ENGLISH VERSION - Bulletin Nº 60 November 28, 2021
THE TRUE RELIGION - PART 02
by Rev. Renato Souza Prates
What does true religion consist of, if it really exists?
This is the question we are trying to answer biblically in this series of expositions.
Looking at the text read, we see several characteristics of a true religion, which are announced by the Apostle James, divinely inspired by God.
It is possible that we are faced with the most complete text on the subject in the Scriptures!
Let's take a closer look at some of them, if you're really interested in getting to know her or even putting yours to the test.
According to James,
1) TRUE RELIGION IS WISE (vv. 19-20)
Verses 19 and 20 of the text read teach us precious concepts of wisdom. * First, we need to be ready to listen – This means an altruistic attitude, which shifts from focusing only on you, to focusing on the other, in the sense of helping the needy.
• Second, we need to be slow to speak – This means thinking before communicating, if necessary. When we speak angrily or rashly, we are often wrong.
• Third, we need to be slow to anger – Biblically we are not exempt from anger, but we cannot sin. When does anger become a sin? When it turns into rash words or tries to exercise the judgment that only God can exercise. This is why verse 20 says that "the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God."
So, we need to understand that true religion is wise and makes us wise too, through its teaching.
Therefore, if someone claims to be religious but does not want to listen to anyone, he speaks and gets angry rashly, his religion is vain!
"Every mouth that talks too much has a hearing impairment." Mcbeth
2) TRUE RELIGION ALLIES THEORY AND PRACTICE (vv.22-25)
The biblical text calls our attention to the fact that we need to practice the Word of God and not just listen to it, as someone who quickly contemplates his face in the morning and when leaving home, has forgotten what he saw in the mirror. Sometimes it's even better to forget...
Remember that the mirror in James' time did not reflect the human face as clearly as it does today. It was cloudy, which made it difficult to sense the clarity of what you were seeing.
But the fact is that if we are only hearers of the Word, we cannot truly absorb its teaching. We can see something, but not clearly and deeply.
Lenin even said that: "Theory without practice is worthless, practice without theory is blind" (Lenin)
The fact is that we don't truly learn a teaching if we don't put it into practice. This is why many people forget the Sunday sermon in the days following it. When, if we put it into practice, it will settle in our minds easily.
For example: How many here remember the periodic table of chemistry taught in school? How many remember the algebraic formulas or the names of stars and constellations? Most don't remember why they don't use this knowledge, and so does the Word of God. If we don't put it into practice, theoretical knowledge will be lost!
He who puts the Word of God into practice will be blessed! (v.25)
In third place:
3) THE TRUE RELIGION CARES ABOUT THE MOST NEEDED
Verse 27 says that the pure and undefiled religion is this: visiting the fatherless and widows...
Who were the orphans and widows at that time? They were the most needy in society, as they had no heritage or family support unless embraced by the church.
Regarding widows, see that they were being forgotten in the distribution of goods, by the early church, that is why the first Diaconal Board in history was established in Acts 6.
At that time there was no INSS or private pension for orphans and widows, as there is today, even if precariously.
I remember our parents adopted one of our teenage cousins a few years ago who was orphaned. One of the first steps we took was to provide the financial benefit he was entitled to until he reached adulthood. Recently, the government launched a grant of R$500.00 for orphans whose parents were victims of COVID.
But at that time there was no such thing. The orphan was helpless, were it not for the help of the church.
In relation to widows, the situation was also quite complicated:
• A widowed woman who had no children and who was barred from remarriage through the levirate law returned to her father's house (v.11).
• The “dress of widowhood” is related to the state of mourning and, therefore, these garments are not very different or even identical to the garments worn at the wake.
• They were fragile and vulnerable, which is why they needed legal and prophetic protection (Is 1:16-23; Jer 22:3).
• To make matters worse, if the husband left any debts, the widow would have to pay, or her children could be taken away as slaves.
• Unlike Babylonian widows who were protected by the Code of Hammurabi, which granted the right to inherit.
and for them, the Israelite widow did not enjoy any right of inheritance and the inheritance passed completely to the sons or daughters of the deceased – here one of the grounds on which children must honor their parents, which necessarily includes the widowed mother (see 1 Tim. 5.4 ). If she had no descendants, the inheritance belonged to the father's siblings or to the next of kin.
