|Do you help the poor?|
You may have not heard it said that way before but James defined "pure religion" as:
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. (James 1:27)When my husband told me one morning that the Israelites were taken into captivity because they did not take care of the poor, I was surprised. Frankly, I had never heard anyone say this. I have been reading the Books of the prophets all of last year (Isaiah and Zephaniah) and the beginning of the year (Amos and Micah). I did not remember this warning or woe given to the people. How did I overlook it?
When I asked my husband for a reference he had me read Isaiah 1, and there it is!
Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from My sight. Cease to do evil, Learn to do good; Seek justice, Reprove the ruthless, Defend the orphan, Plead for the widow. (Isaiah 1:16-17)
This was right after God had rebuked them from bringing sacrifices to him and holding feasts that were meaningless to Him because although they were going through the "churchy" motions, they were not living a life pleasing to God. They attended church, celebrated the holy days and met socially but their life was not dedicated to God's ways. They were not effecting their society for good and touching lives with the blessings of God because they were basically doing whatever they wanted to do in their life while keeping up with the religious requirements.Your rulers are rebels and companions of thieves; everyone loves a bribe and chases after rewards. They do not defend the orphan, nor does the widow’s plea come before them. (Isaiah 1:23)
Oh, how this can sting personally!
Sunday after Sunday my pastor teaches Scripture straight out of the Bible from one book at a time verse by verse. He teaches us from the Word that if we are not living the principles of the Bible out daily and being totally surrendered to God in our life we are not pleasing God. It is not an obligation but an act of love. It is not out of duty to get saved, it is out of thanksgiving because we are saved. He just taught us that salvation and redemption are woven together; we are redeemed by the price of the blood of Christ when we accept salvation. We are bought, purchased, owned by God. We are His, but wonderfully HE is ours, to love and know.
If we are God's, we have to be all His. God is not satisfied with a Sunday/Wednesday/Holiday church attender. He wants us to be Christlike 24/7. We can sin by what we do (sin of commission), but we can also sin by not doing what we should be doing (sin of ommission). When we hear the Gospel of Jesus, and decide to enter into a relationship with Jesus, we are making a decision to be His disciple and to live out the gospel (death, burial and resurrection) in our everyday life. All of our life is filtered through Jesus -- what we do and what we don't do.
Read Galatians 3:11 -
"Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because "the righteous will live by faith."But we have to be careful not to be living in by our mind alone, making decisions on how we shall live and what we will do to please God instead of living by faith and a moment by moment relationship with God, allowing Him to tell us in our spirit what to do and not do. We must communicate to God, live in His presence being pray-filled.
If we are just like the Israelites, we keep trying to be justified by following a bunch of rules, instead of living by faith. Most people find it easier to check off a few religious requirements, than to live by faith with God. Faith -- believing God -- is what saves us from our sins; Likewise, faith --believing God--is what directs our living. By faith, we must live in His presence, communicating to Him.
In the coming weeks, I will be exploring more about what this "pure religion" practically looks like in a Christians life. Until then, look for opportunities to show love to those who have less than you do and be a blessing in as many people's lives as you can. Listen, allow God to speak to you throughout the day. We can all start here.