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.


• 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…