South Africa Missions September 2010
Dear Brothers and Sisters
Greetings in Jesus.
Summer is almost upon us and it’s been nice to feel the hot sun on our faces and also see Ebyown teaming with New Life. The Geese have chicks and so do the Chickens who have become laying machines. In fact I have just been over to the Church and found 7 eggs, four in the corner and three on the shelf of the pulpit where my water usually goes, Chris has just found 10 under his hut and later today we are sending the kids on an egg hunt. The kids as well are enjoying the turn in the weather and everything now is done outside in the sunshine.
I have just come back from a trip to the UK where I was able to catch up with family and friends. As a child I had good memories of the seaside and going crabbing with my Dad, I have had the urge to do something with my grand kids and so we had a day at the beach and went looking for pool life in Conwy North Wales. It seemed strange that I had come from the Southern hemisphere where life is blooming and coming to the UK where autumn has come along. New Life and then death all on the same planet at the same time. The Bible says there is a season for everything Ecc 3:1-8
1 There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a ¯ » ¿time for every ¯ » ¿event under heaven””
2 ‚ ‚ ‚ ‚ ‚ A time to give birth and a ¯ » ¿time to die;
A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.
3 ‚ ‚ ‚ ‚ ‚ A ¯ » ¿time to kill and a time to heal;
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
4 ‚ ‚ ‚ ‚ ‚ A time to ¯ » ¿weep and a time to ¯ » ¿laugh;
A time to mourn and a time to ¯ » ¿dance.
5 ‚ ‚ ‚ ‚ ‚ A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing.
6 ‚ ‚ ‚ ‚ ‚ A time to search and a time to give up as lost;
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
7 ‚ ‚ ‚ ‚ ‚ A time to tear apart and a time to sew together;
A time to ¯ » ¿be silent and a time to speak.
8 ‚ ‚ ‚ ‚ ‚ A time to love and a time to ¯ » ¿hate;
A time for war and a time for peace.
The truth of these words is all around us and impacts our lives and our ministry. I really get a feel as I type that times are changing and although we have our plans and visions for the future I get a sense of anticipation that God is going to surprise every one of us.
On a practical level, Ebyown is planting is seeds and veggies for the coming year. The compost that has been built up from all our rubbish has produced food for the next generation of plants and 8 barrow loads have been placed in the soil and the children have spent time putting in seeds etc.
The children are mostly well, Luke has some lumps on his head which we think are glandular and Prudence has had a bad case of skin and lip blisters. N’tombi and Carlos who both have bad chests at the best of times have had to use their inhalers more often than usual due to the seasonal winds that we get this time of year.
All the kids are looking forward to family coming over for visits. My sister Joanne who acts as my PA in the UK and her husband Dave are celebrating 25 years of marriage and are having a vow renewal at Aletheia on the 1st of November. They are coming with their two lads Dan and Andrew along with our parents Baden and Brenda. Then we have Anthony my eldest son and his wife Liz along with their children Abi and Levi coming on the 7th of October. Everyone is excited and I am sure that the church will be full for the renewal service.
From January 2011 I will be going down to the Cape once per month to teach various theological subjects beginning with Hermeneutics and Exegesis 101. If you want to some along for a full day of teaching on a Saturday watch this space for date, time and venue. Later on in 2011 we hope to have Tom Chako flying out from the UK. Tom went to London Bible College with Jacob Prasch and is a good friend to ourselves and Moriel. Tom originates from India and I hope to have him teaching in Joberg, Durban and Cape Town, subjects and venues to be announced.
Meanwhile for teachings from Jacob and a whole host of friends, contact Chris on firstname.lastname@example.org for a catalogue
Aletheia Community Church
The “˜I ams’ of Jesus has been the subject the last few weeks with Jesus describing himself as “The Bread of Life” and this week “Living Waters”. On October 11th our son Anthony will be sharing from the word of God and giving his dad a rest. Anthony has grown into a fine expositor of the word so why not come and hear him?
We meet African time around 1030am on Sundays for fellowship, the word and the Lords table. If you want to visit then email us for directions.
We were also blessed by Trinity Methodist Church this week when we received 20 cases of Peanut butter, 240 jars in total. Far too much for us although Prudence made lots of peanut butter cookies. The majority were distributed around other homes, some went to some widows on Kwazenzele and some to people who have found times hard along with the gospel.
- Family visit to Ebyown
- Health of the children in particular, Carlos, Luke, N’tombi and Prudence
- Relocation to Western Province
- What are the Lords plans for the Ebyown site here in Gauteng
- Our daily Provision
- Aletheia Community Church
- Missions College
- The New Video On Demand teaching platform
- Dave’s arthritis of his spine and shoulder giving him discomfort
PO Box 10807
Gauteng, South Africa
TEACHING BY Anthony Royle
Test of Faith: Production of works
This is my third look at the series of tests of faith from the epistle of James. We began with ‘how faith responds to the Word of God’. (if you want these notes please ask) Last time I spoke on ‘how faith responds to social distinctions’. Today we are moving on to ‘faith that produces works’.
