Blessings Cooksville Family!
Below is the link to this week’s service:
As always, If you have problems with viewing the video, I have included the full text , of most of the service, below.
And remember, please try to keep in touch with each other, particularly those you know who are forced to spend so much time alone.
And feel free to call or email me personally if you want to connect or if there is anything I can do.
Rev. Brian Vickers
Cell – 905-802-4081
Email – email@example.com
July 25, 2021
Sunday Worship Service
Prelude: Come, Holy Spirit, Lord God – Pachelbel
Opening Video: An Opening Prayer
Welcome & Greeting:
Lighting the Christ Candle
Hymn: “Your Love Is Amazing”
Call to Worship and Opening Prayer:
The Lords Prayer
17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created. 19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. 22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. 26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 27 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.
Solo: O Lord! Correct me – text from Jeremiah 10:24 music by Handel
Religion That’s Not Worthless
I heard about a man who came into worship late one Sunday morning. Not knowing where they were in the order of service – he asked someone in the back of the sanctuary – Is the sermon done yet?
The experienced old Christian turned in the pew – and answered with all the wisdom of their years – The sermon has been preached – but it has yet to be done.
Wow! You talk about a statement that is truthful and insightful! The sermon isn’t done when it is preached – but when it is practiced. Amen!
Many years ago – theologian A. W. Tozer lamented – There is an evil which I have seen under the sun…It is the glaring disparity between theology and practice among professing Christians.
So wide is the gulf that separates theory from practice in the church – that an inquiring stranger who chances upon both – would scarcely dream that there was any relation between them.
An intelligent observer who had heard the Sunday morning sermon – and later watched the Sunday afternoon conduct of those who had heard it – would conclude that he has been examining two distinct and contrary religions.
That was a scathing critique of Christians and Christianity as Tozer observed them in the 1950s – and although my optimistic and hopeful side wants to think we aren’t like that today – my realistic side has to admit that we are often just hearers – rather than doers of the Word.
Some people have said that there is no more practical book in the Bible than James – and these verses that we have heard today are some of the most direct and practical in this little letter.
But in addition to their practicality – there is also a biting edge to these verses. James doesn’t just say – This is the way you should live. In a fairly confrontational manner – he says – If you are not living this way – then your religion is – and this is very hard to hear – he says – Your religion is worthless.
I think that’s pretty strong language. Twice in this section – James warns us that if we don’t put into practice what we are taught – then we are deceiving ourselves.
Without mincing words – James declares – Those who consider themselves religious – and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues – deceive themselves – and their religion is worthless.
Personally – I think that James could have substituted any number of things for controlling their tongues in that verse – and it would have been just as truthful.
He could have said – If anyone thinks they are religious without controlling their greed – then their religion is useless – and they deceive themselves.
He could just as easily have commanded us to control our hatred – lust – or hostility – just to name a few. The point is – True religion makes a difference. True religion is heart felt and life changing.
Another theologian – William Barclay – wrote – James does well to remind us that – that which is heard in the holy place – must be lived in the market place – or there is no point in hearing at all.
So – with that in mind – how does James define religion that makes a difference? In the verses that we heard today – I’d say that James wants us to see that religion that makes a difference – can be characterized by three things – Godly language – Godly love – and Godly lifestyle. Let’s take a quick look at each of them.
Firstly – religion that makes a difference is characterized by – Godly language.
In verse 19 – James wrote – My dear brothers and sisters – take note of this – Everyone should be quick to listen – slow to speak and slow to become angry
Then in verse 26 – as we already noticed – he added – Those who consider themselves religious – and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues – deceive themselves – and their religion is worthless.
Hardly any test of one’s religion could be more practical and revealing as this one. Are we able to listen? Do we know when and how to hold our tongue? Can we control our temper – which typically reveals itself through our tongue?
I don’t think that being known for a sharp tongue and a fiery temper would make anyone appear to be a good model of Christianity.
There was a young man who once approached Socrates – the great philosopher – to ask if Socrates would teach him how to win an argument. As the young man made his request – he kept talking with an incessant stream of words.
Finally – Socrates placed his hand over the young man’s mouth and said – Young man – I will have to charge you a double fee.
When the fellow asked why – Socrates explained – I will have to teach you two sciences. First – how to hold your tongue – and then – how to use it wisely.
Proverbs 18:21 says – The tongue has the power of life and death – and those who love it will eat its fruit. If we are going to have a religion that makes a difference in our lives – and in the lives of others – then it must be characterized by Godly speech – and Godly words.
Second – Religion that makes a difference is characterized by Godly love. In verse 27 – we hear this – Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress…
One of the first things we note about authentic religion is that it is relationship oriented. You can’t look at it like some type of plan – believe these things – say these things – do these things. As I’m sure you’ve heard – Jesus Himself boiled it down to two commandments – Love God – and Love your Neighbor.
True religion accepts God’s gracious love – and passes it on to others. And Godly love is far more than a love that says – because you love me – I love you back. Godly love is a love for those who are downtrodden and in distress – a love for those who are weak and vulnerable.
