Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. (James 1:27, NKJV)
James does not make excuses for the religious person who will not bring his tongue and heart under the control of God’s word (James 1:22-26). With striking contrast, he now identifies the person who is clean and unstained before God. It is the person whose actions match his words and deeds. It is the person who attends to the needs of the homeless and widows. Moved by compassion, this person relieves their suffering as he is able, just like the good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37). This is not a church-coordinated action, arranged by committee and financed by a church treasury. It is the action of the person whose religion is “pure and undefiled.” This same person is careful to guard his moral purity by withholding himself (or herself) from the defilement of the world (1 John 2:15-16). This person knows he or she lives before the true God who sees every action and knows every thought and motive of the heart. Devote yourself to the pure and undefiled religion that is revealed in God’s perfect law of liberty. Be a doer of its work and you will be blessed (James 1:25).
Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:4, NKJV)
Whose friend are you – God’s, or the world’s? The world is the system of evil that opposes God and His will (1 John 2:15-17). A Christian cannot join hands with the world, doing and endorsing what the world does, without becoming God’s enemy. Simple as that. James uses adultery to make the point. The world celebrates adultery. When husbands and wives commit adultery, the world calls it a “love affair,” but there is nothing loving about it. The entertainment industry (movies, television, the internet, etc.) celebrates adultery. The porn industry persuades it. But, God is very clear: The sin of adultery is not a love affair, it is a lust affair (James 4:1-3; Hebrews 13:4). Jesus said, “You are My friends, if you do whatever I command you” (John 15:14). The worldly-minded do not love Jesus, because they do not obey Jesus. They are driven by selfish desires. They are God’s enemies. Do not be counted among them. “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them” (Ephesians 5:6-7).
18 Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, 19 and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. (Mark 4:18–19, NKJV)
When thorns and thistles take over a field, the crop will not be productive. Weeds choke out the good plants, robbing them of nutrients, rain and sunshine, until eventually they die. Christ used this to describe the heart that is so crowded with internal influences that no room is made for the word of God to grow and bear its fruit in one’s life. We must make room in our hearts for the word of God, otherwise, our overcrowded hearts will choke out God’s word from our lives. Jesus identified 1) The cares of this world, 2) The deceitfulness of riches, and 3) the desire for other things as the culprits we must weed out of our hearts. Life is brief and uncertain, so live for heaven (Col. 3:1-4). Riches are deceptive, and will never satisfy our yearnings of eternity (Eccl. 3:11; 5:12). Desiring other things instead of seeking first God’s rule and reign in our lives will always choke out the word of God from our lives (Matt. 6:33). Pull out the weeds from your heart, lest you wither and die spiritually.
4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 5 Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4–5, NKJV)
The whole system of evil that opposes God and tries to overwhelm the children of God, is deposed and defeated by our faith. The victory of faith is not merely some future anticipation, it is the victory that “has” overcome the world. The world has already been defeated by Christ, and that defeat continues to be felt to this present hour (1 Jno. 3:8). Our faith in Jesus as the Son of God destroys every effort of the devil (the god of this world) to overthrow those who are “born of God” (1 Jno. 5:1). Christians love God and one another by keeping His commandments (1 Jno. 5:2-3). This is faith that Jesus is the Son of God. The person with this faith “overcomes the world.”
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:2, NKJV)
We all fashion ourselves after something or someone. Some set of values, someone we admire, or some goal to which we aspire. The Christian makes a conscious decision not to assimilate the thinking, values and goals of the world – that system of evil that is in opposition to God. Now converted to Christ, a change occurs – a metamorphosis – that is visible and recognizable. This transformation must begin in the mind, for that is the seat of all that we are. Rather than doing those things that offend God, we live for His approval. His full or “perfect will” is set before us in His Scriptures, and there we go to learn what is “good and acceptable” before Him. Renew your mind, your thinking, so that in your life will be the light of the world and please your heavenly Father (Matt. 5:14-16).
Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” (John 8:12, NKJV)
Jesus illuminates this world with truth. As the light of the world, Jesus exposes the world with His light. The powerful truth of Christ’s word lays bare the darkness of sin in all its futility, foolishness and falsity. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend (overcome) it” (Jno. 1:5). Sin does not overwhelm the light of Christ. As the light of the world, Jesus judges the world. In the last day, His word will judge all who reject Him (Jno. 12:48). By walking in His light you avoid the future condemnation of sin. As the light of the world, Jesus saves the world. He shows the way out of sin; the way to the Father. “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men” (Jno. 1:4). Rejoice and thank God each day that Jesus is “the true Light which gives light to every man” (Jno. 1:9). His true light of truth is “already shining” (1 Jno. 2:8). Follow Jesus. Walk in the light of His truth and be led to eternal life.
19 But at night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, 20 “Go, stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life.” (Acts 5:19–20, NKJV)
Some Christians avoid religious controversy like the plague. While we are to live at peace with others (as much as it depends on us), that does not mean our lives will be without controversy. Faithful Christians do not need to go out looking for controversy; it will come to them. In today’s passage the Lord’s angel told Peter to go preach the gospel in the Jewish temple. That would be a very controversial but necessary move in order to save their souls. Divine truth must still be preached and lived (Mk. 16:15-16). When it is, expect the world’s opposition and the controversy that comes with it. Do not be afraid of men. Great controversy attended the life of Jesus and His apostles. We should expect no less when we follow Him (Jno. 15:18-19). Go and speak the words of life to everyone. How they choose to respond will be upon them, not you.