THE PERFECTION OF FAITH!

“Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected (completed).”

James 2:21-22 

There are different kinds of faith. One popular kind we may call “positive confession” faith.  Those who teach this kind of faith often emphasize that man creates his own faith!  If he thinks positively and talks positively, anything is possible in the area of wealth, health, success, etc.  Seemingly God is not necessary, because man creates his own faith!  Another kind of faith is “blind” faith.  Once again, this kind of faith has no need of being created by, or given by God.  Presumably one just decides what he or she wants, then decides to “have faith” for it!  These kinds of faith so readily available in the world are different than Bible faith, the faith that is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Besides coming as a gift from God, James in the book that bears his name in chapter two emphasizes that Bible faith results in God-empowered, God-honoring works.  He also says that, “Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.”  Some have suggested this is a contradiction in the Bible, but that cannot stand in the light of a closer look.  The verses mentioned earlier in Ephesians 2:8-9 are followed in verse 10 by, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works…”  So Godly works are understood to be the outcome of faith that comes as the gift from God!  Then James follows up in James 2:21-22 (see above) by saying that works both correspond to and complete one’s faith.  Godly works will correspond to God-given faith, and God-given faith is not complete until it is expressed in Godly works!

James tells us that these truths are exemplified in both the life of Abraham, and the life of Rahab the harlot (v 25, see also Joshua 2:4, 6, 15)).  Abraham is the patriarch of those in the family of faith, because “Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.  Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. (Galatians 3:6-7)  But it is good to know that what is true for the patriarch is also true for the prostitute!  There is no hierarchy among the sons and daughters of God by faith!  Godly faith is expressed, manifested by Godly works.

After John the Baptist was arrested and imprisoned by King Herod (Luke 7:18-22), he sent messengers to Jesus to ask, “Are You the expected One, or do we look for someone else?”  Jesus responded by telling the messengers to go back to John and tell him what they had seen and heard.  He was restoring sight to the blind, making the lame to walk, cleansing lepers, enabling the deaf to hear, raising the dead and preaching the gospel to the poor!  Seemingly Jesus did not directly answer their question, but actually He did so in the surest way possible.  The clearest evidence of who Jesus was (Messiah), was what He was doing (the works of Messiah).  That is not only true of Jesus.  That is true of both you and me.  The clearest evidence of who we are is what we are doing!  If you are of God-given faith, you will be engaged in God-honoring works!  The clearest evidence of who we are is what we are doing.  Are you part of the Lord’s faith family?

Jon Moore

THE MORE EXCELLENT WAY!

“But earnestly desire the greater gifts.  And I show you a still more excellent way.”

1st Corinthians 12:31

 

The church at Corinth is often called Paul’s “problem church!”  The believers there struggled with divisions, religious pride and misunderstanding spiritual gifts.  In chapter 12 of what we know as 1st Corinthians the apostle dealt with the matter of spiritual gifts the Lord has given to each of His children, as well as the gifted men He has given to His churches.  He ends the discussion by pointing to a more excellent way, the way of God’s love.

One day a child asked her mother, “Why does the sun shine?”  The mom’s answer was short and simple, but very profound, “The sun does what it does, because the sun is what it is!”  The sun shines (gives light), because the sun is light to all!  Likewise, God does what He does, because He is Who He is!  God loves, because God is love (1st John 4:7).

In the first three verses of chapter thirteen Paul explains why God’s love is the more excellent way to live and to minister to others.  1) Love adds sincerity to words.  “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.”  People, especially young people are quick to discern insincerity in words.  When we speak to others in God’s love we have something real to say.  2) Love adds strength to actions.  “If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.”  I am always reminded of the layman’s definition of nothing=A zero with the rim knocked off!  That’s NOTHING, and that is what our actions amount to in the absence of God’s love.  Actions taken in the love of God give us something real to do!  3) Love adds substance to giving. “And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.”  Only when we give in the love of God do we have something real to give!

The early church was not wealthy with this world’s goods and was largely opposed, but it had two formidable weapons expressed by the Greek words Kerygma and Koinoinia!  Kerygma speaks to the word of God, and Koinoinia speaks to the loving fellowship between Believers.  Understand that the ancient world was filled with religions, philosophies and false deities, but the missing element for which people were starving was to know that they were loved!  The world has not changed.  People are still searching for something real, and it is only found in the person of Jesus Christ and in and through those who are His!

 

Jon Moore

ACCOUNTABILITY!

