II JAMES 9
THE PURE RELIGION WHICH PLEASES THE FATHER
As we end our study of the first chapter of the book of James, I cannot but be impressed with the wealth of true Christian concepts and the intensity with which James expresses them in this chapter. James, I believe, was the brother of the Lord, and probably did not really believe in Him until the Cross brought home to him the incredible fact that Jesus was indeed the Son of God. As a result, he had a strong desire to proclaim this reality to the world, and to make every one who claimed to believe on Jesus realize what a demand that faith made on their life. It is obvious that James feels a special mission to make all men see that Jesus Christ came to transform every life He touched, and that faith in Him was the whole meaning of life for every man.
The all-inclusive flourish with which he closes this first chapter leaves no question about what the Lord wants of those who claim a personal relationship with Him. James calls this relationship “being religious”. Barclay says the word for religion here means the outward expression of worship in ritual, liturgy and ceremony. So he is saying that the kind of ritual and ceremony that you practice, that is pleasing to God, has nothing to do with the kinds of rituals we carry on in the church building. These may be all right and an expression of adoration for the Father, if they are done in spirit and in truth, instead of for our own entertainment, or to please the masses. However, these are secondary to the real religious expression that He wants. That is for us to be active in caring for those who need attention and help, and to keep our moral life in line with His will, not the current accepted fads of society.
It is a sad fact that over the centuries men have made the organized church the center of their religious life. As a result they feel religious and pious when they gather in the church building and carry out the rituals which their particular church dictates. This puts the church organization between the person and God. This is the very opposite of what He created us to be. He created man “in His own image” to be a personal companion for Him in Heaven. He even gave His Son to forgive our sins, so nothing would keep us from dwelling with Him in the perfection of Heaven.
If you will study your Bible carefully, you will see that the early “church” was not a corporate organization but a “family” in which each member had concern for every other member of the family. There was a oneness and love among the members because they realized they were privileged to be in the family of God by the sacrifice of His Son. They were not concerned with rules and regulations but with helping the needy and remaining loyal to the Lord in their lives. Elders were not a board of directors, but spiritually mature Christians, caring for a flock that they knew and loved. The church was not a scripturally organized corporation, but a
unified, scripturally loving family.
Pure religion flowed from such a church family, and that was the kind of worship and service that the Father wanted and still does. Don’t let your “religion” be defined by the “church” you belong to. Let your love of the Father cause you to love His children, in and out of the family, for He made them all. Let your love of God be reflected in your respect for His will where your moral life is concerned, and maintain a life of prayer and personal relationship with Him, with no man or organization in between.