In His book practical religion, Anglican bishop of Liverpool, JC Ryle, extols the virtues of powerful practical evangelical Christianity.
In this little section of James chapter 1:26-27, the apostle lays bare what genuine godliness looks like.
If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless. Religion that is pure & undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans & widows in their affliction, & to keep oneself unstained from the world - James 1:26-27 ESV
1. The Contradiction of True Religion - an Unbridled Mouth.
Whoever does not control their tongue is self-deceived & not truly religious. How many bless God on Sunday but tear stripes off others on Monday.
2. The Character of True Religion - truly religious folk are pure & undefiled by the taint of intemperate speech.
Instead of boasts & empty talk, their religion is uncontaminated by what flows from their lips. Only in Christ does true religion peak - but Jesus gives more grace.
3. The Arena of True Religion - Living to Please God.
Those born again, who are really children of God, live to please their Father - to show His family likeness, is what they desire most. Driven by His love, intent to win His eye, they live & move before the Lord. True religion is not the hypocritical man-pleasing performance of those who do not know God.
4. The Task of True Religion - Care for the Weak & Oppressed.
Those who neglect others &, of necessity. often the most distressed in society, are the object of their care amongst the people of God. Widows & orphans are singled out for church support (many were impoverished by early church affliction) - godlike concern for such is the true religion mark. In this trait, authentic faith has a most practical, loving, bent. If God has stooped to save us, when we were beyond hope, compassion for those who are unable to help themselves must also characterize us (who are genuinely religious). There are none so oppressed today, & unable to defend itself, as an unborn, in utero, life that is callously snuffed-out.
5. The Goal of True Religion - Unstained by Culture Around.
There are so many forces at work to distract us God's task. We live in a polluted, irreligious, narcissistic, culture ruled by the idolatry of self. God has little place. Others are only a means to exploit. The needy are bypassed & of small concern to us. The intensely practical nature of real godliness calls us to a cross, to death of sin & self, that the love of God, which freely falls on saints, might govern our mouth, mind & moral acts towards those made to bear His stamp.
The Cost of True Religion
This epistle was probably not written by the Son of Zebedee (who was martyred early on by Herod Antipas). Most agree the author was likely "James the Just" who ruled the Jerusalem Church. For nigh on 30 years he saw Christians driven out by those virulently opposed to their joyfully-vibrant, post-resurrection, faith. He wrote to diaspora saints, scattered throughout the earth, to steady their storm-tossed ship. But finally (as history notes), after coming unscathed through trials, High Priest Ananas sentenced this James to death. There is price to pay for the truly religious life which exposes, unmasks & falsifies, the spiritual fraud & hoax, who is enraged against the light.
O Lord, forgive us for letting our worship have so little impact on our walk. May your free grace, and the Cross of your Son, replicate lives of holy love, as we prove to be children of God. As we commit, by grace, to perseverance by faith, we bless you for new birth & plead for Jesus’ heart.