Your faith should be practiced both inward and outward
1. We should allow the gospel to shape our life. James 1:26
26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless.
Religious - It is an act of worshiping God. The pious/godliness
Bridle - To restrain
Worthless - Nothing.
If, this means that there is a possibility of someone acting rightly or wrongly. There is a room to have a proper way of doing things or a wrong way. Okay! If anyone thinks he is religious. This means if any person thinks that he is worshipping God yet does not bridle his tongue, then he is not watching what is speaking. If his tongue does not restrain from evil things, that person deceives his heart. This person's religion is worthless. His act of worshipping God is in vain. Here, James challenges those who believe in Jesus to examine their lives daily. He charges you to apply the gospel in your life everyday with people around you.
We are living in a society where people do not care what they speak. We are living in a community where people have no grace for each other. For those who worship God must restrain their tongues. When you restrain you are looked at as someone who is a coward before the world but anyone who restrains creates reconciliation, forgiveness and makes peace in the situation. It is hard to be a peacemaker. God’s grace can enable you to restrain your tongue and make peace. This is the reason why you need Jesus daily. Most of the time it is difficult to bridle our tongue because our heart is still enclosed in the body, which has a sinful nature. The moment you restrain, it may cause you to suffer pain. But suffering is part of the Christian journey. Phil 3:10. Your restraining will cause you to suffer pain or you can use your words and create more conflicts. However, through the Word, prayer, and fasting you learn to restrain and speak when it is needed. But restraining does not mean we keep quiet about an issue. You need to ask God to give you grace to have the right platform or ways to address an issue in a humble and respectable way. In that way, God will be glorified. Matthew 5:23-24. Ask God to give you grace to settle with your brother. Is this easy? NO. I do not think so. Some of us are peacemakers. We fear to speak out. That is dangerous too. You need to ask Jesus to show, teach and direct you. We are different people with different problems and backgrounds. This makes it so hard to work and serve together without anyone causing the pain to each other. Each day we need grace reminding us how sinful we are but also how much we have been forgiven. With that grace, we will come with joy to forgive each other and settle our differences. Do not think that the church or Christian community is a utopia land. No, it is full of sinners who have been redeemed but still have the sinful nature and live in the fallen word.
I have been talking about the inward activities that happen. However, James is challenging us how to practically show we have experienced the mercy and grace of Jesus inside us. We may be good at articulating the definition of Mercy and grace but worse at practicing it.
2. The true faith seeks to serve the underprivileged) and to call people to look at God. James 1:27
27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
Religion that is pure - The clean way or acts of worship of God.
To visit - To go to see.
Affliction - Tribulation
Religion that is pure. We live in the world of relative truth. Most of the people has become pluralists. There are different truths and those truths are truth. That is wrong, my dear. Some Christians have been taken by the world in this way. Everyone says my way of worshiping God is the right way and the true way. The moment you agree with that statement it makes it clear that there is no absolute truth. True followers of Jesus are not taken by the relative truth theories. Because there is only one way to worship God and that is through Jesus. Not in another man like me. It is through Jesus because He is the way, the truth, the life. John 14:4-7. Then what is the pure religion? The religion that will tell you that you are a sinner, you deserve death not heaven, you deserved wrath not grace. But it is only by the love of God that you are saved and have been reconciled back to God. Do not boast in your works but in the love of God. The forgiveness of your sins is only through one man-- Jesus Christ. He Has paid the price for your sin and you experienced the grace of God through him who offered Himself on the cross for your sins. You could not go to God but God came to you through Jesus. That is a pure religion and undefiled before God the Father. If you believe like that, it means you have experienced the grace of God. What are the practical ways that show you have experienced the grace of God and you have the right way of worshiping God? What are the practical ways that show that your heart is grateful in what God did for you? James gives practical ways of displaying a grateful heart.
A. To visit orphans and widows in their affliction.
The orphans and widows are always the marginalized group of people in society. For those of us who say we love God because He showed us mercy when we were helpless, we must strive to show mercy and love to those who are not loved and respected in the society, especially when they are in tribulations. Taking care of orphans and widows while in the tribulations is not a suggestion for Christians but it is a call to those who have received grace to show grace to others. This is a responsibility for every local church and every Christian because of love. We look at God and we know how much he loves the orphans and widows in Psalms 68:5. When Israel lost hope like the orphans, He restored their hope Hosea 14:3. And he challenged the nation of Israel about taking care of orphans as he challenges church Christians now. In Isaiah 9:17. And in NT when we see that disciples were like orphans. However, Jesus had mercy upon them in John 14:18. With that promise from Jesus, then God adopts us through Jesus when we were orphans in Ephesians 1:5. You have been shown mercy by Jesus. But, how are you showing mercy to those who are helpless in the community?
B. To keep oneself unstained from the world.
The people with the proper way of worshiping God, should call each other out to repent and believe in the gospel. Church is not a soccer club but a family. Now in soccer we have VAR. The people who monitor the VAR are outside the peak and give recommendations. Church is a family, you do not watch and give recommendations. No. The true church, religion will call its members to order and teach them to run away from the world. The church is called to repent and the nation of Israel was challenged to repent. In the same way, Christians can get lost in the world if they do not repent of their sins in 2 Chronicles 6:37-40. The unrepentant heart will not enjoy relationship with God, we learn this in Psalm 7:12. If you do not repent and turn to God, you will face his wrath in Ezekiel 14:6-11. For a Godly person will repent and the repentance is part of Christian life as we see in 2 Corinthians 7:10. Repentance turns us to God with one heart and with a joyful mind of worshiping him. This means you should take care of each. The sin which has been repented of, God forgives. I am calling for continually repenting of sin though the last time you repented was like two years ago. I believe that when you asked God for forgiveness at that time, He forgave you. Now, I challenge you to repent of the sins you are facing now. He has the power to forgive as he forgave you the past sin.