How do you know if you are on the right track with God? It can all seem a little vague and confusing at times. A checklist…that might be helpful.
James gives such a checklist in James 1:26,27.
“Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their 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 says three things about our spiritual practice that reveal whether or not our lives are pleasing to God.
First, he says you might think that your are spiritually mature, but if you cannot control your mouth, you are lying to yourself. In fact, your spiritual life is without value. It is worthless.
Well…this ought to cause us to take notice real quick. The first item on the spiritual life checklist presents the option that our entire religious practice may be meaningless and it is all revealed in our words.
This shouldn’t surprise us, Jesus made it very clear here that our words make known the condition of our hearts.
Our words can show love, grace, mercy or truth. Our words can build up or tear down. They can inspire or discourage. Our words can reveal a heart of joy, peace and contentment or a heart filled with anger, blame and bitterness.
Our words say everything about us.
Second, James says that our practice of faith is acceptable to God when we care for vulnerable people in distress.
Orphans and widows were the most exposed people of the first century. Without a husband or father, they had very few alternatives. They were largely at the mercy of others for the provision of their needs. Whether it is widows or orphans or others in need, the mark of a Christ follower is to step into those needs and meet them.
There is no such thing as loving God without loving people.
Third, James says that our practice of faith is pure and faultless when we do not allow the culture around us to change us.
Now things are getting real.
We live in a time when culture is banging on our door every moment of every day. It is constantly shouting its values, beliefs and philosophies through every imaginable source of media. The constant presence of our smartphones means that the world’s influence is never more than a swipe away.
The convictions of our society have seemly flipped over night. Basic understandings of right and wrong that had been held for millennia are now rejected by the masses. What happened?
It is the ubiquitous presence and influence of the worlds message eroding biblical and self evident truths.
We are all impacted by the world far more than we realize, but when those forces put us in opposition to the word of God, we must take a stand. What is holy does not change with the winds of culture. What the world thinks can never supersede what God thinks.
So, here is your checklist from James.
Spend some time being brutally honest with yourself. These are not random points of obedience, but specific marks of maturity inspired by God. How are you doing?
1. What do your words say about you?
2. What are you doing to help hurting and vulnerable people?
3. What has influence in your life: the Word of God or the ways of our culture?