Summary: Receptivity to the Word & responsiveness to its revelation must be coupled with a new way of living. One must continuously surrender in obedience to & constant practice of the Word. For inner spiritual devotion to Christ as Lord will be demonstrated by me
THE TESTS OF REAL RELIGION
We have been studying about being receptive to the Word and responsive to its teachings. Receptivity to the Word and responsiveness to its revelation must be coupled with a new way of living. One must continuously surrender to obedience and constant practice of the Word. For inner spiritual devotion to Christ as Lord will be demonstrated by meaningful external religious expressions (CIT). The book of James will never let us be content with the general, it is specific, we must do the Word. Here it presents us with three tests of real religion: the tongue, helping the helpless and maintaining personal purity in a polluted. Pure religion means practicing the Word.
I. THE TESTS OF REAL RELIGION INCLUDES CONTROLLED SPEECH, v. 26.
II. THE TESTS OF REAL RELIGION INCLUDES COMPASSIONATE DEEDS, v. 27a.
III. THE TESTS OF REAL RELIGION INCLUDES A CLEANSED LIFE, v. 27b.
The first test of real religion is controlled speech which we encounter in verse 26. If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion if worthless.
The one who is truly religious will demonstrate it by controlled speech. The word religious (threskos) refers to external observances. This Greek word only occurs four times in the New Testament and two of these are here (Col. 2:18; Acts 26:5). Josephus used this word for public worship. For the Jew and the Jewish Christians to whom James wrote religion consisted of external ceremonies. These include observing the Sabbath and special religious days, attending public worship, participating in public prayer and singing. There are many people that seem pious and go through the external performance of religious rituals but how do you go about telling if the external is real or not? The Bible says that one can do all forms of religious activity yet it may not be the genuine article because it does not come from a heart where Jesus reigns as Lord.
The Bible says one way to know if a person has true religion is that he or she must tame the tongue. The vivid word bridle applied to the tongue describes the untamed potency of the uncontrolled tongue. Small bridles are used to control a large and power horse. Through the tongue the whole animal is controlled. Through the control of our tongue we learn to control our whole being. We all have need of controlling our tongue better, don’t we?
One woman said to another: "I can’t go into all the details, darling. I’ve already told you more than I heard myself."
Some time ago, R.G. LeTourneau, owner of a large earth-moving equipment company, told this story. "We used to have a scraper known as the model ‘G’." Somebody asked one of our salesmen one day what the ‘G’ stood for. The salesman was pretty quick on the trigger, and so after thinking a few seconds, replied, "Well, I guess the ‘G’ stands for gossip, because like gossip, this machine moves a lot of dirt and moves it fast!"
No matter how spiritual we think we are we could all control our speech more effectively. To bridle the tongue is to discipline it, restrain it, curb it, keep it under control. The imagery suggest that the tongue is like an unruly horse that needs bit and bridle to check its wild tendencies.
If we have not tamed our tongue all our religious activities are considered worthless. The Greek word translated vain or worthless (mataios,) suggest futile, fruitless or useless. "All the observances of ceremonial religion are futile and void of meaning if one cannot control his or her tongue." (Vaughan, Bible Study Com. 41).
To have an uncontrolled tongue and think that you are religious is self deception. The literal thought is "misleads or seduces his or her own heart." "External religious activity minus disciplined speech uncovers a persons’ self-deception. Here, the danger is not hypocrisy; it is self-deception. Such a person feels religiously authentic, but in reality he possesses only counterfeit Christianity. Deception seizes his heart –the center of personal life. What is more, all of his external religious activity is uselessly empty. Like a nutshell without a kernel inside, his religious activity reveals a disappointing inner emptiness. James’s word for "vain" pointed particularly to the worship of idols in the Old Testament. He believed that such undisciplined religion without controlled conversation might be as unprofitable as bowing before an idol. (Gregory, James, 30).
We all need to pray with the Psalmist (Ps. 141:3): "Set a watch, O Lord, over my mouth; keep the door of my lips."
II. THE TESTS OF REAL RELIGION INCLUDES COMPASSIONATE DEEDS (27a).
Pure and undefiled (unstained) religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress,