Pure & Undefiled Religion VS Useless Religion

Podcast 42 Transcript

Hello, and good day. I am B. R. Maul, and you are listening to the podcast, Living God’s Way In An Ungodly World. Thanks for joining me today. We are currently in the book of James. And today, we are in chapter 1, and we are going to end chapter 1. I’ll read and discuss verses 26 and 27. Before I get into the reading, I just want to make a note that it pleases me to hear more pastors, more ministers, speaking out on what it is we’re going to be reading about today.

And, also, there is a growing movement, which is wonderful, that is focusing on the relationship that believers need to have, and should have, with our God. And the emphasis is being taken away from these religious traditions, just living a religious life to the point that one just feels satisfied. Because that’s the wrong reason to go to church and to worship anyway, is to check a box, or so you feel better about who you are. I fully believe that we should leave worshiping our God feeling good about who we are, but it should never be the reason we go. If that were the case, then we would only go when we were in the mood and felt like, well, maybe I could use a pick me up.

But no, we are told, in God’s word, that we are to worship Him. And we are to rejoice in Him under all circumstances. So not just when we feel like it, but even when we don’t feel like it. We sing out even when we don’t feel like singing. So I am pleased that I am hearing more pastors, more who are in ministries emphasizing the importance of the relationship, reading God’s word, and praying to Him, coming together with brothers and sisters in Christ. And I pray that this is you. And if it’s not, well then, start today! Don’t wait another minute! After you listen to this, get into God’s word. Pray to Him, talk to Him, call up another brother or sister in the faith.

And if you’re not born again, well, also don’t wait another minute. With that, let me get right into the reading. James, chapter 1, verse 26 and 27, God’s Word reads, If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue, but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: To visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. Heavenly Father, I ask you to guide my tongue, to allow me to only speak the truth, and that I do not speak for my own good or for my own benefit only. Pray this in Jesus name. Amen.

This is some pretty important stuff. Well, I guess God’s Word is always important, but this is important stuff. Verse 26. Let me take this just a little slower now. James tells us if anyone among you thinks he is religious. First, we need to find out what religious is. Let’s face it, in the world today, that can mean, well, a handful of things, and I won’t get into them. Instead, let’s just take a look at the definition, as it is in God’s Word, going by the Greek word, threskos, threskos, and what it means is ceremonious in worship. So, someone who is pious. Being pious. Ceremonial in worship. These are people who take great pride in the fact that they have a very large checklist to do every Sunday and even greater pride that they go through that checklist and complete it.

So James says if any one among you thinks he is religious, so ceremonious in worship, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless. Hopefully this opens the eyes of many. At one point my eyes were closed to this. I was completely blinded and really I wrestled with it anyway in my younger years growing up as a Lutheran going through the methodical process of attending church. Because there were times I know that when I worshipped in this process it meant something to me It was near and dear to my heart, and I know I was worshipping the Lord. I truly was. I could just feel those days when it wasn’t about me, and that I was focused on Jesus. And that my heart was grateful in those moments of worshiping Him. But with that said, more often than not, I felt I didn’t get something out of it. And it was easy for me to skip and not go to church, because I didn’t feel it was doing me any good.

And I wrestled with the fact that, well, why do we worship this particular way? What James is telling us here, beloved, is that for those who really do think they are religious, and at the same time they don’t bridle their tongue, what is that doing? That is decaying any witness, any testimony that that believer may have. And we’re going to assume, in this case, that it is a believer. He or she is a believer. They go through their religious checklist, and they feel really good about that. And now that I’m done, I live my life accordingly. And we talked about this more last week. Right back to day to day living, right here on Earth, blending right in with the world. There is no way of knowing if this person is a born again believer, or if they are an unbeliever. Why? Because their life doesn’t reflect they are born again. This is one of the dangers. One of many, but one of the dangers of being religious. And not focusing on walking with the Lord. Now, reading your Bible on a regular basis, that’s not religious. That’s not religious. Praying on a regular basis, that’s not religious. Now, you may do it religiously, so it may be a habit, it may be a pattern, but the difference there is the intention behind it. Because we may pray religiously, because we may open God’s word religiously, meaning we stay to it and we’re very adamant about doing it, the purpose behind that, if it is to get to know the Lord and not checking something off our list, then it’s not religion.

If the person is indeed thinking, Well, as long as I read this often, and I pray at this time, and I can check that off, that I’m pleasing God, now we’re talking religious. That’s very important. It may sound like it’s a subtle difference, but it is not. It really is the difference between salvation or death eternal. That’s how big that consequence is. Because the devil has deceived many in believing that as long as they have to just go to church and check those boxes off, God is happy with me. And I know Jesus intellectually. I know the prayers. I know a lot of the hymns by heart. I know it all, but that means nothing.

