How Real Is Your Religion?

Bible Book: James  1 : 19-27
Subject: Religion, Real; Authentic Christianity; Commitment; Christian Living
Series: James - Wagers

A New England teacher quizzed a group of college bound high school juniors and senior on the Bible. The answers are astounding, and ought to be alarming. Among the more unusual answers from these students were, "Sodom and Gomorrah were lovers," and "Jezebel was Ahab's donkey." Other students thought that the New Testament Gospels were written by Matthew, Mark, Luther, and John; that Eve was created from an apple; and, that Jesus was baptized by Moses. The answer that took the prize was given by a fellow who was academically in the top 5 percent of his class. The question, "What was Golgotha?" The answer, "Golgotha was the name of the giant that slew the apostle David.

A recent gallup poll reveals that:

---82% of Americans believe that the Bible is the literal, and inspired Word

---51% read the Bible at least monthly; yet, half couldn't name of the four gospels.

The USA Today reported a poll showing that:

---11% of Americans read the Bible every day

---23%, almost one in four, professing Christians, have never read the Bible.

As the church enters the third millennium, the world is longing to see what Real Religion is. There is so much counterfeit Christianity on the market today. Much damage has been done to the cause of Christianity with scandals, immorality, and extravagance running rampant behind the closed doors of several television ministries. The baby boomers of our generation have bought the world's lie that people, position, possessions, and power bring peace and purpose to life. Yet, they have discovered that material things do not produce peace, or joy.

Real, or "pure" religion is the focus of James 1:19-27. Lest we perceive the wrong meaning of what "religion" is, let me say that real, or pure religion, is not religion at all. It is a relationship with Jesus Christ. This is what differentiates Christianity from all other world religions. Religion is man's quest to reach God. Christianity is that God has come to man in the person of Jesus Christ. Thus, James exhorts us to not just have religion, but a relationship. He poses a very poignant question to his readers, "HOW REAL IS YOUR RELIGION?" He does that by showing us the:


In this section, James lists some things that demonstrate real religion. We see that this demonstration involves:

A. READINESS "….swift to hear…"

We might have expected something more spiritual for him to open with. However, he instructs us to be ready to hear.

SWIFT(lit.): "prompt, or ready"

c.f. Mark 4:9—"..He that hath ears to hear, let him hear."

James is not referring to mere hearing, but listening.

ILLUSTRATION: The average Christian, in America, hears between fifty and one hundred hours of preaching every year. The problem doesn't lie in our hearing; as a matter of fact, as long as someone doesn't hit us, we'll sit and hear. However, we are not always ready to listen to the truth of God's word. James says "listen," and demonstrate Readiness.

B. RESTRAINT '…slow to speak.."

He reveals how important what we say is.

Blanchard: "When all the excuses have been made, the unvarnished truth is that we talk too much!"

He's not telling that we shouldn't speak, but we shouldn't speak too quick. We're to avoid hasty words. One of the worst diseases among Christians is our quick speech.

c.f. Proverbs 10:19—"In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin, but he that refraineth his lips is wise."

Proverbs 21:23—"Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue, keepeth his soul from troubles."

ILLUSTRATION: The story is told of a woman who was the gossip of the community. She became convicted of her sin, and went to her pastor to seek advice. He told her, "If you want a clear conscience, then you must take a bag of goose feathers, go around the neighborhood, and put a feather outside every door of every single person that you've offended. Off she went, and she came back, a week later, with an empty bag. She said, "I've done what you told me, but I feel no better." He informed her that she had only done half the job. She must go back and pick up all of the feathers again.

The day she went to pick them up, a high wind began to blow, and she returned hours later with an empty bag. She said in discouragement, "It's no good, I can't find a single feather. I can't get even one of them back again." The minister informed her that that was precisely what had happened with her words, she had dumped them out, but she could never get them back again.

C. RELUCTANCE "…slow to wrath."

Notice, James gives us the:

RULE "..slow to wrath."

WRATH(lit.): "anger, rage, or animosity"

Thomas Manton: "Anger groweth not by stages, but at birth she is in her full growth."

He doesn't say we're not to be angry, just be slow to be angry. We are to have a godly anger against sin.

c.f. Eph. 4:26—"Be ye angry, and sin not…"

Yet, we are not to possess rage, animosity, or anger in our heart.

D. REASON (v. 20)

James spells out why anger profits nothing, it "worketh not the righteousness of God." A man full on rage, animosity, and anger, is a man who cannot please God, because that doesn't produce right living, or righteousness.

ILLUSTRATION: Have you ever heard anyone say, "I don't get mad, I just get even!" This person is robbing, and stealing from God. c.f. Romans 12:19—"…Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord."

Thus, Readiness, Restraint, and Reluctance are proof or Demonstration of Pure Religion.


