Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘works’ Category

two-boys-workingThere is a slavery on the near side of sonship.  (Galatians 4:7)

And there is a slavery on the far side of sonship.  (Galatians 1:10)

On the near side it’s death.

On the far side it’s life.

On the near side it’s flesh.

On the far side it’s Spirit.

On the near side it’s your righteousness on show.

On the far side it’s Christ’s righteousness in you.

On the near side you don’t know who you are without it, so you step it up.

On the far side you do know who you are without it, and you keep in step.

.

There is no way from slavery to sonship.

And there’s no way to true slavery except sonship.

.

All of which means…

We must refuse to be slaves ascending to higher degrees of slavery.

We must look away from any schemes of progressive slavery.

We must proclaim sonship.

And not because we’re not into works.

If we want true works, we must strip away works.

We must be left bare in the presence of God with nothing but Christ for our justification.

We must know who we are without our works – sinners clothed in Christ.

We must know our sonship not in ourselves but in the Son.  This means by grace alone.

Having contributed nothing, we belong entirely.

And now, in Him, we can do no other than gladly take our place in the Father’s business.

But it is the Father’s business.

The only gateway to true work is sonship.

The only Gate is the Son.

Read Full Post »

Taken from Mike’s series on justification here.

Read Full Post »

From my sermon this morning (Isaiah 9:2-7).

UPDATE: This rant has since become this poem…

Sermon audio here.

Don’t have the spirit of Scrooge.

Don’t have the spirit of Winterfest.

Don’t have the spirit of Santa.

Look again to the manger.

Text below…

(more…)

Read Full Post »

…or at least Pharasaical in your Christianity
(taken from this sermon on The Two Sons: Luke 15):

.

1)    You’re in church

Luke 15:25 – the field is the older brother’s natural habitat.  Not the far country.  Close to the banquet.  But not in it.

.

2)    You’re angry

v28 – older brothers have volcanic anger.  Which is difficult for you if you’re an older brother type because you are a good boy or girl.  You’re not supposed to be angry, but you are.  Furious actually and it bubbles beneath the surface.

.

3)    You’re self-promoting

v29 – “Look!” says the older brother.  Look at my record.  Look how good I am.

.

4)    Life with God feels like slavery

v29 – “All these years I have been slaving.”  You feel like God is a slave-driver and you are one of his billions of minions trudging along.

.

5)    You can’t admit to sin

v29 – “I have never disobeyed your orders.”  You think of sin as simply disobeying direct commands from a heavenly slave-master.  Or you think of it as not being as externally bad as the next guy.  You would never think of sin as a matter of the heart.  You don’t think of sin as a relationship problem with Jesus and others.  And so you never admit to sin.  You cannot admit to it because your whole identity is founded on being better than others.

.

6)    You don’t allow yourself to celebrate

v29 – a young goat with one or two friends, maybe.  But I don’t think this elder brother even asked for a goat.  He’s not into extravagant celebration, he’d rather slave.  He’s not into cutting loose, he’d rather scrimp and save.  He’s not into asking for things, he’d rather earn.  Is that you?

.

7)    Everything’s unfair

v29 – he got more than me! You’re always looking over your shoulder at what the other person has and crying foul.  Life has the audacity NOT to follow your work ethic.  Good things happen to bad people, bad things happen to good people and you hate that.  Because you’re all about ‘fairness’ and you despise the grace of God.  The thought of really bad people being forgiven and ending up in heaven seriously disturbs you.

.

8)    You cannot associate with sinners

v30 – he can’t even bring himself to say “my brother.” It’s “this son of yours”.  If there’s a party with sinners you just wouldn’t go.  What on earth do you have in common with these people?  You can’t relate to sinners outside or inside the church.  You’d never think of joining an outreach to the homeless, or drug addicts or prostitutes – they are a different species after all.  And if Christians confess sin to you, you have advice but no real understanding or empathy.

.

9)    You’re wracked with superiority

v30 – Jesus defines it as ‘wild living’ (v13) but the older brother spins his own interpretation, ‘squandered your property on prostitutes.’  The older son needs to be better than his brother.  Therefore his brother needs to be worse.  Is that you?  Are you better?  And do you need to be better, and others need to be worse.

.

10)   You don’t know the grace of Jesus and the love of the Father

This is the heart of it all.  This underlies all the other signs.  The older brother is outside the banquet as the parable ends.  He is a stranger to his father’s love.  And it’s his own goodness that keep him out of the feast.  His goodness doesn’t get him into the baquet.  His goodness keeps him out.  And remember this feast represents heaven!

Are you an older brother? When people talk about relationship with Jesus and the love of God do those phrases just pass you by?  Do you know what it is to be a sinner celebrated by Jesus?  Do you know what it is to be welcomed by Jesus and eat with Him?  (Luke 15:1-2; Rev 3:20).   Do you know what it is to be adopted by Jesus into the divine Family and call on the Most High God as Father?

That is the only kind of Christian there is.  Heaven is only for sinners reconciled by the blood-bought redeeming love of Jesus.

Jesus says in Matthew 18:3: “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Lay down you pride.  Be reconciled to Jesus who died to welcome you.  Come on in and join the joy.

.

More from this sermon.

.

Read Full Post »

14 What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15 Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that–and shudder. 20 You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? 21 Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. 24 You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone. 25 In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

As a teenager I approached a minister, full of doubts and struggles and a thousand misunderstandings.  My question was, Why doesn’t God seem to accept me?  I’ve prayed the prayer a thousand times, why does heaven seem to be silent?