“Now when the wife of Uriah heard that her husband was dead, she mourned for her husband.  When the time of mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house and she became his wife; then she bore him a son.  But the thing that David had done was evil in the sight of the Lord.”  2nd Samuel 11:26-27

One of the most liberating truths about coming to know Jesus Christ is the freedom it brings; Freedom from the penalty of sin, from the power of sin and eventually from the presence of sin (John 8:32).  However, freedom in Christ cannot be separated from responsibility, from accountability.  This New Testament doctrinal truth is illustrated (as are many) in the Old Testament in the life of King David.  David chose to disengage himself from his soldiers and stay at home in a time when kings usually went to war.  During this time of idleness, he saw Bathsheba, lusted for her, committed adultery with her, tried to cover it up and ultimately was responsible for seeing to the death of her husband, Uriah the Hittite.  What some in the world might overlook, the Lord held David accountable!

There are two significant things regarding how the Lord held David accountable, and we would be wise to learn them.  First of all there was an afflictive aspect of God’s dealings with him.  The Lord said, “The sword shall never depart from your house…I will raise up evil against you from your own household…You did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel…” (2nd Samuel 12:10-12).  True to the Lord’s Word, the baby Bathsheba would bear would die.  Tamar, David’s daughter would be raped.  Amnon, his son would be murdered by Tamar’s brother.  Absalom, his son who led a rebellion against his father would be killed.  David’s concubines would be ravaged in full public view.  And Adonijah, another son of David would attempt to seize the throne in defiance of David’s stated wish for Solomon to succeed him as King.  Just as surely as the Lord said concerning the Word that comes forth from His mouth, “will not return to Me empty…Without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it!”  (Isaiah 55:11)

But do not fail to see and learn that there is a second aspect of God’s dealing with David, and it was and is REDEMPTIVE!  “Then David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the Lord’ and Nathan said to David, ‘The Lord also has taken away your sin; you shall not die’”  All of God’s Judgments of His people are ultimately redemptive!  Our freedom in Christ is certain, and His Grace is so amazing that, “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!” (Romans 8:1).  As surely as we confess our sins, “God is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and cleanse us of all unrighteousness.”  (1st John 1:9)

In 1992 there was a scandal in Washington DC (really).  It came to be known as “Rubbergate.”  People in congress are allowed to write checks on the “congressional bank” up to the limit of their congressional “salary.”  In 1992 sixty-six congress persons wrote about 20,00 bad checks (more than their “salary”).  The value of these 20,000 checks was $10,846,856.  That brings to my mind Jesus’s last word on the Cross.  It was “tetelestai” which roughly means “completion”.  In the market place it meant “Paid in Full”!  Something tells me politicians are not through writing “hot” checks, but Jesus Christ’s payment for salvation will never be returned for lack of sufficient payment!  Praise the Lord, It is finished!

Jon Moore

CHEERFUL GIVING!

“Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.  Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”  2nd Corinthians 9:6-7

One Sunday a pastor sensed the offering time as a “teaching moment” prior to his message, and he asked the congregation the following question, “Do you look on giving to the Lord something you have got to do, or something you get to do?”  He went on to say that if Jesus is our Master, then giving is something we as believers get to do, but if Money is our Master, then giving is something we as believers have got to do!

The apostle Paul had received a pledge from the church at Corinth that they would take up an offering for the believers in Jerusalem who were literally starving due to a great drought in that area.  He would soon be coming to collect their promised gift to take it to Jerusalem.  He sought to encourage the Corinthians to fulfill their promise by reminding them of the results of giving cheerfully by faith.

He reminded them that this ministry produces thanksgiving to God (v10).  The believers in Jerusalem would recognize the giver of the gift being the Corinthians, but the author of the gift as the Lord God Almighty!  Paul also emphasized that their gift would fully supply the needs of the saints in Jerusalem (v12).  Prayers and words of encouragement are good and needful, but tangible gifts fulfill the challenge of tangible needs!  Then Paul pointed out that this gift would spur the saints at Jerusalem to both glorify God for the Corinthians obedience (v13), and also pray in the Corinthians behalf (v14).  Thus by the Corinthians cheerful giving by faith, their obedience would produce praise, provision and prayer!

Some years ago a banker figured out the two small copper coins (quadrans=1/64th of a denarius [one denarius=average daily wage]) the widow gave to the Temple treasury in Jerusalem, drawing 4% interest compounded semi-annually would be worth $4.8 billion-trillion (That is 17 zeroes!)  today!  Cheerful giving in response to the Lord’s leading produces meaningful results both in the giver and in the receiver.

Jon Moore

LATER!

“But as He was discussing righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix became frightened and said, ‘Go away for the present, and when I find time I will summon you.’”  Acts 24:25

My father’s father, “Grandpa” Moore lived in a day when people, “Never put off until tomorrow that which could be done today!”  It seems to have become more convenient to, “Never do anything today that can successfully be put off until tomorrow!”  Procrastination seems to be the watchword for our day.  That reminds me of a man in the Bible, a Roman governor by the name of Felix who put off his opportunity to place his faith in Jesus Christ, and the results were disastrous for him.  What about you?  Has there ever been a time in your life when you put your faith in Jesus Christ, and in Him alone, for the forgiveness of your sins and a new eternal Life in Christ?

Felix’s first mistake was to assume that he was in control of his life, that he could decide what he would do about the claims of Christ on his life whenever he (Felix) wished.  He made the same mistake the men did on Mar’s Hill outside of Athens, Greece in Acts 17.  When Paul spoke to those men about their need of Christ, “They began to sneer” and said, “We shall hear you again concerning this.”  But Acts 17:33 says, “So Paul went out of their midst!”  And there is no Biblical or historical evidence that after Paul left Athens that he ever returned there.  Those men were listening to him for both the first and last times!  We would all do well to learn that the time to do business with God is when God is doing business with you…

In 1896 William Jennings Bryan was asked to give the major speech at the Democratic National Convention.  The nominee for the Democratic Party for President of the United States that year was expected to be one of two other men.  Mr. Bryan was simply the “favorite son” nominee from his state.  After two rounds of voting neither man had received a majority of votes, and a movement began to elect Bryan as a “compromise.”  After the third round of voting, Mr. Bryan won the nomination.  When asked by the media if his opportunity to speak had made the difference, he reportedly said, “Yes, and that is about all we do in this life.  We are given opportunities, and we either use them, or we lose them!” 

The question for today is, What have we done with the opportunity God has given to each of us?  I pray you will use that opportunity, and not lose it, for God’s glory and your own good…

 

 Jon Moore

THE INNER LIFE OF CHRIST!

“Let this same attitude and purpose and [humble] mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus: [Let Him be your example in humility:] Who, although being essentially one with God and in the form of God [possessing the fullness of the attributes which make God God], did not think this equality with God was a thing to be eagerly grasped or retained, But stripped Himself [of all privileges and rightful dignity], so as to assume the guise of a servant (slave), in that He became like men and was born a human being. And after He had appeared in human form, He abased and humbled Himself [still further] and carried His obedience to the extreme of death, even the death of the cross!” Philippians 2:5-8 Amplified Bible

More and more believers today are expressing frustration over their failings in living the Christian life. Often asked questions are, “Why can’t I have victory in my prayer life? In my family life? In my financial life?” The answer to each question is found in the questions themselves, the repetition of the personal pronoun “I”! Victory will never be found apart from the Victor Himself, the Lord Jesus Christ. He alone is the key, the essence, the Life-source! We are instructed to let Him be our example in humility (v 5). That humility is seen in two ways. First, He stripped Himself of all privileges and rightful dignity, the attributes that make God God (v 6,7). Secondly, He abased and humbled Himself still further, and carried His obedience to the extreme of death (v 8)!

In short the relationship between Jesus the Son and the Heavenly Father is to be the example for our relationship between the believer and the Son. Jesus Christ lived His life on earth as a man (He consistently referred to Himself as the Son of Man), yet not just any man, but man as God intended man to be! He was yielded to the Father, occupied by the Father and totally available to the Father for His exclusive use! He said, “I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of Him who sent me.” John 6:38 Believers are not called upon to live a “copy” of Jesus’s life, but to yield ourselves to Him, rejoice in the knowledge we are occupied by Him (in Christ, and Christ in us) and daily make ourselves available to Him for His exclusive use! Just as the Father expressed Himself in both words and deeds through the Son’s humanity, Jesus Christ stands ready to express Himself in both words and deeds through each believer’s humanity…

Jon Moore

COMPLETE IN CHRIST!

“…as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him…For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete…”  Colossians 2:6,9,10a

As is so often the case, New Testament doctrines are often illustrated in the people, places and/or events in the Old Testament.  This is why Paul wrote to the Corinthians that they (the Old Testament Scriptures) were written for our instruction (2nd Corinthians 10:11).  I could not begin to tell you how many times I have opened my Bible to 2nd Kings 4:1-7 to read how a prematurely widowed Hebrew woman was taught that when she received the Lord that she was given all of heaven!  She, like every modern-day believer in Jesus Christ is complete in Christ!  How many times I have been discouraged, read this passage and been reminded of the great treasure that I, too am complete in Christ, and He is more than equal to any need, or emergency that will ever arise in my life!

