Living a Life of Faith

James wraps up this passage, James 2.14-26, by saying that 

For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

A body with no breath is dead, so, says James, is faith without works, without evidence, without fruit, without proof. 

Thomas Manton said that,

Here [James] concludes the whole argument, showing how little is [given] to an empty profession of faith without works. It is like the body without the spirit of life.

What does working faith look like then, where does it take us? If you’re a notetaker, this is it;


Genuine faith results in active obedience to Jesus’ teachings. 

Working faith takes us to Jesus…every, single, time.


Here’s why. We try, and try, and try, and try to be so obedient, to do good works to show our faith, and we realise, you know what, I just cannot ever, try as hard as I might, live the kind of holy, sanctified, righteous, life that we are called out of the world to live.

Back in chapter one James writes, be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 

So we do need to be doers, we want to be doers, but when we try to be we realise that we are failing, because the standard is so high. It’s 24x7x365. This is really bad news.

Where then do we turn when we realise this, that we have failed, again?

To Jesus. To the Good News, to the Gospel. 

That’s why working faith takes us to Jesus.

Where is the Gospel in James? Admit the bad news to receive the Good News – this is a work of faith that we need to do each and every day, and that is why a life of working faith will always take us to Jesus.

Can I Be Right Before God?

Yesterday our big question was why go on? Today, a question posed by Eliphaz (4.1),

‘Can mortal man be in the right before God?
Can a man be pure before his Maker?

Job 4.17

Eliphaz seems to think that somewhere down the line Job has sinned (4.7), and that everything that is happening to Job must be the result of some sin he may have forgotten. As with yesterday, there is such a degree of demonic deception going on here; ‘can you ever really be ok with God? Sure Job, you are ‘blameless’, whatever that means, but come on, you must have done something, can you really be in the right before God? Can you really be pure before Him?

The Word of God that we carry in our Bibles tells us really clearly that left to our own devices, trying to earn and work our way to Him, that the best we can do is as good as filthy rags, as strong and sure as leaves blown away in the wind (Isaiah 64.6).

So, can we be right before God?

There is a simple answer to this with profoundly deep and complex workings – yes you can by faith in Jesus.

Ours is a faith that is so simple in practice but complex in understanding. Maybe you have friends who practice another religion and it seems to complex in it’s adherence but very simple in premise.

‘We are all trying to climb the same mountain’ they may say. Have you ever tried to climb a mountain? It’s hard. It’s tough. Unlike the mountains of this world, the metaphorical mountain of the Lord that represents right standing before Him can never be climbed alone so no, Eliphaz, no mortal man can be right before God, no human can be pure before his maker.

Thankfully, we serve a God who loves us so much that He knows this and He took action to fix this problem. Rather than watch us try to climb the mountain, He came down and will take us up with Him. He has the ability to climb what we cannot.

We have the opportunity to be right before God, we have the chance to be pure before our maker if we put hope, and trust, and faith in Jesus alone to accomplish this (Romans 3.28, 5.1, Habakkuk 2.4, Genesis 15.6, Galatians 2.16, 3.24). 

Can I be right before God?

Yes, you can. 

Alone you will never do this. Alone you will never be good enough. That’s the bad news. Accept this. But, don’t dwell on this, because there is Good News, there is the Gospel. Jesus, who is eternally good enough, gives you the opportunity to be right before God. When looking at you who have faith in Jesus, God sees you through this lens, He sees the righteousness and the purity and the perfection of Jesus and treats you the same. Amazing.

Can I be right before God? Yes, you can. 

Thinking About Christmas

There are so many passages in the Word of God that tell us that He is motivated towards us by love, that Jesus came and lived among us out of the motivation of love (Philippians 2.4-8, John 3.16-17 to use two examples).

Charles Ryrie said of love that it is seeking God’s will for the person/people that you love. From this we can say that Jesus came, lived, died, rose, and ascended all out of love for you, and that He was seeking to action God’s will for you by allowing you to be reconciled to God in right relationship through faith in Him. 

Christmas, then, is when we pause and celebrate and commemorate the fact that He did come, that God expressed His love for you in such a powerful and real way as to send His image to live and walk among us…and that started with Christmas, didn’t it.

Because of this what is our duty as believers at Christmas, what should we be mindful of at Christmas?

Speech – what are you talking about at Christmas? Is is the trappings of the season, or is it the reason for the season? Are you talking yourself up, or are you building others up? (1 Corinthians 14.3).

Spending – what are you spending money on and time with at Christmas? Is it worldly and selfish pleasure and gain, or is it on and with Him? (1 John 3.16).

Selves – if someone dropped by your house on Christmas Day, would there be any explicit evidence that this is a household celebrating the coming of Jesus?

