Doing the Right Thing is Also the Best Thing

James 4:17

If failing to do the right thing is sin, then we’d best have some idea what the “right thing” is.

The problem is that our attitudes toward sin are, well, sinful. We suppose that since we don’t habitually murder, rob, and steal, we don’t have much of a sin problem. But God has a much broader view of sin. He is holy, after all.

The Christian life is not simply a matter of avoiding the “wrong thing,” especially the “big” wrong thing, such as murder or robbery or theft, but of doing the “right thing,” and we’re told, in James 4:17

So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

James is concerned that the believer’s faith result in good works, because all living faith works. Only a dead faith produces no works, no good deeds, and James wants believers to know that living a life pleasing to God, and delightful to us, requires that we not only refrain from bad deeds (sins of “commission,” those we commit), but that we not refrain from doing good deeds (sins of omission, duties or expectations or commands that we omit).

Continue Reading »

Beholding Jesus Means Weeping No More

Lampstands, No. 11

There is plenty of cause for weeping in the world today.

Sex trafficking. Abortion. Poverty. Warfare. Disease. Murder.

John wept when it appeared that no one would be able to open the scroll of destiny heaven, and thus set right everything that is wrong in the world.

But he was told to “weep no more; behold the Lion of the Tribe of Judah…” (Revelation 5:5).

Continue Reading »

What the Reign of God Looks Like

Lampstands, No. 10

Many times we see the world and our lives in it like the traveler lost on the airport tarmac: the chaos on the ground doesn’t encourage him that there will be order in the air.

This is why God gives us a picture of the throne room in Revelation 4 and 5. He wants us to see things from a better vantage point. He wants us to see things from a heavenly perspective.

Here, in the throne room, events on the cosmic stage are no less chaotic, disturbing, and frightening, but in the presence of the throne and the one who occupies it, no one appears anxious.

Continue Reading »

When the Reward for Service is Opportunity for More Service

Lampstands, No. 8

If we are not careful, Christians can begin to suppose that we serve others in order to get something else. But as Jesus instructed the church at Philadelphia (Revelation 3:7-13), the reward for clinging fiercely to God’s grace is the opportunity to give grace.

Set Proper Goals

The world and our own fleshly (sinful) nature suggest goals to us that would distract us from our calling, but the believer sets deliberate goals that reflect his calling. One goal for the believer is that he be kept from falling away, from apostasizing. Jesus says that those who “keep his word” he will keep from apostasy. God does not promise to keep believers from suffering, but he does promise to keep us from surrendering.

Continue Reading »

How to Raise the Dead (and know if you are)

Lampstands, No. 7

When Jesus spoke to the church at Sardis (Revelation 3:1-6), he could have just as easily addressed thousands of contemporary churches today.

Sardis had “the reputation of being alive,” but was actually dead.

Someone once said that the rumors of his demise had been greatly exaggerated. In this case, the rumors of a church’s life had been greatly exaggerated.

That a congregation of those who profess faith in Jesus Christ, who claim to be born again by the power of the gospel and to be indwelt by the Holy Spirit, could be dead is alarming.

Jesus doesn’t mean here that biological life had ended, but that spiritual life was absent. The church in Sardis was lifeless, ineffective, powerless, incompetent and useless in kingdom work, in gospel ministry. They weren’t physically dead, but in terms of God’s mission for them, they might as well have been.

Continue Reading »

Rulers of Nations Don’t Desire the Trinkets of Men

Lampstands, No. 6

Jesus addressed a church in Thyatira (Revelation 2:18-29) that gave us one of the most memorable lines in the Bible: you tolerate that woman Jezebel.

Jezebel was the Old Testament wife of King Ahab, and famously caused the prophet Elijah to quake in his boots when she promised to get vengeance on him for killing a bunch of pagan prophets.

Obviously, then, Jesus wasn’t referring to Ahab’s wife when he addressed Thyatira.

Continue Reading »

The Word of Christ for the Worldly Church

Lampstands, No. 5

The church at Pergamum (Revelation 2:12-17) received a mixed report from Jesus. Like much of the church today, and like many of the congregations that believers fellowship in, there were some good things about their mission, but enough of a deficiency to receive a stern warning from the Lord.

Their Commendation

The church at Pergamum had held fast to the name of Christ, even though their circumstances were oppressive. The hostility they faced was such that Jesus described them as living “where Satan’s throne is.” These believers hadn’t insulated themselves behind protective walls, or in the better neighborhoods, in order to avoid contact with “sinners.” Instead, they stayed put and relied on Jesus, even when one of their fellowship was martyred for the name of Christ.

Would believers today receive this commendation? Or do we make every effort to avoid unbelievers and the suffering that witnessing Christ brings?

Continue Reading »