Being born again is the only way that we can enter heaven. And being born again is believing in the blood of Christ. So, being able to repent, that is, turn away from our lifestyle, our sinful lifestyle, and turn to God for his mercy and help. That is being born again, and that is the only thing, only thing, that will get anyone into heaven.

But the devil has done a tremendous job at deceiving the masses, and that is why the road to hell is wide. Because we have churches stuffed full of people who are going to hell because they are convinced that, Oh, I am so religious that I must be even impressing God and Jesus, and even the angels are up there going, Wow, that is one religious person. Can’t wait till they get up here. How untrue that is. One’s actions, our tongue, what we say and do needs to reflect our heart. And so when James says here, and does not bridle his tongue, but deceives his own heart, that that religion is useless. That should shake anybody. If you are unsure if you are born again, if you are not sure you’re going to go to heaven, this is another one of those verses that should shake you, and I hope it does! And I hope that if you are not heaven bound and think you are, that this may wake you up, because do you realize what James is saying here, that deceives his own heart? Going through this checklist, but living the worldly way, thinking and acting the way one wants to, without even trying to bridle their tongue, bridle their behavior, that they are deceiving their own. That means they’re deceiving themselves. How scary of a thought is that, beloved? We are told that we can know that we are going to heaven. And if you don’t know that, the only reason you don’t know it isn’t because you’re not right reading the right verses in God’s Bible. It means more than likely that you have not repented. You are not right with God because you will know when you have repented and you are born again and the Holy Spirit dwells in you. Yeah, you may not walk around shining bright like Moses did after coming down from the mountain, but you will change.

There must be a change! And if there is no change, if you are the same person morally and spiritually now than you were years ago, please ask yourself, am I really born again, or did I fall into this religious trap? Nobody leaves a church because they’re born again and they’re worshiping God. They leave the church because they’re not saved, they’re angry and bitter, or they’re bored, or someone offended them, or they’re not getting anything out of it. And that is why people leave the church. That’s why people don’t open up God’s word. That’s why people don’t want to pray or to have others pray for them.

So this should be an eye opener because all of this religion is indeed worthless. It is the relationship that you have with the Maker. That’s what’s important. That you’re born again and that you are His child. Not maybe, but you are His child. And while I’m thinking about it, this is the time right now that if you’re not sure, then just stop. Hit pause. Stop and just pray, pray to God and ask Him, Lord, am I your child? Reveal to me if I am your child or if I am not, and it doesn’t hurt just to say, Lord, I think I’m your child, and then repent. But I am sorry, I am a sinner, and I can’t do this on my own, I can’t live on my own, I can’t do anything on my own, and I am just drenching with filthy sin. Save me. I know Your son, Jesus Christ, His blood was pure, and it has washed away my sins, and that He has paid my sin debt, and I at this moment on, recognized Him as my Lord and Savior. I am His. And whether you were born again, it doesn’t matter. That’s not going to hurt you. But then if you weren’t born again, well, there you have it. Welcome to the family.

Okay. So now we know in verse 26, if anyone among you thinks he is religious. And does not bridle his tongue, but deceives his own heart. This one’s religion is useless. So James makes it clear they’re going to hell. That’s not a good thing. There’s nothing to do there. And at the same time, uh, even if you are born again, and you’re going through all this religious ceremony, that does nothing as well. If you are living a life as a heathen, if you are talking like a heathen, then it doesn’t matter how pious you are. It is useless. Verse 27. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this. Man, just take a big breath in. Wow, because this is huge. This is like having the antidote to a potent poison that can kill you really fast.

Because if one wants to know if they are indeed worshiping the Lord. If their religion before God and the Father is pure, and what makes it undefiled is this, to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, And to keep oneself unspotted from the world. There you have it. That right there, beloved, is the way that the children of God worship Him.

