Summary: James 1:26-27 offers a three point message on religion that is a must DO.
As we continue our Summer Service Series let’s turn to one of the most practical books in the New Testament: James. This little letter is packed with instruction and wisdom for Christian ACTION and SERVICE.
James is big on application. A few weeks ago I did a lesson entitled “Do to Understand.” Do you remember? There are times when we don’t have the answers we want up front. There are times when the most important thing is not to figure out why or puzzle with whether we are comfortable with it or feel like it or want to do it, there are times when we simply must take God at his word and DO WHAT HE COMMANDS without any explanation or negotiation.
My final example for that lesson was Luke 5 where Jesus told Peter to put out into deep water and let down his nets for a catch. Peter had been fishing all night and caught nothing. He had just been generous enough to let Jesus use his boat to stand in and teach the crowds while he and James and John mended their nets. Peter objected at first, but finally said, “Because you say so, I will let down the nets.” Peter decided to do what Jesus said without any expectation that it would do any good. He didn’t want to, he didn’t feel like it, he didn’t think it would work. So why did Peter obey? Why did Peter do what Jesus said? Because JESUS SAID SO. Peter was simply submitting to Jesus’ authority. And this one act of obedience changed forever Peter’s understanding. Peter came to know who he was and who Jesus is.
Doing God’s word is vital to knowing God and understanding our Christian faith. Those who do not do God’s word, are deceived if they think they are saved. James ends his first chapter telling us this.
James 1:26-27 is our text for today’s lesson.
26 If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
Three points come out of this text:
1. Doing Christian Religion requires careful talking.
2. Doing Christian Religion requires caring for the needy.
3. Doing Christian Religion requires clean living.
Let’s look at these in order and see if we can’t hear God’s word and do it. Number one: Christian religion requires careful talking. Verse 26. (Watch your tongue, control your language, take charge of your talk).
Most of us think of religion in connection with things we do at what we call worship services, or when we come to church or in our daily devotions and prayer times. Paul uses this word in reference to the Jewish religion in Acts 26:5 speaking of how he was a Pharisee according to the strictest sect of the Jewish religion. Religion in this sense is the PRACTICE of the faith. Even here James has chosen a word that carries with it the idea of DOING the faith not simply having faith, but practicing it. What James describes is someone who thinks of himself as religious. If you asked this person, “Are you a man or woman of faith in God?” They would not doubt answer, “Yes!” But then James points out that this person has a problem: they don’t watch their language or their speech carefully. They don’t control how they talk.
Wow. He had to pick that one didn’t he? I mean, of all the things James could have chosen, why this? Because our tongues, our talk, tells more about us than we think. How much of God’s word warns us and instructs us about our talk? It’s all over the place! Jesus tells us that the only sin that you can’t be forgiven for is one that comes out of your mouth! James puts us to the test here. He says that if we think we are religious but don’t watch what we say our religion is WORTHLESS. Did you get that? What did he say your religion is worth if you don’t control your talk? It is WORTHLESS. Not weak, not in trouble, not just barely alive… James says that your religion is worthless if you don’t watch your language. He goes further than that. James says that we deceive ourselves. In other words, we don’t take it seriously, but think we are ok, when actually we are not ok, we are lost. We are living with a worthless religion that won’t save us.
Jesus said at the end of the Sermon on the Mount, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who DOES the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophecy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and in your name do many mighty works?’ (Now all of these seem to think that they were religious. They even did lots of impressive things in the name of Jesus. But they were not saved.) And Jesus said that He will reply, “I never knew you! Depart from me you workers of lawlessness!” Ouch!