Rest – by Faith – in God’s PROVEN Faithfulness

In comparing the generation of Moses with our generation, the author of Hebrews writes,

For good news was proclaimed to us, just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united BY FAITH with those who listened. For we who have BELIEVED enter that rest.   (4:2-3a)

It’s crucial to see we do NOT enter God’s Rest based on our merit, because of our good works.

In a world system of merit, of climbing the corporate ladder, of constantly (restlessly!) trying to prove yourself worthy at work, on Facebook, wherever . . . the Bible is really clear about this very counter-cultural idea, that we are saved NOT because of our works, but because of God’s grace, through faith in HIS work, His provision, His gift.

“By grace you have been saved through faith.  This is NOT your own doing; it is the gift of God, NOT a result of works, so that no one may boast.”  (Eph 2:8-9)

Since we are saved by Faith, since we enter God’s rest by Faith . . . it’s rather important to understand what exactly IS Faith?   And what is it NOT?

Biblically speaking, “faith” is NOT:

  • ‘Spiritual Intrigue’ (‘Miracle Chasers’ looking for images of Jesus on a tortilla, etc.)
  • Faith is not a ‘mystical gut feeling’, a subjective vibe:  “I’m totally a person of faith, very spiritual – I’m into…

Jesus Is Better!

“No Turning Back.”

Those 3 words mark the ‘refrain’ of a 19th century hymn that later was made popular by the Billy Graham Crusades.

The lyrics recount the final words of a man from India.  When the Hindu village chief called this man to renounce his new Christian faith or lose his life, the man replied, “I have decided to follow Jesus.  No turning back.”

As the chief signalled for his execution, the missionary who led this man to Jesus, who put the man’s words to music, recounts that right before his execution, the man sang, ‘The cross before me, the world behind me – no turning back.”

The Book of Hebrews is written to Christians who were struggling, weary, counting the cost of following Jesus…tempted to “turn back” and stop following Jesus.  We need motivation to keep pressing on in Christ when times are tough – which they are, more and more, in our post-Christian era.

That motivation is simple, but glorious:  Jesus Is BETTER!

Every promise from the old covenant finds its fulfilment in Jesus; every shadow from the old covenant finds its substance in Jesus.  And we will see, the deep longings that God has created in the human soul:  to know God, to belong, to be secure, to be loved, know our purpose…all of these longings of the soul are met in Jesus Christ.

Come along for our journey through the Book of Hebrews.  And all who are struggling, keep pressing on in your journey with Jesus.   Remember…no turning back, because Jesus is better!

 

God Delights To Use Us

There are some who think that to go on missions or a church plant we only need awesome Christians – so ordinary saints need not apply.

We only need those who are evangelistic, outgoing, hard-working, intellectual, energetic.

They look in the mirror and say – that isn’t me.

Please! If we built the church – you might have a point.

Let’s not forget that God builds His church and so that we don’t think it is awesome us who do it – He specifically chooses to use weak frail vessels to do the impossible so that He gets the glory.

1 Corinthians 1:26–29:

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.

Yes, missions or a church plant has to have some leaders – but remember that God delights to use men and women just like sinful, weak insignificant us; so that all the glory is His.

Many people assume that they are not called because they are too old, too young, too single, too married, too poor, too rich, too sick, too healthy, too educated, too uneducated, kids too young,…

Sins we commit as poor stewards

This week I was reading the new articles on The Gospel Coalition website. One of them was by Tim Challies entitled – 8 sins you commit when you look at porn.

Great article, but it got me thinking. God speaks far, far more about stewardship than He does about porn.

So I wondered – how many sins do we commit when we fail the test of stewardship?

I looked at Challies’ list and five of the eight he mentioned applied directly to stewardship. You could easily scratch out porn at the top and substitute – greed or poor stewardship because they apply equally well.

What sins do you commit when you are a poor steward?:

Idolatry

Colossians 3:5 tells us that greed is idolatry.

Matt Papa says this: “An idol, simply put, is anything that is more important to you than God. It is anything that has outweighed God in your life—anything that you love, trust, or obey more than God—anything that has replaced God as essential to your happiness.”

This was the problem of the Rich Young Ruler – ultimately his wealth was his god. That was what was truly important to him.

I think idolatry is the root sin involved in poor stewardship but there are others.

Sloth

When the Lord berated the faithless servants in the parable of the talents He told them they were slothful.

As Challies said – We are called in all of life to “redeem the time,” to understand that we live short little lives and are responsible before God to make the most of…

Everyone Mature In Christ

One of the verses I personally find incredibly challenging as a pastor is Colossians 1:28-29. There, Paul says that the thing he toils and struggles with all his energy – is to present everyone mature in Christ.

I have been to many conferences where figures something like this are bandied about.

In most churches – 20% of people are sold out to the Lord – 20% are an anchor to the work and 60% are merely passengers.

Whether that is accurate or not – Paul would never accept that.

He toils and struggles with all his energy – is to present everyone mature in Christ.

Please understand what this means.

Mums and dads – most of you have probably said something like this to your children regarding school.

James – I want you to study hard, prepare diligently and do your best on this exam. Now if you do this and you get a C – fine – I am proud of you.

But son, if you have A ability and coast to a C – know Dad will not be happy.

Or if you are a C student who gets an F – again – not happy.

In a similar way, God has gifted every one of us differently. This is both in what gifts we have and our capacity to use those gifts.

For example, many Christians have the gift of teaching – few have the capacities of a Charles Spurgeon.

Unfortunately, sometimes we pastors seem to hold up the greatest saints of the ages – as the norm. Men…

Risen and seated at the right hand

Romans 8:34 tells us that after His resurrection Jesus was seated at the right hand of the Father.

There are some who think like this.

Yes Jesus’ death paid for my sins. But – then I sin again – and so something more needs to be done to wash that new sin away.

No! Our verse in Romans confounds this by telling us Jesus is at the right hand of God.

What this means is that His work on the cross is finished – once and for all time. It is sufficient to pay for every sin past, present and future.

Again and again in Scripture – we are told that after Jesus was raised from the dead He was seated at the right hand of God the Father.

For example Ephesians 1:20:

He raised [Christ] from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places.

What is the significance of being seated at the right hand of the Father?

Hebrews unpacks this.

Hebrews 1:3:

After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.

Hebrews 10:10–14:

We have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. … When Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God … For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

Taking a seat in the heavenlies might not sound like Jesus is doing much.

It sounds like He…

Spiritually or physically sick in James 5?

This is far from an easy choice.

James 5:14–15:

Is anyone among you sick (astheneo)? … And the prayer of faith will save (sozo) the one who is sick (kamnonta).

The problem is that these three Greek words – we have two different words translated as sick and one is the normal word for save – all can all refer to either spiritual healing or to physical healing depending on the context.

If we use the most common, literal translation for these words – we get an idea of what we are dealing with.

Is anyone among you weak … And the prayer of faith will save the one who is weary.

As I weigh the evidence of the word usage:

I would say the first word – the one I translated weak is a bit of a wash – it could legitimately be physical or spiritual healing. The Gospels use this word for physical healing and the Epistles mainly use the word for spiritual healing.

The second word – save – is usually used for spiritual salvation in both the Gospels and in the Epistles. But, in the Gospels – it also very frequently is used to mean physical healing.

The third word – the one I translated weary – leans toward spiritual sickness because that is the way it is used the only other time we find it in the Bible.

When words can be translated either way – you need to look at other factors – in particular the context. So, I want to look at…

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,…