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October 1, 2021 4:00 am
The there are many people think of religion, worthless see it as an external display of rituals and routines that don't really amount to much. But there is a form of religion that the Bible says is acceptable to God and today on Truth for Life. Alister bag outlines the marks of someone who's practicing.
That's kind of true religion, depending on what age you are, you will grow not being told by your mother or your father that if you are going to engage in polite conversation that are two subjects which are absolutely taboo. One of those is politics and the other is religion you are going to be successful in business if you're going to not be a dreadful problem at the average wedding reception, then make sure we've been told that you steer away from either of those two taboo subjects. I'm not so sure that is true amongst younger generation. I'm not sure if those who were born since, let's say 1983, 1985 have any kind of concern about that at all because when you listen to people in conversation today, it doesn't appear at least on the surface that there are any subjects that are taboo. If I'm right.
Knowing the observation that really it doesn't matter if you talk about religion then that is helpful because here in verses 26 and 27 James introduces us to one of the two formerly taboo topics, namely religion itself. If anyone he begins considers himself religious and then in verse 27 he begins with the noun religion that God our father accepts is and so long I will be helped immediately by defining our terms letters use as a simple working definition James use of religion in terms of the outward expressions of one's faith, the outward expressions of one's faith, so that when he is talking about religion here. He's talking about bad wage in marriages. From an internal reality external conformity to a pattern that is as a result of the inward working of grace know you will see that as before. In verse 2240 was concerned about self-deception deception that would be revealed in an approach to the Bible was just listen to it, but didn't obey it. He comes again in verse 26 to the possibility of self-deception and the deception about which he is concerned here is not familiar to many others because what he's addressing is the possibility of maintaining a scrupulous commitment to an external frame of existence to forms, enter structures to rituals and routines, and despite the fastidious commitment to all of that to discover that it is all absolutely worthless. Note this is actually quite helpful in this respect that it is an uncommon week when we don't run into somebody who suggests that religion is worthless. And they'll say I have no interest in religion. I would like to be a spiritual person but I don't want to be a religious person at all friendly as far as I'm concerned. More wars are being fought in the name of religion. I'm not interested in organized religion religion itself is just a worthless exercise well when the skeptics begin that way we can say in one sense I couldn't agree with you more and fight what you're saying we might say, by way of response is actually written about in the Bible and we can turn up the James chapter 1 verse 26 and we can show them the phrases in the Bible. Religion is worthless. The phrases in the Bible.
Religion is worthless. However, unless we put that phrase within the context of the preceding nouns and verbs and adjectives in the verse and we can make it say whatever we wanted to say, but we can go quickly to their side of the table and say you know there is, according to James, according to Jesus, and external display that bears no resemblance to reality and is in fact absolutely experience and useless.
However, we can say that is also a form of religion that is acceptable to God, so we might say, I wonder if you ever consider the possibility not of us. Beauty is in worthless religion but of a religion that God regards as acceptable.
The person one might say that one would that religion look like and that you would be able to say well it looks like a lot of things, but it definitely looks like these three things that I can show you I have my New Testament with me and I gladly just point them out to you in five. Let me read this for you. If you're not embarrassed or don't mind I like this better than they then assertive standard response of many which is all of course I'm not remotely interested in religion. I'm into relationship, not religion. I think it's time to cut that one out in the best thing to say, as well. Actually I am agreeing with you that the idea of externalism and modes and forms and structures that bear no resemblance to reality, is an outmoded and useless thing. However, it doesn't have to be that way anymore than other things which are external have to be divorced from an internal motivation and reality so we can say to people or God actually is concerned that we would have a religious experience that he deems as being acceptable as soon as we go there we confront an immediate danger, and there is a danger in these verses, particularly in verse 27 and the inherent danger is this of using verse 27 to teach that we can reduce religion to charity and morality is that what James is saying here. I don't believe so James is not suggesting that acceptance with God is to be found by those who are honest and who are crying. James has already pointed out naturally this in just a moment that it is by his grace through his word that he has made as his own people in order that we might bear the family likeness. The reason this is dangerous it because rationalists are very happy with this and many of her friends are rationalists, and so, although they are not remotely interested in what we're doing here on a Sunday.
The are benevolent people. They are thinking people and he wanted the same time within the standard of their own framework to make sure they're keeping their own rules and so if they can reduce Christianity to that which fits their rationalistic perspective, then they have made a great game so they might say. Well, as long as you keep the rules as long as you do unto others as you would have them do to you then really that's all that matters. Well, is that what James is saying how can we determine whether is what James is say one not by a constant reading of verse 27, but by a standing back from the panorama of the whole of chapter 1 and say where the high spots in this picture that he is painted in this word picture that he is given where if you like are the pivotal pieces. Where does it turn in your sight line will grow very quickly to verse 18.
What is a say in verse 18 that God has done. He has chosen to give us birth, that's his initiative through the word of truth. That's the instrument that is used so that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created. That's the intention that he has and the new life which is there in verse 18 is then expounded in 19 to 25 in the lifestyle that flows from it. Birth in 18 life in 19 to 25 and then these characteristics all of that life. In verses 26 and 27. It is imperative that we understand that what James is addressing here in these closing verses is that which is consequential what he describes here are consequences of the work of God within a life when he is providing us with here is essentially evidences of family membership what he is saying here and will come back to say again and again is simply this, that, to profess to have the life of God and to be unchanged, is unthinkable to profess to have the life of God and to be unchanged, is unthinkable. Therefore, we have to beware of reducing Christian living, to charity. Plus, morality, and at the same time we must beware of a correlative danger which is of suggesting that here in verses 26 and 27 James is providing comprehensive summary of acceptable religion. He can be. Think of how much is missing is no mention of the reading of the Bible.
No mention of the Fellowship of God's people. No mention of sacraments. No mention of a righteousness that is fastidious in relationship to the keeping of the law and saw noise. No more giving is a comprehensive start summary here then is Mica in chapter 6 and verse eight. Remember, he has shown you a man what is good and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love mercy and walk humbly with your God is a pretty good framework but it isn't comprehensive it is illustrative and what James does here is much along the same lines, James is teaching us what religion is. But he is not, I suggest trying to tell us all that religion is his right have to say verse 26 and 27 comes after all of the preceding 25 verses birth in 18 life in 19 to 25 characteristics, but not all the characteristic and 26 and 27.
If James is not providing us a comprehensive summary he is in the same time, however, setting as with a sufficient test is a sufficient test not the only test but a good test to discover whether our professed faith is authentic or not, how will we be able to determine that what he says I'm going to give you three marks of genuine Christianity number one is a controlled tongue number two is a compassionate heart, a number three is a clean life controlled tongue, a compassionate heart and clean life.
These are the tests so we have to take the test. First of all, in a controlled tongue. If anyone considers himself or herself for that matter, religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue. She here she deceives himself or herself in the religion is absolutely worthless, but the a danger that he addresses is clear the danger of being precise and Orthodox in our expressions of praise in our preaching and yet at the same time to be guilty of thoughtless tongue wagging as the danger is the test so here I am and I love to say but I have a slandering tongue here I am, and I like to preach sermons sentences together would build people up and encourage them and at the same time find myself able to use the same tongue to put people down and despised first part of the test challenge is this why someone said if your lips would keep from slips three things observed with care, of whom you speak and how you speak and why and when and where approval covers a whole gamut and don't try and sneak slander and gossip under the foliage of its truthfulness because something is true.
It does not demand to be stated. William Blake in the 18 century the poinsettia truth that she told with bad intent beats all the lies you can if anybody considers themselves to be religious and does not bridle their tongue.
That person is self deceived and the religion is useless how uncomfortable is this who can evade this. The antidote to this is to retreat always to the Scriptures to be returned always to Jesus to be reminded always that our acceptance and our standing with God is on the basis of the work and word of Jesus Christ, so that I don't look at this and say I'm going to have to try and fix this myself because what James is describing here is fruit fruit in our describing plastic ornamentation know the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5 remember his love and joy and peace in kindness and goodness and gentleness and I can never remember them all in order, but I know it finishes up with self-control and where is it most obvious my absence of self-control.
The amount you feel the penetrating gaze God's work and always talk about looking into the Bible. The Bible looking into us is like a CAT scan. I don't why I was thinking about maybe this was what was on my mind but I fell asleep last night. I think one of the last things I said to Sue before us. Owsley was. I can never ever have one of those MRIs I'm I don't know why that was on my mind.
Maybe I was thing about the searching gaze of something the searching gaze of God's word and then it made me think about that horrible to and then about being claustrophobic and then about while never going in one of those things.
I'll die first great way to go to sleep. Do you think but I guess when you have it, it shows up everything and when you come here to James chapter 1 verse 26, there's really no place to hide.
And for those of you are quiet, people temperamentally quiet. Don't talk very much. Once they moved to a goose who were sitting there going on.
This is terrific is wonderful. I love this is all about the time know I got news for you. You will be judged for the thoughts you we just for your thoughts. Just because you didn't have the guts to actually say what you were thinking you're not going to get out of it that easy. And furthermore you we judge for the motors that gave rise to the thoughts that give rise to the words. Why would I even feel the way I feel in order to say what I think what I thought so that I might say what I said there's no way out of this nonnatural Jesus said, quoting the Old Testament. This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me and I was they had the externals down to me. There was a great crowd on Palm Sunday, giving the given the welcome this songs of us, and blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord hosanna to the Lord. Hosanna in the highest didn't take very long for many of it to change to crucify him. We will not have this man to reign over us.
Eventually our lips will declare the reality of what's in our heart. That's what makes this so devastating. Have you been struck by the fact that when Isaiah the prophet of God is confronted by God in Isaiah chapter 6 when he sees this amazing manifestation of God, and he falls down before God and he cries out for you. Start by what it is he cries depart from me oh Lord, because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live in a whole company of people who also of unclean somebody outside of that look and see when a minute what you mean you of unclean lips, your lips have become the mouthpiece of God. Your lips are the lips that convey the good news to the pool recovery of sight for the blind. Those are your lips uses Isaiah before the searching gaze of God. I know what I'm really like Alexander white in the 19 century was a famous minister in Edinburgh with a sell stop time is gone. He was the Minister of Friesen George's which is so building that is still aired on the West End of princes Street. He was known as being a mono maniac about sin. They asked him about Darla and why Darwin said the things he said and Alexander's White said because he doesn't he can very much about sin.
He doesn't can very much about sin that was his approach. So a man comes to him one day in his ministry and tells him that there is a visiting evangelist who has come to the city of Edinburgh and then a public meeting just a couple of nights before. He has been criticizing a number of the ministers in the city and the man tells Alexander white that the visit had publicly said that the Rev. Dr. James food. Wilson of the Berkeley church was not a converted man Alexander white.
The biographer says jumped up out of his seat, angry and indignant saying the rascal. The rascal suggesting that Dr. Wilson is not a converted man that was in all the men continue. He said Dr. white that you're not a converted man either in white stopped short set bag in his chair for a long minute, said nothing and then with awful earnestness. He told his visitor leave me friend leave me I must examine my heart no surprise that on a subsequent occasion Alexander white, somewhat playfully, but nevertheless honestly taking a leaf is aware from the book of Marty McShane in an earlier era told his congregation that he discovered the name of the wicked is man and that and his name his name.
He told him and whispered tones is Alexander white listing to Truth for Life with Alistair Begg part one of a message titled religion. Alastair will close today's program with prayer so please keep listening your Truth for Life. Our mission is to teach the Bible in a way that supplements not replaces your local church and with that end in mind, we want to tell you today about a book titled devoted to God's church core values for Christian fellowship. This is a book written by Alister's friend, Sinclair Ferguson, given our experiences in 2020 was like to be physically separated from our church. Sinclair takes us back to the basics to help us understand the value and importance of fellowship with the local church.
Many people have not yet returned to in person church life.
Sinclair clearly explains why engagement and in person fellowship is vital for us as believers foundational for our families.
Sinclair explains that the church is not a weekly add-on ought to be central to every aspect of our Christian life. The book devoted to God's church gets to the heart of what it means to be a member of the local church what to look for in a church. In fact, Alastair and the elders of Parkside church recently dedicated time to reading this book together, you can request a copy of the book when you donate today Truth for Life.org/donate now here is Alister with our closing prayer. Father, we thank you that you haven't left us without your word of truth to which we can turn as uncomfortable as it is to face this text we hear the words of Paul let a man examine himself see whether years of the faith. So look into our life. So God, we pray changes for your glory and for our good. Made a grace of the Lord Jesus and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be the abiding portion of all who believe today and always on that Bob Lapine hope you enjoy your weekend and time spent worshiping and serving your local church. Join us again Monday when Alastair examines what our response to the needs of others says to those around us. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life.
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