Is your religion real?
In James 1:26 and 27, we are given three tests.
1.) The way we speak.
2.) The way we relate to the vulnerable.
3.) The way we relate to the world.
Are we worldly?
Over the past couple of posts we have been defining worldliness and thinking a little about why it is dangerous. Now, let’s try to get specific.
What are some specific ways we can evaluate whether or not we are worldly?
What’s your attitude towards money?
Matthew 6:19ff, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal…”
The world’s attitude towards money, treasure it. God’s,treasure me.
No one can serve two masters.
You can’t serve God and money.
So you need to ask yourself some tough questions. Why do I work? Why do I save my money? Why do I have the house I have? Why do I have the car I have? Listen, you’ve got to ask yourself the hard questions. Get together with someone who knows more than you and ask for help. Work through your attitude towards money. Have you been stained by the world?
What’s your attitude toward entertainment?
Too often our attitude towards entertainment is just like the worlds.
Wayne Wilson writes, “Every Christian seems to agree that we live in a time of cultural decline. Obscenity, vulgarity, and perversion are the norms. Decency, honor and purity are the exceptions. Christians talk about a culture war as though it were an us versus them contest. I will argue that we are the enemy – that it is us versus us. The decadence prevails because it is largely funded by Christian dollars, viewed in Christian homes, and welcomed by Christian hearts. Somehow we have grown fond of this world. Christians have always been tempted by the world, but this is I believe the first generation of Bible believing Christians to ever have embraced the world’s temptations so completely. We delight in that which is offensive to God. Because we love what the world loves the world is tearing us down.”
How does your view of entertainment match up to Ephesians 5:3-7? “But do not let immorality or any impurity or greed even be named among you, as is proper among saints; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them…”
When was the last time you exposed yourself or your family to entertainment that matches the description given here in Ephesians 5? What’s the world say about that? Oh it’s just funny joking. Or that kind of stuff doesn’t bother me. But that’s not the point. It should bother you. Wayne Wilson explains, “To rely on what bothers me is trusting my own heart, the very thing the Bible warns I should not trust. If someone steals or watches pornography enough times, it may not bother that person anymore, but is that a true standard? People do become callous. The heart is deceitful. A cold heart is not a reliable standard to live by.” Have you been stained by the world?
What’s the purpose of your life?
Are you living primarily for the now? Are you living primarily for your own personal pleasure?
The world makes its decisions on the basis of one thing. How will it affect me? Will it bring me pleasure? The apostle John defines worldliness as “the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the boastful pride of life…” In other words, living for the now.
Sometimes professing Christians make decisions that way. How many times have you heard someone say, or you have said yourself, I would obey God in this particular area, but it’s too hard. What do they mean by that? God’s commands don’t fit my desires. I would serve in the local church, I would submit to my husband, I would sacrificially love my wife, I would witness, but I don’t want to, so I’m not going to.
God has given us our purpose.
You have been bought with a price therefore honor God with your body.
But is that how we are living? How do you make decisions? What’s the bottom line? Are you being stained by the world?
What’s your attitude towards sin?
This is a bit more general, but it’s an important issue.
The world minimizes sin. Too many believers fall for that trap. Instead of seeing our sin the way God sees it, we minimize it and make excuses for it.
“It is but a little sin! God is merciful! God is not extreme…We mean well. One cannot be so particular! Where is the mighty harm? We only do as others!”
Do you make excuses for your sin? Even as we talk about some of these examples of worldliness are you coming up with rationalizations in your heart?
We must not accept the world’s standards and the world’s definition of sin. We must remember as J.C. Ryle writes, ‘Sin comes to us, like Judas, with a kiss, and like Joab, with an outstretched hand and flattering words. The forbidden fruit seemed good and desirable to Eve, yet it cast her out of Eden. The walking idly on his palace seemed harmless enough to David, yet in ended in adultery and murder. Sin rarely seems sin at its first beginnings. Let us then watch and pray that we fall into temptation.”
Do you see sin as no big deal? Have you been stained by the world?
Those are just a few examples that come to mind.
Now, I didn’t give you those examples so that we might establish our own legalistic list of do’s and don’ts but instead to help you see that we all are in danger of being infected with worldliness. Worldliness is not an issue out there that we don’t have to be concerned about because we are in here.
No, we are involved in a battle. We need to war against worldliness. If we are not, we are losing.
Obviously, as believers, we are not perfect.
That’s not James’ point here in verse 27. The apostle John says “If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.” Paul writes of believers, “the flesh lusts against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh, and they are contrary to one another.” But the point is, true believers fight. They work at keeping themselves from being stained by the world because they realize the stakes are high.
James is very black and white about this isn’t he?
If you are not keeping yourself from being stained by the world, in other words, if you are living your life according to the world’s standards and values, that’s proof your worship isn’t acceptable to God. It’s worthless.
Why? Is this works salvation? No. Of course not. It’s salvation works.
As Christians, we have been set free. Colossians 1:13 says that we have been “transferred out of the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son.” We’re not who we used to be. God by His grace has taken us out of one kingdom and transferred us to another. And, so Paul says in Colossians 3, “since we have been raised up with Christ…” since we have this new life, “we are to keep seeking the things above where Christ is…” “Set your mind on things above, not on the things that are on the earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
We don’t keep ourselves unstained from the world because that’s what saves us, we keep ourselves unstained from the world because we are saved. We are new creatures. We’ve left that old life behind. We’ve turned from the world to Christ, so why would we ever go back. That’s why this is a great test of whether our worship is real. It’s not something that can really be forced upon you.
It’s something that should flow from you.
Many years ago Martyn Lloyd Jones was struggling with his call to the ministry. He had been trained as a doctor, and actually was the assistant physician for the Queen’s personal physician. So he was on his way up. But he sensed a call to the ministry. As he was struggling through his call, which direction to take with his life, he was asked by one of his friends to go out to the theater.
Years later, Lloyd Jones recalls that visit, as a turning point in his life. He couldn’t remember the play, but what he does remember is coming out of the theater with the great crowds behind him, and all the glamour that is part of a night out at a play, and sees a rag-tag group of Salvation Army members playing a hymn on their instruments. At that point, he said, he realized “These are my people. These are the people to whom I belong. And I want to belong to them.”
We’ve come out of the world. We don’t belong there anymore. We have a new life and a new purpose and a new direction. The world used to be everything to us, now God is.
This is not legalistic – keep yourself from worldliness. This is grace – keep yourself from worldliness. Christ has redeemed us – he has saved us – and so we long to be with Him and do what He desires.
Edward Payson illustrates, “When a man stands with his back to the sun, his own shadow and the shadows of surrounding objects are before him. But when he turns towards the sun, all these shadows are behind him. It is the same in spiritual things. God is the great Sun of the Universe. Compared with him creatures are but shadows. But while men stand with their backs to God, all these shadows are before them, and engross their affections, desires and exertions. On the contrary, when they are converted and turn to God, all these shadows are thrown behind them, and God becomes all in all, so they can say from the heart, ‘Whom have we in heaven but thee? And there is none on earth that we desire besides thee.” (Psalm 73:25)”
Think of it like this: “The Scriptures teach us that angels are continually present in this world, and they are doing all sorts of things in the purpose of God. Since they are spirits, we can’t see them with our eyes. So we go about our day and we are basically unaware of all that is going on around us. Now imagine, that God should somehow give you the ability to see these angels throughout your day. That would certainly change the way you went about doing things, wouldn’t it? You would see angels where everybody else just saw nothing. You would be interested by the sight, you would want to talk with these angels, you would want to become friends with these angels. You wouldn’t be like other men any more, would you? You would be something of a new person, angels would seem much more interesting to you than anything else. People would either think you were crazy or a visionary or just distracted. Now God did not make angels visible to us. But the light of God’s Word does make the Lord of angels in some sense visible to us, at least now he is a reality in our minds, and the Scriptures help us to feel and act as if we saw Him who is invisible. The Scriptures bring God into the circle of objects by which we perceive ourselves surrounded, and in whatever circle he is seen, he will be seen to be the most important object in it. Now if the sight of angels would affect a change in a man’s character, how much more will seeing the infinite God. His favor will appear all important, his anger dreadful; all other objects will, in a measure, lose their interest, and the man will be thought deluded, or visionary or distracted.”
True believers are different than the world.
That’s James 1:27.
True religion is this – to keep oneself unstained by the world.
Worldliness is a problem. We’re not living in heaven. We’re living in hostile territory. The world’s against God and it wants us to be. This means we have to keep ourselves from being stained by the world.
Is your religion real?
That’s the test James gives us.
If you are not a believer you are just going to live your life according to the world’s system. You may go to church on Sunday, but you live for the world throughout the week. But if you are a true believer, you’ve been transformed and so although you still fall and still struggle, you will war against worldliness for the glory of your God and Father.