November 2014

Pure and Undefiled Religion

jeremiah 22-16
A couple Sunday’s ago I led the youth solo while Brian was in Birmingham, Alabama for his best friend’s wedding. I had the pleasure of kicking off National Adoption Week and here’s a glimpse at my talking points…
There are so many beautiful similarities between an earthly adoption and our spiritual adoption. Adoptive parents must take sacrificial steps in order to make a child a part of their own family; likewise, God took sacrificial steps in order to make a way for us to be members of His family. One of God’s greatest sacrifices was sending His son, Jesus, to die for us.

…God sent his son to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. And because we are His children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are His child, God has made you His heir.” (Galatians 4)

Takeaway #1: We were adopted by God and appointed as co-heirs with Christ! How awesome is that? (After God invited us into His family, we became children of light to display God’s splendor to the world.)

Ephesians 5:8-9 says, “For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true.”

Takeaway #2: Not only did God adopt us out of darkness and into His marvelous light, but He also commissioned us to help others in need. (We care for orphans not because we are rescuers, but because WE are the rescued!) 

 James reminds us… “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is THIS: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (James 1:27)

It’s startling that the text puts caring for those in need with the call to be unstained from the world. In truth, many of us (in the church) sometimes seek to be “unstained” by distancing ourselves from those most troubled in society, or those in need.

The real child without parents is going to have a lot of difficulties. The real woman who lost her husband is going to come with complications and brokenness. The real person in need will come with some messiness. Most of the time we cannot help that child, or widow, or hurting person without getting a little messy ourselves.

In Jeremiah 22:16, God makes a bold declaration…

 “He gave justice and help to the poor and needy,

    and everything went well for him.

Isn’t that what it means to know me?”

    says the Lord.

The Lord, God Himself, declares that to truly KNOW Him, has everything to do with helping those who are suffering.

Another thought-provoking scripture is found in Matthew 25. “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world…for I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? …Or a stranger and show you hospitality? “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’

 The passage continues as the King also looks to His left and says, ‘away with you, you cursed ones…’ because when I was hungry, you didn’t feed me, and when I was naked, you didn’t clothe me. They reply, ‘when did we ever seen you in need, and not help you?’ (His answer was pretty simple): ‘When you refused to help the least of these brothers or sisters, you were refusing to help me.’ (The last verse is sobering) “…and they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.”

I’m so thankful that our God has declared us righteous and that we get to inherit the Kingdom as His children!  “Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.  God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.” (Ephesians 1:4-5)
I’m also thankful to serve a God who is a Father to the fatherless, and a defender of widows! (Psalm 68) 
Are you defending widows? Are you allowing yourself to get a little messy? If God hasn’t called your family to  adopt, how else can you visit orphans in their affliction? (James 1:27)
 (Here's a few ideas: We could fulfill God's invitation through helping meet the emotional, physical, or spiritual needs of the fatherless: we can do this by fostering, sponsoring or even mentoring a child; we can always find ways to give of our time or resources.  Finally, we can do our part by simply shining light into the darkness and revealing God's true identity as a Father to a lost world.)