Pure and undefiled religion

Published 3:44 pm Thursday, February 15, 2024

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(James 1:26-27)
There are a lot of people who claim to “Have Religion.” And by the world’s standard they do. However, the question is what kind of religion they have. It may seem strange to some people to think that there are different kinds of religion. Even among set apart groups of religious people such as members of the Church there are different kinds of religion. Some have a religion that resembles a car’s spare tire. That religion is one which is only relied upon when there is an emergency. Then there is a type of religion that is similar to a wheelbarrow. This type of religion is one that is uneven and unbalanced; it is one that someone else must push to get it started and needs someone to continue to push to see the work completed. Then there is a religion that is like a city bus. This is a religion that is only relied upon when things are going our way.
Regardless of the type of religion we think we have, one thing is certain, if it is not pleasing to God then it is of no value to us. Thankfully, James establishes what is “pure and undefiled religion before God.” This being so, we don’t have to go through life wondering if our religion is pleasing to God. James helps us to establish a proper religion by giving us attributes of proper religion.
First, proper religion is an active religion according to James 1:22-25. Then James in verse 27 makes it plain that we must be involved in the practice of religion. James stated that we must visit individuals that are in need. In other words, we must be doers and not hearers only. When a Christian fails to be involved, he is deceiving himself (James 1:22). And this is what Jesus was referring to in Matthew 7:21 when He said, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” To be honest, the scariest part of this deception is that we are the only ones deceived. Neither God, Satan nor our fellow men are deceived; they each realize that our religion is a dead religion and one that is endangering our souls.
Next, our religion must be practical. As Christians we should realize that there is more to religion than attending services once or twice a week. While it is important to worship God with all our heart, mind, and soul; it is also important that we offer our abilities to our fellow man in service to them (James 1:27). Doing good to and for others has always been a Biblical principle. In Proverbs 14:21 and 19:17 we are taught to have pity and mercy upon the poor and lend them our hands in service. The New Testament also commands us to do good. Paul in Galatians 6:10 taught us that we must do good to all men and especially to those of the household of faith. See also (John 3:17-18; Titus 2:14). Unless we are willing to show kindness and compassion through our service to others, our religion is not pure and undefiled.
Our religion must also be a personal religion. Throughout the entire first chapter of the book of James we find these personal pronouns (anyone, he, his, himself, this one, anyone, oneself). Each of these are personal pronouns and they show the importance of having a personal religion. While some contend that our giving on the first day of the week is enough, because those funds will be used in part to help the needy; this is not all that God requires of us (1 Cor. 16:1-2). Pure and undefiled religion depends upon us personally helping others. In the Old Testament the fringes of the crop fields were to be left for the poor and the travelers to their land. With this in mind, we should realize that corporate giving was never intended to take the place of Christians personally helping the needy. Then we should know that our pure religion must be just that; it must be void of sin, it must be without blemish and unspotted before the world.
What kind of religion do YOU have? Does it go beyond the walls of the church building? Our religion must involve more than a superficial hearing of God’s word. To be practical our religion must go beyond and into the lives of others in need. To be personal our religion must involve what we do on our own without the rest of the brethren. To be pure religion we must keep ourselves from sin. What kind of religion do you have?
(Tony Hoss is minister of the Centerview Church of Christ, Elizabethton)

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