DAY 28

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Day 28: Pure and Faultless

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.”

These two verses take a moment to contrast the appearances of true religion with the actuals of true religion. This is where the rubber meets the road for us and we’re confronted with marks of christianity that if not present in our lives, should give us reason to wonder if our religion is actually pure and faultless. James is dismantling the idea that we can love God without practicing self-control, without caring for those in the margins of society, without keeping ourselves separated from the trappings of the carnal culture around us.

One of the marks of a true follower of Christ is someone who is restrained in their speech and keeps a tight rein on the words that proceed from their mouth. James has a lot to say about words and their consequences a little later, but he is establishing an inextricable link between how we use our words, and what those words say about the purity of our discipleship. We give ourselves away by what we say.

Secondly, a hallmark of Jesus’ earthly ministry was his engagement with the oppressed people of his day. Widows, orphans, lepers, the poor, the lame or otherwise informed, and those marked as “sinners” by the rest of society. Jesus didn’t sit in his home, on his throne, and wait for people to come to him. He went to them. He spoke truth to them in abundant grace. He called them to more. He provided for their immediate needs and offered them the eternal solution of following him. He did not hold back hope from them, but instead met them exactly where they were with provision for the moment.

The last mark of true religion mentioned here is to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. In John 17:15-19, during the high priestly prayer of Jesus, he puts some specific language around what this looks like: My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. Keeping oneself from being polluted by the world means that we remain pliable and willing to participate in the sanctifying work of the Spirit in our lives. We don’t take our cues from the world around us, but we rely on the presence of God within us to keep us engaged in true discipleship.

God, we do not want to appear to be true disciples of you only to be exposed as not following you in a pure and faultless way. We desire to be authentic followers who are marked by self-control, care for others, and continued growth in the grace and knowledge of you.