The Heart of True Religion

“You know, we [abuse victims] make people that are having a wonderful, ‘no worries’  life, uncomfortable.”  [Teresa, abuse survivor]

James 1:27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

For some reason, the Apostle James was faced with an infestation of false religion parading as Christianity.  It was faith without works.  Now, we all as Christians should know that the righteousness by which we are righteous before God is NOT of our own creation.  We do not work our way into heaven.  Oh, we are indeed made righteous before God by works, but those works are not ours.  They are the works of the Lord Jesus Christ in our behalf.   HE obeyed God’s Law perfectly.  HE took our sin upon Himself on the cross.  So it is an alien righteousness, not of our own making, that is credited to our account when we come to genuine faith in Christ as our only Lord and Savior.

However, where there is authentic faith, wherever a heart has been re-made by Christ, there will also be the fruit of good works.  We can’t boast about those even, they are God’s creation (Ephesians 2:8-10).  But they will be there.  Christians love one another with the love of Christ. James says that if a man claims to have faith (claims to be a Christian) but his life is devoid of works, he is liar.  That man’s faith is a dead faith.  Counterfeit.  We are “justified” by our works in that our works, the fruit of the Holy Spirit, justify that our claim to faith in Christ is genuine.

The evil of abuse brings much of this into clarity.  First, the abuser who claims to be a Christian is exposed by his wicked ways.  He is not a Christian.  A person cannot be an abuser by nature and be a Christian.  It is impossible.  Second, the existence of abuse exposes whether or not WE are Christians.  By “we,” I mean the church.  Other people who profess to be Christians.  James says that pure, undefiled religion is characterized by visiting orphans and widows in their affliction (and by not being conformed to this evil world).

As Teresa’s quote (above) so accurately notes, victims of abuse make comfortable people uncomfortable.  Here comes this mother and her children.  They have, well, problems.  Big problems.  The car is broken down and no one to fix it.  The kids often seem to have relational problems.  Mom is stressed.  Mom isn’t fun to talk to because her children and the threats of her abuser are always on her mind.  She is in need.  In other words, what you’ve got right in front of you is a widow and orphans.  And if you step in to help her, it is going to cost you.  Big time. Financially.  Emotionally.  You might get into some danger because her abuser just ain’t gonna like it at all.  You might be accused of breaking up a marriage if you don’t try to talk her into going back to the guy and trying harder.  She rocks your comfy boat.  And most people, even most professing Christians, would rather see her go find another church.

I bet the Jewish man who was beaten and robbed was really glad that the Good Samaritan came along.  That Samaritan was radical.  He took radical action.  He stopped what he was doing and put his plans and comfort on hold.  He put his money where is mouth was.  He loved that Jew and took care of him over the long haul.

The first two religious types that came by, well, they just couldn’t be bothered.  “It’s a tough world out there, you know, but we can’t be expected to fix everything.  Why, if you worry about all of that stuff, you will go crazy.”

Jesus doesn’t expect us to worry about and fix “all” of that stuff.  But He does expect us – He commands us – to worry about and do what we can to fix the plight of the widow and orphan He places in our path.  He makes us uncomfortable.  And He requires us to take action.

James 2:14-17, What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? (15) If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, (16) and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? (17) So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

An Appearance of Godliness: Case Studies in Evil (Part 16)

2 Timothy 3:1-5 ESV  But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty.  (2)  For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,  (3)  heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good,  (4)  treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,  (5)  having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.

There is the central scripture passage once again for this series of articles. Having an appearance of godliness but in fact being devoid of and even denying the truth of being born again. What is the fountain of real godliness? A new heart. A new man. A new creation in Christ. The wicked who parade themselves with an exterior skin of “holiness” detest this truth – you must be born again. 

And local churches, including the pulpits, are typically filled with just this kind of counterfeit. It is the intent of this series to present you with real life examples of wolves in wool who are always at work to creep in among us and bring us into bondage.

Continue reading “An Appearance of Godliness: Case Studies in Evil (Part 16)”

An Appearance of Godliness: Case Studies in Evil (Part 15)

2 Corinthians 11:3-4 ESV  But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.  (4)  For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough….

2 Corinthians 11:13-15 ESV  For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.  (14)  And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.  (15)  So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.

We frequently need to be reminded of what the Apostle Paul is saying here. Just recently as most of you probably know, another “Christian” celebrity’s hidden, ongoing, unrepentant evil has come to light. And typically, many professing Christians are running to his defense, insisting that without doubt he was a godly, though flawed man, who was without question a true servant of Christ. Really?

Continue reading “An Appearance of Godliness: Case Studies in Evil (Part 15)”