The first in a short series of sermons during August dealing with some of the things that the Bible designates as “PURE”
What is true and what is false religion? James here helps us to make the distinction:-
1 – False Religion – Condemned (v 26.)
“If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.” A mark of false religion is an inability to bridle the tongue, which is a symptom of a more serious malady as identified by the words of Jesus – “Out of the outflow of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 15v 34.) A tongue that cannot be controlled by the speaker is a sure sign of a heart that is not controlled by the Saviour.
So the person who claims to be religious, but is unable to control their speech, they are deceiving themselves (c.f – Revelation 3 v 1 where we see that it is possible for a church to deceive itself!) and their religion is worthless to them as well as before God.
Challenge – Is your tongue under control?
2 – True Religion – Commended (v 27.)
“Religion that God out 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.” This is not an all embracing definition of true religion, but it does highlight a couple of ways in which true religion will find its expression in pure and faultless ways that are acceptable to God:-
A – Practical Service.
Caring for orphans and widows is something that is very much on the heart of God (Psalm 68 v 5) and is reflected in wider Bible teaching (Exodus 22 v 22.) Two widows had starring roles in a couple of Jesus’ parables (Luke 18 v 1 – 8 & Mark 12 v 41 – 44); while another widow was on the receiving end of Jesus’ miraculous compassion (Luke 7 v 11 – 17.) The early church also followed suit in caring for widows (Acts 6 v 1 – 7.)
The word “distress” that is used to describe them means to be “under pressure,” which means that our practical service is not just to be confined to orphans and widows, but is to be offered to all those under pressure, whatever form that pressure might take.
Challenge – Will you offer practical service to those under pressure?
B – Personal Separation.
We are to keep ourselves pure (Jude 1 v 21) by co-operating with God (Jude 1 v 24) in terms of refusing to imbibe the anti God values of the world. This is not easy as Lot (Genesis 13 & 14) and Demas (2 Timothy 4 v 10) can testify, for the pull of the world is strong. In response we are not to opt out, neither are we to opt in, instead it is all about contact without contamination (1 Timothy 5 v 22.)
Challenge – With God’s help will you do all that you can to keep from being polluted by the world?
Theme: “True or false?”
Reading: James 1 v 26 – 27
Preacher: Chris Hughes
Led by: Chris Hughes