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Rooted in Christ

Religion Before God (1)

FAITH AT WORK: Devotions through the book of James

“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.” (James 1:27, ESV) 

It’s strange to think of God and religion being divorced from one another, but if we are honest, we catch ourselves doing just that. We do the church thing, the religious observances, and trappings of our faith without thought to God. Bible reading and prayer can become ends in themselves rather than means to the end of knowing God. Christianity can look more like Churchianity. 

The Christian religion is not just a system of doctrine; it is a way of life. As one theologian put it, it is life lived corum Deo, before the face of God. More than that, it is life lived for the glory of God who reveals Himself and His will in the pages of Holy Scripture.

Sometimes we hear that the priorities of life for the believer put God first, followed by family, work, and self. But that itemized list misses the biblical mark. Priorities are better represented by a wheel that has God at the hub. All of life revolves around Him, is directed by Him, and holds together in Him. 

We have seen that in James. The way we regard trials, handle our emotions, and conduct ourselves relates to our relationship with God. Christianity is not relegated to Sunday morning or to partitioned times. It encompasses all of life. 

James says that to be religious is to bridle the tongue. If we do not restrain our tongue from evil, our religion is worthless. Why? Because it betrays that our relationship with God is not the governing principle of our lives. 

This has application today, both in-person and online. We cannot profess Christ in word and then allow our words unbridled reign to bite and devour others. 

Once again, James highlights the danger of self-deception. We counter that by openness to the conviction of the Holy Spirit and openness to the admonition of those in our Christian community (Heb. 3:12-13). 

“Father, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

Stan Gale

Stanley D. Gale (MDiv Westminster, DMin Covenant) has pastored churches in Maryland and Pennsylvania for over 30 years. He is the author of several books, including A Vine-Ripened Life: Spiritual Fruitfulness through Abiding in Christ and The Christian’s Creed: Embracing the Apostolic Faith. He has been married to his wife, Linda, since 1975. They have four children and nine grandchildren. He lives in West Chester, Pa.
Books by Stan Gale

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