For weeks now I have been sharing in many different churches across the western region of Kenya and the Holy Spirit keeps bringing me back to this idea reflected in James 1:27. Church is about loving people and caring for those who can't care for their selves.
We have created religious distractions and measuring sticks so that we can carve holiness notches on our list of righteous accomplishments.
Instead of resting fully in the comfort of our ever growing relationship with Jesus; the church finds comfort in religious boundaries, made up rules and the unity of our belief statements. Micah 6:8 said it so eloquently when God was calling them to be accountable the Israelites asked should we do this or that, should we sacrifice calves, thousands of rams, ten thousand rivers of olive oil or even our own children? They were setting human expectations for guilt and exaggerating it to a supernatural God. When we become guilty in our own minds we look for ways to show accountability. But God said through the prophet Micah "No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what He requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God."
One version says "do justice" so personally decide to do what's right. Love mercy is something you do to others, God wants us to show mercy like His own to those we have relationships with and lastly we should walk humbly with our God.... we take ourselves so seriously, all the little dramas that life and the enemy send our way become so important that we forget how small we are and how great God is! He is always going to show up bigger than our problems and issues and when we can humble ourselves and remember who is God (quit fixing our problems) He makes our lives to be full and fruitful.
When Jesus came He said the same thing, He tried to reset the thinking of the temple leaders, the church of His day. He boiled it down to "Love the Lord your God with all you have and love your neighbor as yourself." He said in these two commands you have fulfilled the whole of the law! Simple, because it is in loving God and His ways we want to do the right thing, it is in loving God's creation or your neighbor that we extend love and mercy that is unmerited and undeserved, it is in love, in God's love, His "Agape" we see how great He is and walk humbly with Him.
Church is not hard, Christianity is not complicated, only sin in our lives makes us run and hide making up difficult scenarios and challenges to earn comfort. Don't let the enemy lie to you, the greatest cause to live this simple life is that God loved us so much that He sent His son Jesus to die and pay the price for our sin. He did in a 3 day weekend all the work we could never accomplish on our own. In His forgiveness is peace, love and rest. He is the reason we change, we want to do justly, we want to show mercy we get to walk humbly. Our relationship with God comes through Christ Jesus and our life long pursuit of that relationship with Jesus creates our abundant life here on earth and into eternity.
Don't ever make it harder than that, and if life seems too hard then that is a symptom that something is wrong, we need to reset, refocus get our eyes on Jesus who told us to come to him all who labor and are heavy burdened and He will give us rest, to take up His yoke for His burden is light.
Ephesians 2:10 tells us we are God the Father's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works that the the Father already planned for us to fulfill.
His yoke that will fulfill your abundant life becomes easy when you lay down your life and pick up His cross. His planned good works! So simple, it is clearly stated that we were created in Christ for these good works; so Jesus and our relationship with Him unlocks the greatness God put in you to fulfill the plans He has for us or Jesus' yoke.
Once we understand who we are created in Christ Jesus, the kingdom of God begins to unfold in front of you. It is developing that relationship with Jesus, getting to know His voice, His nature, His Agape, that unlocks the power of God's word. Scripture, the written word comes alive in Jesus the living word as instructed by the very spirit of God living inside of you! For example the scripture "seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, then all these things will be added unto you" takes on a whole new meaning, when you see that the relationship we build with Jesus is the key that unlocks the plan for your life and the skills that God built into you make it happen.
Christian life is so simple and boils down to His loving you. The love of God, embodied in Christ Jesus, once you've accepted God fills you with His glory which raises us to the eternal creation He created you to be. Your relationship with Jesus is everything, understanding His will for our day to day lives is everything. It is as easy and simple as that, someone might say. OK, but how do you live that out?
The same as you have always heard.... Read the word, remember Jesus was originally the word. John 1:1 and then as the Son He fulfilled the requirements for our salvation and integration into eternity and finally in returning to heaven He sent the only way we could ever learn to communicate with God. Who can know the mind of God except the spirit of God? That is correct it is the spirit of God that lives in you!
We read the word, we pray to our Savior, which is an ongoing conversation through the teaching and understanding of the Holy Spirit in which we learn to follow His voice. We know His voice and He leads us in and out to green pastures. Here is the practical place where we become the hands and feet of Jesus. In His leading we take up His yoke, or in another place He says we take up His cross. That doesn't mean everyone is called to be a pastor or church leadership, it means we are all called to be Jesus to the people around us.
James 1:27 reminds us "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."
When the Good Shepherd leads His sheep out to good pastures, or when we take up Jesus' yoke, Jesus' Cross, when we fulfill the good works we were designed by God the Father and created in Christ Jesus to do; we will become the the hands and feet of Jesus and we will always be serving the widows and orphans. We will always be ministering to the underserved in the world, the lost, the needy, the prostitutes, the tax collectors the people God loves so much that He would leave the ninety-nine to find them. Jesus' command to us was to love one another as He loved us; and as you begin to love and serve the people in society that would never be able to pay you back you become transformed into the creature you were created to be. Into the image of Christ, His body, seated in the throne room of God with Christ.
Jesus was so identified with the lost and underserved people of this world that in His parable about the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:31-46) Jesus said when His followers did or didn't do something for, the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the sick, the stranger or the prisoner that the same as they did for the underserved, they did it to Him. He is so associated with these lost and needy people He said if you have done it unto the least of these brothers and sisters you have done it unto me!
Here you see we become Christ, acting for Christ, to Christ, while serving Christ as the underserved of this world.
Who are these people? look all around, they are the ones who could never pay you back. Broken, hurting, dying, lost, addicts, homeless, widows, orphans think about it God will show you who. They will be friends, family, people you know, people you don't know, and even people you hate!
A final note, James said don't be polluted by the world, when ever we make or accept an excuse not to help or serve the least of these I believe is when we allow the worlds thinking to pollute our minds. If you hear/feel God tell you to help a widow by giving her $300 worth of groceries and on your way to fulfill this ministry you begin to think that much money might set you back or you wont have enough for yourself... That is letting the world thinking pollute your call.
Go out today and do what you hear God telling you to do.
In Jesus name! Amen