Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. (James 1:27)
Welcome to the first worship service of Berean Baptist Church in the year 2012. We begin the first day of this New Year in a church service, which should be indicative of our intentions to serve God more faithfully in 2012. Although we enjoy coming together for corporate worship, our service to God must not be confined to the few hours of worship we gather together each week. Worship is an ongoing process each day as we live out the faith of Christ in our daily lives.
The epistle of James enjoins us to have an active faith. James writes in 1:22: “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” Those that claim Christianity because they attend church and listen to preaching have not yet gone far enough to substantiate their claim. If all they do is hear and they believe this enough, they are deceived about the depth of their faith. Real faith causes a Christian to be active in pursuing the good works that God demands from His people.
The example we have from Christ is that of a faithful servant. A servant is not idle; he is always busy about his master’s work; and certainly Jesus was not idle as every day was filled with tasks given by the Heavenly Father. He did not teach simply by His words; He taught by the activity of His life. His disciples listened to His words, but they learned as much from His example as they did from His profound grasp of scripture.
The epistle of James is a great place to study the composition of real faith. James does not teach that we are saved by our works, but he emphatically makes the point that a person without good works cannot be a Christian. If Christ truly lives in the heart of the believer, the evidence of His presence cannot be suppressed. It will make itself known because the desire of every believer is to serve as Christ served. An example of this is given in the 27th verse of the first chapter. ”Pure religion and undefiled before God the Father is this…” and from there follows the examples of a living faith. Visiting orphans and widows and trying to stay out of sin is not the sum total of our religion, and neither does James intend this to be a full definition of pure, undefiled faith. The point is that saving faith always demonstrates itself. It will do much more than what is mentioned in verse 27, but it will not do less.
Does this mean we must seek out orphans and go find widows or else we cannot have real faith? If this were so, then eternal life would be dependent upon orphans and widows! The gist of the message is that wherever we see those in need we must show our love for them. Your orphan or your widow may be a homeless person or a struggling person in this congregation. If you ignore their need, how have you demonstrated the life of Christ in you?
These are the kinds of considerations we must have to serve the Lord in a better way in this New Year. Take your worship beyond the walls of the Berean Church. We worship God by obedience. He wants this far more than your “sacrifice of praise” if it comes from a falsely pious, cold, unconcerned heart (cp. 1 Sam. 15:22). Do your best to make 2012 a year of active obedience not only in attending church, but in being a beacon of the Saviour’s love in word and deed.
Pastor V. Mark Smith