The epistle of James was and still has been a controversial book. It almost didn’t make it into the cannon of scripture. Martin Luther wanted it to take it out of the cannon during the reformation because of the books emphasis on works. Many theologians today have difficulty with the epistle claiming a contradiction between James and Paul’s teaching that Justification is by grace through faith alone. We have to deal with this issue before we can understand what James was really writing about.
Some liberal critics, notably Robert Eisenman, have reconstructed first century church history to show a division between Paul’s gentile church and the Jewish church headed by the likes of James and John. However, in the book of Acts we see that James and Paul knew each other and were always in total agreement on fundamental doctrine. Paul was also submissive towards James’ leadership on more than one occasion. Some have taught that James is refuting Paul’s teaching in this epistle, claiming that Paul is the ‘vain man’ in verse 20. The epistle of James is one of the earliest books written in the New Testament and is before the ministry of Paul. See how the historical situation changes the way we look at this passage in James. We need to understand the historical setting to get the picture.
What James is dealing with people claiming to have faith, yet neglecting to put their faith into practice. Paul in contrast in the epistle to the Romans was dealing with legalism. They were both looking at the same principle but from two different angles.
For Paul counteracting legalism he was demonstrating the ‘way of Salvation’, whereas James was concerned with the life of the justified believer counteracting and early for of antinomianism, which is the view that because of God’s grace there is no need to obey laws or commandments. Now the Torah, the Old covenant was not applicable to them, they saw it fit not have to do any good deeds. Both Paul and James deal with two different extremes of the spectrum on how faith and works relate to one another.
Secondly Paul was writing of the works of the law- Torah observation. James’ definition of work is works that are motivated by love and faith. Torah observation didn’t bring Salvation, works cannot bring Salvation as Paul writes, but James say a saving faith will produce works.
Thirdly, the meaning of justification is different. Paul’s use of justification is aquittal whereas James means vindication. Paul was talking of justification of sin standing before God, James was talking of the justification or vindication of ones profession of faith before God and man.
So you can see that there is no contradiction between these two men. In fact they complement each other to give us a fuller sense of what faith is. It wasn’t that clear to some of the early church as some emphasised faith as just a belief and others as Torah observation. Faith is also not that easily defined today. I am always amazed when reading church history that 2000 years later we still deal with some of the same problems. Many Christians treat faith a private affair in which they just believe in something. Others put good works as reason for their salvation, though they have little or no faith.
So what does James have to say about faith and works? What is his main point of their relationship and his summary statement on this issue.
James 2:26 For as the body without spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
There are three aspects of faith. First we have ‘the faith that was once and for all delivered to the Saints’- doctrine- or creed. We also have faith as our belief in God and His promises. And then we have faithfulness-our works- the embodiment of faith. Each one of these aspects relates to us has individuals. We each have a body, mind and soul. Each of these aspects God desires for our love, faithfulness and worship. God wants us to worship him with all our heart and trust Him. He wants us to use our brains and to know God. He wants us to worship with our bodies putting it to use for His Kingdom. We can sin with these three aspects and we can be faithful with them too.
The problem is we favour one aspect of faith over the other and when we neglect one aspect, we then neglect a true and living faith. James uses the example of faith being dead without works. Just as the body needs a soul, just as our body needs a mind, faith needs works to be alive.
I have heard it been said by many Christians on a number of occasions that they have a ‘simple faith’. That’s ok because even if you have the faith the size of a mustard seed then you can move mountains. But what they mean by simple faith is that they don’t care about doctrine or using their brains for God. They just believe in God and that’s that. ‚ Well without doctrine as part of our faith is like a body without a brain. By definition they become brain dead Christians. Now on the other hand there are those who have a lot of knowledge but no heart or any application to what they have learnt. This faith is dead too. A brain can’t survive without the body. James writes in 2:19 that the demons believe in one God and tremble. The Jew would at least confess twice aday reading Shema Yisrael adonai Elohenu Adonai Echad- Hear O Israel the Lord your God is One Lord. This mirrors the Christian confession that God is one yet three and three in one- a basic doctrine that we would all confess to. But in verse 20 ‘wilt thou know O vain man recognise that faith without works is dead ?’ The question seems to be in surprise that the reader does not understand this basic truth.
There needs to be all three of these aspects to faith working in harmony to produce a living and active three dimensional faith. Because when three work in harmony it resembles the Tri-unity of God where three work in harmony. We are Imageo Dei beings, created in the image and likeness of God- He wants us to reflect His glory. God wants 3-D Christians, not 2-D caricatures of what we think a Christian should be. He wants a deep faith, not something shallow. He wants something of substance, not a cardboard cut out.
It’s this 3-D faith is what is tested. I noted my first sermon from James that James writes about two kinds of testing at the beginning of his epistle. The first that God send trials and situations in which he wants us to respond to in faith. The second test is temptation to sin, but this test isn’t from God but from our own lusts. James deals with these two different tests in their relation to faith and works. How does faith and works respond to everyday situations God sends our way and how does faith and works respond to the lusts of the flesh.
