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Thursday, March 1, 2012

40 Days with James ~ Day 9 ~ Acceptable Religion

Day 9 ~ Acceptable Religion
James 1:26-27 If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his 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.
Religion seems to be a bad word in the current Christian context. People say they love Jesus but hate religion. Or, they will say that Christianity is about a relationship, not about religion. When people talk this way, they are probably thinking of religion as rules, regulations, and rituals that must be obeyed if one wants to be right with God. In other words, religions are those legalistic systems that are set up to earn a spot in heaven. They are judgmental and oppressive towards those who don't fit in with their standards and laws. Thus, religion is a bad word.

Not all religion is bad, however. In fact, James rescues us from such a false view of religion today by pointing us to what it looks like to be a part of a religion that is shaped by Jesus. Jesus himself builds His church and shapes the life of that church by His own life, death, and resurrection. Jesus, as the Lord of our religion, serves us who are poor, broken, distraught, or oppressed by our sins and life's circumstances when He enters into our suffering in the incarnation and pays our debt to God in His crucifixion. The Lord of our religion gives all He has on behalf of those who are in distress due to sin and all of its wicked effects.

Our God is a God who looks after His people. He cares for those who are broken by the world by sending His Son to bear the load of the world. This Son is who makes us acceptable to God. Our religion, that is, our life as believers in this God is now shaped by the God who looks after us. Therefore, we look after others who are poor, broken, and weak. We care for those who are unable to care for themselves. The widows and orphans in James' day had no means of providing for themselves so it was on the church to provide for them. How can we as the church look out for those in need? Who are the orphans and widows around us that the Lord would call us to look after?

Confession: Dear Father of my faith, have mercy on me. I confess that I have spoken loudly about my religion but have not acted in accordance with my words. I am weak in good works. For the sake of your Son's death on the cross which has saved me from the poverty of sin, forgive me. Renew me so that I would reflect the love of Christ towards those I know who are in need of Christ's love. AMEN

Challenge: Help someone around you who is in need. The need doesn't have to be great. You could just run an errand for someone at work. Or, you could go big and take a homeless person out to lunch. The sky is the limit!

Pastor Bob

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