THE COMPLETION OF FAITH!

“What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,’ and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself!” James 2:14-17 NASB

When the theologian John Calvin was asked to comment on the seeming difference between the teaching of Paul in Ephesians 2:8-9, and that of James in James 2:14-17, he said, “The bible teaches we are not saved by good works, but saved to good works; not by faith plus works, but faith that works!” Is there a contradiction in the Bible, or is it more likely a mis-interpretation?

James 2:14-26

THE COMPLETION OF FAITH!

James begins this discussion by pointing out an obvious imitation of faith by stating “that” faith in verse 14! He describes this fake by calling it one who merely “says” he has faith!

Then he gives us two characteristics of this pitiful imitation. First, James says this fake faith is seen to have an absence of deeds (vv 15-16). The answer to the question in v 16 is obvious. If one refuses to meet the basic needs of another person, that is useless. Not only is there an absence of deeds, but there is the presence of death (v 17)! Make-believe faith produces only make-believe life. Consider the One Who shares His life with us when we put our faith in Him. Jesus not only went everywhere preaching and teaching the gospel, but He went everywhere doing good! (Acts 10:38)

But we need to be aware that imitations usually arise out of misconceptions, and that is true here. This pitiful imitation of God-given faith arose out of a perverted conception of faith! Note the false division between faith and works. Godly works are the blooms on the plant that identifies God-given faith (v 18). Take note not only of the false division, but also of the fatal subtraction (v 19). Faith is more than a passive intellectual exercise. It is the difference between knowing about what is said, and knowing the One Who is speaking! Separating faith and works is deadly!

Finally, see the proper expression of faith (vv 21-26). To be properly related our works are to correspond to our faith (vv 21-24). It is the opposite of passiveness, laziness. And it is the same for every person, the same for patriarch to converted prostitute-(22b,25). God-given faith has one expression, God empowered works!

After John the Baptist was imprisoned, he sent messengers to Jesus, asking if He was the Messiah, or “should we look for another?” the Lord told the messengers to go back and tell John what He (Jesus) was doing (John 7:18-22)! The clearest evidence of Who Jesus was, was what He was doing! The same is true of you, and the same is true of me!

Jon Moore

THANKING GOD IN TROUBLED TIMES!

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4

Let me be clear! The Thanksgiving/Christmas season is my favorite time of the year. I am grateful that I live in a country where our forefathers expressed their thanksgiving to God for His ongoing blessings, and though it may seem hard to believe today, elected officials of a previous day voted to make Thanksgiving Day a national holiday! However, there likely would be some today that would say, ‘We live in a different time, under different (difficult) circumstances.”’ What about the frustrations, anger, hostile words and actions; the increasing attack against Christianity and the Church? The answer to our question, and the counsel for Believers in terms of our response is clearly to be found in God’s Word! James under the guidance of the Holy Spirit gives us wise counsel in James 1:2-4.

He teaches us a systematic method of response in verse 2. The Greek word translated consider is a bookkeeping term. When we encounter circumstances that test our faith in God’s keeping, we should open our spiritual journal and enter that experience under the column titled “Joy”! Note this will not be “if” these times come, but “when” they come. The bottom line is that the Believer’s thanksgiving is not dependent on favorable circumstances, but by a free choice (Not a natural response, but a spiritual response)!

Be sure to recognize that this response is not just “hocus-pocus!” It is affirmed by eternal Truths in verse 3. The first Truth is essential. God is in control of our situations! One of the most mis-quoted, misunderstood verses in the bible is Romans 8:28. This verse does NOT say, “all things are good.” All things that happen in life are not good, but the verse says, “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” The question in some minds would be, ‘Why does the Lord do things this way?’ Verse 3 gives the answer. The Lord is building character in the life of His children using adversity. He knows that we will need the quality of “endurance” in us if we are to finish the course. Christian, do you have confidence in God? You can only be thankful in the midst of trials IF you have complete confidence in God!

The Bible clearly reveals God as the God of order from Genesis to Revelation. In verse 4 He says “let” endurance have its perfect result. The Greek word translated perfect here means ended. Don’t focus on the earthly problem, but God’s eternal purpose! Of course the Lord wants an ended work so He can have a “perfect” worker. The second time the word perfect is used, it is translated from the Greek as “whole”! This is what God is after in each of His children.

Consider this bible Truth, “Jesus is Lord!” If this true, and it is, He is in control of the so-called good, and the so-called bad. The pleasurable and the painful. If you have not trusted Christ with your eternity, I encourage you to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved!

If you have trusted Christ for your eternity, trust Him now with your adversity!

