Monday, September 16, 2013

What Is Genuine Religion?

Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. (James 1:21)

James advises us to get rid of all that is wrong in our lives and “humbly accept” the salvation message we have received (“the word planted in you”), because it alone can save us.

The word of God that has been implanted in the believer’s heart should be received with meekness—describing a teachable spirit—without resistance, disputing, or questioning. Receiving God’s Word in this way will save the believer’s soul, a word meaning “life.” Sin leads to death (James 1:15).  Obedience prevents death; it protects a believer from sinful behavior that can lead directly or indirectly to physical death (James 1:15; 1 Cor. 11:30).

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But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.  But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.  (James 1:22-25)

It is important to listen to what God’s Word says, but it is much more important to obey it, to do what it says.  We can measure the effectiveness of our Bible study time by the effect it has on our behavior and attitudes.  Do you put into action what you have studied?  Be doers of the word, and not hearers only: Believers who hear the Word of God (James 1:19) must receive it with a teachable spirit (James 1:21), applying it to their daily lives. To hear and not obey is to be deceived.

It seems paradoxical that a law could give us freedom, but God’s law points out sin in us and gives us the opportunity to ask for God’s forgiveness (Romans 7:7, 8).  As Christians, we are saved by God’s grace, and salvation frees us from sin’s control.  As believers, we are free to live as God created us to live.  Of course, this does not mean that we are free to do as we please (1 Peter 2:16).  We are now free to obey God.

The perfect law of liberty is the law of love.  Loving God and loving one’s neighbor sums up the Law (Matt. 22:34–39, Mark 12:28-31). But it is Christ’s love (Eph. 3:17–19) which frees us from our sins to truly love others (John 8:36–38; Gal. 5:13).

If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless.  Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.  (James 1:26-27)

In the first century, orphans and widows had very little means of economic support.  Unless a family member was willing to care for them, they were reduced to begging, selling themselves as slaves, or starving.  By caring for these powerless people, the church put God’s Word into practice.  Orphans and widows were among the most unprotected and needy classes in ancient societies (Ezek. 22:7).  Pure religion does not merely give material goods for the relief of the distressed, it also oversees their care (Acts 6:1–7; 1 Tim. 5:3–16).  When we give with no hope of receiving in return, we show what it means to serve others.

To keep ourselves from being polluted by the world, we need to commit ourselves to Christ’s ethical and moral system, not the worlds.  We are not to adapt to the world’s value system, which is based on money, power, and pleasure.  True faith means nothing if we are contaminated with such values.

References: NKJV Holy Bible, Life Application Bible (NIV), the Nelson Study Bible.


Carol Ford said...

Excellent post! I whole heartedly agree that we must not adapt to the world's value system. Seeking money, power, and pleasure are sure to bring one to ruin.

Donald Fishgrab said...

Amen, Lloyd.

As James pointed out, faith that doesn't produce action is as unsatisfactory as a can of pop that has set open until it has lost it's fizz.

Lloyd Cannaday said...

I had to re-post this comment because of technical problems:

We need make the difference among the people. on What Is Genuine Religion?


Billy Joe said...

"Religion should unite all hearts and cause wars and disputes to vanish from the face of the earth, give birth to spirituality, and bring life and light to each heart. If religion becomes a cause of dislike, hatred and division, it were better to be without it, and to withdraw from such a religion would be a truly religious act. For it is clear that the purpose of a remedy is to cure; but if the remedy should only aggravate the complaint it had better be left alone. Any religion which is not a cause of love and unity is no religion. All the holy prophets were as doctors to the soul; they gave prescriptions for the healing of mankind; thus any remedy that causes disease does not come from the great and supreme Physician."

--Bahá'í Holy Writings

Yay Padua-Olmedo said...

Thanks for reminding us that our faith is not just about our salvation but demonstrating it so that others may know the hope that we hold on to—that is, Christ saves, in every aspect!

Anonymous said...

Well said, we rarely hear of care and justice for the widow, fatherless, the foreigner, the prisoner etc. which feature far, far more often in the Bible than the topics many of our more vocal conservative friends jaw on about (e.g. Exodus 22:22, 22:24, Deut 10:18, 14:29, 16:11, 16:14, 24:17, 24:19 etc. Ps 68.5, Ps 146:9, Isaiah 1:17, 1:23, 10:2, Jeremiah 22:3, Ezekiel 22:7, Zechariah 7:10, Malachi 3:5 etc.). Jesus gave very few direct commandments, yet the ones he gave are challenging: to wash one another’s feet, to labour and not seek either reward or recognition, to turn the other cheek, to love one’s enemies, to delight in persecution, to not judge others or look down on others and always to seek to be the least and the last, to be the servant of all – instead of trying to be society’s master! Would that those over at Lifesitenews or the many conservative Christian blogs and sites that focus on Lev 18:22 or abortion, or to a lesser degree evolution as ‘hot topics’ for Christians. All three topics have one thing in common, they are rarely PERSONALLY COSTLY – and perhaps that explains why they have become so important to many – a quick, off the peg, prepacked, ready-to-wear, righteousness that costs little but at least gives a semblance of conservatism and orthodoxy.

A Christianity built on condemning (and often promoting superiority to) others is null and void – its adherents have their own reward: a sense of self-righteousness (cf. Luke 18:9-14) and self-importance. But are these folk bringing the Kingdom into time and space? Or just promoting a religion that makes people feel better about themselves? You will know them by their fruit... (Matthew 7:16). A bit more foot washing, turning the other cheek etc. and less finger pointing and revelling in the easy righteousness of condemnation of others at the expense of ourselves is that is needed...

T-Childs said...

Steve Underwood: You said it all there. Religion is something that powerful people to use to assuage their guilt and to control other people 'in the name of God'. It has very little if anything to do with love, compassion, equality, true justice, mercy and tolerance and acceptance of others and far more to do with worldly power masquerading as religion.

Linda said...

Great post, Lloyd. Thank you so much for sharing.

Dominique Abram said...

Hiya, excellent reminder! Staying humble in all what we do against our (definitely mine)'s a struggle. Still Christ is our helper. Blessings. said...

Great ! I will be praying for you.

God bless you,
in Christ,

Santhosh Chellappan