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Faithlife

A Faith That Matters

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Scripture: James 1: 26,27

There seems to be a general weariness in the world toward religion.  Why might that be?

·         We love to give directions more than we have loved to give help.  Afraid of “getting dirty”. .  An example is the story of the Good Samaritan.  People rushing by on their way to their Christian activities with no time for hurting people.  C.K. Chitty used to say to me something that I think we inadvertently say to people all the time, “Is there anything that I can say to help you?”  That is the classic line of too many churches.  I know that I tire of people who want to remain detached from my plight or someone who wants to pass me on to someone else.  It is as though we have an agenda that we want everyone else to buy into but really have no time to listen and to embrace another person’s situations and problems.  Perhaps they at times have difficulty understanding what worth there is in their involvement.  There are many times when we pass by the real hurts of people in the world in the process of doing our religious stuff

q       We have at times sought a position of power rather than to settle for the way of weakness.  There is nothing thatcorrupts the influence of the church in this world than to seek and to operate from a position of power.  The plain truth – we’re better when we have no political advantage – when we are weak then the grace of God is sufficient.

q       Lots of smoke – no fire.  We talk about an Almighty God and we sing about Him and indeed he is but we are short on power at times.  Only God can give us this.  We can pursue a thousand other things but when the church loses it’s God given power then we’re in trouble.

q       Failure to “connect” faith with everyday living.  Where’s all the joy that we are talking about?  Whenever I preach a sermon, I tell myself that there needs to be something that you can relate to everyday life.  Faith that is not practiced is merely trivia.  It is information that serves no purpose.

James highlight three distinctives or characteristics of what he calls “pure religion”.  They are related to:

q       Tethering the tongue – It’s curious to me that he would address this issue first.  Throughout the book, James refers to the tongue and we’ll talk more about it later.  Today let me just say a couple of things.

One is that most people share this malady.  The tongue is very difficult to

control.  If given a little room, it will ask for more.  It must be held in check closely.

Contentious tongues have hindered the work of God a thousand times over.  Critical tongues have closed church doors.  Careless tongues have broken the hearts and health of many pastors.  The sins of the tongue have besmirched the pure white garments of the bride of Christ.

n      George Sweeting

If you have opened your mouth recently and regretted what you have said then let me give you a few suggestions relative to tethering the tongue.

1.      There are 3 sides to every story.

2.      It is not necessary for us to have an opinion on everything.

3.      It is not necessary for people to believe that we know something about everything.  A good question is always better than pretentious knowledge.

4.      If you argue with a fool you have two fools arguing.

5.      Never wrestle with a pig because if you do you both get dirty and the pig likes it.

6.      You can only die on one hill.

7.      You can win battles that will cause you to lose the war.

8.      It is not necessary to speak to all error.  You are not qualified.

9.      Peace in the body of Christ is a priority.  Eph 4:3  Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

10. Prov. 17:27 ¶ A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered.  28  Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue.

11. Prov. 18:2 ¶ A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions.

q       Meaningful Ministry.  James says that true religion is to visit the widows and the orphans in their distress.  It is so necessary that we are involved in practical “on-hands” efforts to love people in the name of Christ.  All the theological and doctrinal excellence in the world means nothing if we do not for God’s sake, do something.

 

Matthew 25:31 ¶ "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory.  32  All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33  He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.  34  "Then the King will say to those on his right, `Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' 37  "Then the righteous will answer him, `Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' 40  "The King will reply, `I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' 41  "Then he will say to those on his left, `Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42  For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43  I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'  44  "They also will answer, `Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'  45  "He will reply, `I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.' 46  "Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

 

The common people of Jesus day were weary of the religious regime of the Pharisees.  They held a position of great power and in using that power they had squandered their authority.  Anthony Campolo in a book called The Power Delusion notes the relationship between power and authority.  Whenever people use the power of positional privilege, their authority is diminished.  Power is positional, authority is something given you by the people that you influence.  Jesus was a breath of fresh air to their parched souls. Mr 1:22  The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the lawI think that the gospel is best demonstrated and served to people if it is to be maximally impacting. 

q       Personal purity.  To keep oneself from being polluted by the world.  I struggle with my attitude toward folks who are not willing to be a part of the answer.  Problem identifying is not a spiritual gift,  Anyone can point out the fault in things but if they are ever to be fixed, someone must take it upon themselves to construct viable means for that to be accomplished.  Whenever we join with people to help them face their problems we are likely to be touched by them.  There will be a certain amount of pain that comes with the territory.  The way to keep yourself from being polluted by the world is not to shrink back from it.  It is entirely possible to stand in the middle of filth and degradation and yet be clean.  I remember my trip to Mexico years ago with Doug White.  I remember the homes that we could see through and the mud and yet the cleanliness of the small children who had tattered but clean clothes on at the beginning of each day at least.  Jesus prayed, "I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14  I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15  My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16  They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. (John 17)  I believe that our intentions have been good and thinking that we need to avoid evil by shrinking in cowardice from the things in this world that are an affront to our spiritual sensitivities.

It is the blackness that brings out the brilliance of a life lived for Christ.

Phillippians 2:14 ¶ Do everything without complaining or arguing, 15  so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe 16  as you hold out {Or hold on to} the word of life--in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labour for nothing.

Personal purity does not come from what we do not do.  We can never cleanse ourselves.

Proverbs 30:11  "There are those who curse their fathers and do not bless their mothers; 12  those who are pure in their own eyes and yet are not cleansed of their filth; 13  those whose eyes are ever so haughty, whose glances are so disdainful; 14  those whose teeth are swords and whose jaws are set with knives to devour the poor from the earth, the needy from among mankind.

I think that the pollution that comes from the world is more something that begins to happen in the mind – an inward to outward progression.  It’s when we adopt a secular world view that is foreign to the heart of God and there are many attitudes there that reflect that polluted perspective.

q       Charting my own course in life without regard for God

q       The lust for money or power or fame or influence

q       Self-sufficiency & pride

q       Entitlement

q       Improper response to evil – evil provokes evil

q       Prayerlessness

q       Mediocrity – “lukewarmness”

q       Self-justification

q       Hard-heartedness

So once again –what is the application to all this?  Just that, we want to have a faith that makes a difference.  I don’t care what you do this week to make a difference but do it in the name of Christ – a simple act of kindness, encouragements to people who need them, a refusal to see someone stand alone – an eye to identify and meet needs wherever you find them – a willingness to engage in conversation with another person where you strive to “discover” who they are and what makes their hearts tick – the greatest compliment that you could possibly give another human being is to be interested in what they are intersted in.

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