We who have heard the Good News and experienced freedom through Christ are responsible to proclaim it to others still enslaved by sin.

Christmas is the perfect time to do that, with our speech, our spending, and our selvesThis is the message of Christmas, isnt it, God’s expression of His love for you. This is the message that we need to share. It is so important that we share it with our speech, our spending, and our selves.

Are we doing all we can to make sure that people get the message?

The Gospel in Malachi

Where is the Gospel in Malachi?

We’ve come to a place by looking at the Minor Prophets that we’ve seen the ultimate remedy for our sin and human condition is not our external repentance and obedience, but the Lord’s coming to his temple, as Malachi says.

Our own righteousness, our own efforts, our own remedies cannot stand the day of the Lord.

We need the righteousness of another, if we are going to stand on that day— which is precisely what God gives us in the gospel. The Good News comes into the midst of our bad news, and says look, don’t worry, take the burden off yourself (Duguid).

God’s people in the Old Testament we’ve read of through this series, God’s people today, you and me, us, humans, there is no

realisation of the depth of God’s love for us, 

reponse, 

honour, 

faithfulness, 

hope, 

obedience, 

fear.


What is the remedy for this?


What is the remedy for the human condition that we all have?

All throughout the Minor Prophets we have been looking at how they point to the character, the qualities, the truth of Jesus, and they all build towards Him being the remedy for the human condition.

IMG_1817

It all crescendos to Jesus being the remedy that we need.

It might seem too simple…it is, believe and receive.

We need to acknowledge that we need a Saviour, we need to acknowledge that we have a problem before we jump into the finer points of our faith. 

It’s no use dealing with the superstructure if the foundation is not right, I read this week, and our foundation has to be that we are sinners in need of remedy that we cannot provide for ourselves.

D.Martin Lloyd-Jones said

“We go astray because we are not truly convicted of our sin.”

Many not yet believers are not yet believers because they don’t see the need for it, they don’t think they need a remedy, they think they can achieve all of this by themselves, many of the Old Testament persuasion and other works-related worldviews would say that righteousness is attained by keeping laws and doing things, but that twists the very purpose of the law – to show us that we need more, we need more than law, the law highlights that we are sinful and we need a remedy to this.

Let us use the law, the Old Testament, the Prophets, the Minor Prophets to see that we are all together in our human condition, that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and that all are in need of a Divine, Sovereign, Redemptive, Restorative Remedy.

Jesus is that remedy.

He addresses everything that makes us human, and do you know what, He takes that just as it is, He loves you and accepts you just as you are, right now, but then works in and with you to remedy everything that is broken, everything that is lacking, everything that is missing, and slowly, day by day, from the inside out, turns you into the person you were made to be, made in the image of God, being transformed into His likeness until the day you see Him face to face and live in His presence for eternity. 

What a remedy.

Malachi.009

The Gospel in Zechariah – pt.2

Where is the Gospel in Zechariah 9-14?

Well, simply, we see that

  • Jesus comes
  • Jesus dies and is resurrected
  • Jesus sends the Holy Spirit
  • The Spirit turns all nations to Him

What is common in all of that – Jesus.

What is missing in all of that – us.

Where are we, and where is He?

Zechariah helps us to see that we are not all that much needed in the process, helps us to see our position relative to Jesus. 

He had the 9 visions of chapters 1-8 and all of them, we said last week, can be traced back to the purification on offer through the shed blood of Jesus and the faith therein. 

This week, His first coming, His second coming, His rule, His reign, His peace, His Spirit, His salvation, His vindication…not ours. 

If we were looking at the Minor Prophets and looking for good moral lessons, then Zechariah would have us coming up short. You know, things like, you put your sin in a basket and have it flown away. You ride on your donkey and bring your peace.

That’s not what it’s about, is it. 

Since we have such a hope, (in the glory of the ministry of the Holy Spirit and how much better this will be than law written on tablets), we are very bold, 13 not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. 14 But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

2 Corinthians 3.12-18   

Zechariah, then, helps us to behold, helps us to see all that Jesus has done, and all that Jesus will do.

Not us, Him. 

Where are we, and where is He?

That’s the message of Zechariah, and as we read it and hear it, the reaction will be as one commentator put it, that our hearts will again stand in awe of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ, the Crowned Priest, the Slaughtered, and Resurrected King.

The Gospel in Zechariah – pt.1

Where is the Gospel in Zechariah?

The book is filled with visions and imagery that can get us lost in the details, but the explaining angel keeps pointing us to the coming of “the Branch” (3.8; 6.12)

This Branch will purify his people and remove their sin in one day.

Zechariah 3.9

I will remove the iniquity of this land in a single day


Jesus, the Branch, came to remove the consequence of your sin.