He told me that I shouldn’t worry about whether I was accepted, I just needed to get on and really live the Christian life.

So I went off and tried that (or at least what I imagined the Christian life to be).  And I failed even by my own standards.  And, despondently, I slinked off from Christian things for a good few years.

What kind of faith did I have at that time?  I’d have probably articulated the gospel as something like:  God’s big.  You’re small.  Behave.

I didn’t have gospel faith.  I had demon faith (v19).  I believed God was one.  I believed Jesus was God’s Son.  But little more.

Now what would James counsel at this point?  Is James chapter 2 the encouragement to add good works to such rudimentary faith?  Is he exhorting those with demon faith to top up their merit levels until they hit salvific proportions?

No.  James is discussing the kind of faith that saves .  In v14 the word “such” (or “that” in ESV) is important.  James is not making a calculation: Demon faith plus good deeds equals salvation!  Instead this is about discerning what kind of faith is true saving faith.

And the answer is – true saving faith is the kind of faith that’s always being fulfilled in active service.  In other words, saving faith (Genesis 15 style) always leads to obedience (Genesis 22 style).

So what should that minister have said to me?  I wish he’d said this:

“Glen, I don’t think you really know the gospel.  I don’t think you could have the slightest understanding of Christ for you while harbouring these doubts.  I don’t think the kind of faith you have is really the active, life-giving, always-leading-to-loving-service kind of faith.  So let me tell you the gospel again, and drive it home to you until assured, authentic, vital faith is birthed in you.  Let me preach the gospel of faith alone to you once more, knowing that the faith that saves will never be alone.  Let me overwhelm you with the promise (Genesis 15) and then you’ll bear fruit in obedience (Genesis 22).”

I think that’s the approach to a dead faith: preach faith alone.  And I think it’s completely mandated by James chapter 2.

.

Read Full Post »

‘Anti-works’ never works

This morning I led a little bible study in Philippians 3:1-11.  We went away feeling that we shouldn’t build or glory in our spiritual CVs.  Instead we should count them as loss – dung even.

So we resolved once again to be anti-works-of-law, anti-flesh, anti-the-circumcision-sect, anti whatever is anti-grace.

But of course that’s not really Paul’s point is it?  Paul’s not interested in going from circumcision to anti-circumcision.  Anti-circumcision is also rubbish (Gal 5:6; 6:15).  You can be a determined opponent of works righteousness and still know nothing of Christ.  All you’ve done is erect another basis for your right standing with God (understanding grace).

The opposition Paul makes is not between works-of-the-law and anti-works-of-the-law.  Instead it’s the difference between works-of-the-law and knowing Christ (which is a synonym for faith).

Paul doesn’t compare his legalistic righteousness with an abstract ideal called “grace”.  He compares it with the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus his Lord, in Whom he is hidden.  That’s what made him consign the spiritual CV to the dung-heap.

If we try to consign our own boasts to the dung-heap by will-power we’ll never achieve it.  Being ‘anti-works’ never works.  The only solution is, v7 – the sake of Christ, v8 – knowing Him and v10 – continuing to want to know Him.

I walked away from our study thinking, Why didn’t I ask the most obvious question when considering Philippians 3? The most obvious question is, What’s so great about knowing Jesus?

In answering that, the rest falls into place.

.


Read Full Post »

Isaiah warned us and Jesus repeated it – it’s hypocritical to honour the Lord with your lips while your heart is far from Him (Isaiah 29:13; Mark 15:8).  It’s something I pray about every Sunday, “As I preach or pray or sing, may my lips and my heart be set on the Lord Jesus.”

But there’s another danger.  We can react the other way and disdain anything ‘external’.  We say to the world: “I reject ‘works’, I’m all about the inward life.”  And so we’re constantly taking our spiritual temperatures.  We neglect ritual (as though it always leads to ritualism).  And we start to think of faith as a thing – the one really meritorious work!

The faith-works polarity becomes, in our thinking, an internal-external polarity.  Internal – good.  External – bad.  We start to imagine that mental acts are good old grace while physical acts are nasty old law.

But that’s not how it is.  There can be a crippling legalism of the heart (ever felt it?) and there can be a wonderful liberation in gospel rituals (ever experienced that?).

Take communion.

Please.

No but seriously, take it.   Because here is a gospel ritual which, because it is external, brings home the grace of Jesus all the stronger.

We are not (or at least we should not be!) memorialists. Jesus has not left us a mental duty with the bread and wine as mere thought prompters.  We have been left a meal.  To chew.  And to gulp down.  There are motions to go through.  And they are the same motions we performed last week.  And the week before that.

But here’s the thing – these motions are means of God’s grace and not in spite of their externalism but because they are external.  Here is a gift that comes to you from outside yourself.  And it comes apart from your internal state.  But nonetheless it is for you – sinner that you are.

So take it regardless of whether your heart is white-hot with religious zeal.  Take it regardless of whether you are really, really mindful of the gravity of it all.  And as the minister prays the prayer of consecration and your mind wanders… oh well.  Don’t ask him to start again.  Go through the motions I say.  Your heart is meant to catch up with the motions.  That’s why the motions were given.  Because our hearts are weak and not to be trusted.

So allow the Word to come to you from beyond.  Allow Him to love you first. Don’t disdain ‘going through the motions.’  For many on a Sunday –  those grieving or sick or gripped by depression – they need to be carried along by these motions.  And for all of us – if we’re going to be people of grace, we need these externals.

.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »