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As American Christians, I believe we need to be very careful because we have been blessed in greater measure, but the real question is, "Do we have religion?"
I was talking to another minister the other day who told me of a survey he had read which stated that 88 percent of Americans believe they are on their way to heaven. This survey continued on to say that 10 percent did not know where they were going, and two percent felt they were on their way to hell.

It is likely that you—the reader of this article right now—would say that you are religious. Why else would you be reading an article like this? So I have to ask you, are you "religious" in the biblical sense?

What It Means
Our dictionary defines religion this way, "belief in supernatural power which governs universe; recognition of God as object of worship; any system of faith and worship." With this definition, I would say that we all have religion and we could also include a lot of people who have never been inside of a church in their entire life.

Let's look for a moment about what the Word of God says about religion and see if we've "got religion."

In James 1:27 we read, "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." (I think, with this scripture, we probably just lost a lot of people from our survey and definition listed above.)

Let's look at this scripture a little bit deeper. First off we see the definition says, "To visit." That word visit is translated from the original Greek word (Strong's #1980) episkeptomai. If you do some research on this word, you will find that it is a far stronger word than our terminology "visit."

When we visit someone, we stop by and see them. But this word actually means to look for. It implies that we go out of our way to find the person. It would be like a military scout with a pair of binoculars looking for the next target. In fact one of the two Greek root words for this word is where we get our English word, "scout" from.

To Seek Out
James is telling us in this scripture that pure religion is this, to go and find, to seek out, to look for the fatherless and widows. We understand that all scripture carries with it both natural and spiritual meanings, so the fatherless could be those who are lacking a natural father or those without the spiritual Father.

A widow could be those women who lost their natural husband or it could be those who lost their spiritual Husband. James is telling us that we are to "seek out." This is the definition of religion that we are to live by.

James continues on to tell us that we are to visit them in their affliction. This word affliction comes from the Greek word (Strong's #2347) thlipsis and it means pressure.

We all know what pressure is, but the Word is declaring that we are to be concerned more for another than ourselves. We all have difficulties that we are trying to get through, but pure religion is when we start seeking and looking for others that are under pressure and begin ministering to them.

I know that this isn't a fun subject. We all like those articles about how we are overcomers and how the blessings of God are overtaking us, but this is the way we are suppose to live within those blessings according to the Bible.

As the Lord began stirring this in my spirit, I began to wonder how many of us really do have religion. Let me show you how important this is.

Most every Christian is familiar with the trial that Job went through. One day, after all of Job's afflictions had taken place, he had three friends that showed up. We read in Job 2:11-13:
Now when Job's three friends heard of all this evil that was come upon him, they came every one from his own place; Eliphaz the Temanite, and Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite: for they had made an appointment together to come to mourn with him and to comfort him. And when they lifted up their eyes afar off, and knew him not, they lifted up their voice, and wept; and they rent every one his mantle, and sprinkled dust upon their heads toward heaven. So they sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spake a word unto him: for they saw that his grief was very great.
What did these three guys do for seven days as they sat and looked at Job in his distress? Knowing human nature, they obviously were trying to figure out what Job must have done for God to be punishing him in this manner.

Job's situation was real and very bad. So they must have contemplated this and tried to think of the worst possible things that Job could have done. There are several discourses that take place after these seven days, but I want you to notice one of them.

After seven days and seven nights of trying to figure out what bad things Job had done to merit all he was enduring, Eliphaz made the following statement:
Is not your wickedness great, and your iniquity without end? For you have taken pledges from your brother for no reason, and stripped the naked of their clothing. You have not given the weary water to drink, and you have withheld bread from the hungry. But the mighty man possessed the land, and the honorable man dwelt in it. You have sent widows away empty, and the strength of the fatherless was crushed.
(Job 22:5-9 NKJ)
The worst thing Eliphaz thought that Job could have done was take advantage of others while he did not help those in need. God's laws must have been pretty clear to them about the importance of the needs of others.

Taking A Look
If you will allow me to break the Bible down in a very simple manner, I think you will see the importance of this. In the Old Testament, man lived according to the Ten Commandments. In these commandments, four of them deal in the vertical with man's relationship with God, while six of them deal on the horizontal level of man's relationship to man.

In the New Testament, we are told, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart…this is the first and great commandment. And second is like unto it, thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets" (Matt. 22:37-40 KJV).

The church has done well with the first, a focus on the vertical relationship. However, many have lacked on the second aspect. Luke 12:48 tells us that, "…For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required…."

As American Christians, I believe we need to be very careful because we have been blessed in greater measure, but the real question is, "Do we have religion?"

Copyright © Fellowship of Hope
All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Author Biography

David Shipman
Web site: Covenant of Peace International
Pastor David Shipman is one of the founding pastors of Fellowship of Hope and presently serves as the Senior Pastor. He employs a very aggressive and responsive attitude toward the Word of God. Believing whole heartedly Jesus’ Words found in Mark 9:23, “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.”

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