Faithlife Sermons

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I wonder if anyone here has heard about a new movie coming out in October called /Religulous/?
It’s a documentary about which some in Hollywood say is already in the running for an Academy Award.
It stars standup comedian Bill Maher, and one quote from an interview with him lets you know everything you need to know about the film.
"I always call religion a neurological disorder.
I really do believe that.
I mean it's not criticizing.
I'm just saying if…somebody went to a psychiatrist and said you know I believe in…this crazy, illogical thing, the shrink would say, well you have a neurological disorder.
And you need to really get therapy or take a pill."
/Bill Maher in an interview for CBC.
            Maher wants to spread the message that religion is not only ridiculous, but dangerous.
How could you prove him wrong?
What evidence could you point to in your own life and say /here is proof my religion is real.
/            /Trying to prove your religion is real to Bill Maher isn’t really that important.
He’s already made up his mind on the subject, and you’re not likely to change it.
But it /is /important for us to be sure our religion is real in the eyes of God.
The Bible gives us some very specific characteristics of real religion that aren’t just theoretical, but practical.
I think it would be good for you and I to take a look at just what makes religion real, kind of a spiritual check-up.
The test can be found in *James 1:19-27*.
Begin with me in *vs.
*            *How do we know our religion is real?
How do we keep our religion real?
To begin with, James says to
*I.              ** HUMBLY RECEIVE THE WORD (v.
An evangelist named Gipsy Smith told of a man who said he didn’t get much out of the Bible even though he had “gone through it several times.”
Smith replied, “I think I see your problem.
Let it go through you /once/ then you will tell a different story!” [i]
I wonder if that might be the problem with many people’s religion—they haven’t allowed God’s Word to “go through” them.
The reality of our religion is not based on what we /read /n the Bible, but how we /receive /the Bible.
As James puts it in *vs.
21* we must …/receive with meekness the implanted word…/Three words sum up how James says to do this:
19-20*) One of the best ways to let the Word of God go through you is to be humble enough to listen to what He says.
Too often we spend so much time talking about the Bible and arguing over the Bible that we don’t get alone and quiet and /listen /to what God /says/ in the Bible.
Listening is hard work.
The Holy Spirit doesn’t usually shout, but whispers.
To really listen to what God says, you have to quiet your own prejudices and presuppositions.
Listening is humbling.
You have to lay aside your pride that tries to tell you that you already know it all.
You’ve got to be willing to hear what God says, even when it might not be pleasant.
Listening involves the effort of turning your attention from everybody else and everything else and tuning in to what God says in His Word.
As you listen, you will also need to    
/Lay aside./
21*) The phrase James uses here literally refers to stripping off filthy clothes, describing the importance of stripping off sinful attitudes and habits.
But the word translated /filthiness /is also connected to a medical term for /ear wax.
/James might be saying /just as you need to clean out your ears to hear, so also you need to clean up your life in order to hear God speak to you.
*Ps 119:11* /Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You./
Our religion is real only as we humbly receive the Word, listening and laying aside anything that hinders us from hearing God speak.
A gentleman who was getting on up in years once became convinced he was losing his hearing.
He visited a specialist, who pulled out a gold watch and asked “Can you hear this ticking?”
“Of course,” he replied.
The specialist walked to the door and asked the question again.
The patient concentrated and said, “Yes, I can hear it clearly.”
Then the doctor walked into the next room and repeated the question a third time.
A third time the man said he could hear the ticking.
Harris,” the doctor concluded, “there is nothing wrong with your hearing.
You just don’t listen.”[ii]
Are you and I listening?
So often—/too often---/we are talking too loud and too much to hear the Lord speak.
How often do we turn off the TV, turn off the radio, turn off the computer, pick up our Bible, ask God to speak, and then take actually  time to /listen /to what He says to us?
How often do we hold on to what we hear from the Lord---meditating on what He says, writing it down, and committing His Word to memory?
How often do we actually lay aside attitudes and habits that keep us from hearing God’s Word?
Not just the most obvious sins, but the secret sins of our hearts, the respectable sins?
If our religion is just about feeling better and learning to cope, or getting along with our neighbor, then there really isn’t much to it.
If, on the other hand, we are practicing /receiving with meekness the implanted Word/ then our religion is about God—His Word, His truth, His love, His power, His goodness.
Real religion is about humbling receiving the Word.
It’s also about
I read the story of a man who had been away from his home church for some years, involved in all kinds of shady practices and criminal activities.
But when he came back to his home church and testimony-time came, he was ready.
He stood and said, “I'm so glad to be back in my own church, and I want to tell you that while it's true that I have beaten my wife, that I have deserted my children, that I have stolen and lied and done all manner of evil and served several terms in jail - but I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that not once, in all that time, did I ever lose my religion!”[iii]
*            *Sounds to me like he /needs/ to lose his religion!
James reminds us real religion is not just about what we /hear/, but about what we /do/.
He hammers home his point with an illustration about a mirror.
What do you use a mirror for?
To see yourself, but why do you want to see yourself?
I once knew a young man that liked to stand in front of a mirror and admire his muscles.
I’m guessing most of us in here don’t use a mirror that way, do we?
Most of us use the mirror to check our appearance, to be sure everything is in order.
You look in the mirror to comb your hair so you don’t look like you just fell out of bed.
You look in the mirror to be sure your lipstick covers your lips and not your nose.
You look in the mirror to check your teeth so nobody gets grossed out over the parsley shining out from your pearly whites.
In other words, /you use a mirror to help you fix whatever’s out of place.
            James says real religion is looking into the mirror of God’s Word so you can fix whatever’s out of place in your life.
Or as *vs.
25* says (*read*.)
I love this phrase …/the perfect law of liberty…/So many of us think real freedom is being able to do what you want without any restrictions, but James reminds us real freedom comes from hearing and obeying the Word of God.
It is not lawlessness that brings us real liberty, but living in line with God’s truth.
But so often, we look into God’s Word, but it doesn’t really affect how we live (*v.
            It’s like looking in the mirror at a mass of tangled hair and never picking up a comb.
It’s like staring in the mirror at a scraggly face and never picking up a razor.
It’s like smiling at your reflection, and leaving whatever is in your teeth still there.
James says it is just as foolish to look into God’s Word and never do anything about what you see.
/Real religion faithfully puts God’s Word into practice.
            I suppose we’ve all been guilty of failing to do something about what God says.
Sometimes we turn a blind eye, ignoring the plain words of Scripture because it sounds too hard, too bothersome to bother with.
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