When the Book of James was written – the widows and orphans were certainly among the most vulnerable and needy – and for that reason they are recipients of divine concern. Psalm 68:5 declares that God is – A father to the fatherless – a defender of widows.
As long as there are widows and orphans in the world – as long as there are homeless and poor people – as long as there are victims of abuse – crime and illness – then true religion calls us to do something about it.
In the second chapter of James – he will challenge us about putting our faith and love into action. He asks the question – Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him – Go – I wish you well – keep warm and well fed – but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? (James 2:15-16)
Religion that makes a difference is characterized by Godly love – a love that looks out for the needs of others – especially the most vulnerable.
Third – Religion that makes a difference is characterized by a Godly lifestyle. In verse 21 – James wrote – Therefore – get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent…
And in verse 27 – he concluded – Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this – to look after orphans and widows in their distress – and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James is challenging us to be holy and pure.
We deceive ourselves – and we harm our witness – when we claim to be a Christian – but then continue to live as though we have never heard the words of Christ.
Much of the world we live in thrives on the filth and evil that James warns us about – and it’s easy to get caught up in that – but as Christians – our calling demands that we take seriously the task of removing that filth and evil from our lives.
Yes – it’s all around us. Yes – everybody else is doing it. Yes – it’s hard to resist it. But with God’s help – we can and must live a godly lifestyle.
We must strive for Godly business ethics – and Godly social ethics. We must keep away from us things like cheating and lying – gambling and addiction and promiscuity and violent entertainment.
Does any of this sound easy? Not by a longshot. Religion that makes a difference is hard and it requires our constant attention and our very best effort. More than that – it requires God’s assistance.
The good news is that James not only tells us what we must be – but he gives us some insight into how we can be successful. James gives us three steps that enable us to develop a religion that makes a difference.
James says that we must regularly listen to the word. Remember – in verse 19 – it says – My dear brothers and sisters – take note of this – Everyone should be quick to listen – slow to speak – and slow to anger. We often do the opposite – we are quick to anger and quick to speak – and slow to listen.
The old saying is true – God gave us two ears and one tongue – so we should do twice as much listening as speaking. Certainly we must learn to listen to others – but more importantly we must learn to listen to God.
We must open ourselves up to hearing God’s voice. And God’s voice is heard in Scripture. And God’s voice is heard in the godly counsel and teaching of God’s people. And God’s voice is heard in the soft whispers and prompting of the Holy Spirit.
We will not be successful in having a religion that makes a difference, without having a listening heart and mind.
But – just hearing won’t cut it. We must do more than hear. James says that we must humbly accept the word. The second half of verse 21 says – humbly accept the word planted in you – which can save you.
Notice that James says that the Word is planted in us. James is saying that our heart is like a garden – and the Word is like a seed. I’m sure you remember Jesus’ – Parable of the Sower.
In that parable
– Jesus warned us about having a heart that is hard – or rocky – or weedy. Once we hear the word – we must accept it – which means we must receive it and believe it.
But additionally – we need to keep our soil free from hardness and weeds – so that the Word can take root and grow without hindrance.
Even though these first two steps are important in helping us have a religion that makes a difference – they are incomplete without the final step. James says that we must immediately obey the word. Hearing the Word – and accepting the Word – are useless without obeying the Word.
James wrote – Do not merely listen to the word – and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and – after looking at himself – goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. (1:22-24)
James humorously illustrates his point with the mirror illustration. How many of you spent some time looking at a mirror this morning?
Why do we look at ourselves in the mirror? We want to look our best – right? We want our hair to look its best. Me – when I’m shaving – I want to make sure I do a good job – no missed spots – sideburns even.
So – when we look in the mirror and see that there is some work to be done – we don’t just forget about it and walk away. Instead – we get to work on what needs attention – right? If we notice that our hair is sticking up or lying flat from our pillow – we don’t just ignore it and say – that will have to do.
If we notice there is a fleck of pepper stuck between our teeth – we don’t say – I think I will leave it there – I may need it later. No – when we look in the mirror and see something that needs attention – we do something about it.
But unlike a physical mirror – which only reflects our outward appearance – the mirror of Scripture reveals our inner character and reveals where our lives need work. It doesn’t do us any good to look intently into God’s mirror – to see what needs to be addressed – and then walk away and do nothing about it.
But James gives us this wonderful promise. Listen to verse 25 – But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom – and continues in it – not forgetting what they have heard – but doing it – they will be blessed in what they do.
Religion that is all about listening – but never gets around to doing – is worthless – and if we think otherwise – we are just deceiving ourselves – that’s what James is trying to tell us.
We must not only learn to listen to the Word – but we must also humbly accept it and then immediately obey it. And if our religion is going to be acceptable to God – and really make a difference – then it must be characterized by Godly language – Godly love – and a Godly lifestyle.
God will bless us – and will bless others through us – when we put His Word into practice.
Hymn: “Lord, Speak To Me”
Video: One Prayer
Hymn: “The Servant Song”
Benediction and Commissioning
Postlude: Fugue in B major BWV 868 – Bach Played by Katie Sun