Hence the reason why OT social justice was benevolently interested in widows and orphans. And the Lord Himself stands in favor of these poor, now hearing their prayer (Ex 22.23), now becoming indignant against those who exploit them (Ex 22:24). Eliphaz accuses Job of the sin of despising widows by dismissing them empty-handed (Job 22:9)
So, we can conclude that James is dealing with the most vulnerable and despised people in society, to speak of true religion. In other words, according to him, the true religion is one that not only assists the needy sporadically, but takes care of them, adopts them as children and brothers!
What is the application of this concept for us?
The application is as follows: If our religion is true the religion of Jesus Christ, we need to take care of those most in need!
The big question is: Have we done this?
The Word of the Lord is not saying that church leaders alone should be occupied with this task; only deacons, for example. But she tells us that "the pure and undefiled religion, towards our God and Father, is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their tribulations..."
In addition to today's orphans and widows, who are these in need?
I believe that every poor person who is not in a situation of misery by his choice is needy.
I believe that every sick person who does not find a cure for his illness is needy.
I believe that anyone who does not have full control of his mental faculties is needy.
I believe that every wronged person who has fought for justice but has not found it is a needy person.
I believe that every rich person who is not happy with his wealth is in need.
I believe that anyone who has not met Christ is in need.
We just need to take care of them!
Fourth, James tells us that:
4) TRUE RELIGION DEMANDS HOLINESS
Verse 27 tells us, "The pure and undefiled religion to our God and Father is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their tribulations and to keep oneself unsullied from the world."
The expression “uncontaminated” in the verse has to do with holiness, which is the separation that true religion requires from sin. That is, there is no communion with sin for the true religious.
However, here we need a dose of balance – Staying uncontaminated does not mean isolating yourself from the world, because if we did, we would not be able to fulfill the mission of helping those in need. We could not evangelize and turn chaotic situations into blessings.
Keeping oneself unsullied from the world means being in the world, but not practicing the sinful practices of the world. This is the secret!
When we think of sinful practices, we are immediately reminded of the barbaric and tremendously evil things that men do every day. But staying uncontaminated means so much more! It means watching down to the smallest details. For example:
• We are often scandalized when we find out that one of our brothers has fallen into adultery, but we commit adultery when we secretly desire to be with another woman or another man. Jesus said that if a man looked at a woman with impure eyes, in his heart he had already committed adultery with her! (Matthew 5:28). So it's a horrible sin what that brother or brother has done to their marriage, but my private sin is okay?
• We are often quite scandalized when we learn that someone who appeared to be trustworthy has betrayed us, is it not? But we forget that we have often betrayed our brothers' trust, exposing details of their private lives to others and even making up gossip about it. After all, it's okay if I bring up that subject with someone I trust. The problem is that this trusted person will also comment on the matter with another trusted person, and in a little while, the subject has ended up on social media!
• We are often scandalized when we learn that someone claims to be a Christian and does a certain racy TV show or posts sexy photos on Instagram. However, we have often worn indecent clothing and been half naked on the streets of our city.
• We are invoked when we know that a religious leader has embezzled money from a church or is getting rich through it, but we don't return the wrong change they gave us at the Supermarket, even minimal.
• We are outraged by the corruption of Brasilia and our governments, making improper use of public resources, but we also misuse the resources that should be returned to the Lord, such as tithes and offerings, for our own pleasure!
• If someone spreads a big Fake News, then we get revolted! But we can tell little lies to our friends and family, which is fine.
Verse 26 says that if anyone supposes himself to be religious but does not hold back his tongue, his religion is useless.
Verse 21 says that we are to get rid of all impurity and accumulation of wickedness.
At the end of this second exposition on true religion, we need to consider the religion we follow:
TRUE RELIGION IS WISE (vv. 19-20)
TRUE RELIGION ALLIES THEORY AND PRACTICE (vv.22-25)
THE TRUE RELIGION CARES ABOUT THE MOST NEEDED (v.27)
TRUE RELIGION DEMANDS HOLINESS (v.27)
From this Sunday on, you will enjoy a Revelation Series with Dr. Joel Beeke. It is amazing studies from which we can learn more about this instigating book.
For the arrival of Rev. Renato and Juliana.
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