In this section, James addresses areas of our Christianity that require dedication. In order to achieve this dedication, there is:


LAY APART(lit.): "put off, strip away, or get rid of"

PICTURE: of someone taking off a piece of clothing. Thus, James shows that to achieve this dedication we must remove, put off, or get rid of some things.

LIT. RENDERING: "Get rid of all moral filth, and any abundance of sin."

FILTHINESS(lit.): "wax from the ear"

The point is that like too much wax in our ear interferes with our hearing; so, too, does filth in our lives interfere with us hearing the Word of God.


RECEIVE(lit.): "to welcome"

PICTURE: Of a host welcoming a guest into their home

James says we must remove before, and so that we can receive the Word. James informs us that the object of our reception is the "word." We're to receive not only the word, but the "engrafted word."

ENGRAFTED-horticulture term(lit.): "to implant"


PICTURE: Of a seed planted in fertile ground, that begins to germinate

The only way we can live to please the Lord is to allow the gardener, the Holy Ghost, to "implant" the Word into the soil of our heart. If we allow that to happen, James says, it will "save your souls.”


The Bible speaks of salvation in three tenses, and stages:


---SALVATION IN PROGRESS: sanctification


Since, he's writing to believers, the first is ruled out. The context points to reference to SALVATION IN PROGRESS—sanctification. As I allow the word to be implanted, I am enjoying the everyday occurrence of being "conformed into the image of his son."


James uses a great illustration to show that we must not only Remove, and Receive, but we must Remember. He's focusing upon our approach to the Word of God, and he breaks it into two stages, the:


He's admonished us to not just be "hearers", but "doers" of the Word.

HEARERS(lit.): "to audit, or to observe"

PICTURE: Of one who sits in on, and observes a class. This person may take all of the tests, write all of the papers; however, when  commencement comes, they receive no cap and gown. James says if a man just audits, observes, or hears, he is like one who merely glances in a mirror.

ILLUSTRATION: When many of us awake in the morning, we are on a schedule, and we are in a hurry. We'll go to the bathroom, break out our razor, jump in the shower, look back in the mirror to comb our hair, put on our clothes, eat breakfast, and off we go. By the time we get to work, we've forgotten what we saw when we got up. So, too, it is with many Christians. They pick up the Word, read some favorite verses, browse over a devotional, and off they go. James warns that there is a danger of a casual glance, we end up "deceiving ourselves".

DECEIVE—accounting term(lit.): "to cheat, or miscalculate"

When we flippantly, carelessly, and haphazardly read the Word of God, we simply cheat ourselves.


James gives the remedy for the careless glance, it's a careful gaze.

LOOKETH(lit.): "to stoop down"

SAME WORD AS John 20:5—"..And he stooping down..saw the linen clothes.."

We are not to glance at the scriptures, but to gaze at them.

George Duncan: "God does not reveal the deep things to the casual Christian who drops in for a chat!"

It's not to be a "one-time shopping spree", but we are to "continue therein." We are to stay on course, by being doers of the Word, discerners of the Word, and disciples of the Word. James says that if a man does that, he'll be "blessed in his deed."


James now declares how pure religion is made known, and evidenced. He tells us that it is evidenced by:


He has already addressed our speech, but he now says if we don't get a hold on it, we're in trouble.

BRIDLETH(lit.): "to govern, or control"

PICTURE: Of a trainer breaking a horse

Just as the horse trainer seeks to control the horse, with the aid of a bridle. We are to control, govern, and bridle our tongue.

A man who doesn't "deceiveth himself"(same word as v. 22). He cheats himself, and has worthless, and empty religion.

B. BY OUR CONCERN (v. 27a)

James refers to an area of much debate and confusion.

NOTE: In those days, there was no insurance or social security. When the husband died, the orphans were put to the street, and the widows forgotten about. Thus, the point being made, is if we possess pure religion, we'll evidence it by our concern for the needy. He's not implying: salvation as a result of good, but salvation that results in good works!

C. BY OUR CONDUCT (v. 27b)

Again, he's already admonishes us to lay aside all moral filth. Now, we're reminded again, to keep ourselves clean.

UNSPOTTED(lit.): "unblemished, unpolluted"

Many Christians are ineffective today because they've allowed themselves to become tainted, there will always be that stain upon their name. We're to set up a watch, and guard our lives, and remain unblemished, unpolluted, and unspotted from the filth of the world.


ILLUSTRATION: In Johannesburg, South Africa, it is said that there are at fifty-five gold mines, some of them nearly 12,000 feet deep. Yet, men are prepared to go that deep and bring to the surface four tons of ore in order to find just ONE ounce of gold.

How it ought to be with our Christian life. Not living by convenience, but by commitment. James spells out the recipe of pure religion by giving the DEMONSTRATION OF PURE RELIGION, the DEDICATION OF PURE RELIGION, and the DECLARATION OF PURE RELIGION. Now, I ask you, "HOW REAL IS YOUR RELIGION?"