Summary: Religion that makes a difference is characterized by godly language, godly love and a godly lifestyle. James not only tells us what we should be, he tells us how to get there.
A. I heard about a man who came into church late one Sunday.
1. He asked someone in the back of the auditorium, “Is the sermon done yet?”
2. The person wisely answered, “The sermon has been preached, but it has yet to be done.”
3. Wow! You talk about truthful and insightful!
4. The sermon isn’t done when it is preached, but when it is practiced. Amen!
B. At the beginning of this series I said that there is no more practical book in the Bible than James.
1. These verses today are some of the most direct and practical in this little letter.
2. But in addition to their practicality, there is also an edge to these verses.
3. James doesn’t just say, “This is the way you should live.”
4. With an air of confrontation, he says, “If you are not living this way…then your religion is…and it’s hard for me to even say it…he says it is worthless.”
5. Don’t you think that is strong language?
6. Twice in this section he warns us against self-deception.
7. Satan would be very happy if we profess our faith, but don’t actually practice it.
8. God is not happy about that one bit.
C. Speaking for God, James says, “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.” (vs. 26)
1. I personally think that James could have substituted any number of things for “a tight rein on the tongue” in that verse and would have been just as truthful.
2. He could have said, “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his greed, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.”
3. Other substitutions could be lust, hatred, or hostility, just to name a few.
4. The point is: True religion makes a difference.
5. True religion is heart felt and life changing.
6. William Barclay, the great commentator wrote, “James does well to remind us that that which is heard in the holy place must be lived in the market place – or there is no point in hearing at all.”
D. So, with that in mind, how does James define religion that makes a difference?
1. What does God accept as pure and faultless religion?
2. What does it look like?
I. What Religion That Makes a Difference Looks Like
A. When I try to summarize these verses, I can see James saying that religion that makes a difference is characterized by three things: Godly language, godly love and godly lifestyle.
1. Let’s briefly examine each of them.
B. First of all, Real Religion is Characterized by GODLY LANGUAGE.
1. James will have a lot to say about godly language when we get to chapter 3, and we will really concentrate on that subject when we get there, but for now let’s notice what he says about it in chapter 1.
2. In verse 19, James wrote: “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry…”
3. Then in verse 26, he added: “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.”
4. Hardly any test of one’s religion could be more practical and revealing as than this one.
5. Are we able to listen? Do we know when to hold our tongue? Can we control our temper, which usually reveals itself through our tongue?
6. See, being known for a sharp tongue and a fiery temper will not make any of us an effective influence for Christ and his church.
7. Proverbs 18:21 says, “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”
8. If we are going to have a religion that makes a difference in our lives and in the lives of others, then it must be characterized by GODLY LANGUAGE.
C. Second, Real Religion is Characterized by GODLY LOVE.
1. In verse 27, James wrote: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress…”
2. One of the first things we note about authentic religion is that it is relationship oriented.
3. As opposed to seeing Christianity as a plan or a system, Scripture reveals that everything can be boiled down to two great commandments: Love God and Love your Neighbor.
4. False approaches to religion attempt to pile up good works and try to win acceptance; true religion accepts God’s gracious love and passes it on to others.
5. Godly love is far more than a love that says, “You love me, so I love you.”