Pure ReligionBro. David Chancellor
3/13/2005 11:00 AM
1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.
No one seems to be sure which James this was. He calls himself, "James, a servant of God." Regardless of who he was, there is good instruction given here.
2 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;
3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.
4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
6 But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.
7 For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.
8 A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.
9 Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted:
10 But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away.
11 For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways.
12 Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.
There is a thought contained in verses 2 – 12. The temptations referred to here were, primarily, the persecutions that came because these were serving Christ. "Count it joy." The human inclination is to avoid persecution, but we can count it joy when it happens, because we’re serving Christ. The struggles show you where you’re at spiritually. There is no joy in persecution if you can’t endure it and overcome it in a good way.
If you fall into times of trouble and find that you’re lacking, go to God and seek what you need to do better. God will give you what you need to overcome life’s troubles.
The work of salvation in us should bring us to the place where we can live and work together, and fill our places. We can’t make it on our own, but God can help us to endure. When we endure, we are blessed. God will show forth his grace in us. Stand in what life brings against you.
13 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:
14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.
15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.
16 Do not err, my beloved brethren.
In verses 13 – 16, he shows that God is not the source of our troubles. He won’t give us more than we can handle. People fail when they let their desires take them away from God.
17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.
18 Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
19 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:
20 For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.
21 Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.
22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.
23 For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass:
24 For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.
25 But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.
26 If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain.
Verses 17-26 show us that every good gift comes from God. In life’s trials, tests and troubles, we need the grace of God. God isn’t in the wrath of man.
"Superfluity of naughtiness" – the overflowing of wickedness. Sometimes in the wrath of man there is an overflowing of wickedness. If in your trials there is an overflow, seek God for grace to stop the flow. What should come out in life’s difficult hour is the grace that God puts in us.
The word of God needs to be heard and to be lived. Knowing the word isn’t enough. It needs to be part of life. The true religion should produce something in us that others can see. Great doctrinal knowledge that isn’t translated into a Christ-like life is worthless. An indication of salvation is if you can hold your tongue. We’re not looking for a "spiritual sword fight." We read the Bible to learn where we need to grow and increase. If a man won’t deceive himself, then his chances of being deceived are small. It’s vain religion that won’t translate itself into a pure life. James leads up to verse 27 by showing what vain and valueless religion is. He defines pure religion in verse 27.
27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
Visiting the widows and fatherless doesn’t mean "go see them." It refers to becoming a participant in their sufferings. Affliction doesn’t refer to sickness. It refers to things done to someone to cause them to suffer. In many places, the widows and fatherless are treated as though they were being punished by God through their condition. James is talking about helping others even when you might suffer ridicule for doing so. Be willing to bear with and endure with others. Have a real care and concern for those around you.
"To keep himself unspotted from the world." While our outward appearance needs to be good, this is referring to the attitudes of the world. Just because someone is poor doesn’t mean they have low value. The world feels this way. We want to think like Christ did and to have his attitudes. We don’t want to enter into the wrong practices of the world. The world focuses on the rising star, not on the downtrodden. The world seeks for self. The pure religion seeks to help others. Pure religion goes beyond doctrine and group. It comes down to what you are and what you do. You won’t do what’s right unless you’ve been made right. The grace of God is what brings the pure religion. Pure religion is living out the life of Christ. Pure religion is a religion of the heart lived out in the life.