By Vance Drum
On Sunday the Sunset pastor continued our Drawing Near to God series with a message, “Acting on Pure Religion.” The text was from James 1:27: “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.”
Did you ever feel comfortable about doing a religious ritual, and thinking you’re ok with God, just because you did the ritual?
The ritual may be God-given (baptism and Communion are examples), but God expects more from us than simply performing a ritual. He’s looking for a daily life of service and love for God and humanity.
The Good News is that heaven’s blessings have come to the earth in Jesus, and in the ministry of the Body of Christ. This ministry is practical.
One may have all the faith in the world, but the Bible says (James 2:26): “Faith without works is dead.” Loving deeds are also part of God’s good plan for us.
Jesus said the first commandment was to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.” But the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
We not only honor and worship God; we also are to love and help our neighbor at the point of their deepest need. The Letter of James—the wisdom literature of the New Testament—gives us practical guidance for living our Christian lives.
The pastor made two points: (1) Pure Religion toward Widows and Orphans; (2) Pure Religion toward Oneself.
(1) Pure Religion toward Widows and Orphans. V27: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress….”
It’s a sad fact that, throughout the world’s history, widows and orphans have been vulnerable, subject to being taken advantage of and abused by selfish, sinful people.
Historically, married women have been, or ought to be, protected by their husbands, but when their husbands die, they become subject to all sorts of extra difficulties. Even nowadays, there are people who read the obituary columns for husbands who’ve died, and then prey upon their widows with deceptive scams.
Orphans are minor children who may be too young to support themselves. They also become subject to the trafficking of evil people, and are particularly subject to abuse. God is concerned about the weak in the world, especially about widows and orphans.
The psalmist wrote that God is (Psalm 68:5): “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows.” In the Law of Moses, God said (Exodus 22:22): “Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan.”
How does God do this? God works in the world through his people, so James says we should “look after orphans and widows in their distress.” One way churches may do this is through organizations which minister to these folks all over the world.
Examples are Franklin Graham’s Operation Christmas Child through Samaritan’s Purse; Gary Wilkerson’s World Challenge; World Vision and others. They build orphanages and refugee camps in war-torn areas, helping orphans and others in great need.
In our local communities, where there are widows and orphans, we should pay special attention to them, ministering to them in their distress. This is “pure and faultless religion.”
(2) Pure Religion toward Oneself. V27b: “Pure and faultless religion is this…to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” Sometimes the world is a snake pit. Once my family visited a rattlesnake ranch near San Antonio. In a big pit there were dozens of poisonous vipers slithering around. Ugly sight!
There’s much spiritual, moral, emotional and educational pollution of body, mind and soul in the world today. Examples abound: some television programming, some school teachers, some churches, some video games, internet pornography and destructive drugs. Staying close to God, far away from moral pollution, is pure religion, pleasing to Him.
“Glorious and majestic are the deeds of the Lord, and his righteousness endures forever.” [Psalm 111:3]
May all of us in Grapeland know the power of God’s great deeds, and honor Him for them—our prayer for you from your friends at Sunset Christian Church.