Summary: We need to be people who have control of our tongues. We need to be people who willingly care for the less fortunate. And we need to be people who clean up our acts whenever the need arises.
How To Avoid Playing Church
Preached by Pastor Tony Miano
Pico Canyon Community Church
January 28, 2001
Introduction: This morning we’re going to be studying James 1:26-27. Over the last couple of weeks we’ve looked at how we can avoid fooling ourselves about our spiritual condition. In this passage we’re going to learn some ways to avoid playing church. We’re going to consider a plan for our church so that we won’t be a congregation that simply plays church. At the same time, we’ll consider some indicators to watch for in our own lives that may be indicative of playing church.
James 1:26-27 says, “If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless. Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”
In the two verses we’re going to look at this morning, James points out three things we should do to avoid playing church. We need to be people who have control of our tongues. We need to be people who willingly care for the less fortunate. And we need to be people who clean up our acts whenever the need arises.
I had an opportunity to spend some time talking to a friend this week. My friend, who has been a believer for almost thirteen years, was having a crisis of faith. Often times a crisis of faith comes in the face of some sort of personal or family tragedy. That wasn’t the case with my friend. My friend’s crisis of faith came as a result of the realization that she was fooling herself about her walk with the Lord.
Now, I would like to say that it was the sermons I preached over the last couple of weeks that brought about my friend’s realization about her spiritual condition, but she didn’t hear either one of my sermons. Only the Holy Spirit can receive the credit for my friend’s crisis of faith. Thankfully, by God’s grace, by the time we were done talking, my friend had reassurance about her faith.
I can understand why my friend felt so much anxiety about her spiritual condition, about her relationship with Jesus. She had spent the better part of her life serving regularly and significantly in her church. But when she was a young adult, she realized that the things she did in the church did not make her a Christian. She realized that her service wasn’t a guarantee that she really knew the Savior. By God’s grace, she came to a genuine faith in Christ.
Yet even though she possessed this newfound faith, she began a walk, a very long walk that bore very little fruit. Oh, she went to church. She participated in Bible studies. She even served in various areas of responsibility in the church after coming to a genuine faith in Christ. But there was a depth and breadth of fellowship with the Lord that was missing in her life.
My friend let this go on for so long, she struggled with this for so many years, that it brought her to the point that she was beginning to doubt that she was even saved. The good news is that the moment my friend realized she had been playing church for all of those years was scary and fantastic at the same time. I am not one that believes in coincidences. I don’t believe it was just by chance that my friend would have this crisis of faith the same week I am preparing a sermon on how to avoid playing church. I’ll have to make sure she gets a CD of this message.
But before we get into the text, it’s critical that each and every one of us understand that what James teaches us in these verses are both meaningless and worthless unless we first have a relationship with Jesus Christ. Without that critical, mandatory, unambiguous factor being real in our lives, then there is no way to avoid playing church.
As my friend expressed her fear that she wasn’t a true believer, I asked her a couple of questions. I asked her if she made her profession of faith because someone close to her pressured her into doing it, or because it just sounded like a good idea at the time. I asked her if she had been baptized for similar reasons. She said, “No. I asked the Lord into my heart because I wanted to know Him and follow Him all of my life.”
By the irresistible leading of the Holy Spirit, my friend understood and accepted the words of Jesus when He said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6). She understood that the only way to heaven is through Jesus Christ. Without that, without Jesus Christ providing and pointing the way, everything else is just playing church.