Summary: God wants your religion to be characterized by love, compassion, and holy living.
Intro: The word “religion” has really gotten a bad rap in modern history. It is almost a dirty word to some. Maybe you’ve heard some of these phrases before: “Oh, you got religion!” “Don’t shove your religion on me!” “I am not a religious person!” Even in the church we have tried to distance ourselves from the word “religion.” We say, “Christianity is not about religion, it is about relationship!” I agree with the relationship part, but I’d like to make peace between the two words today by joining them together. Thus, the title, “Relational Religion.”
-See, the word religion in James refers to “ceremonial observance, or worship.” Throughout the history of the church, we have adopted rituals or ceremonies that help us express our faith and worship God in various ways. The Bible is filled with ceremonies and observances that helped people remember who God was and how to respond appropriately to Him. The only time these ceremonial observances or rituals of worship are unhelpful or even repulsive is when they are divorced from relationship. If we just go through the motions of worship with no heart or love for God or man, then our worship is in vain. Jesus addressed this issue and quoted from Isaiah to wake people up from dead religion: Mark 7:6-7 6He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. 7 They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’”
-Well, I sure don’t want my worship to be in vain. I want to experience God for who He is and allow Him to make me who He wants me to be. Here’s the main thought today:
Prop: God wants your religion to be characterized by love, compassion, and holy living.
Interrogative: How can we avoid just being religious with nothing of substance to show for it?
TS: Let’s look at some descriptions of relational religion and ask the Lord to help us see ourselves in light of His word today.
I. Relational religion shows kindness to others (James 1:19-20)
19 My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.
-The context of these verses appear to relate to the revolutionary aggression of Jewish Zealots of the mid-first century who were plotting violence against Rome, attempting to overthrow the Roman government. As James wrote to his Jewish church family scattered throughout the Mediterranean world, his message to them is familiar: violence is not the answer; furthermore, it is inconsistent with the nature of someone who has experienced a new spiritual birth through the word of truth (1:18). So James tells them what is appropriate for the people of God, followers of Jesus.
A. Learn to Listen
-It wasn’t by accident that God gave us 2 ears and only 1 mouth. He expects us to spend more time listening than he does speaking. Dale Carnegie says that you can make more friends in two weeks by becoming a good listener than you can in two years trying to get other people interested in you.
-Here are some listening skills that might help you.
1. Act like a good listener. Change your physical body language from that of a deflector to that of a receiver, much like a satellite dish. Our faces contain most of the receptive equipment in our bodies, so it is only natural that we should tilt our faces towards the channel of information.
2. Look at the other person. Your eyes pick up the non-verbal signals that all people send out when they are speaking. By looking at the speaker, your eyes will also complete the eye contact that speakers are trying to make. A speaker will work harder at sending out the information when they see a receptive audience in attendance. Your eyes help complete the communication circuit that must be established between speaker and listener.
3. React to the speaker by sending out non-verbal signals. Your face must move and give the range of emotions that indicate whether you are following what the speaker has to say. By moving your face to the information, you can better concentrate on what the person is saying. Your face must become an active and contoured catcher of information.
4. Stop talking and use receptive language instead. Use the I see . . . un hunh . . . oh really words and phrases that follow and encourage your speaker's train of thought. This forces you to react to the ideas presented, rather than the person. You can then move to asking questions, instead of giving your opinion on the information being presented. It is a true listening skill to use your mouth as a moving receptor of information rather than a broadcaster.