“I got religion” was the folksy expression I sometimes heard growing up in the deep South when someone accepted Jesus. As for me, I spent most of those years running awayfrom religion. And from God. But the Lord was relentless in His pursuit. In time, I surrendered to His free gift of Grace. I came to understand that following Christ was about a relationship—not a religion. Salvation was made possible only through the costly blood of God’s Son. No wonder they call it “Amazing Grace.”
James prods us to practice true religion. He’s not talking here about religion as a ticket to heaven. Rather, religion in this context, refers to the practical expression of our devotion to the Lord:
Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you(James 1:27 NLT).
The Greek word translated “religion” is threskos—seldom used in the New Testament. Threskos describes outward service rather than our inward piety of heart. It’s all about our actions. True religion, according to James must involve acts of mercy, love, and holiness.
Let’s look at this same versein the Amplified Bible:
External religious worship [religion as it is expressed in outward acts] that is pure and unblemished in the sight of God the Father is this: to visit and help and care for the orphans and widows in their affliction and need, and to keep oneself unspotted and uncontaminated from the world (James 1:27 AMP).
We are saved only by grace through faith. Our faith is the foundation for all of our good works. Good works cannot earn our salvation. But If we truly want to please the Lord, we’ll be intentional to pour our life out in service to the hurting ones around us. Especially the widows and orphans.
James reminds us we must also not forget the purity of our own life. We are called to holiness. That’s the kind of religion, he challenges, that pleases the Lord.
So I’m asking God to show me who is on His heart. I want to be sensitive to His Spirit. Alert to practical ways I can serve those in need. Especially during this Christmas season as we celebrate the birth of His son. I’ve also prayed for the Holy Spirit to correct me in areas I need to clean up—it’s so easy to slide into the self-centered ways of the world.
Today, as we step out into our world, let’s dare to pray the prayer God always answers: Lord, break my heart for what breaks Yours.