Refusing to Rest in the Mediocrity of Assumption
We’ve been on some heavy subjects lately and the next week we’ll be talking about vows and oaths and their place in the Christian life. Jesus is interested in this part of the Sermon on the Mount not in telling us to never sign a contract or get married or such, but that for the believer their life should of such an unassailable tact that their yes means yes and their no means no. You can see pretty clearly how that works with what our Lord just finished speaking about concerning divorce and marriage, not to mention murder and lust. There is a sense in which His conversation about pledges to one another is a capstone to the whole talk when it comes to the way Christ is smoking out the self-virtuous and self-assured. Later on in His earthly ministry Jesus will tell the Pharisees that He has not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. People who think themselves holy prove themselves not to be. Central to the gospel message is the need to be honest with reality. In our prayer and worship help today we are going to spend a moment meditating on the dangers of not closing with Christ, of being near the kingdom, but refusing for whatever reason to come to grips with our true need found alone in Him.
The apostle James was at the vanguard of dealing with a problem that has plagued the Church since the very beginning of the New Testament. There were many believers in his day who had in a word plateaued in their faith. They had accepted the truth of the word of God without understanding its power. James famously says, “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?” Some have misunderstood what he’s on about here, for sure it does not have anything to do primarily with the doctrine of justification, we are not saved by works, and faith itself can in no sense be called a “work”. However, what James is saying is that if we are truly saved by the blood of the lamb than our relationship with Jesus will always be in a state of curiosity about our own life and love that expands it beyond the mere testimony of Christ’s existence as the Son of God and the savior of the world. That wonder primarily moves the soul to submit oneself to the ever-seeing eye of the Holy Spirit in searching out the old man for his tricks and ways. The Christian hates sin. A Christian who is primarily concerned with the sin of those around him has lost the plot. Faith which works is placing itself constantly at the mercy of the King. It’s calling is to have the transgressions of the law discovered so they can be excised from the heart by the grace granted by the blessed Sovereign.
If the person under consideration is merely accepting of Jesus’s reality they are missing the mighty sanctification available to those willing to see the totality of what is offered in the good news we preach. As someone whose “job” it is to proclaim the gospel nothing causes me more heartburn than those who hear the word of God and just go back to the world unchanged from the way they were when they came in the door. Now, I don’t take it personally because I’m hardly anything more than average. Yet, there is some solace in the fact that God’s prophets in the Old Testament faced similar responses, and they had the direct revelation of Jehovah on their side. On Wednesday nights over the past year and a half we’ve walked through the Book of Jeremiah chapter-by-chapter and have seen the people of Judah respond like a dog to calculus. Why does that happen?
One of the reasons for it can be found in this testimony from Solomon in Ecclesiastes 12:1, “Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, before the difficult days come, and the years draw near when you say, “’I have no pleasure in them’”. There the son of David is giving a warning to his own children that closing with Christ as a person under age and getting the right foot established makes a huge difference later in life. While many of us can testify that we may or may not have truly come to real spiritual faith until we were in our 20s, 30s, or even later it is interesting to me how many that fit this category of believer grew up in the Church of our Lord and through the calm, steady witness of older saints, faithful ministers, and the inculcating of the word into our hearts through regular attendance of the means of grace have found a home once again in the house of our mothers and fathers. However, on the contrarywise one of the saddest works that happens every now and then in the session meetings of Presbyterian and Reformed churches across the world is when children baptized in the assembly of the people of God are removed from the list of non-communicant members. This failure to take advantage of the covenantal blessings available to them has resulted primarily from what we talked about at the beginning from the apostle James. A faith which involves not the work of repentance will end up in the same place that the knowledge of the mentioned demon defenestrates into the filth valley of Hinnom. A warning comes again from the pen of Solomon in the form of Proverbs 30:17 as he writes, “The eye that mocks his father, and scorns obedience to his mother, the ravens of the valley will pick it out, and the young eagles will eat it.” Those are some words that it would do well for young and old to consider.
In closing this morning on a little bit of a happier note it’s worth noting that while there may be a long, simmering difficulty in the spiritual life of children, yet the forbearance of God for His people is long and sure. Yet, we are not to treat the mercy and grace of our Lord as license, but an encouragement to repent, believe, and grow in the knowledge and love of our Redeemer.
Blessings in Christ,
Rev. Benjamin Glaser
Pastor, Bethany ARP Church