Doesn’t have to be showy. Anything we do outside of this here is just for show and is for us. And He won’t reward us for that. And the danger that comes with that is it can easily become legalism. When we set up a structure of this is how we should worship the Lord, and we start setting down rules on what we need to do, there’s a huge danger that that’s going to become legalism and we are going to start convincing ourselves, or we’ll just forget in time, that that’s all it was, was just set up to do it this certain way. There have been people who have been upset when candles were not lit during a service. And so they’ve questioned if that service even meant anything to God. “Must we do it again?” they ask. There are people who get outraged when a pastor doesn’t don a robe. Churches have split up because Holy Communion was done one way and not the other. This is all stuff that we have invented. And so none of it should make any difference because the guidelines that God has given us to visit orphans and widows in their trouble and to keep oneself unspotted from the world, and I’ll get into that, but when we follow his way of doing things, we are just covered in blessings because when we help orphans and widows in their time of trouble, Who’s going to argue about that? By loving other people, by using the spiritual gifts that God has given us to provide for others in need. Well, we’re not going to argue and bicker about that because that’s not something that we invented. It wasn’t our idea. Okay, we have to do this. No, this is God saying that pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this to visit orphans and widows in their trouble and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.

I don’t believe that James is saying that it’s just orphans and widows. These are people in society that need the most help. This is those who are in time of need. A dire time of need. Notice how it also says, in their trouble. After all, we do have wealthy widows in modern time that have no difficulty making ends meet. And the same for orphans. There are plenty of stories of those who are an orphan, were brought up not having a mom or dad and yet they are a great success as the world sees them. And so they may not need money, they may not need food, and some may not even really need the company cause they got plenty of family and friends around them. But to visit orphans and widows in their trouble. Beloved, that’s visiting anyone in their trouble. Anybody who is in a season of need, then that is pure and undefiled religion before God. Is loving other people. Is not our first commandment to love the Lord, our God, with all of our heart, with all of our soul, and with all of our might? And just second to that is to love everyone else as we do ourself. Love. So by doing that, by loving others who are in need, in a time of trouble, that’s worshiping God. And boy, he loves that. That’s the kind of worship that he so appreciates.

Best I take a moment just to also identify what I mean by those in need. Because James says, in their trouble. There are needs that we can see quite easily that stand out. Somebody who is very poor, for example. Somebody who is in need of food. Somebody who is in need of clothing. So there are those physical needs we certainly need to attend to. But there’s other needs that we can’t see from just the outside. And if we don’t know somebody, we may not even be able to tell at all. That in the inside, they are hurting, that they are mourning, or that they are lost. That they are angry, and these are people who are in their trouble. And that is the gift that we can give back, is our time, and our love, our company.

When I was a boy, quite a few of my relatives, their lifestyle was set up in their homes, where if you would go to visit them, they were so often accessible. It was like people went out of their way to make sure that others knew, hey I’m here. And you could just go in and visit with them. You didn’t have to call ahead. And oftentimes you couldn’t, because we didn’t have cell phones. And so if you were out and about, and wanted to visit or check on a relative, well, there was no way of just calling and saying, Hey, can I stop by? No, you just did it. And that was accepted. In fact, it was appreciated.

One of my favorite things to do was to go to my maternal grandmother’s house. Because she almost always had hot coffee ready to go. She had one of those thermoses where you could push down on the top and it would spit out the hot coffee and it would keep it nice and hot in that thermos. And there would be cups right there and cream and sugar readily available. And even when my grandma was busy, she usually enjoyed that company. She loved when I would stop by and when others would stop by. And it was amazing how many people did. It was a rare time that I would go there and nobody else would show up or just be leaving. And why do I share that with you? Because there’s such power in just giving somebody your time. I think my grandmother was beautiful for doing that. Her door was open. You came in, you had coffee, let’s talk, maybe play a game of cards. Or if she was just busy, just talk, and she kept doing this or that. But it was great that she offered herself to be there for her family. And it was good for those of us who went and gave her our time. That time with people is so precious and so valuable.

And beloved, do not underestimate the power of that by just having a cup of coffee. with somebody, giving them your time. And in today’s world, that can be more important at times than giving them money. Of course, depending on the need. But even if you’re going to give money to somebody, and if you’re handing it to somebody that you don’t know that’s homeless, I encourage you to give them a little time as well. Give them 5, 10, 15 minutes. Here what’s going on in their life because people in their time of trouble just having somebody who cares enough To listen to them and to be there. Oh, that can be a blessing! It can be so healing!

In the last part of 27 James says and to keep oneself unspotted from the world So some of the key words here is to keep. Keep oneself. That’s your responsibility. That’s my responsibility for my own. And if you’re a parent, that’s your responsibility for your children. To show them, to help them be unspotted as children of God. But we can’t keep them that way, but we can teach them how to keep oneself. So as they grow up and go into the world, they are prepared. That’s important! Too many people are relying on their pastor, spiritual leader, or just somebody else, to do that for them. To protect them from the world. To give them orders on how to live and what to do. But here, as an act of worship to God, you are to keep oneself unspotted. And that brings up the next part of that is unspotted from the world.

