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October 31, 1990

Real Religion

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If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. JAMES 1:26-27
What are the distinguishing traits of a person with real religion? Does he use a lot of God language? Does she vote for conservative candidates on Election Day? Does he listen to Christian music and not go to movies?
According to James, real religion is more than just external activities. It’s more than a list of dos and don’ts. Rather, it is a relationship with Jesus that is developed from the inside out.
Real religion involves taming the tongue. This takes more than a handful of self-help steps at a therapy group. It requires the power of the Creator God coming alongside us in areas that we are not able to tame by ourselves. A person who can control her speech is a person who has tapped into a supernatural power. We might not need the power of God to attend a church, a Bible study, or a prayer group. We don’t need a Higher Power to paste bumper stickers on our cars. But we do need strength from an external source—supernatural strength—to control our speech.
Real religion also demands that we help the helpless. James says that taking care of the disenfranchised and the less fortunate indicates that a person has a vital and ongoing connection with Jesus. To fulfill this mission, we must move outside ourselves to focus on someone in need.
In all likelihood, these people will never be able to pay us back. We will never receive an award or trophy for helping them. Perhaps that’s exactly why it weighs in as real religion.

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