She told Elisha, the man of God (v 7) that her husband had died, and the creditor had come to take her two children to be his slaves (v 1).  Apparently the couple had borrowed money in his lifetime, and now the lender was coming for his money.  If he were dishonest, he could set the rate of interest so high that the boys would never pay off the debt.  They would be enslaved for a lifetime.  Elisha then did something on the surface that seems shocking.  He asked the woman what she had in the house!  She was in need, and Elisha asked her what she had!  He was not mocking the woman.  He simply knew the ways of God more intimately than the woman did!  He knew that if this couple knew the Lord, then God had already made provision for them.  Sure enough, she remembered that she had a jar of oil (v 2).  This would be the very resource that would meet the need of this woman and her two sons (v 7).  However, we sometimes overlook, as this woman did (v 2) the provision the Lord has made for His people. 

When Moses asked the Lord how the people would believe that he had been sent by God to deliver them from the bondage of Egypt, the Lord asked Moses, “What is that in your hand?”  Moses explained it was his shepherd’s staff.  The Lord told him to throw it down.  Moses obeyed, and the staff became a serpent.  The Lord told Moses to pick it back up, and it became a staff again.  But from that point on, it is now referred to as “The staff of God!”  When we fully surrender our life to God, He doesn’t keep it, but gives it back.  But it is never the same, it is stamped by His ownership, and we as ordinary people accomplish extraordinary things!

If we think we can handle our problems ourselves, we usually try, so we rarely see any more of the Lord in our life than we realize we need!  That is why our greatest opportunities to see the work of God in your life are our problems, our needs!  Do you have a God-sized problem?  Go to the Lord; Wait before Him; Listen to Him; Obey Him!

Jon Moore

THE INSPIRATION TO PERSEVERANCE

“Let me hear Your lovingkindness in the morning; For I trust in You; Teach me the way in which I should walk; For to You I lift up my soul.  Deliver me, O Lord, from my enemies; I take refuge in You.”

 Psalm 143:8-9 

Our Lord Jesus taught two parables on the subject of prayer recorded in the gospel of Luke.  One is the parable of the friend who visited at midnight in Luke 11:5-10.  In this story one goes to a friend at the midnight hour asking for bread to feed an unanticipated visitor.  The friend declines, because he and his children are already in bed, but because of the man at the door’s persistence in knocking, the friend gets up and gives him as much bread as he needs!  The other parable is of the unjust judge in Luke 18:1-8.  It is the story of a widow who asks a judge for legal protection from an opponent, but because the judge did not fear God or respect man, he was unwilling.  Yet, because of the woman’s continual coming, the judge did give her legal protection to keep her from “wearing him out!”   

David was a character in the Old Testament who had learned the value of perseverance in prayer.  In Psalm 143 David lists two ways he was inspired to persist in prayer until the answer came.  The first is by remembering the Lord’s past works.  He says he purposely set his mind to remembering the days of old, meditating on the Lord’s doings in days gone by, musing on the work of His hands.  As he did so, he described himself as a parched land with his soul longing for the Lord, stretching out his hands to Him!  What a picture of one who so appreciates and meditates on the Lord’s past works that he is encouraged and inspired to persevere in prayer in his present circumstances. 

Another way David is inspired to persevere in seeking the Lord in prayer is by remembering the Lord’s present way.  He knew the Lord does not change (Malachi 3:6).  He says, “I trust in You!” (verse 8); “I take refuge in You!” (verse 9).  Is it not good to know (not just to think, or to hope) that Jesus is the same, yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8)! 

In ancient China the Chinese fostered hope through theater by using a two level stage for shows.  The main play was on the lower stage, while the final act was above.  When the actors on the lower level were about to make a mistake, or to give up hope, the people in the audience encouraged the actors by telling them what was happening on the upper level.  What a blessing to know what is happening on the upper level!  The final chapter of the book of life is there for us in the Word of God.  We can be encouraged and inspired to persist in believing prayer, knowing the faithfulness and truth of God’s Word! 

Jon Moore

A PASSION FOR THE PRESENCE OF GOD!

“One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life…”  Psalm 27:4a

The prophet-priest Samuel told King Saul concerning David, “The Lord has sought out for Himself a man after His own heart…”  What was there about David that caught the attention, affection and admiration of the Lord Himself?  David wrote many of the psalms, and he frequently revealed his heart’s passion in these writings.  Clearly, David’s life was largely directed by his passion to “dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of his life…”  Keep in mind that the house of the Lord represented the place where the Lord dwelled among His people in that day.  Thus, David longed to live each day in the awareness of the presence of God!

