Vain Religion Or Pure Religion … Leaving What’s Important Undone
James 1:26 – 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.
James 1:27 – 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.
Hello readers, today I will be looking at the difference between vain religion and pure religion. It is sort of a follow on to the previous blog regarding what fruit is God looking for? Many people are religious these days, and there are many religions. We go back to Babel, a key point in history because the Bible says in the days of the tower of Babel that the whole earth was of one language and of one speech (Genesis 11:1). They were on the journey together… and it all seemed like what humanity has been seeking for thousands of years since, a humanist utopia where everyone thinks the same, does the same, we all join hands and get along.
Babel had a political and economic system and a religious system. From Babel a myriad of religions sprung after God scattered everyone. In Revelation we see the judgment of Babylon, yet today we don’t see a “Babylon”. Because although there are so many different peoples, and so many different beliefs, so many different religions, they actually all trace back to Babel, and they are all really one. We see in Revelation the judgement of the political and economic Babylon, and the religious Babylon… called Mystery Babylon the Great. It’s called a mystery because people don’t realize the truth about worldly religion, so many different faces yet the same old religion. We don’t see things like God does, he sees things clearly and for what they really are, we however are finite beings, only having existed a short time here on earth, and we don’t see the full picture… even a bit.
Religion can be a real trap. And in the book of James, we are going to see a portrait of vain religion. Because James describes a man that “seems” religious yet is vain. Many people seem religious today, or in fact are religious… yet in the action, in the day to day life, the REAL them… it manifests how vain their religion is. Even for Christians, we can get sucked into the religious game, of trying to live and do Christian… yet the truth about us often is that we are in vain religion. James brings up the subject of speaking, not being able to bride your tongue. Jesus said out of the abundance of the heart our mouths speak. You see, you can do this and do that, yet if you are quick to rail on people, to condemn people, or gossip, or slander, or lie, or speak evil and in fact murder peple with your lips… what is your religion truly worth? In James 3:8 – But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. Often it can be shocking what comes out our mouths. I look at my own life, and what has come out my mouth has been devastating, from lying, to cursing, to speaking evil, to just downright filth. So we can be as religious as we want, but it’s absolutely vain isn’t it if our tongue is not bridled? And no man can tame his tongue, it takes the power of God. Without the Holy Spirit to transform and temper us (godly temperance not self control!), our tongue cannot be tamed.
You see, many people are religious, and they can do many good things, or noble things, or upright things. Yet their tongue is full of poison, they lie, they gossip, they slander, they deceive, they swear, they curse, they blaspheme the most High God, they deny Christ. So really, what is religion worth? What does God really rather from you? Does he want great works from you yet an unbridled, untamed evil tongue? Jesus rebuked the Pharisees… Matthew 23:23 – Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. We can leave what’s important undone, while we focus on our religion. What’s important is what we are when we’ve left church, in our alone time, when nobody is looking, when nobody knows, what we say about people when they’re not there… that’s who we truly are… not the “Sunday best” Christian who then goes home and destroys people with his or her mouth.
There are so many applications, the tongue is just one, but it’s a very telling part of whether our religion is vain or not. Our tongue the Bible says in James 3:6 – And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. So you can “seem” religious all you want, you can do this and that and the other, you can do many great works in Jesus Christ’s name, but is your tongue untamed, unbridled, does it spit poison, does it set fire, does it publish iniquity? It’s a timely reminder to us from James, writing to a people, the Jews, who knew religion inside out. They did the law better than any of us will ever do it, they fasted, kept sabbaths, tithed, brought sacrifices and on and on, yet they were dead inside, yet they rejected Christ, yet they passed on the other side of the man who was beset upon by thieves whom only the good Samaritan assisted. Is our religion vain?
The Bible gives us a picture of pure religion, and it’s telling us about what really counts, and of a religion which actually consists of a changed life. God would rather obedience than sacrifice. God looks on the inside rather than the outside. To visit the fatherless and the widows in their affliction. How important it is just to be there for someone. Many of us get all involved in religious tasks, yet lack and leave what’s actually important undone. We can be busy praying, or witnessing, or doing whatever, and these may be good things, yet not visiting the fatherless and the widows, yet not be there when somebody needs you, we can be so strong on doctrine, on what is right and what is wrong, yet have no charity. It is charity that covereth a multitude of sins. Charity is what makes the Christian life tick, faith and hope are important, but the greatest is charity. What’s the point of knowing it all and doing it all… if you have no charity? Why bother? What’s the point? To what end is it? We need God’s grace huh.
If we want to impact people’s lives it starts with being faithful in little, in what God has given us, who God has given us. Joseph was in a prison, but he was faithful there. He had been in Potiphar’s house and he was faithful there. He was an eternity away from realizing the dream God had given him.. but his faithfulness and being a good, wise steward… meant he could be the man who could save others. If not for him, his brethren would’ve all starved for death. Other people’s salvation relies on us being consistent day in and day out, when nobody is watching, when there is no limelight, when there is no stage. The Bible says it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful. What’s the use of doing God’s work, yet not being faithful to God.
Keeping ourselves unspotted by the world. You see in both these verses, religion actually hinges on who we are… whereas man’s religion focuses on what we do. False worldly religion separates from the truth of the Bible here. From salvation to the Christian life. Man’s religion revolves around us doing something, but true Christianity focuses on Jesus Christ, who did everything. Jesus said, it is finished… on the cross he said it. He is Jacob’s ladder, he did the work, he died the death, he paid the penalty for our sin, he rose from the dead and has the life… all we need to do is believe on him. And it starts in not increasing our religious output, but in looking at who we are… as in who we truly are, before God, not just the religious garb we put on here and there to medicate ourselves. Look at our thought lives and our behavior in life. God is interested in who we are, our fundamental identity, because our lives flow from our heart. God wants to change our heart. Man’s religion leaves the heart and inside alone and focuses on what we are doing. If you look at the religions of the world they all focus on “do”. But the Bible says it’s “done”. Man’s religion is vain, it says do this, do that, but it can’t change you inside, yet it’s laced with hypocrisy, yet it’s futile… none of them can change someone’s heart or deliver from addiction or sin or death or hell. For a Christian our lives flow from what is “done”. Because of what Jesus has done, and who he is, we just believe on him. No wonder Jesus said his yoke is easy and his burden is light.
It’s time for us to look at our religion, is it vain? Or is it pure? Are you the real deal? Are you busying yourself with works, yet leaving what’s important undone? We can have and do a lot of things, yet be dead. We can make the outside look good, but inside there are dead men’s bones. Jesus Christ in Matthew took the law and took it to our hearts. You can read Matthew 5,6,7… he dealt with the heart. He was talking to a bunch of people who had all the religion in the world, all the law keeping, all the works, all the titles, all the deeds, all the words, yet vain, yet dead in sin, yet they were the people who crucified the God they claimed to serve. They’d pass by the man who had been left for dead by thieves on their way to do their religious duty! Don’t you think that’s vain religion?
Vain religion is pretentious, hypocritical… whereas pure religion revolves around who and what someone truly is. Often we can look at people and hold vanity in high esteem, yet reject someone who is actually worth their salt. Jephthah, the son of a harlot, was worth a lot more than those pure blood sons who kicked him out of home in Judges. They weren’t born of fornication like he was, they had religion, but how vain it was. Jesus said in Matthew 5:23,24 – Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. What is Jesus really saying here? What’s the point of offering your gift if you are not reconciled with your brother? Lots of Christians bring gifts, but they neglect an apology to someone they have wronged. Jesus said don’t bother bringing your gift till you’ve made that right. People wrong other people yet come to church to worship God? People lie, cheat, steal yet go and do their Sunday religion. It’s vain religion folks.
The person that has pure religion and undefiled, it’s someone who isn’t ragging people behind their backs with their tongue, or someone that is sitting in hospital with the sick, doing the little things, being faithful in little, in season and out of season… that person may not have a big religious CV, but they have the real deal, and are more likely to be actually used by Christ… just as Joseph was, and because he was the real deal in the pit, in Potiphar’s house, in prison… God used him to brings salvation to his family… who had wronged him. There’s a lot of religion in this world, but only one is pure, and that’s repentance of sin and faith in Jesus Christ and a changed life, a life marked by the fear of God and the grace of the Lord Jesus… a faith that produces real fruit, not the leaves of self righteousness and religious activity, while leaving all of what really counts and really matters… undone.
Vain religion or pure religion… true Christianity is “all the time”… not just religious activities in a designated time or place a week, where once you’ve done you’re duty you just do your own life. We are living epistles known and read of men… people see our lives all the time, hypocrisy kills our witness and testimony. We do religion then live like or other people that we look down our religious noses at. ALL other religions are do this, this, and that… and after that you’re fine. People go and confess their sins to a priest then walk out and sin more. But true Christianity is a new person in Christ. If you’re a new person, that’s all the time isn’t it? That’s where vain religion, worldly religion, unhooks from pure religion, which is a new creature in Christ. Salvation is being born again of the Spirit of God, it’s a new life marked by love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance… not a checklist of do’s and don’ts. Works do follow salvation, but let’s not forget what really matters, and what the works arise from, and they arise from a new heart which sincerely seeks and serves the Lord Jesus Christ, because of the great things he has done for us.
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Joseph View All →
Hi, my name is Joseph Zadow. I am a 32 y/o Bible Blogger. I was new to blogging once! God’s word is the best thing that we can be given, and once we have it and know it for ourselves it is both a privilege and responsibility to bring it to others! We are blessed to be a blessing! I am a sinner (for sure!) saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ and I am a Lord Jesus Christ follower. He is faithful even though I rarely am to him. I believe the Bible is the word of God, and stake my life on it. My destination is heaven. As they say, I’m just a passin’ through this world… although most of the time it’s more like hangin’ by a thread in Jericho! I love playing sports – particularly cricket… I currently work on an orchard and a side hobby business of mine is growing vegetables etc – they are good for you! I love writing. Always happy to talk, so feel free to leave a comment. You can read more about me and my blog here – kjvbibletruth.com/about :)
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