Pure and Undefiled Religion
"If anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was" (James 1:23,24).

In 1:25, an important conclusion is drawn to the prior illustration - "But, he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does."

When we look into the spiritual mirror--the New Testament, God's perfect law of liberty--and continue in it (through obedience), then we will be blessed! God's blessing has always been found in hearing and doing--never in just hearing! We must love the word of the Lord and obey it! When you look into the Holy Scriptures, don't get distracted. If you see changes that need to be made in your life, make them. Don't walk away and forget. As Jesus stated in John 13:17 - "If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them."

James 1:26 teaches - "If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one's religion is useless." James expands his thought from verse 19 regarding being slow to speak. I'll refrain from commenting on this theme at this time since it is discussed in such great detail in chapter 3.

The chapter closes with verse 27 - "Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world." A religion that is not useless is a religion in which one is: (1) actively helping those who are in need (like orphans and widows) and (2) keeping himself pure and as free from sin as possible. This is the kind of religion that is accepted by God. It is clean and free from contamination. When we sin, we become stained and spotted. However, Christians are continually washed pure by the blood of Jesus Christ as long as they continue to walk faithfully with God (I John 1:7-9).

Dear listeners, our religion is in vain if God's word is not our standard. Our religion is in vain if we're not eager to hear that word. Our religion is in vain if we're not applying that word in our lives. One of the greatest sins of ancient Israel was the reducing of their religion to mere rituals and ceremonies. They neglected the practical matters of their religion and simply went through its external forms mindlessly. That is still a danger for religious folks today. To assemble with Christians for worship and study is good and necessary, but the Christian religion is not lived inside the walls of a church building. We must be keeping ourselves pure when we're out in the world at work, at school, at play, etc. We must put the word into practice in our daily life--otherwise our religion is useless and defiled before the Lord!

Let us summarize these powerful verses before we close. In order to be blessed by the word of God, we must have a proper attitude (i.e., be willing to hear what God has to say) and we must make a proper response (i.e., be willing to do what we hear, even if it means making changes in one's life and way of thinking). If one is truly hearing and obeying God's word, then he will definitely practice the principles of Christianity such as providing for those who are in need and personally striving to remain pure.