Now let us fast forward to our day.  Our modern-day churches seem to have everything we could possibly  need.  We have theologically trained pastoral staffs, a committed core of dedicated lay people that carry on the various ministries of the local churches, recognized organization skills, a world-wide printing and distribution arm and cutting edge social media.  Seemingly we have everything…but the one thing we can least afford to be without…passion, specifically a passion for the presence of God!  Please do not misinterpret what I am saying.  No doubt the vast majority would prefer to see a mighty moving of God in our day, but do not fail to understand there is a world of difference between having a PREFERENCE for God’s presence, and having a PASSION  for the Lord’s presence!

Listen to David again in Psalm 63:1, “O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, In a dry and weary land where there is no water!”  Two things of note:  1) The man or woman who would have a passion for the Lord’s presence must seek the Lord resolutely.  David said, “I shall seek You!”  At some point we must come to the place where we decide what we are doing is not working!  It is time for me to spend my days seeking the Lord!  The old puritan preachers used to preach that if you desire a blessing from the Lord, “Put yourself in the way of blessing!”  If you share with David the desire to live each day in an awareness of the presence of God, put yourself in the way of blessing.  Seek the Lord where He is:  In prayer, in the Word, In personal worship and in worship and prayer with other believers!

2)  The man or woman who would have a passion for the Lord’s presence must seek the Lord relentlessly.  Remember your school grammar lessons!  Seek is a verb, and verbs are action words.  All the resolve in the world is pointless if there are no corresponding actions.  We all know where the road leads that is paved with good intentions!  It is time to put feet to our prayers and seek the Lord!

One day a young man sought and received an audience with Augustine, a fourth century Christian leader.  Augustine asked the man what he could do for him.  “Can you help me know God?”  Augustine asked, “Do you really want to know God?”  Yes, the young man answered.  Augustine led the man to a beautiful garden of trees, flowers and a pool of water.  He walked to the water, dropped to his knees, bowed his head and closed his eyes.  The young man did likewise.  Without warning Augustine reached over, caught the man by the arm and back of his neck and plunged his face into the water.  After a while he let the man up long enough to get a couple of gasps of air, then plunged his head back under water.  Eventually he let the man up again, turned him face to face and said, “Young man, when you want to know God as bad as you want to breathe right now, then you will get to know God!”  What would happen in your life, in your family, in your church, in your town if YOU had a passion for the presence of God?

Jon Moore

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A MEMORIALIZED MINISTRY!

“Truly I say to you, wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her!”  Mark 14:9

 

It is often said that there are different “seasons” in one’s life, one of which is funerals!  It is a time when there seems to be a stream of deaths of childhood acquaintances, family members, longtime friends, neighbors, etc.  We seem to be in one of those seasons.  I can’t speak for everyone, but for me, I think about standing before my Lord someday and longing to hear His words, “Well done, good and faithful servant…” Matthew 25:23a  That brings to my mind that Jesus highly commended Mary of Bethany for her service more than He did any of His earthly disciples, and it causes me to ask questions.  What was it that she did, and how did she go about doing it that caught the attention and admiration of the Lord?  I believe I see three distinct characteristics of a ministry that pleases the Lord!

 

1-It is always costly!  Mary broke a vial of very costly perfume and poured it on the head of Jesus (v 3).  The value of the perfume was over three hundred denarii (v 5).  One denarius was equivalent to one day’s wage, so this perfume was worth a year’s wages.  Add to this the fact that Mary’s sister, Martha was serving in the kitchen (John 12:2).  Wealthy people of the day did not serve in the kitchen, so this family was among the poor, which adds to the value of the perfume.  Mary’s gift was costly, and that is true of all ministry.  The cost may be in money, or time, or effort, but it is always there.

 

2-It is often criticized!  Some said it was a waste (v 4).  Others scolded her (v 5).  The Cross of Jesus Christ offends those who refuse to accept Him as the Lord who hung on it, and sometimes even those who believe on Christ can be misled by arguments that sound reasonable and right.  However, what initially sounds socially and culturally right doesn’t always turn out to be right!

 

3-It has One concern!  Jesus said, “She has done a good deed to Me!” (v 6).  On the morning of the resurrection of Jesus Christ a group of women came with ointments, spices and bandages to anoint the body of Jesus for burial, but they were denied that privilege, because the Lord was no longer in the grave.  He had risen!  The only woman who had the privilege and honor of anointing the body of Jesus for burial was Mary of Bethany, and it was because she came ‘beforehand’!  The blessings of ministry are reserved…for those who minister ‘beforehand’, before it is convenient, or affordable, or acceptable, etc. etc. etc. 

 

Each one must answer the question, “Will I be the one to minister/serve beforehand?”

 

Jon Moore

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