by Stan Mitchell
“If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight reign on his tongue, he deceives himself, and his religion is worthless” (James 1:27).
The fastest man who ever lived was Ben Johnson, a broad-shouldered Canadian sprinter. In the Seoul Olympics of 1988, he ran the fastest one hundred meters in history. But don’t look for his name in the record books, because he was disqualified. Not because he wasn’t fast. Not because he wasn’t talented. Because he broke the rules. He was taking anabolic steroids.
Could your Christianity be disqualified? You may not want to read on, but you must! You don’t want to be disqualified.
James begins by saying, “If anyone considers himself religious.” If you’ve read this far, you probably qualify. You don’t consider yourself a pagan! This verse is about you. So, if anyone thinks he is a Christian, yet does certain things, he “deceives himself, and his religion is worthless.”
We might go to church and sing the songs. We might study the Bible and preach sermons. And still be disqualified. And, what is even more frightening, all along we have deceived ourselves into thinking that we are religious!
So what is this deadly spiritual steroid that will disqualify us from the race? Is it murder? Embezzlement? Racism?
Some people, James says, fool themselves into thinking that their religion is sound, yet they will be disqualified because they fail to control their tongues!
Angry words. Gossip. Spiteful, or demeaning remarks. Destructive and bruising words. Are you guilty? Am I? Be careful how you respond. James insists that many are “deceived” into thinking that their religion is OK when it is not. In a word, if you think that this verse does not apply to you, that may the very sign that it does!
Words can bind the wounds of the injured and heal the broken bones of the fallen. Or they can strip bare another’s heart. Use words carefully. In the race of life, there is a record book, what the Bible calls the “Book of life.” And you want to have your name written there.

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Stan Mitchell

Stan began preaching in 1976, and worked in Zimbabwe, California, Texas and Tennessee. He served as preacher with the Red Walnut Church of Christ in Bath Springs, TN. He was Professor of Bible at Freed-Hardeman University. He was married to the former Marjorie McCarthy, and has one daughter, Tracy Watts. He authored five books: The Wise Get Wiser, the Foolish More Foolish: The Book of Proverbs; Give the Winds a Mighty Voice: Our Worship in Song; Equipping the Saints for Ministry; and Will Our Faith Have Children: Developing Leadership in the Church for the Next Generation. Stan passed away 19 Feb. 2019.

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