Dear CSOPC brothers and sisters,
- Tonight we will meet at the VanTubergens at 7:00 for Bible study. Their address is 8803 Catawissa Drive, Houston, 77095.
- This Sunday we will continue with our officer training immediately after worship.
- Our Spring joint retreat with Providence Presbyterian Church is scheduled for April 7-9. Please note these dates as we will need to start confirming names in the very near future.
- This week’s devotion (attached) is a reflection from James 1:27 on ‘pure and defiled religion.’
- Please note that during the announcements last Sunday I mentioned that this Sunday is the first Sunday of the month; well, I was mistaken. We will NOT be having our church lunch this week.
From the Pastor’s Desk
“Pure and Undefiled Religion”
James 1:27, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in the affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
Although brief, the New Testament letter of James packs quite a punch. James is filled with practical truth on the Christian life covering such topics as prayer, humility, favoritism, good works, suffering, wisdom, the tongue, worldliness, etc. It is a powerful epistle worthy of our thought and meditation. In the first chapter, James the brother of Jesus has pressed home the ideas that God regenerates us and gives us new life by his word (1:18); and that he is generous to those who call to him in prayer (1:5-6). So, we might ask, what does ‘true religion’ look like for the one who has been born again and is seeking God’s face in prayer – for the one who is a ‘doer of the word, and not a hearer only’ (1:22). In other words, how might we summarize ‘pure and undefiled religion’? In 1:26-27, we are given three characteristics of Godliness. But first, an introductory comment is necessary.
Notice the context of the Christian life … “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father” (v. 27). The true Christian life is lived ‘coram deo’ – or before the face of God – the one true God, the triune God of the Bible. That is to say, James is not describing a ‘bare ethic,’ but he is describing a ‘Christian ethic’ (see James 1:1 and the reference to Christ).
What then are the three marks of the Godly life that James highlights? First and negatively, the godly person must ‘bridle his tongue’ (v. 26a). Later in the letter, James will have much to say on the tongue (3:1-12) – it is a ‘small member, yet it boasts of great things’ (3:5). With the tongue we bless our Lord and curse those made in his image (3:9). But the godly individual watches his tongue – he guards his tongue – he bridles his tongue. This is not a call to silence, but to watchfulness. In many respects the tongue (or what comes out of our mouths) is the most accurate index of what is in our hearts (Matt 12:34; see Luke 18:11-12). If one’s heart is right with God, the tongue will surely follow.
Second, the Godly person cares for the downtrodden and the hurting. As James puts it, he “visits orphans and widows in their affliction” (v. 27). In James’ context, ‘orphans and widows’ were the oppressed – they were those who were unable to care for themselves – they were the least of these. Simply put, pure religion is outward focused – it is concerned for others – it shows mercy and love to the suffering. Furthermore, the language of ‘orphans and widows’ calls to mind several Old Testament passages (Deut 10:17; 24:17; Ps 10:14; 146:9). Just as God showed mercy to his people suffering in Egypt, so his people are to show mercy to others.
Third, the Godly person pursues holiness – he keeps himself ‘unstained from the world.’ Later in the letter, James will write that “friendship with the world is enmity with God” (James 4:4). And the one who has been born again in Christ, who is seeking the face of God in prayer, he is the one who is striving to ‘do the word’ and to ‘pursue holiness’ – he is the one who desires not to be stained by the sins and cares of the world. To put it clearly, the Christian longs to increase in holiness (2 Peter 3:18).
Finally, it is critical to observe that these marks of the Godly life are but the reflection of God’s attitude towards us in Christ. Christ is the perfect word of the Father. Christ loved us when we helpless and dead in sin (Rom 5:8-10). And Christ was the holy one par excellence (Luke 1:35). In a word James is telling us that those who belong to Christ reflect Christ (2 Cor 3:18). May we pursue Christlikeness in the power of the Spirit and in the strength of our Lord!