November 7, 2011
From “Now What? Seven Differences between Truth and Error”
Chapter 4 The truth about one’s religion: the difference between display and depth.
Pure and undefiled religion beforeGod the Fatheris this: to care for orphans and widows in their misfortune and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
James 1:27 NET
The verse above talks about pure religion that shows faith working towards the benefit of others. It is a faith that is pure and relies on God the Father for every single detail of one’s life. The context of the passage talks about the realities of temptation, when one is enticed to temptation, one begins to disobey the law of God.
But there is a solution to one’s sins which is called repentance, which begins with confessing our sins before God and acknowledging that we have fallen from the perfect justice of God as well as His wonderful mercy. It is with this kind of faith that we can begin to extend our care towards our neighbour who are poor among us, such as widows and orphans. To understand the justice of God is also to understand His mercy, which are both evident in the cross of Christ. We see the perfect man and perfect God being crucified for the sins of the whole world. It is because of His death and resurrection that we can enter into new, abundant life and pure religion.
What James was talking about is to keep oneself pure from the lusts and sins of the world and to take care of other people who are poor and needy. It is imperative that we understand these, that it is a two-fold manifestation of God’s grace. One is usually known as the Grace of Salvation or Special Grace by coming to faith in Christ alone and the other usually known as the Providence of God or Common Grace, which is to show Christ’s compassion to the people all around. The depthness of religion should go beyond the confines of displaying religiosity.
We are called to be Christians because God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son to die for us on the cross (cf. John 3:16). We need salvation of our hearts and bodies. We are broken sinners who need the loving touch of God’s grace through Christ. We are born into a broken world where we need “Somebody to lean on.” And so we have different religions to try to “touch” Somebody or something for our predicament here on earth. Our souls are filled with emptiness that we need the Lord and Saviour of the whole world to save us from our sins. Our hearts are bursting with longing to belong to a Greater Being than us. This is why we have religion.
Harold Sala comments on the realm of faith as a venue in which we seek authority for our lives in terms of what is true and what is not true. He says,
In the realm of faith, the matter of authority is a red hot issue. Who says that you should believe this or disbelieve that? By whose authority do you challenge long held beliefs and practices? It seems to me that a lot of people today lack any real authority for what they believe. For example, why are you a Christian and not a Buddhist, or a Muslim, or an animist? Why do you believe what you believe?
There are so many religions in the world; each claiming to have knowledge of what is true. Each claiming to believe in something or Someone, who is higher than one’s existence here on earth. Each religion has a display of what it truly is. Whatever one desires to worship or gives respect to. Religion becomes a crutch for most of humanity that we tend to overlook what truth really is. The display of religion both ancient and modern-day, gives us an idea that we can attain something or reach Someone, through our many prayers, rituals and traditions. Most of us in the world believe in a “Higher Power”; the Ancient Greeks and Romans believe in many, many gods and goddesses, Jews, Muslims and some sects believe in just One Deity; Buddhists have three kinds depending on your flavor, those who believe that 1) Buddha is God, 2) you can be a god or goddess, or 3) it is a kind of life, which is Zen Buddhism: “may the Force be with you always.” Hindus believe in the different aspects or personalities of “God”. Atheists believe in themselves so much that they don’t believe in a “Higher Power.” New Agers believe in anything that they want to believe in, whatever is pleasing for me and my needs. But is there any depth in all these spiritual undertakings? Notice that I didn’t include Christianity in the list.
 Harold J. Sala, God Said That? So What?: A Bridge to Confidence in What the Bible Says (Mandaluyong City, MM: OMF Literature, 2007), 30.