Two Types of Religion (James 1:26-27)

First Baptist Church

“Two Types of Religion”

(James 1:26-27)

Series: Living the Faith [on screen]

Rev. Matthew C. McCraw, EdD

First Baptist Church, Bartow, Florida

December 3, 2017

Opening Song: To God Be the Glory


Good morning, church.  Please be seated.

We’re so glad that each and every one of you are here today!

My name is Matt McCraw and I’m the pastor here at First Baptist Church of Bartow.

I’m glad to see you all.  If you’re a guest, please take some time to fill out the “What’s Up?” card in the bulletin.  You can drop that off in the offering plate later in the service.  We would love to have a record of your visit with us!

This morning we will be in James 1:26-27.  You can go ahead and find your place there for later in the service.

Lottie Moon Emphasis

This week begins our week of prayer for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions.

There are prayer guides at the end of the pews.  Look there for some!

Our goal this year is $12,500, which we hope to collect all in the month of December.  Giving envelopes are in the envelope slots in back of the pews.  Church, I’d love to see us double our goal!

There will also be a special sermon tonight regarding international missions.  We will answer the questions: Who is Lottie Moon?  What is the International Mission Board?  What is an unreached people group?  Why do we do missions?

Also, at the end of the week of prayer, we will have a missions fair right here in our Ministry Center fellowship hall.  That will be next Sunday, December 10 at 5:30 p.m..

As we come to worship, let’s focus our hearts and minds by turning to the Word of God.

We just spoke of missions, so let’s remind ourselves of the mission God gave us.  Look at the screen as I read Matthew 28:18-20.

Scripture Reading

Read Matthew 28:18-20

18 Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”



Stand, now, as we continue to sing to our Lord!

(worship through music time)

Introductory Comments:

James has already told us to be slow to speak and quick to listen.

He has told us to live out what we profess to believe.

Now, he gives some very practical pictures of two kinds of religion.

Let’s look at the passage together.

Read the Passage

Read James 1:26-27

26 If anyone thinks he is religious without controlling his tongue, his religion is useless and he deceives himself. 27 Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

Let’s pray together.


So, we have these two pictures, or these two types of religion. The first being useless religion.

I. A picture of useless religion (v. 26) [on screen]

James has just finished his section about listening and doing.  He tells us not to deceive ourselves by listening to the Word only and not doing it.

Now, he speaks of deception again.

James says that if any of us think we are religious, yet we do not control our tongues, our religion is useless and we are deceiving ourselves.

This is from the same vein of thought as verse 22, where James says to be doers.  If we claim to love God and follow God, but don’t actually follow His commands, then we don’t really love Him with full devotion.

We have a useless religion.

Now, want does James mean when he uses the word religion?

We’ve often heard Christianity characterized as a relationship not a religion.  Indeed, this is the case.

Yet, James is speaking here out about our religion.

I believe what he is speaking of is our professed devotion to our God.  Religion in the sense of, “this is my system, my mechanism, to express devotion to my God, whomever that may be.”

This religion is an outward expression of our inward devotion.

James characterizes our religion as useless if we don’t control our tongue.

One thing you don’t want is a useless religion.  There are plenty of useless religions out there!

There are plenty of false idols fashioned by the hands of humans, that bring no value to any religion.  They are useless.

In the same way, our religion, our professed devotion to our God, is useless if we do not live as Christians ought to live; if we don’t control our tongue.

We can profess devotion to God all day long; we can claim to have a proper religious adherence to our Creator and His ways, yet have no actual devotion to Him!  This is useless religion and we are deceiving ourselves.

We fail to demonstrate our true religious commitment to God by failing in one of the most elementary ways: in the way that we speak.

James has so much to say about the tongue in his letter!

He has a lot more to say about the tongue in chapter 3 (I think we’ll be there in about six years 😀).

Yet, here he says that our control of our tongues is an indicator of our religious devotion.

It’s fascinating to think that something as small as our tongues can tell so much about the state of our religion.

Church, I believe all of us can benefit from controlling our tongues a bit more.

We’ve never arrived at perfection, so all of us can examine how we speak.

Some of us may have more room for improvement than others, but we all have room for improvement 😀.

We live in a world now where we can say things to millions of people instantly.  We have celebrities, politicians, and even preachers that are saying things that can cause so much damage, and it’s no longer just shared with one person, or with a few people, but it’s shared with the entire world.

We must control our tongues!

The word James uses to communicate controlling our tongues is an equestrian term, that is, a term associated with the care of horses.

In fact, some translations use the word bridle or keep a tight rein.

Illustration: I brought a bridle with me today.  This goes on the head, face, and mouth of a horse. Those of you who have worked with horses know what’s going on here.  The bridle and the reins help control the horse.  You can tell it to go left, or right, or to go forward, or to stop.

If that horse gets going too quick, you can pull back on those reins and it catches the bridle and you can say, “Whoa Nelly!”

In the same way, we can get going with our tongue.  We can get going with what we’re saying and we need to bridle our tongue; we need to say, “Whoa Nelly!”

We must control our tongues!


Something about what we say seems to indicate what’s going on in our hearts.  We must be careful.  We must guard our hearts.  We must not demonstrate a worthless religion.

James makes it clear that if we are truly devoted in our religion, we will control our tongues.  If we do not, our religion is worthless, and we are deceiving ourselves into thinking we are faithful followers of Jesus, when in fact we are not.  It’s that simple.

James then transitions from a picture of useless religion to . . .

II. A picture of pure religion (v. 27) [on screen]

Look again at verse 27.

Read James 1:27

27 Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

James doesn’t leave us hanging when it comes to understanding the proper type of religion that we are supposed to have.

