R for Reformed

Reformed Theology!

Two words – but two words that can lead to a whole gamut of emotions.

To many, an R Rated sermon – by this I mean R for Reformed – conjures up notions of:

Explicit Calvinist Language
Christocentric Themes
Strong References To Sovereignty

Or it can bring to mind the teachings of TULIP – which for those who aren’t aware – is a common acronym for Calvinist teaching.

For some these are truths to build your lives on – others find them concerning even dangerous.

While many very proudly trumpet their Reformed leanings – or their Reformed biases – if you ask them to define what Reformed means – you will quickly get a large variety of opinions and definitions.

If you doubt that – do what I did this week and ask a few Reformed people or try a quick Google search – and you will get a rather large variety of definitions.

Here are few of the more significant definitions I was given.

Reformed:

• It means holding to the teachings of the Reformation that distinguished the Reformers from the Catholic Church.
• It means holding to the teachings and theology of Martin Luther or more commonly John Calvin.
• It means holding to the Bible as the final authority.
• It means holding to the five solas of the Reformation.
• It means holding to the Westminster Confession of Faith or for Baptists the London 1689 Confession.
• It means confessing the consensus teachings of the first five centuries of the Christian era.
• It means holding to covenant theology and paedo-baptism.…

God is a jealous God

James tells us that God is a jealous God who hates our spiritual idolatry.

But, don’t think that spiritual adultery is just abandoning God and running full on after money, sex, pleasure.

It can be and often it does end up there.

Or even that you have to have God out of the picture to be adulteresses.

I suspect that the majority of those Christians James was addressing had God in their life just not as the supreme priority.

Why is this so shocking James calls it adultery?

If my life were revealed to look this:

WOMAN 1 – ME – DENA (My wife) – WOMAN 2

I could argue all I want and say to her – but Dena you are in there – you are still important – you are still a part of my life – but I can tell you – if that was my life – I would be lucky to live the day.

My wife is a jealous wife – praise the Lord!

Guys – you should only marry a jealous woman.

Jealous women brook no rivals.

Jealous women would never tolerate any adultery.

But James wants us to know – our God – the Almighty, the Holy, the Everlasting – He is a jealous God who will brook no rivals.

So – how does your life look?

If the American NSA and CIA really delved into you – and now we know they can – how you spend your money and time – what you watch and do – how you act towards others – how you treat…

Boasting In Worldly Wisdom!

James 3:14 says:

But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth.

If the fruit of your life is jealousy and selfish ambition – or as some translations put it – envy and selfish ambition – if that is your fruit – then don’t boast.

On first glance, I wondered why James even has to write this.

Do you need to point out to Christians that if you hold to a wisdom that leads to envy and selfish ambition – you shouldn’t boast about it?

And then it hit me – Christians boast about this all the time. I boast about this all the time.

We have been so influenced by the world, we are so consumed with pursuing the things the world says is wisdom – that we do it – think it is right – and boast.

Jealousy – envy.

We give it a more refined name – seeking to better yourself.

I’ve been there. Thinking I need more.

Looked at houses and units on the internet.

Looked at holidays on TV shows.

Looked at nice cars on the street.

And told myself things like – these will satisfy – you work hard – you deserve it – you should have it.

I’ve even talked about wanting these things with a degree of self-serving pride.

Selfish ambition.

We rename it – sanctified ambition.

I’m doing it for God and family and church. Yeah right.

Been there.

I want our church to grow – but is it for the right reasons – or for selfish,…

Transforming The Tongue

To transform your tongue – transform your heart.

First, if your mouth is just the same as it was before you became a Christian – then I’m sorry but you didn’t become a Christian.

Salvation has to change your mouth. Your language, your sarcasm, your biting tone, your put downs – they have to have changed.

If they haven’t – repent and get saved.

Second, call on the power of God and the resources of the people of God.

Use the power and resources of God to transform your heart.

James says of tongue sins – these things ought not be so. This infers there is a power to deal with them.

By the power of God – you can tame your tongue.

Pray and ask God to set a guard over your mouth – to transform your tongue.

Develop the spiritual disciplines. The godlier you become – the godlier your tongue becomes.

Fill your heart with godly truths so that is what will come out. Philippians 4:8:

Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Put these in your heart.

Memorise Scripture. Meditate on Scripture.

Fill your heart with these things – so that is what comes out of your mouth.

Faith, Salvation and Works

A casual reading of James 2 seems to indicate James is at odds with Paul.

I want to argue as forcefully as I can that both James and Paul – have exactly the same understanding of this relationship:

Works prove our salvation – they don’t provide our salvation.

It is our faith that is the ground of our salvation – it is faith that leads to salvation.

And then true salvation always produces works – spiritual fruit.

Works are the fruit of our salvation – not the root of our salvation.

Works are a necessary evidence and a natural outflow of a living faith.

You change any of these relationships and you change the gospel.

Perhaps I can illustrate these relationships this way.

You are at the beach and you see two young children swept out to sea. You ignore the danger – jump in, swim out and just barely manage to drag them to shore – saving their lives.

Prime Minister Turnbull thinks this is wonderful and invites you to Parliament House where he awards you a whopping great Medal of Valour.

The medal did not save those children – you did.

But the medal is tangible evidence to the world that you saved those children.

In the same way – the world looks at Christians – they can’t see our faith – what they can see is what true faith produces – works.

Works do not save us – but they are proof of our salvation.

