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Pure Religion


By Josh Gores

The idea of living it out means putting the bat to the ball, making contact, and applying it to your life. To live it out is not about being a spectator but putting into action the things that you have heard and learn. That’s exactly what God calls us to. And to be honest, I think that is why the book of James can be such a tough book to tackle at times. Consider this verse:

“If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this; to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”

 – James 1:26-27

These are some heavy words that James is laying on us. On three different levels (our words, our relationships to the oppressed, and our purity) James calls us to account for the manner in which we live. What does it mean to have a pure and undefiled religion, what does it look like to have a clean and uncorrupted life? It’s taking the faith that you have in the risen Son of God and living it out. It means that you don’t simply hear the Word but that you do what it says. It means that you live in response to the good news, the gospel, which continues to transform and sanctify you in the image of Christ. And what does all of this look like? It looks like self-control in your words, extending love and mercy to the oppressed and some of the least of these, and being proactive in maintaining purity in thought, word, and deed.

The idea that James presents is more than just a pick or choose option. Many of us have the ability to keep our tongue’s bridled; unless we get cut off in traffic, step on our kid’s Legos in a dark hallway, or just really dislike someone. Many of us will choose to give money to adoption lunches or extend a warm handshake to a widow in the congregation; just don’t ask us to do it or invite the widow out to lunch. Many of us will place filters on our phones and censor the movies that we watch and keep ourselves out of compromising situations; until the commercial comes on and we fail to switch the channel.

Let’s face it, this is an incredibly tough teaching that James is calling us to live out. These are some incredibly hard things for us to do. But how true do Jesus’ words ring out, “What is impossible with man is possible with God” (Luke 18:27). We have the ability to do this only because of the power of the Living God that dwells within us! We are enabled to do this only by the potency of the blood of the Lamb. What we lack, what I lack, more often than not is not the ability but the motivation! The motivation to keep my words in check, to extend love to the heartbroken and afflicted, to hold myself accountable to my behaviors. Father forgive us! Transform and renew our minds to be pure and undefiled. Transform our motives to be in line with yours. May we decrease and you decrease. May our religion, our relationship with you, be pure and undefiled!

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