By Rev. Joe Washington Christ Community Church The two thousand member Baptist church was filled to overflowing capacity one Sunday morning. The preacher was ready to start the sermon when two men, dressed in long black coats and black hats entered thru the rear of the church. One of the two men walked to the middle of the church while the other stayed at the back of the church. They both then reached under their coats and withdrew automatic weapons. The one in the middle announced, "Everyone willing to take a bullet for Jesus stay in your seats!" Naturally, the pews emptied, followed by the choir. The deacons ran out the door, followed by the choir director and the assistant pastor. After a few moments, there were about twenty people left sitting in the church. The preacher was holding steady in the pulpit. The men put their weapons away and said, gently, to the preacher, "All right, pastor, the hypocrites are gone now. You may begin the service." Well, this is one way to separate the men from the boys or the saints from the sinners. Of course, this would not be the only way to distinguish committed Christians from the non-committed. Often it takes a whole lot less to determine who is committed and who is not committed to Christ. How so? When a person gets a paycheck, what do they do with it? Just pay bills and buy things or do they also include the Lord by giving back to Him? A three-day weekend or a vacation can sometime give an indication about a person's commitment to Christ or lack of it. What do they do on that weekend or vacation? Do they remember and honor the Lord by going to church? What if someone at work approached a Christian and said, "My life is miserable. I sure need something to change. I need some help somewhere." Suppose that Christian said little and never offered Christ as the answer to that person's misery. Would you think that Christian was either nervous, didn't know what to say, or just didn't care about that miserable person? How religious are you? People are religious about many things: sports, movies, TV, video games, traveling, shopping, hunting, fishing. You name it and people can be very religious about it. But how religious are we when it comes to our faith? If we are truly religious then our religion will be more of a relationship than a religion. We will have and develop a relationship to Christ. Philippians 3:7-9 "But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ-the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith." Knowing Christ is the most important thing in our existence or should be. And to know Him will make you the relational religious person you should be. If you are religious you have a greater responsibility in life. If you are religious - listen and do the Word 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 a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it-he will be blessed in what he does. Are you listening? Are you truly listening? How good a listener are you? Since you think about four times faster than a person usually talks, do you use this time to think about other things while you're keeping track of the conversation? Do you listen primarily for facts rather than ideas when someone is speaking? Do you avoid listening to things you feel will be too difficult to understand? Can you tell from a person's appearance and delivery that there won't be anything worthwhile said? When someone is talking to you do you appear to be paying attention when you're not? Do certain words and phrases prejudice you so you cannot listen objectively? When listening are you distracted by outside sights and sounds? Here is how you can you can really tell if you're a good listener to God's Word: Be Ye Doers of the Word. Anybody can come to church and listen to a sermon. Anybody can read the Bible if they want to, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating or rather the doing of God's Word! And the illustration in this text is obvious. When you look into the mirror of God's Word and see yourself as you really are, how can you not want to make some changes in your life? How can you do something? If you are religious-keep a rein on your tongue If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. I think perhaps that one of the hardest things in the world to do is to keep control of our tongues or our speaking. William Norris, the American journalist once wrote "If your lips would keep from slips, five things observe with care: to whom you speak; of whom you speak; and how, and when, and where." Yes, but that is hard to do, so what can we do to keep a tight rein on our tongue? Like everything else: take it to the Lord in prayer! The Lord can do things that we cannot do. We must ask Him for mercy and grace to overcome. If you are religious-minister to those in distress Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress. I've always heard it said that we must treat our children well because when we get old enough they will choose the nursing home where we will live out the rest of our lives. There are plenty of distressed widows in nursing homes and they are often very neglected. Not many go to visit them, if anyone. There are many people in our community who are in need of assistance of one kind of another yet our churches are filled with God-fearing, bible-toting Christians who will not even visit or call. If you are truly religious, if you have a true relationship to the Lord then you should minister to those in distress. If you are religious-keep yourself clean And to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. When it comes to the pollution of the world we must realize that it is everywhere. There is nothing wrong with seeing the sights of this world as long as we do not get infatuated with them to the point that we forget about God and Christ. Unfortunately, some people get so caught up in the things of this world that these have become an "evil" to them because they may have started to worship them. Worshiping anything more than God and Christ is idol worship. Romans 1:25 states "They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator-who is forever praised. Amen." II Timothy 3:1-2 warns "There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money ... 4 lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them Finally, I John 2:15 says "Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him." These verses don't sound too encouraging for many people. They sound rather condemning or convicting. In this world of sinful pollution we must stay as clean as possible! Why? Because God is holy and He wants us to be holy. We are in this world, but we cannot be OF this world! So what do we do? We keep looking up. We keep reading God's word and allowing it to do a good work in us. We keep obeying God as best we can. We need to stop straddling the fence in regard to the world. We must choose Christ over this world and when we choose Him over the world He will keep us clean! Two brothers lived down our way One was do and one was say But this one thing from none was hid Say always talked and do always did. What does this tell us about being religious? It tells us what is most important about our relationship to Christ-to be what we should be in the eyes of God we must live our faith every day as best we can.