Pure and Undefiled ReligionMessage by Domenic Marbaniang
Itarsi Church, Sunday, August 29, 2010.
Text: James 1:27
"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."
Synopsis of Message
The usual picture that one has of a religious and pious person is of some solitary sage standing aloof from the world and steeped in deep meditation. We have had people in history who lived lives like that thinking that spirituality is something that is related to the self alone. But, James tells us that true religion is something that relates and connects to people outside, here, to visit the widows and orphans in their trouble.
Someone may say that I'm preaching a social gospel, but what does it matter if your spirituality is only limited to church going and other such religious activities. The Gospel is more than that. See why Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit:
The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed"
how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.
Spirituality is not just a feeling of being good or feeling ecstatic; it is living a life full of the fruit of the Holy Spirit.
Spirituality is both the inner attitude and the external activity. Our thinking must be spiritual and our actions must be spiritual.
In the early Church, they had charity funds for elderly widows (1 Tim.5:2-9). But, it was made very clear that those in the immediate relation were primarily responsible for taking care of their own. If they didn't do that, their profession of faith was not acceptable before God.
But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
Paul says in Titus that profession devoid of action tantamounts to denial of God (Titus 1:16).
Here, in James,
Religiosity, Piety, Spirituality is:
1. Visiting orphans and widows in their distress
2. Keeping oneself unspotted from the world.
Spirituality doesn't mean following religious laws (Much blood has been spilt in the name of such religion). It doesn't mean legalistic adherence to religious prescriptions. The Pharisees were very strict followers of their religion. They wore white clothes, worshipped at the temple, gave tithes, and followed the law minutely; but, Jesus said that they were whitewashed tombs. How is our life today?
Spirituality means being perfect in love. In 1 Corinthians 3:1,3 Paul tells the Corinthians that he couldn't speak to them as to spiritual people because they were carnal and full of strife; in other words, they didn't have love. In 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, he says that having love is more important than having all the gifts of the Spirit, to speak in tongues, prophesy, etc. The Bible tells us that love sums up the whole law and all the prophets.
Now to James 1:27,
4 Characteristics of Pure and Undefiled Religion
1. Externality of Worship
James is about the external proofs of the inner faith. Faith without works, he says, is dead. The external action is proof of the internal condition.
Your internal integrity must have an external evidence.
You must have the inner experience first, then the external proof of it. What you experience is what you exhibit.
Psalm 51:6 - God desires integrity inside the heart.
Psa 51:12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, [EXPERIENCE)
And uphold me by Your generous Spirit.
Psa 51:13 Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, [ACTION]
And sinners shall be converted to You.
Psa 51:14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, [EXPERIENCE]
The God of my salvation,
And my tongue shall sing aloud of Your righteousness. [ACTION]
Psa 51:15 O Lord, open my lips, [EXPERIENCE]
And my mouth shall show forth Your praise. [ACTION]
Religion flows from the inside out.
External Worship does not mean following rituals Psalm 51:16-17. God desires our broken heart more than the sacrifices
Hosea 6:6 - "I desire mercy, not sacrifice"
If you are not being merciful, compassionate, and loving with people, then all performance of religion is ignoble before God.
For some, reading Bible or going to Church becomes a religious ritual, though God wants it to flow out of a true and God-loving heart. It is not how many times you read your Bible but how many times you obey the Bible that matters. It is not how many times you go to Church but how many times you honor Christ before people that matters. It is not how much you SPEAK of Christ, but how much you ACT like Christ that matters.
External religiosity is not ritualistic or commercial charity. If you give in order to receive praise or anything back, you are being a hypocrite. Matthew 6: When you give, your left hand should not know what the right hand gave.
Pure Religion is Love in Action. Love that is unselfish, unconditional and pleasing to God.
2. Expendability of Love
Piety is never a cost-free thing.
2 Samuel 24:24. David would not sacrifice to God something that cost him nothing.
Love towards God involves a cost
Love towards fellowmen involves a cost.
If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled," but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?
Don't just pray and say good words - spend, give!
But, money is a small thing. Mother Teresa used to say that the greatest need in the world is to be wanted, to be loved.
Someone said that Love is also spelt as T-I-M-E
If you give your son a lot of money always, but never give your time, would that be true love.
How much time do you give to God?
How much time do you give to people?
A laborer once approached the office of a social activist who was working for the upliftment of the backward classes. The secretary told the activist that a laborer was waiting outside for him. The activist replied "I have no time for some individual person", to which the secretary replied, "Interesting, because even God has not come to such a position".
God so loved the world that He gave...
In the Good Samaritan story, the levite and the priest had no time for the wounded man. The priest might be thinking he was getting late for the sacrifices... getting late for the Church, for the worship... this man was not important for him. But the Good Samaritan spent his oil, his wine, his bandaging cloth, took the man on his own donkey, and paid money from his own pocket for him. He spent money, he spent energy, he spent time. That is what pure and undefiled religion is all about, that is what pleases God; not, what the priest would have been doing at the temple that evening.
Visiting is not enough; caring matters.
Remember the woman with the alabaster box; she spent her all honor, money, and love on Christ. What do we do today in service to Christ?
3. Extendability of Service
Love is expendable but not spent up. It is not exhaustible.
The Greek tense indicates "Keep on visiting", "Keep on caring"
2 Questions that may be asked: "How many times?" and "Until when?"
Answer: "Keep on..."
Love is never spent up. It continues forever.
Anger is spent up, when you're done with it. Lust is spent up when you're done with it.
But, love is never spent up because it is the fruit of the Spirit. It comes from God. It is not an emotional reaction. It is the gift of God.
Peter asked: "How many times should I forgive my brother?"
Jesus answered: "Seventy times seven" that means continue doing that every time, forever.
Extendability: Go the extra mile. Remember the Good Samaritan. He followed up on the wounded man's recovery.
Jesus said, "If someone asks you to come one mile, go two miles" "If someone wants your tunic, give him your cloak as well."
Let your service flow out of God's love within. Let it be relentless and endless.
4. Exceptionality of Surrender
"Keep oneself unspotted from the world"
Absolute surrender to God. That is religion, that is spirituality.
All service must flow out of your absolute surrender to God in love.
Jesus said, "No man can serve two masters; either he'll love one or hate the other..."
You heart must be guileless
Your hands must be generous
When you are able to say that "I have nothing of my own, my all belongs to God, my money, my possessions, my everything, all surrendered to God for His use at His will", when you're able to say that then you will know true spirituality, you will know the Kingdom of God.
The Rich young ruler followed the Ten Commandments, but he wasn't willing to part with his possessions. He missed God's mark of perfection. Your spirituality extends into your pocket, into your wallet.
Love is demonstrative, involves a cost, goes the extra mile, and flows out of an absolute surrender to God.
When you go out of these Church doors, remember pure religion is what you practice out there. Who are your friends? Whom do you invite into your house? How do you treat your family, your kids, your parents, your in-laws, your friends, your servants, your boss, your customers, your students, your teachers....." Religion is there outside these four walls.
Go out and make a difference!
© Domenic Marbaniang, August 2010