Jon Moore

THE EXPRESSIONS OF FAITH

“By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish…for time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms…and others were tortured…They were stoned, they were sawn in two…they went about…being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated…wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground. Hebrews 11:31-40

We live in stressful times. Some would say, historically stressful! One major source of stress is unfulfilled expectations. Often, for a Christian the major cause of stress is unbiblical expectations! Should a Christian always win? Be rich? Be healthy? Be successful? Hebrews 11 reveals some interesting case studies that vary dramatically!

Some had sensational deliverances. After all, Jesus is our Deliverer (Psalm 18:2)! There is a list of well-known Old Testament ‘heroes’ in verses 31-32, and an interesting thing about each one is that each one (for example, David) had a flawed testimony, which only emphasizes God’s grace and mercy! At the same time, others are described anonymously who led in military victories, performed acts of righteousness and carried out miraculous works in vv32-35a. It becomes abundantly clear that the author of the letter of Hebrews in chapter 11 is emphasizing that nothing is outside of the scope of God’s power in the life and ministry of one living by faith in Christ!

Yet, equal emphasis by the author of the letter is that sometimes those who live by faith experience spectacular difficulties in verses 35b-38. Clearly, the lesson to be learned is that faith is not some kind of earthly insurance that always delivers us out of difficulties, but when we operate by faith we can be delivered in our difficulties! Some deliberately choose the unseen realities of eternity than the seen rewards of the earthly (see verse 35b; also verses 24-25). Other instances of affliction and abuse are clearly devilishly concocted (verses 36-38). Whatever the case it often takes greater faith to embrace than it does to escape!

Perhaps the most important lesson to be earned from this chapter is that whatever the Christian faces in life is brought about by supernatural design! The Believer is not at the mercy of whim, or happenstance, but lives his or her life in faith that their steps are ordered by the Lord (see Psalm 37:23). Missionaries were expelled from Ethiopia prior to, and during World War II. Twenty years later Christian missionaries were allowed back in, only to discover that after twenty years of abuse and opposition, the Christians were greater in number and spiritually stronger than before!

1-The prophet Jeremiah was delivered from the hand of the wicked King Jehoiakim. Uriah the prophet was put to death by the same king. By faith one lived, and by faith one died, both to the glory of God!

2-Blessed be the name of the Lord!

 

Jon Moore

ENCOURAGEMENT TO ENDURE!

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…” Hebrews 12:1

The Hebrews in the Old Testament that were converted out of Judaism through faith in Jesus Christ were persecuted to the point of utter discouragement, and discouragement continues to be a challenge today for believers in Christ! The enduring challenge in the Christian life, as well as Christian ministry remains “growing weary in heart” (v 3b)! The author of the letter to converted jews continues to speak to Believers today about both how to recover from discouragement and how to prevent it!

The instruction is written in an athletic context, and our life and ministry are seen as a race to be run! The witnesses are to be seen as examples for and to us, not so much as their witnessing of us. In light of their examples, we should put away any distractions, or defilements that distract us from running the race and run with endurance the race that is set before us (v 1b).

Just as these men and women did before us, we should fix our eyes on Jesus (v 2a, 3a), the One Who was and is the Author (Forerunner) and the Perfector (Finisher) of our faith, despite the fact the race is characterized by a difficult and painful racetrack! Just as the Union soldiers testified that marching from Manchester to Gettysburg to make a victorious difference. They called it, “the hardest experience of the long war experience!” Yet, because Jesus purchased our redemption, we can persevere in the race!

What should be our expectation for running the race that our Lord has set before us? First of all completing our Heavenly Father’s will, “Let us” (v 1a)! Keep foremost in your heart and mind that in finishing His race, Jesus suffered for our sins, then He “sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (v 2b)! Keep in mind, there was no chair in the temple in the old testament, because the work of the priesthood was never finished! But Jesus “sat down” after his finished work! This speaks of a certain Hope Believers now have. This makes the Cross we bear the preamble to a victorious and celebrated victory in heaven!

The book of Hebrews emphasizes the crucial importance of Hope, not uncertain hope, but the sure Hope we are given in Christ! Trusting Christ in the midst of the challenges of our race releases His power enabling us to endure!

Jon Moore

PREPARED FOR HIS PURPOSES!

“Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When he saw that he had not prevailed against him (Jacob), he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him.” Genesis 32:24,25

Sometimes we lose sight of the fact that the Lord often uses crises to prepare us for His purposes! If one is a follower of Christ, if you are not going though a crisis presently, one will be along presently! And most would add, they have learned more in times of affliction than they have in times of affluence.

