“Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world,”(James 1:27).
I have been studying the book of James. One of the verses that really stuck out to me a couple of weeks ago was James 1:27, especially the part that says to keep oneself unstained by the world. It seems that this part of the verse often gets overlooked in the good Christian’s quest to help the widows and the orphans. So what does it mean to keep oneself unstained? What does God’s word have to say about the matter?
First off, let’s look at the definition of the word stain. Dictionary.com defines stain as, “a discoloration produced by foreign matter having penetrated into or chemically reacted with a material; a spot not easily removed. So what does this have to do with being a Christian? How can Christians be stained by the world? There are several passages that tell us about stains or sins. I will list a few here, but this is by no means an exhaustive list.
Mark 7:20-23, “Then He said, “What comes out of a person—that defiles him. For from within, out of people’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immoralities, thefts, murders, adulteries, greed, evil actions, deceit, promiscuity, stinginess, blasphemy, pride, and foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a person.”
1 Corinthians 6:9-11, “Don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be deceived: No sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, or anyone practicing homosexuality, no thieves, greedy people, drunkards, verbally abusive people, or swindlers will inherit God’s kingdom.”
Galatians 5:19-21, “Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, and dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar. I tell you about these things in advance—as I told you before—that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
Ephesians 5:3-5, “But sexual immorality and any impurity or greed should not even be heard of among you, as is proper for saints. Coarse and foolish talking or crude joking are not suitable, but rather giving thanks. For now and recognize this: Every sexually immoral or impure or greedy person, who is an idolater, does not have an inheritance in the kingdom of the Messiah and of God.”
James 4:17, “So it is a sin for the person who knows to do what is good and doesn’t do it.”
Like I said, not an exhaustive list, but you get the idea.
As I was pondering and meditating about being stained by the world and about how to remain unstained by it, I was struck with what a monumental task this really is. How do we avoid all these “stains” when there is always something ready to discolor our garments? I mean really, there are the blatantly obvious sins, then there are the not so obvious things like desires of the heart, following the traditions of man, and wait…what about our motives? Doing the right thing with the wrong motive still leaves a stain.
And then it hit me…there is no way that we can remain unstained by the world…at least if we are trying to remain unstained by the things we do or don’t do…by the rules we follow. These things don’t make us righteous. Yahweh desires integrity in the inner self and teaches us wisdom from deep within. (Psalm 51:6)
Want to know the secret? It is by having the nature of Jesus Christ in us and by having a renewed mind, the mind of Christ. Galatians 2:19b-20a tells us, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” We should make our own attitude that of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5). We need to put to death our worldly nature…putting off the old self and put on the new self which is being renewed in the knowledge according to the image of our Creator. (Colossians 3:5-10). We should not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of our mind, so that we may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2) We should cling to the great and precious promises He has given us, so that through them we may share in the divine nature, escaping the corruption that is in this world because of evil desires. (2 Peter 1:4) We should be putting on the Lord Jesus Christ, and not making plans to satisfy our fleshly desires. (Romans 13:14)
You see, we are in a constant battle between our old nature and our new nature, our flesh and our Spirit. It is a daily battle to crucify our fleshly desires and we cannot do it without the help of the Holy Spirit. We can follow the rules on our own for a time, but it isn’t about rule following, it is about changing our heart.
Are your garments spotless? Are they white as snow? Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb? Are you unstained?