The Danger of Religion

SCRIPTURE

James 1:19-27

19 Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. 20 Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires. 21 So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls.

22 But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. 23 For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. 24 You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. 25 But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.

26 If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. 27 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.

Verse 26-27 in NASB

If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless. 27 Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

INTRODUCTION

It is my conviction that there are far more religious people in the United States than there are believers in Jesus Christ. The devil is the author of religion and a lot of people are self-deceived about their salvation. They believe they are going to heaven because they acknowledge God’s blessing or they belong to some religious organization. I am very afraid there are going to be a lot of surprises on judgment day.

Jesus said in Matthew 7…“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’

I have never done a miracle. I have never cast out a demon and I have never prophesied the future yet I believe I am going to heaven because I know Jesus. Note what Jesus says to these people: you may have done all these religious things but you have no relationship with me because I don’t know you.

I. IF YOU HAVE A RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS: YOU WILL LOVE AND RECIEVE HIS WORD

“humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts”

Jesus told a story about hearing and receiving the word. It is in Matthew 13 and called the parable of the “Sower.” Really the story is not about the sower, nor the seed but about the receptivity of the soil. There were four kinds of soil [1] Hard beaten path that had no receptivity. [2] There was the stony ground that had no depth for receptivity. [3] Then there was the weed infested ground that had no room for receptivity. [4] Finally, there was the fallow ground that had great receptivity.

Zechariah’s Commentary

11 But they refused to pay attention and turned a stubborn shoulder and stopped their ears from hearing. 12 They made their hearts like flint so that they could not hear the law and the words which the Lord of hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets; therefore great wrath came from the Lord of hosts.

Jesus Teachings on Listening

“Pay close attention to what you hear. The closer you listen, the more understanding you will be given—and you will receive even more. 25 To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them.” [Mark 4:24-25]

“So pay attention to how you hear. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what they think they understand will be taken away from them.” [Luke 8:18]

What about your receptivity to the word of God? It is high or low? Is your heart hard or fallow? There can be no spiritual transformation unless we ingest the word of God.

II. IF YOU HAVE A RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS: YOU WILL OBEY HIS WORD

But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. 23 For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. 24 You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. 25 But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.

Thousand feast on bible studies and sermons but they are listeners only. They never apply the concepts they study; they never put them into practice. My sweet and favorite daughter in law ask me to come hand a ceiling fan and light fixture. I’ve done this kind of thing many times but it has been a few years and the technology has changed. When I opened the box, I could not find what I was looking for so I did begin to look at the pictures on the instructions. She came in and so me struggling and she began reading the instructions. I was getting frustrated because no matter how I wired it, no power was getting to the fan [it seemed]. Finally, I came down off the ladder and ask her, “Where are you getting all this information?” Then she showed me a small paragraph beside the diagram. I said, “Give that to me and I went by it step by step and in minutes we had power to the fan and lights.”

Let me ask you something: what if I had just opened the box, read the instructions, sat on the couch and talked for an hour about hanging ceiling fans and then got in my truck and left without hanging the fan. The purpose of my trip was to hang the fan: this is what Lori expected. She would have been very disappointed if all I had done was read the instructions and say, “Now, I know how to do it,” and then left without doing it.

We hear a good sermon and we hear the challenge but we don’t do anything. We make talk about the concept but we don’t make application. A person who hears but does not apply is like a person who eats and does not exercise. Eating without exercise will enlarge the stomach, studying without applying will enlarge the head. Vance Havner said, “The worse thing that can happen to a new convert is to run into one of these bible study buffs. They have all the answers and can tell you about it but they have no practical experience because they never apply what they have learned. Knowledge without practical application equals pride.

Hearing the word without repentance and a change of mind is like a man who glances into a mirror and then walks away and forgets what he saw. The purpose of the mirror is to reveal the flaw and then you take time to fix it. I don’t come into the office on Friday but I do visit. Last Friday, I was outside working in the garden and I got hot and tired so I came in, took a shower and laid down for a few minutes. When I got up and dressed, I did not think to look in the mirror and because I had laid down with a wet head, I had a bad cowlick. I bounced into DGH and I always have to stop at the rest room and it has a huge mirror and there I saw my disheveled hair. It is easy to correct the problem but it requires another shower.

Some people never see anything wrong with themselves. There are like Fonzie on Happy Days. Job was the best man of his time, perhaps the best of all time and yet he said, “I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes.” How is that Job needed to repent and we don’t. The word of God should evoke continual repentance in the heart of every believer.

Baptist are substituting hearing for doing. What good is a committee if it never does anything? What good is church training if we never do anything? What good is bible study if we never apply the lesson to our life? Baptist have substituted hearing, talking, singing and congregating with real church. Real church is doing. Every denomination has substituted ceremony, tradition and ritual for true worship and humble service.

III. IF YOU HAVE A RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS: YOU HAVE A DESIRE TO SHARE THE WORD

If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless. 27 Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

I would not advice proclaiming the word until I got familiar with the word but God never intended for us to keep the good news to our self. James uses the term “Pure Religion” but I would refer to it as “True Faith.” True faith reveals itself in four ways:

  1. True Faith is revealed in our SURRENDER [S word for obedience]. It is not hearing or knowing the will of God that reveals who we are, it is doing the will of God. It is practicing our faith.
  2. True Faith is revealed in our SPEECH. A lot of folks know the language of Zion but outside the walls of the church, they speak another language. The fastest way to destroy your testimony is by using profanity and vulgarity.
  3. True Faith is revealed in SERVICE [visiting]. I knew a young pastor who went to a deacon run church that was famous for starving their pastor for two years and then running them off. He realize right out of the shut that the deacons wanted to meet on the first Monday and talk for three hours but they didn’t do anything else. They were making ministry decisions and none of them were involved in ministry so for the next Deacon’s meeting, he planned a visitation. What deacon would not be willing to visit: in his case, there was a room full. He lasted only 18 months and when he left, those pouting deacons were accusing him of being too evangelistic. I will tell you what the real problem was: they had no intention of visiting and they were not going to be told what to do by him.
  4. True Faith is revealed in our SEPARATION from the world. Someone said, “We are to shape the world, not allow the world to shape us.” We are in a cultural war as I speak. The left is saying, “You Christians are going to have to get with the program, our program and celebrate diversity. You cannot condemn homosexuality and you must accept gay marriage.” I refuse to accept it, that makes me different from the world. Why can’t they celebrate my diversity? I will tell you why, they are hypocrites. They are forcing Alabama to be like New York but we are the United States not the identical states. Why can’t Alabama be diverse, or different? We don’t think like Yankee’s and we don’t want to be like New Yorker’s. There is nothing wrong with a Yankee other than their misguided ways but we prefer to be different. Why can’t they celebrate our diversity? Because it is not about diversity [Wal-mart, Target, Starbucks, NFL and all you sissy compromisers], it is about destroying the bible as our moral platform. Do you want to be like the Carters, Clinton’s or the Obama’s? Of course not, you want to be you and there is no one else like you. Sounds diverse to me. Diversity is a code word for liberals that means “Compromise your faith and deny the authority of the word of God.” I didn’t write Romans chapter one but I will continue to go by it.

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