That will be the testimony of Jacob (v 30) as the Lord maneuvers him into a one-on-one encounter. That is the Lord’s goal for each of us, to get us alone with Him! After running from his brother, Esau (Gen. 27:42-45), then running from his father-in-law, Laban (Gen. 31:20,21), he finally ran back to the Lord (Gen. 35:1-3). But two key things had happened to him before he returned to the Lord: He was crippled, and his name was changed! For the rest of his life Jacob was limited in what he could accomplish. It was a daily reminder of his limitations, but also a reminder of the supreme sufficiency of the Lord. The change was so dramatic his name was changed from Jacob, which means “supplanter” to Israel, which means “succeeds with God!”

And not only was his name changed, the change was apparent in a new life! He named the place “Peniel” which means “The face of God!” Yet, even seeing God face-to-face, his life was “preserved” meaning “not snatched away!” And not only did he have a new life, but a new light as well…“the sun rose upon him as he passed over.” And not only a new life and a new light, but a new limp. “He was limping on his thigh!” It was a daily reminder for the rest of his earthly life, that he could no longer depend on himself, but he would operate in the presence and power of the Lord he knew, loved and served!

Verse 32 is not addressed in the Mosaic Law, or anywhere in the Old Testament! Yet, orthodox Jews did this to commemorate Jacob’s discovery that self-sufficiency is not compatible with, or needed for the work of God! The first step in deliverance from constant defeat is this disabling touch of God that prepares us for His purposes.

Jon Moore

THE QUALIFICATION FOR GOD’S KINGDOM!

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God!”

John 3:3

Through the centuries many have tried to establish standards for entrance into heaven. In John chapter three we are introduced to a man named Nicodemus. He was someone seemingly well qualified by his religion (he closely practiced Judaism), by his race (Jewish by birth), by his reputation (Jesus referred to him as ‘the teacher’ of Israel) and by his recognition (a member of the Sanhedrin, the highest political office of the day)! Yet, Jesus laid down one requirement Nicodemus had never met! Suppose you had to answer today why the Lord should allow you to enter the Kingdom of Heaven! Would you answer be regarding your religion, your race, your reputation or your recognition by others? I challenge you to examine how you would answer that question today. Let us look honestly at what the King of the Kingdom of heaven said about entering His Kingdom!

First of all, Jesus demands two births-(v3). Note that the Lord made this known to a well-respected man, emphasizing there are no exceptions! When a preacher preached from the same Bible text night after night he was asked, “With the whole Bible before you, why do you preach night after night from the same passage of Scripture?” His response was, “Because, except a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God!” This is not a recommendation; this is a divine requirement! Find a quiet place! Get alone with God! Ask Him if you are qualified for entrance into His Kingdom! Have you been born again?

Then, in (vv 4-5) the Lord describes the two births. One is a birth of water. The second is a birth of Spirit! The first is a natural birth, and the second is a spiritual birth. Most are aware that prior to birth a child is encased in the mother’s womb in a membrane filled with water, and when that membrane “breaks” the time for birth is at hand! This is a reference to natural birth. The second birth is a spiritual birth, a birth “from above.” Just as no one has ever lived physically without first being born physically, the same is true spiritually! Are you qualified for entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven? Have you been born again?

Finally, Jesus defines the two lives that result from the two different births. A physical birth results in a physical life-(v6a), and a spiritual birth results in a spiritual life-(v6b). He then uses an analogy from nature-(v8). The word “wind” can be translated wind, breath or spirit depending on the context of how it is used. Only a life spiritual in its origin can be spiritual in its operation! Life that results from a spiritual birth (again, from above) is forever under new (from above) management! You hear the sound of the wind and notice the resulting difference it makes, yet it is different! So is everyone who is born of the Spirit! Only God determines the qualification for entrance into the Kingdom of heaven! Have you been born again?

How one is born again is defined in v16, by believing in Jesus Christ. The word believe in the original language means more than intellectual agreement. It is defined “to trust in; to cling to; to rely on.” Have you trusted in trusted in Christ alone? Are you clinging only to Him? Are you relying daily on Him?” Have you been born again?

Jon Moore

 

WHY BE FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT? (Part Three)

“Do not get drunk with wine for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit!”

Ephesians 5:18

“When He, the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth…He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify me, for He will take of Mine and disclose it to you. All things that the Father has are mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you.” John 16:13-15

“When the Helper comes…He will testify about Me.”

