Thursday, September 6, 2012

Good and Bad Religion

James 1:17-27
New International Version (NIV)

"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created. My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 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."
A man was walking across a bridge one day, and he saw a another man standing on the edge, about to jump off.
So he ran over and said, “Stop! Don’t do it!”
“Why shouldn’t I?”
“Well, there’s so much to live for!”
“Like what?”
“Well, are you religious or atheist?”
“Me too! What are you? Christian, Jewish, Buddhist? What?”
“Me too! Catholic or Protestant?”
“Me too! Are you Episcopalian or Baptist?”
“Wow! Me too! Are you Baptist Church of God or Baptist Church of the Lord?”
Baptist Church of God!”
“Me too! Original Baptist Church of God or Reformed Baptist Church of God?”
“Reformed Baptist Church of God!”
“No way! Me too! Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1879, or Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1915?”
“Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1915!”
The man said, “Die, heretic scum!” and pushed him off.

It may be exaggerated and funny but to many that is the how they view denominational differences within the Christian church.  Instead of unity with a common reliance upon Christ many often nit pick the minor differences among the churches of Christ. What a shame.

For in God’s eyes there is no distinction among denominations within the Christian church. God doesn’t play politics or make creeds, He just looks at the thoughts and intentions of our hearts. And as our New Testament reading of today, God does make a distinction between “Religion”.
 “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.  For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror;  for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.  But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.
 If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless.  Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.

Today as in the times of the Apostle James there are a lot of people who give God lip service. There are a lot of people who speak of God, speak of their faith, speak of their church, but do nothing when they see people suffering around them. They offer no help, no comfort and no mercy.

But God wants us to put our words into deeds. He wants our faith to lead to action. Not just by helping financially, but by offering ourselves as instruments of God’s grace.

It is easy to give money, or food or clothing and never ever interact personally with the people who you seek to help. And God blesses this, but when you actually give time to meet and serve the needy your eyes are opened. You see what your faith in action can really do. You get to experience God’s joy as you see what how your actions change lives.

But some miss out entirely. They don’t give, they don’t share, they do not even care. And although they might look like good people on the outside on the inside they are empty. And they do not understand that faith in action not only transforms the lives of those on the receiving end, it mightily transforms those who help and give as well.

So today as we come before the Lord and honor His sacrifice, thank him for our salvation and join Him in communion, let’s dwell upon our heart. James tells us “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.Simply put, that is helping others who are in need anyway you can. By giving not just finances; But by being there for a friend with a broken heart, to lend an ear to someone who needs to vent, by making the lonely feel accepted and loved.
Even just by giving someone a simple hug.

How is your religion today?

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