No:04 James – True or false religion?
Read James 1:19-27
As we move on in this chapter we want to look at what religion is and whether we have true of false religion. We can be a born again Christian and have false religion. That immediately makes us feel insecure, but it does us no harm to look into the perfect law of liberty (Psalm 19:7) and see the Truth for ourselves. We want our relationship with our Heavenly Father to be pure and holy and we want to grow in grace and the knowledge of His Word, (Ephesians 1:7-8)
Cults, false belief, and liberal beliefs are all the alternative to true religion. James wants to show us ways to prove whether our religion is true or false.
Let’s first deal with the word ‘religion’. Religion is often used in the sense of man’s different ways of attempting to restore himself to God (e.g. The Buddhist religion, the Hindu religion etc.). Christianity is God’s offer of restoring man individually to Himself through the sacrificial death of Jesus on the Cross at Calvary and His subsequent resurrection, and releasing those who accept this offer to be what God always planned for them to be, to have complete oneness and fellowship with Himself; to worship Him and have nothing or no one else before Him, Exodus 20:3. ‘Religion’ in the sense used in James 1:27 is from the Greek word ‘Threskeia’ and appears to refer especially to the outward observance of worship. James states that there is both ‘good religion’ and ‘bad religion’. He defines ‘good religion’ like this: “Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their misfortune and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” So the question that you and I need to ask ourselves is this:- “What is our motive in adhering to religion?”
We need to look here for the characteristics of a true believer, and to put our own traditional thinking behind us and see who God looks on as a true believer. We will be surprised to find that many of the things that we believe are so important do not even merit mentioning when God is looking for a true believer
The first mark of true Christianity, we have already covered in module two ‘Trials and Tribulations’ is that it enables the true believer to rejoice in trials. Many cults have people laying down their lives for their beliefs so we have to look at the quality of life that shows the difference between the true Christian and any false religion.
The second mark that James points out is the complete exchanged person, who has died to their own self and is resurrected with Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit who is living in, and through that person so there is complete change of focus, behaviour and priorities, James 1:19-21.
The third mark is seen on the person who keeps a tight rein on his tongue (James 1:26) as a sure sign of someone who has surrendered totally all their body to the Living God as Jesus Himself spoke so few words and only got those which came from the Father. This person shows others how important their opinions are, and builds others up. Lack of control of the tongue causes us to think we are in right relationship with God but we are risking being open to deception, Matthew 12:33-37; James 1:26. We deceive ourselves if we listen to the word and don’t do it and if we don’t keep control of our tongue, James 1:22,26
The fourth mark of true Christianity is looking to see what the Word of God says and then doing it, James 1:22. It is not enough to know about God, we have to know and believe (trust in, cling to and rely on) Him. We have to allow the Holy Spirit free use of our body, mind and emotions to live the Word.
If we do it in our own strength it is just good works and we will be burnout. We will only do the things we like to do, but the Word has amazing things for us to do, forgive our enemies, give and don’t expect a return, praise in difficulties, and lots more. So we need to be wise and look in the mirror of the Word and do what the Word says, make changes, then any good works we do will be God working through us.
The fifth mark to separate true and false religion is “religion pure and faultless is this; to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” James 1:27. This is how God describes the religion that He accepts. This has got to be our direction and not the great collection of rules and regulations that we have set up around churches
The sixth mark of true Christianity we have to look at is love. Only if we truly know the amazing love of God for us seen at the Cross, can we be able to love Him and share Him with others. How God loves us is described in 1 Corinthians 13, as we look at this love we have to receive the truth of it. So in True Christianity we are to love, accept, and forgive one another just as God in Christ has loved, accepted, and forgiven us. We treat other people with the same measure of love, that we think we are receiving from God, even if our thoughts about God’s love are wrong. So in the Church we find so little love because of a lack of real understanding of God’s love, John 13:34; Romans 15:7; Ephesians 4:32.