John 15:26

WHY BE FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT? (Part Three)

In part one (Aug, 2021) and part two (Oct, 2021) of this series we pointed out there is a great deal of misunderstanding about the ministry of the Holy Spirit that has led to some questionable teaching on the subject. Instead of criticizing false teachers/teachings, I have chosen to spend our time on what the Bible does say about the command to be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). As the Lord anticipated the closing of His earthly ministry, He spent less time with the crowds and more time with his disciples. John chapters 14, 15 and 16 record His preparing His followers for the coming presence/ministry of the Spirit!

In John 16:13-15 Jesus uses the term “disclose” three time. In the original language the term means “to tell back”. The Holy Spirit “tells back” to the Believer what Jesus has said, and by doing so, He quickens, or makes alive Christ to the Believer, in the Believer and through the Believer! In the same manner that the Son came to “disclose” the Father (16:15). So, He says in John 15:26, The Holy Spirit came to “disclose” the Son. Note also that the author of Hebrews describes Jesus thusly, as “the radiance of the Father’s glory, and the exact representation of His nature! (1:3a) To expose the meaning only the Believer filled with the Holy Spirit can be used to “disclose” the Life of Jesus Christ!

The Lord promised Abram and Sari a son, but before the promise was fulfilled, an H was added to each of their names. The letter in the Hebrew alphabet that corresponds to the H in our English alphabet is formed in the lower throat. It is a “breathy” sound. The same word in the Hebrew that is translated “breath” can also be translated “wind”, or “spirit”! It is only as we are emptied of self and filled with the Holy Spirit that the life of Jesus Christ can be made real to us, and ultimately through us to others!

So, why should each believer be filled with the Holy Spirit? Because we are commanded to in Ephesians 5:18, an opportunity to demonstrate our love for Christ by obedience. In addition He indwells (John 14:16a), instructs (John 14:26a) and endows us (John 16:14)! So, what does it mean to be filled? It means “To make full; to be filled to the full.” We cannot be filled with the Spirit until we are emptied of self (Matt. 16:24)! Then, who needs to be filled with the Spirit? Anyone lacking any portion of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22,23, or the power promised in Acts 1:8! As the believer denies the ‘self-life’ and crowns Jesus Lord of their life, that one is promised to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

Jon Moore

THANKING GOD IN TROUBLED TIMES!

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4

Let me be clear! The Thanksgiving/Christmas season is my favorite time of the year. I am grateful that I live in a country where our forefathers expressed their thanksgiving to God for His ongoing blessings, and though it may seem hard to believe today, elected officials of a previous day voted to make Thanksgiving Day a national holiday! However, there likely would be some today that would say, ‘We live in a different time, under different (difficult) circumstances.”’ What about the frustrations, anger, hostile words and actions; the increasing attack against Christianity and the Church? The answer to our question, and the counsel for Believers in terms of our response is clearly to be found in God’s Word! James under the guidance of the Holy Spirit gives us wise counsel in James 1:2-4.

He teaches us a systematic method of response in verse 2. The Greek word translated consider is a bookkeeping term. When we encounter circumstances that test our faith in God’s keeping, we should open our spiritual journal and enter that experience under the column titled “Joy”! Note this will not be “if” these times come, but “when” they come. The bottom line is that the Believer’s thanksgiving is not dependent on favorable circumstances, but by a free choice (Not a natural response, but a spiritual response)!

Be sure to recognize that this response is not just “hocus-pocus!” It is affirmed by eternal Truths in verse 3. The first Truth is essential. God is in control of our situations! One of the most mis-quoted, misunderstood verses in the bible is Romans 8:28. This verse does NOT say, “all things are good.” All things that happen in life are not good, but the verse says, “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” The question in some minds would be, ‘Why does the Lord do things this way?’ Verse 3 gives the answer. The Lord is building character in the life of His children using adversity. He knows that we will need the quality of “endurance” in us if we are to finish the course. Christian, do you have confidence in God? You can only be thankful in the midst of trials IF you have complete confidence in God!

The Bible clearly reveals God as the God of order from Genesis to Revelation. In verse 4 He says “let” endurance have its perfect result. The Greek word translated perfect here means ended. Don’t focus on the earthly problem, but God’s eternal purpose! Of course the Lord wants an ended work so He can have a “perfect” worker. The second time the word perfect is used, it is translated from the Greek as “whole”! This is what God is after in each of His children.

Consider this bible Truth, “Jesus is Lord!” If this true, and it is, He is in control of the so-called good, and the so-called bad. The pleasurable and the painful. If you have not trusted Christ with your eternity, I encourage you to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved!