Maybe you don’t feel very pure right now, maybe you’re discouraged too, maybe you don’t see much purification happening in your life right now.

Zechariah was, at the time, writing to people who were discouraged by living, after the exile, in a “day of small things” (4.10), when there seemed to be little progress toward the glorious future promised in the earlier prophets, and maybe that is you, but God says

10 For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel.

So, if you are discouraged and feeling impure, stick with it, God always finishes the work He starts, He who started a good work in you will bring it to completion, and if it feels slow, don’t worry, we will rejoice, we will see the presence of God in the person of the Word of God, this great King and High Priest, the greater and ultimate Zerubbabel. God promises that this is a whole life change for people from all nations. 

That is you and me, that is us, I will bring them to dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God, in faithfulness and in righteousness (8.7-8), that is us.


But, how are we able to live with God despite our sinful selves?

The purification on offer to us through the shed blood of Jesus.


Alone, we will never attain that level of righteousness, try as we might, we can never work our way to God’s level of holiness, we can never be as pure as we need to be to be in the presence of God.

But, thanks be to God who sent Jesus, the Word become flesh, God in the flesh, to be the Branch, to stand in the gap, to live that perfectly pure life and to die that perfectly pure sacrificial death and to be the first fruits of the resurrection, so that those of us who believe in and on Him, who believe that God raised Him from the dead, can be viewed as pure and right and good enough by God, and we can be in right relationship with God, through what He did. 

Zechariah points forward to a time when this would be available to the people, they looked forward in expectant hope.

For us, the time is now.

The Gospel in Haggai

Where is the Gospel in Haggai?

We see it in two places – Zerubbabel and the temple.

Zerubbabel, mentioned in the final passage of chapter two (2.20-23), was the faithful descendant of David who lead the people in restoring the temple was one of the ancestors of Christ (Matthew. 1.12, Luke 3.27) and foreshadowed Jesus’ faithful zeal to build God’s house (Duguid).

John 2:17 says of Jesus,

“Zeal for your house will consume me.”

God’s kingdom will be established through a great servant who has a great zeal for the work of God.

Haggai closes with a special word to Zerubbabel (2.23).

23 On that day, declares the LORD of hosts, I will take you, O Zerubbabel my servant, the son of Shealtiel, declares the LORD, and make you like a signet ring, for I have chosen you, declares the LORD of hosts.”

Let’s read that again and think Jesus…

23 On that day, declares the LORD of hosts, I will take you, Jesus my servant, my son, declares the LORD, and make you like a signet ring, for I have chosen you, declares the LORD of hosts.”

So even in this small obscure work hidden amid the minor prophets, we see that Haggai points us to the coming of Jesus Christ. He is the greater Zerubbabel, God’s chosen servant and signet ring. 

The other key to applying the book in a gospel-centered way is to see that the temple, like the tabernacle before it, was the visible symbol of God‘s presence. It was the road where God and man met. It was a mini-Eden. The tabernacle, we see in Exodus, was built to the exact specifications that God supplied. With the temples His involvement is not so prominent, sadly, and we start to see that temples are but a preview of a time when God and man would dwell together again, minus all the layers of separation; outer courtyards, holy places, the most holy place (Challies).

The tabernacle looked back to Eden, God and man dwelling together in each other’s presence, and the temple too looked back to Eden, the place where heaven and earth meet, the place where the presence of God lived with His people.

They both also look ahead to God’s Messiah, the Christ, the annointed One, the One in whom the Word became flesh and “tabernacled”. John 1.14 says,

14 καὶ ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο, καὶ ἐσκήνωσεν ἐν ἡμῖν

And the Word became flesh and pitched a tent among us. 

And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us. 


Jesus is the true tabernacle.


The message of this book for us is not REALLY about restoring a building in Jerusalem, or about constructing a contemporary building. Haggai is all about the ongoing work of building up the people of God, the church, the body of Christ, through the presence of God available to us in Jesus.

And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 

Revelation 21.22

His presence is our temple, we can commune and communicate with Him directly and personally and this was always the plan. Right back from Genesis we see that this was always the plan, but the whole narrative of the Bible shows us that we as people didn’t realise what a massive privilege that was, and how good we had it, so we had to experience rejection to appreciate the welcome, we had to experience trials and tribulation to experience the peace, we had to experience life without the presence to appreciate life with the presence.

It was always God’s plan to dwell with His people, the tabernacle, the moveable temple tent, the temple in Jerusalem, these are previews, types, shadows of the real substance that is God’s presence dwelling with us.

Jesus came to demonstrate this, Jesus brought it to earth as God in human form, and when He comes again, physically, bodily, He will establish His reign on earth and He will take His rightful place as the desire of all nations…is He your desire today?