Summary: The old time religion is real--and not what you think

The Old Time Religion

James 1:26-27

* (The Song – Old Time Religion) Singing this song evokes emotional memories of days past. Candidly, most of us affectionately remember ‘The Old Time Religion’ but we have difficulty authentically remembering ‘The Old Time Religion.’ The things we remember are ‘our favorite preacher’, ‘our favorite songs’, ‘our favorite church,’ and other such things. The obvious thing we forget is what made those memories and that “Old Time Religion” so great.

* What made “TOTR” so great was the enormous faith and commitment of the generation that is now past. They depended on God, spent time in His word, treated others like they wanted to be treated, & had faith that through Jesus a relationship God was indeed the answer for every situation. Furthermore, they lived out what they said they believed. The result was that we had a strong family unit, strong moral fabric which made our culture strong, and a strong country which was seen as the envy of the world. “Under God” was not simply two words in the Pledge of Allegiance, it was their way of life!

* In short TOTR was so great because people of that generation didn’t see it as much of a ‘religion’ as they did a ‘lifestyle.’ It was integrated in every part of their life. They would sing gospel songs as they went about their daily chores. They would refuse to let people get away with talking about others. (How many times did my Mammaw chastise me for speaking ill of someone else?) While not perfect, they seem to possess a deep understanding of what it meant to live daily for Christ. This is the OTR that we remember.

* I’ll submit that somewhere along the way, the ‘religion part’ became the priority while the ‘relationship part’ the problem. Somewhere along the way going ‘to’ church instead of being the church took center stage. It was at this point that the message of the gospel began to erode in this country. Without trying to be offensive, the ‘local Church’ became an idol to be protected as opposed to the Bride of Christ which is expected to be active. Anything which becomes more important than God himself is, by definition, an idol.

* Turn to James 1 and let’s read the last two verses of the chapter which deals with a topic that I tend to not ever mention, “Religion”. The placement of these verses is no accident. He has just finished saying, “If you only listen to the word of God, never acting on it, than you are self deceived.” Now, he raises the anti just a bit. Let’s read.

* This is one of those passages which, every time I read it, cause me to reflect on my life and evaluate my deeper motivation. hi

1. The Deception of Plain Religion – Plain religion is of man-made origins. God designed us with the desire to be in a relationship with Him. We have that innate desire. This is why in the darkest regions of the world, tribes have fashioned their gods made of wood. A religion which is manmade is, at best, distracting and at worst devastating. Deception is always devastating.

* Consider 3 attributes of plain, manmade religion.

a. It’s Unreliable- Plain religion is unreliable because it is untrue. And the person who believes in the validity of it sings a very familiar song—‘self deception.’ James begins with “If anyone ‘thinks’ he is religious.” The word ‘thinks’ speaks a picture of ‘seems’ or ‘gives the impression’ or ‘looks as if.’ Then the word religious speaks of an ‘outward expression’ or worship (in several places). Peterson wells states the case in the “Message” by saying, “Anyone who sets himself up by talking a good game is self deceived.” Plain, manmade religion is one which causes much talk with NO action. It’s unreliable because words are backed up with nothing. Remember if you are a hearer of God’s word who never applies nor acts on it, you deceive your own self. And in deceiving your own self, you mislead others. One deception leads to another to another until, there is nothing to stand on. Manmade beliefs are just that, manmade. The have no power, authority, and ability to transform. Just when you need help—nothing is available so you feel powerless, impotent, and beaten down. It’s not Jehovah’s fault, He didn’t deceive you. The word is in front of us, written in many languages & translations.

b. It’s Uncontrolled- Not only is it uncontrolled, it possesses no power to change a life. The text says that exhibit A of plain, man-made religion is the lack of restraint, lack of control or better said unbridled tongue. The uncontrolled part is this; plain religion offers no unchangeable directive because it operates on situational theology. Things like, “If it feels good, do it” or ‘I know what the Bible says, BUT” are common phrases for the one who is a convert to manmade religion. Now back to the scripture, because the lifestyle found in this type of religion is so fluid, the wildest member of the body is totally uncontrolled. The word ‘uncontrolled’ in the KJV is ‘not bridled.’ Anyone who has ever spent any time on a horse understands that a horse’s mouth is very sensitive and with the use of a bridle, you can totally control that huge powerful animal. Without the bridle, there is difficulty in controlling the animal. James repeatedly says speaks about the fierceness of the tongue. Most of the time we think of cursing, cussing, mean spirited sarcasm, anger, bitterness, boasting, and more. But the one which keeps the church body in turmoil is gossip.

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