If you have trusted Christ for your eternity, trust Him now with your adversity!

Jon Moore

THE MISSING INGREDIENTS! 

“Now the Lord saw, and it was displeasing in His sight that there was no justice!  He saw that there was no man, and was astonished that there was no one to intercede…”  Isaiah 59:16a 

The great old founder of Methodism, John Wesley said it well, “Prayer is the fuel that runs the engine that drives revival.”  In this day where there seems to be an abundance of those who point out the need for revival, there is a glaring absence of those who are willing to pay the price to pray down revival!  

Last year (February, 2021) we looked at the prophet Isaiah’s prayer for revival in chapter 64.  Today, I want to take a closer look at that passage, especially at the urgent tone the words suggest. 

“Behold, You were angry, for we sinned.  We continued in them for a long time…All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment, and all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities like the wind take us away…  There is no one who arouses himself to take hold of You!  Isaiah 64:5b-7a 

Years ago, a wise person advised me from time to time to close the door to my office and pray the prayer of the Psalmist in 139:23,24.  Then ask the Lord to search ME and know MY heart; Try ME and know MY thoughts; and see if there be any wicked (grievous) way in ME, and lead ME in the way everlasting!  I have become increasingly more convinced that the one Christlike quality that is most lacking in those of us who profess today to be Christians is brokenness!  

Listen to Isaiah again concerning the Lord, “I dwell on a high and holy place, and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit in order to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.”  57:15b 

Oh, that God in His mercy would once again restore the spirit of brokenness among His people.  That each of us would cease blaming other things, or other people for our un-Christlike behavior.  That we would follow the example of Isaiah and go to the Lord (Who is the ONLY ONE who can truly restore and revive)! 

“But NOW, O Lord, You are our Father.  We are the clay and You are our potter; and all of us are the work of your hand.  Do not be angry beyond measure, O Lord, nor remember iniquity forever; Behold, look now, all of us are Your people!”  64:8,9 

Is it possible that these are the missing ingredients today in our discussions about the desperate need for the reviving touch of God.  Is it a matter of our failure to humble ourselves before the Lord and ask for His mercy and grace?  Let’s join together in brokenness and begging the Lord in prayer and see for ourselves! 

Jon Moore

 

QUALIFICATION FOR ENTRANCE INTO GOD’S KINGDOM!

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3b) “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.  That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (John 3:5b,6) “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

Through the ages men have sought to establish standards for entrance into God’s kingdom.  A Jewish official named Nicodemus seemed qualified by race, religion and reputation, but Jesus Christ laid down the one qualification the Lord requires (v 3b), and Nicodemus did not qualify!  As the reigning King of the Kingdom of God, Jesus Christ demands two births! The fact the Lord made the qualification known to one respected by his community emphasized there are no exceptions!  This is not a recommendation, but a requirement!

After demanding two births, Jesus went on to describe both births in verses 4 and 5.  One is a birth of water, and the other is a birth of the Spirit (v 5).  A couple readily recognizes that a fleshly birth is near when the expectant mother’s “water breaks”.  Likewise, when Jesus uses the phrase “born again” (v 3), the alternate translation for “again” is “from above”!  Just as no one ever lived physically without being born physically, the same is true spiritually! 

Next in His conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus defines the two lives that come about as the result of the two births (v 6).  Quite simply, a physical birth results in a physical life (6a), and a spiritual birth results in a spiritual life (6b).  The Lord uses the wind as a great analogy to clarify His meaning (v 8)).  The Greek word translated ‘wind’ can either be translated ‘wind, breath or spirit’!  Just as the wind is not seen (although it’s effects can be seen), so the inner work of the Spirit can’t be seen with the human eye, but the outer difference can be observed.  Only the life that is spiritual in its origin can be spiritual in its operation and effectiveness!

Only the King of the Kingdom of God may determine the qualification for entrance into His Kingdom, and Jesus does that in his conversation with Nicodemus.  Early in that conversation (v 3) Jesus said, one must be “born again!”  So the question becomes, “How?”  Later (v 16), Jesus said, “Whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life!”  There are four Greek words in the New Testament translated “believe”.  They mean, “To trust in; To cling to; To rely on.”  If you will “trust in” what He has done for you: “Christ died for the ungodly.” Romans 5:6  If you will “cling to” who He is in you: “Christ in you, the Hope of glory.” Colossians 1:27  If you will rely on what He has said to you: “I will come again and receive you unto Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” John 14:3.  Have you been “born again?”  If not, trust in Christ, cling to Him and rely on Him today and every day!

Jon Moore