How does GOD view and define ‘TRUE’ RELIGION?
December 17 Bible Reading: James Chapters 1-3
"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 1:27)
The epistle of James is one of the most practical books ever found in the New Testament. In the above verse, Apostle James attempts to define what a true religion is in the eyes of God. Religion here means the external patterns of behavior connected with religious belief. It refers to the outward forms rather than the inward spirit. It means the outer expression of belief in worship and service rather than the doctrines believed. Thus, religion has to do with our worship manifested in the outward through our acts of service!
So, how can we really worship God through our outward acts of worship? True religion as an outpouring of our genuine faith in God is an expression of how we relate to God and others. James stresses concern for widows and orphans as a true measure of obedience that is pleasing to God. We should be aware that Israel was given this responsibility in the Old Testament (Deut. 14:29; Ezek. 22:7). It reflects the concerns of God Himself (Deut. 10:18; Psalms 9:18; 68:5; 146:9).
Before James comes around to defining true religion, he has already rebuked mere listening and not doing anything (vv. 22–25), and then he rebukes mere doing without having our inner lives changed (vv. 26–27). In keeping with his emphasis on genuine faith and its consequent good works, James offers three key aspects of pure religion: (1) restrain our tongues from speaking evil of others, (2) show practical concern for those in need, and (3) keep ourselves pure from sin. What God is looking for is the practical type of godliness which takes a compassionate interest in others and keeps our own life clean, better defined as “acts of grace and a walk of separation”. This happens when both practical love and practical holiness are evident in our lives!
We should be aware that orphans and widows were among the most unprotected and needy classes in ancient societies (see Ezek. 22:7). Taking care of orphans and widows is a duty that lies close to the heart of God, and personal moral purity is an excellent external indicator of godliness. Pure religion does not merely give material goods for the relief of the distressed, it also oversees their care (see Acts 6:1–7; 1 Tim. 5:3–16) as true faith in Christ does not show itself merely in religious observances.
Our new identity in Christ is thus evident in the way we take care of one another - reaching even to the most frail and vulnerable among us - who are most in need of our help. The way God views and defines true religion is when His character is reflected through our practical lives which are exemplified by our pure speech, pure love, and pure character. This is a lofty challenge that should guide us how to live before God and other people!
"But why do you call Me 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do the things which I say?" (Luke 6:46)
"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven." (Matt. 7:21)