The danger of partiality

Mercy triumphs over judgment.

This statement in James 2:13 is crucial.

The true value of a Christian is that mercy has triumphed over judgment and now Christ lives in them.

But here is the point James is making. He has just told us to be a doer of the word. He is about to tell us – faith without works is dead.

Here he says – if on the final day you want God’s mercy to triumph over God’s judgment.

Then in this life – you need to show you are His by allowing your mercy to triumph over your judgment.

Judgmentalism comes easily and naturally. But it comes with evil motives.

Mercy comes with a great cost – in fact it only comes when Christ is in us.

But if Christ is in us – then we will ensure our mercy triumphs over our judgment.

James says – our speech and our actions – the way we treat others has to line up with mercy not judgment – or we don’t understand the gospel.

In Luke 6:36–38, Jesus said exactly the same thing:

Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. … For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

If you judge by externals rather than mercy – that is how God will treat you.

For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.

Here is the point. If you judge others by externals – if you judge with evil motives – I accept this one because he is good…

The Seed Won’t Grow In Sin

James is very clear in James 1:21 that you will not welcome the word if your life is filled with filthiness.

Imagine that your doorbell rings – you open the door – it is Elder Kyosti come for a visit.

But your mind immediately realises – Oh no – if I invite him in – he will see my Game of Thrones videos on the TV, my men’s magazines on the table, my Lotto tickets on the bench, and the holes I punched in the wall.

Oh man Kyosti – I’m really sorry – would love to invite you in but I was just leaving.

It is like that with the word.

If you love your sin, your filthiness your rampant wickedness – you are not going to invite in the word of God because you know it will convict you and demand you deal with this.

The words James uses here – filthiness and rampant wickedness – these are not words for minor sins – these are significant sins – the ones that even your sinful heart can’t convince you are OK to tolerate.

James knows that as tragic as it is – Christians sin – they even commit vile sins.

But he also knows that if you refuse to deal with them – reading the word, hearing the word – it is water off a duck’s back. Nothing gets in.

If you are consumed with hate or greed or lust or envy – you can sit through a hundred sermons – you can read the whole New…

Why The Tree?

Who puts a tree that leads to death in the middle of the Garden and says – don’t eat from it?

Why put that tree in the garden if they can’t eat from it?

Take your five year old to a buffet – then tell them – you can eat anything you want – anything – including every desert – except one. No peanut butter-chocolate cake.

I trust you. Daddy is just going to talk with Mummy now – enjoy.

What is the first thing that kid is going to do?

He is going to turn around – Dad’s not watching – cake time.

Many picture the fall like this.

God specifically tempting them – beyond what they can endure.

To them God is at fault.

As well, they want to know – how could a loving Father put a temptation that leads to death before His children?

Surely if your kid is allergic to peanuts you take the cake away or you at least stand guard.

At the very least why didn’t a loving God put an electric fence, a moat and a guard dragon around that tree?

I mean where was the Cherubim with the flaming sword before the fall?

Why?

Here is my imperfect understanding.

If there was no tree – no way to disobey God – then there is no real way to choose to obey God.

And if there is no way to choose to obey God – then there is no way to grow and become what God created us to be.

Every trial, every temptation is an opportunity – either…

Life Is A Vapour

How short is this life?

James 1 uses the illustration of the wild flowers of the middle east that often spring up – but if a Sirocco – a scorching wind comes – they fade and die that very day.

These flowers live their whole life in under a day.

In terms of eternity that is us.

Life is a vapour – a mist – breath. It is fleeting – here today and then gone.

Personally, I cannot believe how fast this life goes.

Just this I ran into someone that I hadn’t seen for a while.

I asked her what she had been up to for the last year? She looked at me and said – Craig, you know I have been away for over four years?

Really!

Since I last saw you – I married, had a child and now we are ready for another child.

I am sure she is right – but I would have said – one year max. Time is a vapour.

James does not say this to depress us but to encourage us.

To live is Christ, to die is gain.

Ask my family – I am just as guilty as anyone about moaning about getting old. My back hurts. My shoulder hurts. My body is failing. Woe is me.

James says – wrong way to view it. Rejoice! Age is merely a sign that the day of trials will end. The day of Christ is near.

You are poor for a time – you are exalted in Christ for all eternity.

You are rich for a time –…

Wisdom From Above

Christians throw the term ‘wisdom’ around a lot.

It is a very common thing for Christians to pray and ask God for ‘wisdom’ when faced with the decisions of life.

I have listened to many prayers over the past few weeks – and I can tell you in many prayers I heard a plea for wisdom.

There are a few phrases Christians use a lot in prayers.

Father-God …

If it be Your will …

We ask for your wisdom …

And if there is a decision to be made – a plea for God’s wisdom is almost universal.

You are trying to decide if you should marry Fred, you’ve been offered a job in New Guinea and don’t know if you should take it, you are trying to decide if now is the right time to have a child – and so Christians very commonly pray for God to give them ‘wisdom’ in their decision making.

I suspect there would be few if any Christians here who have not prayed for wisdom in the big and small choices of life.

But, if that is you – then I want to ask you – when you prayed – and said God please give me wisdom – what did you actually mean by that? – what did you want from God?

Recently, after some people had prayed and asked God for wisdom – I asked – what did you mean when you asked God for wisdom?

Most looked at me as if to say – I don’t know – I just want wisdom.

Not…