So what is that? A lot of what it sounds like. I have certain t shirts that I keep when I work on a skid steer of mine. When I work on the engine, which believe me I’m not much of a mechanic, just the basics, or greasing the areas of the skid steer for hydraulics. And why do I do that? Because these t shirts and shirts and pants are spotted from the grease and the oil, the grime. Working around that equipment, it’s impossible to stay clean. It is. Ah, there’s been a few times in the past. I think, well, I just got to do something here really quick. And so I think I’ll be really careful. I just open up to fill it with diesel and get in the house. Then I realized, Oh, there’s a scuff. There’s a mark right there. And I was trying so hard not to touch anything. I don’t, you know how it happened. Let’s see, working around equipment with grease and oil, one should expect to get spotted with grease and oil.

It’s the same thing. Living in this world, beloved, as a child of God, we don’t have the liberty to just live as the world lives. We can’t do it. It is impossible. If you think you’re living a life with one foot in the world and one foot following Christ, you’re wrong. Because it is impossible. And we are told that. Okay? And what happens when a child of God decides for a while that, Well, I am going to just do this for a bit. You know, maybe we take on a new friend, and that friend is a worldly friend, and we’re praying for them, and we really want them to know Jesus Christ as their Savior. And at the same time, we get along with them really well. We share a lot in common, except for the important parts, and that is the very fact of who Christ is in their life. And so that person may still do things that is worldly. And some things, one may think, is minute. Oh, we just sit around and tell dirty jokes. That’s not hurting anybody. Well, if there’s nobody there to hear the jokes, but you’re still telling them, there’s still yourself you’re hurting. At least you’re not hurting other people. And that’s just one of many things. I won’t dig into that, but there are many worldly things. Drinking alcohol can be a very dangerous thing for a child of God to do.

And with that said, I openly admit, I’m not one who believes that a child of God is not supposed to drink. But we are told that somebody who is an elder, a pastor, they are not to drink. And someone who is a deacon should be one who drinks very little. And why is that? Well, because we’re told in Proverbs and other areas that we’ve got to be very careful because our mind can be betrayed and we can speak things we normally wouldn’t speak. And as righteousness, we can do unrighteous things. Think things and say things we normally wouldn’t if we were not under the influence of alcohol. But with that said, there’s no place that says that a child of God should not ever drink alcohol.

But if it’s something that puts you in a position of worldliness… Going out to the bars or hanging around people who are of the world and you do it on a regular basis. We must be careful because when you’re climbing around the skid steer that is greased up and has oil on it, you’re going to get spots. And whose responsibility is it to keep oneself unspotted? You! To keep yourself unspotted from the world can be difficult. Some people struggle with the fact that, well, God created the world. Why is the world such a bad thing? Well, the world’s a bad thing now because it has sin in it. Before sin had entered the world. Yes, it was perfect and God designed even that as so that’s a discussion for another time But because he’s sovereign there’s no way of arguing the fact that that was something that happened outside of his control So God hurried up and came up with a plan. No! Impossible! Because God doesn’t think God doesn’t get surprised God doesn’t hesitate and because he’s sovereign. He’s all knowing omnipresent Well, then this is all part of his plan allowing this to play out So eventually he will have his family with him, and those who do not want to be with him can have what they wish to, and that is to be apart from God for eternity.

So that is why, yes, the world is bad, because the devil is the ruler of this world right now. He’s not in complete control, but he’s still the ruler because Jesus hasn’t finalized it yet. The deed is done. He’s lost his power but that power just hasn’t been taken from him yet and for reasons that only God knows.

Are you seeing the importance, beloved, of keeping yourself unspotted from this world? In other words, a child of God shouldn’t be worried that Jesus could come at this moment or this night or during whatever it is I’m doing because I will be shameless when I turn to him because I will be unspotted from this world. I will not be saturated in the gunk of this world when he comes back. And that should please us, because that is the form of worship, that is the form of religion that God wants.

Now that I have spoken about these things, let me read 26 and 27 one more time. And it’s important to note as I have gone through the specifics that are important that are said and the things that are left out.

26. If anyone among you thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless. Alright, so 26 tells us what is no good. Alright, going to church and just doing your thing, checking off the list, making sure that you baptize the babies at a certain age, make sure you get confirmed, make sure you memorize this verse and that verse, make sure you behave yourself, make sure that you go and, and serve these people or that people over there and do your job.