False religion is bondage to a set of rules and regulations that demand an impossible standard, and has no room for grace. This can appear easier as it allows the flesh a certain amount of freedom, but is very condemning of anyone else’s efforts with no love for others’ short comings. It adds more and more unreasonable rules, just like the Pharisees in Jesus’ day and Jesus really condemned them at every opportunity, Mark 7:6-8. False religion causes bondage to so many regulations. There is no freedom to love with God’s love, and feeling that all your efforts will never be good enough, and still you will not make the grade. This can be so disheartening as the constant striving can cause a burnout. Jesus always intended that His yoke was easy and His burden was light, Matthew 11:30.
True Christianity is not a self improvement program, it is not a reformation programme it is a resurrection, a whole, complete new life. It is expressed in terms of a total exchange of identity. We choose to totally die or surrender our lives, placing our life in His hands to do with as He pleases. The most reasonable and logical thing we can do is to offer ourselves without reservation to a God who loves us beyond comprehension. He will take charge of our lives in His perfect Wisdom and control. We then have to allow God to begin to renew our minds (Romans 12:1-2) with His teaching to replace the error of natural thinking. We lay down all personal rights to comfort, happiness, fair deal in this life, having our own way, position in Christian work, and many others. We cannot hold onto rights and keep a thankful spirit. Otherwise when we have problems we are plagued with questions, why me? Has God rejected me? Why bother being a Christian?
We do not want to practice a religion; We want to know Jesus in a real relationship. To the hungry ones, to the humble ones, God will always respond by leading us into true freedom Matthew 7:7; Ephesians 3:20.
“A great civil war now looms before the Church…. The main issue will be slavery versus freedom. The secondary issue which will be the primary issue for some, will be money. Just like the American civil war looked at times as if it was going to destroy the entire nation, what is coming upon the Church will at times appear as if it will be the end of the Church. However just as the American nation survived, but went on to become the most powerful nation in the earth, the same is going to happen to the Church. The Church will not be destroyed, but the institutions and doctrines that have kept men in spiritual slavery will be. ….The work of liberation and exaltation of the Church will be a work that is accomplished much quicker than we may think is humanly possible. However, we are not talking about human possibilities.
At this time all people involved in false, liberal, religion will be fighting with those in true religion and as they watch them grow in grace and the knowledge of God they will only be more deceived believing that these on fire Christians are just ‘angels of light’ and so they are justified in ostracising them. God will perform a miracle of great change in every available person who is willing to be changed and a mighty army of united believers will come out of this civil war”. According to Rick Joyner in “The Final Quest”. We certainly have a very exciting future as we walk in humility so the world can see the large chasm of difference between true and false religion.
All the fences that divide Christians will be removed as the Revival rises in the Nation like a snow storm where people walk on the tops of the snow across the fences. The fences are all buried under the beautiful blanket of snow. So shall it be in revival as the Nation is blanketed in His Love and all our petty differences are buried. We accept and receive our brothers and sisters in Christ and as the world sees the way we love one another, they acknowledge that Jesus is the One True God.
The Real Church – Home Challenges 04
Read the notes ‘True or false religion’
1. Which action in James 1:19 do you feel most challenged about? What are you going to do?
2. What do you think the Bible is saying is true Christianity? Give verses to back up your opinion.
3. How can we deceive ourselves according to this passage?
4. What do you find most challenging in the notes and verses?
Read James Chapter 2:1-13.
5. According to James 2:1 what must we avoid as Christians?
6. Do you find it easy to treat people equally? Why?
7. What example does James give?
8. Have you seen this happen? Describe the situation. How would Jesus have handled it?
9. Who has God chosen? What has He promised them? James 2:5
10. If you use discrimination what does God say about it?
11. What is the Royal Law?
12. Can anyone manage to not be a law breaker? How? Galatians 3:10-14
13. Is the Law freedom or bondage? Why? James 2:12
14. What is the new kind of law? How do we show this law?
15. ‘Mercy triumphs over judgement!’ James 2:13. What will be the effect on us if we are not merciful?
16. Sum up what this passage means to you.