January 6th 2009

My people come and sit and listen to your words, …

but they do not put them into practice.

With their mouths they express devotion

but their hearts are greedy for gain.

Ezekiel 33:31 NIV

When asked if you are religious, do you hesitate? Certainly in the general religious climate of today, you might be forgiven for saying you are not religious. Someone once said that they don’t believe in religion but they do believe in God. Why is that? Could it be because society generally views religion as being extreme? Or is it because the religion that people can see around them is not something that inspires them to want to follow it?

If you are religious, is it enough to go to church and sit politely through sermons and sing the hymns and say “amen” or “praise God”? By turning up at church do we feel we’ve done as much as we can for God? Is going to church the full extent of our religious commitment? Are our hearts truly in the expression of devotion?

Perhaps we need to take some time to analyse our motivation for our religious convictions. Is it merely for personal reassurance or for the ‘feel good’ factor or possibly done out of an innate sense of duty or habit? Is it to reconnect to God and help our spiritual walk? Is it to express our Christianity? Is it all to do with our faith?

James 2:18 challenges us by saying “But some will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.”

Jesus came to earth and lived a life of faith with incredible deeds. As he has set an example for us to follow so we need to be doing similar deeds. As he lives in us so we need to be doing the kind of deeds he was doing. So what kind of deeds should we be doing?

Jesus tells us in Matthew 25:35-36, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me. I was in prison and you came to visit me.

Verse 40 finishes by saying, “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.

James 1:27 also tells us that “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.”

These scriptures are pretty clear about what we should be doing. These are the deeds we should be putting into practice. Are we happy to come and listen but not to do anything about putting what we hear into practice? We should go to church, sing hymns, pray and read the Bible, but true religion is more than that. It’s doing the deeds that show your faith.

PRAYER

Lord God Almighty. As I follow in the footsteps of my Saviour Jesus, may I also reach out in helpful ways to the homeless and fatherless and widows. Open my eyes that I may see the opportunities to present you to the world through the deeds that enable me to reflect your love and compassion in true religion and grant me the strength to follow through on each and every opportunity you provide for me.

Amen.

Study by Shirley Henderson

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