He says that pure and undefiled religion involves looking after orphans and widows and to remain unstained from the world.

Here are some things that we can actually focus upon.

First, James says to look after orphans and widows.

Well, does James literally mean that we are to take care of orphans and widows?  Is this what he wants us to focus upon?  Yes!

When James says he wants us to look after orphans and widows, that’s what he means!

We know from further reading in both the Old Testament and the New Testament that God has a special place in His heart for orphans and widows.

We can see in the book of Ruth, that life is difficult for women and children without husbands and fathers.  This is not God’s design, and as a result it brings challenges.

So, we are to look out for those in need.

I think we can draw further implications from this command to look after orphans and widows.

I believe the principle of taking care of orphans and widows can transfer to taking care of others in need.

James is not giving us a comprehensive list of what to focus upon.  He’s pointing out two specific areas where we should focus.

Orphans and widows were particularly vulnerable in biblical times.

We must ask ourselves, who is vulnerable in our culture today?


Well, there are a lot of people that are vulnerable today.

Orphans and widows are certainly still vulnerable.

Also, we should think about those without much financial means.

In some situations, it may be certain minorities.

Many of our veterans are suffering in various ways.

Right now in the world, there are tremendous groups of refugees from places like Syria, Afghanistan, Iran, and Iraq.

We must identify those that are in need and be there to care for them with the love of Jesus Christ.  We must be in touch with the needs of our community and our world.  This is pure religion.

Secondly, James says pure and undefiled religion involves being unstained from the world.

Illustration: Now I want to take a minute to thank some people. This week we had some awesome volunteers decorate our church buildings for Christmas.  Didn’t they do an incredible job!  Well, one of the things that comes with Christmas decorations is glitter.  Glitter.  Glitter gets everywhere!  It’s almost impossible to work with glitter and not get it on yourself.  If you want to know who helped decorate for Christmas, just look for the ones with glitter on them.

James says for us to be unstained by the world. Just like getting glitter on yourself when you are around it, so also it’s very challenging for us to live in this world and not be stained by it.

The world is filled with temptations and opportunities that can stain us.  It can pollute our minds and hearts.

We can be conformed by the world, rather than being transformed by the gospel.

We must be careful.

We must seek holiness and purity!

Pure and undefiled religion is one that remains unstained by the world.

We can categorize these two things that James mentions as compassion for others and devotion to God.


This sounds strikingly similar to the two greatest commandments given to us by Jesus.

Read Matthew 22:36-40

36 “Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest?” 37 He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the greatest and most important command. 39 The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. 40 All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.” [on screen]

James echoes the sentiments of his big brother Jesus, love others and love God.  Have compassion for others and devotion to God.

James is telling us if what we call religion is to be meaningful, or pure and undefiled, we are to care for others and be devoted to God.

Concluding Thoughts:

Let’s think about what this means for us today.

James gives us a picture of useless religion and a picture of pure religion.

How can we remember this?

Let’s look at our bottom line:

Bottom Line: Avoid useless religionSeek pure devotion. [on screen]


Be devoted to God and His ways!

Focus on this, church!

Martin Luther said this, “A religion that gives nothing, costs nothing, and suffers nothing, is worth nothing.”  Amen to that!

Let’s not have a religion that is worth nothing!

Challenge yourself this week by focusing on the following:

Weekly Challenge: [on screen]

  1. Control your tongue[on screen]

The way you speak to your family matters.

The way you speak to strangers matters.

The way you speak to those that work for you matters.

The way you speak to your church matters.

Don’t have a useless religion.

Don’t deceive yourself.

Ask the Holy Spirit to help you bridle your tongue!

  1. Care for those in need[on screen]

Get involved in the Florida Baptist Children’s Home.

Go ask the Women’s Care Center how you can pray for them.

Reach out to the single mom on your street.

Adopt a child.

Sponsor a child.

Serve in a homeless shelter.

Reach out to someone from another country.

Pray, pray, pray, and pray some more.

This is at the heart of true religion.

  1. Seek holiness[on screen]

Pure and undefiled religion involves holiness!

Strive for it!

Some might say, what do I do if I’ve already messed up?  Here’s what you do:

Repent – ask God to forgive you of your sin.

Restore – if you’re hurt someone in the process, seek to fix the hurt; seek their forgiveness; seek to make the relationship right.

Realign – change things in your life and behavior so that they begin to look like their supposed to look; so that they are in line with God’s Word.


We must avoid useless religion and seek pure devotion.

Our relationship with God should affect everything about us!

Some of you are not pursuing Jesus at all.

You’re pursuing the things this world has to offer, or pursuing your own way.

Those things are ultimately useless as well.

A life of meaning and significance is found in the pursuit of Jesus!

(Gospel Presentation)

(Instructions for invitation)



Invitation Song: The Savior is Waiting


Most of you probably know by now that Christmas Eve is on a Sunday this year.

We want to have a lot of folks here for Christmas Eve!  We will have a Christmas Eve breakfast at 10 a.m. and our worship service at 11 a.m..

We want to invite our family, friends, neighbors, and everyone in Bartow.  At the end of each pew you’ll see some invitations for you to handout.  Each of you please take two to three to pass out.

Budget Vote:

We will now enter into our time of our Special Called Business Meeting for the purpose of voting on the 2018 budget.

At this time I’d like to welcome our moderator.

(budget vote)

Join us tonight for evening worship as we study the topic of international missions.  Please be here!

God bless you, church!  I love you!  See you tonight!

COPYRIGHT DISCLAIMER: The text contained in this sermon is solely owned by its author. The reproduction, or distribution of this message, or any portion of it, should include the author’s name. The author intends to provide free resources in order to inspire believers and to assist preachers and teachers in Kingdom work.