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 1:27a
Many people today have a wrong view of religion. A lot of these false views fall into one of two camps. Either they believe that religion is doing good deeds, or they believe that they can just call themselves religious and have no deeds. Both of these views are false. James 2:21-22 says …was not Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.
After going to jail recently, Paris Hilton claims that she’s found “religion.” She says that when she gets out of jail she will be different; she will try to be a good person. Now I don’t know all the details behind this, but I’m willing to guess that all Paris found was a wake up call to change her ways. She claims to have changed on the outside, but to have true religion, a person must first be changed on the inside. Many people look at James 1:27 and see only the first part that talks about looking after orphans and widows. However the verse continues. It says that true religion keeps oneself from being polluted by the world. Since any good deed we would do outside of our life in Christ would come from selfish motives [pollution of this world], we need Christ to keep our motives pure and unpolluted.
There are many people today who don’t believe that there lives have to change when they become a Christian. I can think of many people who go to church on Sunday but if someone who they thought would mock Christianity asked them about their faith, they wouldn’t talk about Jesus. This is a dead faith. As it says in James, faith without works is useless. As Christians we are a new creation. We are no longer self seeking idiots aimlessly wondering through life not sure what in the world we were doing, but we are new creatures who are overjoyed by the grace we have been shown and are prepared by God to perform good works. Ephesians 2:10 says, for we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand.
Religion does not come by being good; neither does it come without cost. We must first realize our deadness because of sin, then we must accept Christ as our Savior, lastly Christ will give us the heart to serve. Not because he forces us, but because we are so overjoyed by the mercy he has shown. There are steps to obtaining true religion, and they don’t start with us.