Quick Reference for 16 Day Devotional
“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.” James 1:27 NIV
Some people try to find purity through seclusion from the world. If the world is full of evil, then they want to get as far away as possible. Purity can be seen as simply voiding oneself of evil influences and desires. But, God has a different way. His opinion is the most important.
Pure religion, according to the Father, is all about putting our faith into practice. Specifically, he calls us to care for the most vulnerable in our world - the orphan and the widow. Pure religion is full of active compassion. It is not about escaping the world. Rather, it engages the world head on and works for justice.
Those who practice pure religion keep themselves from being polluted by the world. They don't keep themselves from the world. For it is possible to live in the world, but not be of the world (John 17:14-19). The pollutants in our world (the subtle evil influences in relationships, media, financial dealings, power struggles and more) have a damaging effect on our whole beings over time. God calls us to steer clear of the polluted air. This is something we can do. The pollution is not unavoidable. We have been given God's power to practice pure religion as he defines it.
"With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?" James 3:9-11 NIV
Whatever is in our heart eventually comes out through the mouth. God desires that our whole being is pure, so that our pure heart will bring out pure words. But, this doesn't always happen. This is why we can praise the Lord with our mouths in one moment and then breathe out words of criticism against our brother in the next. This should never happen, but it does. Why? There is still impurity in the heart that needs to be dealt with. "The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks." Luke 6:45 NIV.
Pure words come from specific choices to stop speaking or breathe life through our words. Self-control is key here. The best way to practice self-control is to give God control. "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." Ephesians 4:29 NIV. And again God tells us, "Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving." Ephesians 5:4 NIV. These are specific commands regarding how we use words. Do you build others up with your words? Does thanksgiving easily flow from your mouth?
Give God control over your words. Commit to him that you will close down words of death and breathe out words of life.
"...and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." 2 Corinthians 10:5.
Guard the gates of your mind. Take captive every thought to make it obedient to Jesus. Don't let any thoughts of comparison, judgement, lust, or pride sneak through. A little bit of impurity spoils the whole person.
The Practice of Purity
"How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you." Psalm 119:9-11 NIV
A pure life is built choice upon choice. It does not magically appear one day after 20 years of being a Christian. Purity is grown and maintained by the practice of inhaling and exhaling purity.
What does this mean? The constant input of the pure Word of God is necessary to grow personal purity. When a person is very hungry, they "inhale" their food. In the same way, we are called to "inhale" the Word of God -- feed on it, keep chewing on it, devour it (Psalm 119). In order to practice purity, you need to be tapping into the correct source of purity, God's Word.
But, it doesn't stop there. The "exhaling" of God's Word through our actions and mouths is critical to our purity. Knowing the truth is one thing. Obeying the truth will bring purity alive in our lives. This active use of God's Word is like holding a cup under a tap of running water. After a while, that cup is bound to be cleaned from all impurity. Hold your eyes, mind and spirit under the opened tap of God's Word. He will bring great cleansing to your life as you hear and obey.