreciated and may even be persecuted. Knowing that time is short and eternity is long, he is willing to spend and be spent. He is willing to work for excellence without becoming proud, to withstand criticism without becoming bitter, to be misjudged without becoming defensive, and to withstand suffering without succumbing to self pity.” A true religion is to put off and then to do with y0ur life according to the scriptures to glorify His precious name as the first fruits of His creation. Why? Because in all reality the Christian religion is an active display of mercy and grace through Jesus Christ our Lord. SDG