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. James 1:22-27 (1)
The religious debates have been around for years and are likely to continue for many more. Religion is important to some, to the extent that wars have been started over what people choose to believe. I was raised in a Christian home but that didn’t make me a Christian. My parents beliefs could not guarantee me eternal life… I had to come to the saving knowledge of Jesus and make the decision to live for Him.
Luke 18:9-14 records the parable of the Pharisee who, depending on the translation you use, prayed to/about/by himself. His case has often been cited when discussions about religious behaviours pop up. He is seen as self-centered, conceited and hypocritical. It is easy to criticize him for the way he behaved, but are our sins any worse than his? The Pharisee was out in left field, ‘using his tongue to deceive himself’. It’s easy to point him out because there is a record in the Scriptures but reading James gave me reason to stop and ask Him to search deep within me. I have never prayed the Pharisee’s prayer, but God sees what others cannot see. He knows the moments I have heard and walked away ‘forgetting’. He alone knows the meaning behind my thoughts and actions and He alone can bring cleansing.
I am thankful that I live in an environment where I can openly practice ‘my’ religion but what James wrote has direct bearing on our lifestyles. Our walk has to match the talk! We can fool those around us into thinking we have it all together but God sees into our hearts and beyond … We cannot hide our lies from Him. The Bible says the mouth speaks what overflows from the heart. The poor Pharisee was likely just practicing what he preached. How about us? Are our motives right? Are we hearing from Him? Are we doing what we do to be seen by men, or are we living for His glory?
The next time your religion comes up for discussion, allow your walk to talk for you. Line up your standards against God’s requirements and let Him determine how you measure up. There are those who will seek us out to rub us the wrong way just to see how we will respond. Even in those circumstances, we must support “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless.” Our responsibility is to share the truth of God’s love. It’s not our place to convert others or prove them wrong. We were asked to go, tell, baptize and teach… (St. Matthew 28:19-20). God is the one who does the ‘ work of heart’.
Father I am thankful for the revelation of the truth of Your words. I stand in awe of You! Help us to trust Your direction and to allow us to lead our thoughts, tongues and actions as we share You with others. Help us not to become caught up in being right and wrong, but to ‘plant the seed’ and allow You to do what only You can do – change hearts to the glory of Your name!
We are grateful for the freedom to publicly read Your word and openly practice what we believe … please help us to also practice what we preach. I pray that we will not run away from the difficult conversations of why we believe what we believe but that we will stand on the assurance that You have given us and declare the truth of who You are in our lives. May our worship be pleasing in Your sight and may our religion to be accepted as “pure and faultless” in Your eyes.
In this moment we pray for those in places where choosing to stand for You has become a matter of life and death. I pray that You will strengthen and guide them as they take a stand for You.
© Anthonette Anderson and Tonirand’s Blog, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Anthonette Anderson and Tonirand’s blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
(1)Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.