Brad Libolt Speaking on James 26 – 27. He spoke about representing Christ through the metaphor of riding a horse. Ultimately knowing that we are going to fall off our horse and need to rest in the fact that Jesus rode his horse perfectly so that we could get back up and continue to ride.
When I was a kid I wanted a horse very badly. I pestered my parents about it for at least a year, until I finally got one. I was so excited when I finally got one, but realized I had no idea how to ride.
Riding a horse is kind of important if you’re going to have one. So we found someone who could teach me and set up my first lesson. I was pretty nervous, because you have this beast under you and you don’t know what it’s going to do, but it started fine. I was learning to go and stop and turn left and right.
Then I started making the horse go faster, which was not good. I was trying to control it and just couldn’t so it took off and it bucked me off onto the ground. After that I was pretty much done with horses. I no longer liked them nor wanted one, so we got rid of it and I haven’t ridden one since.
Riding a horse is difficult. There are a lot of factors that go into riding a horse, but it kind of boils down to two main things.
First you should be able to control the horse, and second you should stay on the horse. To control the horse there are things called bridles. A bridle goes into the horse’s mouth, and you heave reins that pull the horse’s head left or right. This is how you control the horse, by its mouth. To stay on the horse, you just have to not fall off. There are only two ways to fall off a horse, either left or right, so just stay in the middle and you’ll be good.
To be successful at riding a horse, you need to be able to control the horse and you need to be able to stay on the horse
26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.
James is going after religious people who are hypocrites. Last week we talked about the people who heard the word but didn’t live it out. They think knowledge is enough; they don’t need to live a life following the law if they know the law.
These people think they are religious but they aren’t. We know that these people aren’t religious because of what comes out of their mouth. If we say we are religious and that we have faith in Christ, but don’t control what comes out of our mouth, that says a lot about what is in our heart.
If we think we are religious but don’t control our tongue, James says our religion is worthless.
So what does this look like for us? When we don’t control our tongue, we are going to say things we shouldn’t. This could be gossip, anger, lying, talking bad about someone, telling dirty jokes, intentionally or unintentionally hurting people with your words, making fun of others.
Remember, our words are powerful, so we need to always be checking what we are saying. If your friends are making fun of someone, or telling dirty jokes or gossiping, ask yourself, “If I join in and say these things, will my friends know I’m a Christian?”
We should be witnesses to the world. Our religion, Christianity, is all about sharing the good news of Jesus Christ and living a life different than the life those around us live.
Bridling your tongue doesn’t just mean the audible words that come out of your mouth, but also the words you type and the messages you send through your phone.
That is the first way we stay on the horse, we have to control it. Our mouth indicates what is in our heart, and to have pure true faith in Christ what comes out of our mouth should indicate that our hearts are changed by the gospel.
27 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.
That brings us to the next part of having pure, true religion, we have to stay on the horse. James says that pure religion has two parts: we care for the poor and afflicted and demonstrate moral purity contrary to the world.
Let’s talk about caring for the poor first. We may not visit orphans and widows in Eugene, although we could because they are here, but the essence of what James is saying is to love your neighbor. There are so many people in this world and in Eugene that are poor, afflicted, hungry, cold, and less fortunate. We don’t have to drive very far from here to see a homeless man on the street with a sign saying “Anything helps”. It goes deeper than just our city though, because there are poor and afflicted people in your schools as well. Maybe you notice them, maybe you don’t, but they’re there. So how can we love them well? How can we care for them?
There are a lot of ways you guys can reach out to your peers that you know are afflicted in some way. But as Christians, we are commanded to show them the love of Christ and to care for their needs, so let’s do it.
I was so encouraged by one of the girls small groups, just this last week. They wanted to buy socks and underwear to donate to Hosea, an organization in town that helps homeless youth in Eugene. They wanted to help in some way, so they decided to buy and donate some stuff they needed. In order to get the money to buy the supplies, they held their own bake sale. This is awesome! The small group leader didn’t come up with that idea, the kids did. It was simple, it was fun, and it showed the love of Christ through caring for the poor and less fortunate in our city.
I challenge you to think about ways you can do this in your schools, your neighborhoods, and the city. When you guys come up with ideas, tell them to your small group leader and we want to help make them happen.
So, the first way James says to have pure and true faith is by acts of social justice, by caring for and loving those who are less fortunate, poor, and afflicted. The other way is by maintaining moral purity.
The world tells us a lot of lies. The world tells us lies about God and about who we are. It tells us lies about how to treat others, how to act around people, and how to be popular or cool. The world tells us lies about money, sex, and power. It is hard to get away from the lies that the world tells us, and they are easy to believe. As Christians though we must hold to a higher standard of purity, and model the Christian character that we are taught in the Bible.
The world is going to try to stain us. We have to know the truth when we are being bombarded by lies, and the truth we need to know is found in the Bible. You should be reading your Bibles, learning about how God wants you to live life. Learning about how the gospel changes not only our minds but our hearts and our actions.
We talked about our mouths, and how we should be saying things that are pointing people to Christ. The same goes for our actions. We should be living in a way that shows people who Christ is. So ask yourselves are you doing that? Are your actions those that would tell the world you have been bought with a price, that Jesus’ blood has set you free from the sins of the world?
We should live in a way that people see that we are different, and ask us why we don’t do what the world does. James has given us two ways of having pure true faith in Christ: social justice and moral purity.
As Christians, we can often edge more to one or the other. Some people are all about social justice, and they help the poor like crazy but they live in a way that is not honoring to God.
Other people are all about moral purity with no responsibility for social justice. I would say this is my tendency. When it comes to the social justice aspect of Christianity, I want to leave that to other people because it’s often hard and messy. We can’t do just one or the other though, we must do both. Remember we are trying to stay on the horse. If we lean too far to the right, and only serve and love the poor, then we will fall off. If we lean too far to the left, and only worry about our character and never help the poor, we will fall off that way too. There should be a balance between both.
We should be of outstanding character and maintain a moral purity that sets us apart from the world, but we should also be caring for the poor and loving those who are less fortunate than us. We need to do both to stay on the horse. This is hard to do. Riding a horse is hard! We desire to control our tongue and say things that are pointing people to Christ. We want to help the poor and afflicted, and we want to have godly character and live apart from the world. We desire this, but it is difficult. And unfortunately, we have all been stained by the world.
Thankfully, we have Jesus. Jesus came into this world and he rode the horse perfectly. He spoke nothing but love and truth and told people about the kingdom of God. He never sinned, and lived in a way that was so contrary to the world that people marveled at him. He cared for the poor like no one else, healing them and feeding them but also giving them the truth of the gospel and forgiveness of sins. Jesus did all of this right. He rode the horse perfectly, had perfectly pure and true religion.
Despite this, he was crucified. He was killed despite his perfection and innocence. He saw us failing, he saw our sins and our stains, and he chose to take it all to the cross. He took our sin and our failure on the cross with him. He took our stains, and became stained himself so that you and I could be unstained. He died so that you and I could live.
When we fail to ride the horse perfectly, to have pure and true religion, Christ has forgiven us. And now that we are forgiven we have the Holy Spirit inside of us, and he is helping us in our ride. He convicts us when we say something we should, he teaches us to not lean too far to one side or the other. We are becoming more and more like Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit, and we should be thankful for that, and praise God for the work he is doing in our lives.
If you fall off your horse, remember that Jesus rode it perfectly, he died for your failure, and you can get back up, get in the saddle, and ride through life unstained and pure because of the sacrifice of Christ.