All of it religious and all of it, as James said, is useless, has no power, does absolutely nothing for the individual at all. Okay, so now that we know we can stop playing church every Sunday, let’s take a look then at what we should be doing. Okay, so stop playing church and it says, pure and undefiled religion.

Okay, so this is God’s way saying, do it this way before God and the Father is this, to visit orphans and widows in their trouble and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. Well, what does that look like? When I teach and preach, that is what I often focus on is what does that look like? Because reading it from God’s word, if you don’t understand what it looks like, so you can apply it to your life, it doesn’t do you a whole lot of good, does it?

Alright, that is volunteering from your own heart, because you know that Jesus paid for your sins. And beloved, because we are so grateful that Jesus did this, we want to go serve others. Because, He makes it clear here and many other places that when we serve other people, those who are in need, those who are the lesser, that we are serving God and that we are worshiping him, that we are honoring him. And that is beautiful aroma that is better than any burnt offering that he had ever received in the Old Testament times because it is pure and undefiled. So, voluntary to help orphans, widows, homeless. Spending time with the neighbors that others don’t care about. Trying to show somebody some gratitude, just some love that they are appreciated. And for no other reason than they are made in God’s image. Not because you have to, not because it’s on a checklist, not because your pastor told you to, or you just feel it’s about time you did it. But because you know. That you owe it to God because we are going to spend eternity worshiping Him, and we’re going to do it glorified, without any pride, without any concept of, well, where’s mine? What do I get out of this worship? And we’re going to be enthused to do it, knowing that we’ll never be able to repay Him. We’re going to be so grateful for where we are at in His presence in heaven, and keeping yourself unspotted from the world. That, too, should be quite obvious. Yeah, what does that look like? You’re going to give up stuff. Do you know that? If you are a child of God, it’s time to give up. The obvious? Pornography, yes. The obvious, swearing and cussing, yes. The obvious, getting drunk, yes. But what about the less obvious? Watching stuff that you know, if Jesus was right there next to you, you wouldn’t watch. Or watching things that, if you’re in your right mind, as a parent, you would never watch with your five, six, seven year old next to you. If you can’t watch that program because of those reasons, then why watch it at all? Swearing and cussing. Just because you’re not doing it, why sit and watch programs that do?

Or, these days, all these programs are saturated with people having affairs! People of the same sex hooking up! It is the world that owns all of that, that is saturated with this stuff. So find programming that is healthier, because we’re told that… I shall place no wicked thing before my eyes, because it becomes a part of who we are, and you can’t undo it, or other less obvious things, not hanging around people who are telling dirty jokes, that have no problem living such a lifestyle.

It doesn’t mean that we do not love them. It does not mean we do not reach out to them. It does not mean that, but it does mean for people who are not children of God, who are not born again, to sit around and to gossip or to sit around and watch programs or listen to music that Jesus would want nothing to do with if he was here, which he is. But I’m just saying physically, because that’s how many people live. And if that’s the case, Then don’t do that, because we are called to be holy. I’ve said it before, I’m going to continue to say it, because the world has taken the word holy and has given it a bad rap. And here’s how. Well, what? You think you’re more holy than me?

Okay. If you’re a born again believer, and if you are walking with the Lord who is leading you down the path of righteousness, beloved, you should be able to genuinely say yes. Because we are called to be holy. 1 Peter 1 15 and 16 As he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct. 16 Because it is written, Be holy, for I am holy. And that part comes from the book of Leviticus. God makes it clear that he is not like us. His ways are not our ways, but when we become his children and now he places his spirit in us We better be trying. You better be trying. Because we are called to be holy. And holy means apart from, being separated from. We are not to live like this world at all. Because this world belongs to our enemy, Satan, who represents everything that God isn’t. And we are to oppose him. We are not to live like him, and we are not to live like his children. Because everybody on this earth is either a child of Satan or a child of God.

Think on that for a while, and pass that on to somebody. Isn’t that something to really think about? Every time you’re in the public, you’re either standing next to somebody who is a child of God, which means that person is born again, and related to you if you’re born again, or you’re standing next to someone who is a child of the devil.

That’s it. That. Is. It. And I am out of time. Thank you so much for joining me, it’s good to have you here. I hope you are blessed by these messages, by these teachings. I would love to hear from you. Email me. You can email me at pastor@brmaul.com. You can go to my website. There’s a place to give if you’re able to support this ministry so we can reach out to more people because we need as many voices as we can. And I thank you for that. Continue to open God’s word, beloved. Brothers and sisters, I look forward to meeting you in heaven someday.

So until next time,

God bless.