June 14 Defining True Religion

“This is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father, to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world” (James 1:27).

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True religion produces holiness and sacrificial love.

In this verse James continues his practical and penetrating assessment of true faith. So far he has said in effect, “Don’t just study the Bible—obey it! Don’t just dabble in external religion—have pure speech!” Now he adds, “Don’t just say you’re religious—demonstrate sacrificial love! Don’t just claim to love God—live a pure life!” Shallow claims to Christianity meant nothing to him. He wanted to see godly attitudes and righteous deeds.

The Apostle John used the same approach when he wrote, “The one who says he abides in [Christ] ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked. … The one who loves his brother abides in the light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes” (1 John 2:6, 10–11). “Light” in that passage represents truth and righteousness; “darkness” speaks of error and sin. If you are truly saved, you are in the light and will show it by your love for others.

In our society, the definition of religion is very broad. Almost any belief system qualifies. But to God, any religion that doesn’t produce holiness and sacrificial love is not true religion. That narrows the field considerably because anyone who isn’t saved through faith in Jesus Christ remains in bondage to sin and has no capacity to live a holy and selfless life.

How about you? Do you flee from sin and reach out to those in need? If so, you have true religion. If not, receive Christ now. He alone is the source of holiness and love.

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Suggestions for Prayer:  If you are a believer, God’s love is already shed abroad in your heart through the indwelling Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5). Ask God to increase your capacity to love others as Christ loves you.

For Further Study: Read 1 John 3:10–18, noting John’s comparison of the children of God with the children of the Devil.[1]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 178). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

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