November 18 - The Religion of the Self
James clearly distinguishes two types of spirituality: that of grace-based and that of self-based. We are to examine ourselves to see if we are still mired in a religion of the self instead of being truly godly. There is a grave danger of deception, seeing everything we have as the result of self-efforts instead of gifts from above, from the Father of lights. Even our new birth is from the Lord and not of our own doing. Ask yourself, “Is my faith God-based or self-based?”
Self-based religion is easy to detect. Those with a religion of the self do not listen, they are intent on voicing out their own views. They get angry easily and do not accomplish the righteousness of God. Their hearts are hardened, refusing God’s Word. They only hear the Word of God but fail to do the Word, thereby deceiving themselves. They cannot control their tongue, although claiming to be godly. They look down on others, judging others outwardly and taking the place of God. There is no mercy in them but only condemnation and judgments towards others. In a word, they do not practice the law of love.
True religion, according to James, includes two aspects. First, we have to take care of those in need, like the fatherless and the widows. If we claimed to be governed by the law of love, we must express love in all that we do. Calling yourself a Christian but not giving others a helping hand is a direct contradiction to your belief. The first gauge of true religion is how one observes the Great Commandment to love God and others as oneself.
God is not only a God of love, He is also a God of righteousness and truth. He is a jealous God and He would not condone sin in any shape or form. Other than taking care of the needy, believers are to be holy, untainted by the world around us. We often sin by getting angry, by criticizing others with our tongue, by our prejudices towards those who are not like us and by unfairly judging others. Those are sins in God’s Book but we seem to be at ease with doing them.
Dead faith is a faith that is self-based and not gift-based. While claiming to be godly and religious, such faith is not being expressed in works. If you are full of the self, your religious works cannot save you. Take time now to look at your own faith: is your faith based on self-efforts or based on God’s gift and mercy? Are you just observing religious rules and practices without being guided by the love and the holiness of God? James was rebuking the hypocrites in the church of his day, are you one of those hypocrites? To be godly is to be like God. He is love and He is holy. True religion is based on His character and such is the true path to true spirituality. Repent now of your lack of love and holiness before Him.
Ps 124:6-8 Ezek 37:1-38:23 Jas 1:19-2:17 Prov 28:1