James, the Lord’s brother, in writing to the twelve tribes of Israel scattered everywhere, said,
“Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” James 1:27
You will notice that this statement has nothing to do with Christianity. The verse is not speaking of religion in general because many religions are built upon hate and warfare. If you want to find the true nature of any religion or belief you must evaluate them in their dominance. If you want to learn the truth about Catholicism, you must view Catholicism where Catholicism is the religion in power. If you want to learn the truth about the Muslim religion, then you must view it where it is dominant. This applies to Christianity, Atheism, Buddhism, etc. How do these adhere to their god/gods and treat their fellow man when they are in control?
Jesus addressed this same situation when a lawyer of the Pharisees tried to entangle Christ in His words regarding the greatest commandment. Christ summed all Ten Commandments up into two divisions, i.e., God and man. The first and foremost commandment was,
“…Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” Matthew 22:37
Then He said,
“And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” Matthew 22:39
Please note that there are only two, not three. The misinterpretation of this verse has man loving himself before he can love his neighbor or God. The first sign of the end time given to Gentiles is “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves…” (2 Tim. 3:1-2.) Self love is a part of man’s fallen nature. If you need proof of this, place a couple of two year olds in the same room with only one toy and watch them share!
The next big problem is that Christendom has reversed the two commandments. We have exalted man and his problems above our love for God and His Son Jesus Christ. An amazing fact about these two commandments is that when the first one is learned, the second one is automatic. This does not work when we position the second commandment above the first. In fact, we get disastrous results. By placing our treatment of mankind above our worship of God, we have a social gospel that will send people to hell.
Please hear me carefully. I am not belittling good works. God knows that we modern Christians are more often selfish, lazy, covetous, proud, etc. We are not very dedicated to serving others unless there is some recognition involved, like a wall plaque or our picture in the paper. What I am trying to convey is the order of our service. Paul said it thus:
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:8-10
We are to serve because we have been saved, not in order to be saved. Whether with man or God, works (service) are the result of God’s work in us, not the method by which one finds God’s favor. Not only are religious works and social works worthless as a way to heaven, they often make the way more difficult. So called “good people” seldom see the need for the shed blood of Jesus Christ to wash away their sins. Their works blind them to the fact that they are lost sinners like the worst serial killer or child molester.
“Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” Romans 3:19-20
The best life ever lived on this earth by any mortal man falls short of God’s glory.
“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23
Religion will stand around and argue over who came the shortest! Religion puts the emphasis on what we do instead of why we do it. This is the very reason that lifestyle evangelism is useless. Whatever good deeds you perform bring no honor to God unless those to whom you performed those deeds realize that you did them because Christ saved you. If nothing is said, one may think you did good deeds because you were a Buddhist, Catholic, Muslim (doubtful,) Democrat, Baptist or you were working toward a merit badge.
Notice that Paul did not say, “For me to live is helping others.” He said, “For me to live is Christ…” (Philippians 1:21)
A good rule in life itself is for us to keep our priorities in order. It is also the best spiritual rule.
Keep Looking Up!