Pure religion or self-deception**
Our self-applied labels--"authentic," "gospel-centered," "mature"-- may be worthless self-deception without the fruit of mercy and holiness.
Published April 17th, 2017
Most of us probably avoid describing ourselves as "religious." We would rather be known as authentic, spiritual, mature (like the big idea of James's letter), orthodox, fundamental, balanced, or gospel-centered. But what about our speech? Regardless of our own assessment of ourselves, if our tongues are out of control, we are deceived and our nice labels are of no value. On the other hand, if we want to be authentic, integral, mature--descriptions that match the theme of this book and the immediate context--our relationship with God should be one that works itself out in mercy and holiness. We should be not only hearers, not only self-labeling talkers, but whole, mature servants of Jesus. It's probably best to understand James to be describing true religion. Not defining, necessarily, but describing. In other words, even the good externals of controlled speech, merciful works, and holy living don't make me right with God. That comes from the work of the gospel (cp. v. 18). But that work will show itself in these descriptions of true religion.