Have you ever asked yourself the question, what is ‘religion’ supposed to be? You know, there is a Church on every corner, commercialized nearly as well as Starbucks. Each flavor has its own ideals of how Church is done, the ceremony, the structure of a service, the ideal way to dress, behave, proper community interaction, why type of music they imitate in worship, even what kind of worship is acceptable.
Yet, having removed myself from organized church and instead focused myself on Christ, Him crucified (I Cor 2:2) and His Word, a new idea has been forming in my prayers, my heart and in my devotion times. I’ve started seeking the what to do comments in the Word instead of the what not to do. I found Pure Religion.
“Pure and unblemished religion [as it is expressed in outward acts] in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit and look after the fatherless and the widows in their distress, and to keep oneself uncontaminated by the [secular] world.” – James 1:27, AMP
I follow the blog The Recovering Legalist and I consider myself to be in recovery from legalism as well. Legalism is a topic to big to explain but you can read some of the posts on my page to get a sense of it. However, to a Legalist, the Biblical example Christ gave us of selflessness and helping those in need (believer and non-believer alike) [charity] is secondary to self-righteousness and seldom practiced. To the Legalist, not touching the unclean thing (non-believer) and obeying every word of the local pastor is paramount, ignoring all the examples, Words and scenarios given to us in Scripture.
In my daily reading, James in particular struck me and gave me inspiration for this short write up. In attempting to ask myself the question, What is religion supposed to be?, the answer is on nearly every page of the Scripture! The first thing I learned in Bible College was the meaning of a semicolon in Scripture [:]. When you find a semicolon, you are about to get the description of what was just said. A commentary, or the meaning of. In this case, James said,
“Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this:” [KJV]
In other words, James is saying, to God, our Father, true religion that has not been perverted and blemished with mans ideas is simply this… and here comes the descriptor;
“To go to the orphaned children, the abandoned women, and in their great times of need, HELP THEM, and in so doing, you keep yourself unblemished from the secular ideals of wealth, self-righteousness and abandonment of the greatest needs in our society.”
Meditate on this scripture also found in James on the topic of Works (showing your faith by doing God’s Work)
“What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?” – James 2:14-16, KJV
If I can take the liberty to put this into modern terms, I would read this as such;
“What good have you done the Kingdom of God if you call yourself a follower of Christ and yet you do not seem to do the things (works) Christ wants you to do? If you see someone in great need, destitute of the basic necessities of life, and you give them a pretty promise of prayer and offer them peace in God, yet you leave them still destitute, what value have you done to your God on this earth?”
In my former (legalist) life, the Scripture “Faith without works is dead” was always used to justify obedience to the Church and the local pastor and their doctrine. Works was paying your tithes and offerings (15%), not wearing TShirts, or jewelry, throwing away your TV, etc. Yet, and while those things are not wrong, they are not anywhere near the works Christ asked for. As defined by James, and by all Scripture, the works God wants is for us to fulfill the Fruits of the Spirit.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” – Galatians 5:22,23, KJV
I want pure religion, a devotion to Christ my savior and a desire in my heart to help those in need, so that they would see the love of Christ and be drawn to Him.