God wants us to be faithful but we undergo so much temptation to sin in these areas. We also have to deal with unbelief, we have to deal with error and false doctrine. I have three main reasons what hinders a believer in failing to produce work. Two I’ve taken from our portion of scripture and a third I have observed that is in the church today.
Let’s begin with the biggest hurdle for any believer- apathy- don’t you agree?
James uses an example of apathy in James 2:15-16.
15If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,
16And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?
In this hypethetical situation there is a response that would seem faithful to the person in question. The person has the faith or belief that his blessing upon departure to be warmed and filled would indeed occur. That seems like faith to a lot of people. Lost your job and no money? ‘Yeh sure God’s got a wonderful plan for your life’, would be a popular response today. ‚ Seems like the faithful response but James asks what does it profit? We say we can have faith but where is the evidence? There’s a lot of talk- ‘I believe this, I believe that’ but the way we truly know what you believe is when its tested. But its really sad when apathy is disguised as faith.
The second reason Christians fail to have a faith that produces work is I believe its down to this- we want to hold onto a faith that isn’t sacrificial. We like to have a faith that benefits us. If we just believe with our hearts and we are saved by nothing we say and do then what does that cost us? The reality is faith costs us. In the example James brings to say ‘be warmed and filled’ might seem faithful to some but what does it cost us?
We say privately that we are Christians what does that cost us? Very different to proclaiming it publicly. Faith costs. Jesus told his disciples to count the cost. He wanted them to realise that holding onto this face would meet adversity and would mean sacrifice.
James uses two Biblical characters to highlight the point he was making. The first was Abraham, also known as the father of all who believe.
21Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?
22Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?
23And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God
God called Abraham to take his son of promise, Isaac, and sacrifice him. This was an event that was given much theological commentary during the inter-testamental period and in the day of James. The initial readers of the epistle of James would understand the point James was making of Abraham being declared as friend of God. Initially Abraham believed and it was imputed upon him as righteousness, as the Apostle Paul points out. So Abraham was already justified in the sense of aquittal of sin. But His faith was being called into action. God was asking Abraham to make a great sacrifice.
I often think of my own faith and how it applies in the care and well being of my children. God has given me an awesome responsibility to be a Father to Levi and Abigail. I aim to be faithful to that calling by doing what is best for them. Recently we have been looking at schools for Levi to start in September. Obviously we want Levi to go to the best school possible. We want Levi to be well educated as well as a school that is safe, disciplines well and will support us in bringing Levi up with Christian ethical values.
However in terms of faith would we be willing to sacrifice Levi’s education if the Lord would call us as missionaries to a country with a poor education system? Would we have the faith to depend on church support to go full time into the ministry to feed and cloth our children. Would be willing to go to a country where Christians are persecuted?
Its easy to say we have faith but to live by faith in such away you are willing to make a sacrifice that affects your children is something quite difficult. Would I be willing to do it? Its not been tested yet because I’ve not been called- bt I place my hope in God now by making some sacrifices in taking time away from family to preach away on occasions, to do evangelism. I’ve turned down work promotions and went from being full time to part time so I could start Bible college because I have been called to do that.
James also uses the example of Rahab.
25Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?
Rahab put her life in jeopardy to help the two spies, which also effected her mother , father, sister and brothers. She had heard what happened at the Red Sea between Israel and the Egyptians and said her heart melted. But what if she just believed and did nothing? Might have been a different story for those two spies. But Rahab had the faith to help those two men and was vindicated, justified by her faithfulness.
When we have wonderful examples such as Abraham and Rahab to show us the cost they were willing to receive for their faith- a relative and everyday example such as clothing and feeding someone seems so little by comparison. In light of what Jesus did for you and I by going to the cross to pay for our sins further puts everything perspective. Jesus was willing to go through al that pain and suffering, showing faith and obedience to the Father- what are we willing to show faith and obedience to Him.
It becomes a small ask to share the gospel with our neighbour. It becomes a small ask to help those who are in poverty. It becomes a small ask to take one day of the week to come and worship God and fellowship with His people. But sometimes its the small things that people lack the faith for. The parable of the Talents best illustrates this point.
Matthew 25:14-30 ‚ (King James Version)
14For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.
15And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.
16Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents.
17And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two.
18But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money.
19After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them.
20And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more.
21His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
22He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them.
23His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
24Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed:
25And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine.
26His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed:
27Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury.
28Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents.
29For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.
30And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
The wicked servant had the least amount of talents but could not be faithful with them. Although, again, he was faithful in his own eyes because he kept what he was given. We hold onto our beliefs and our doctrine but do we put it to good work, into good use? The wicked servant was scared of coming back to his master empty anded so he hid his talent. This parable uses money to describe faith in the way we understand use of money because man values money and will do anything to gain more than he has and not loose what he has. How much more should we be with faith? The frightened servant lost out on gaining so much more when he failed to put the talents to good use. You stand to loose so much more if you fail to put your faith to good use.
The third reason why someone’s faith will not produce works is that some Christians are put off by this because of past experiences. Maybe we’ve failed at some point and find it hard to get back up or stretch ourselves again. Maybe you’ve gone through an experience of heavy shepherding where a Pastor has put too much pressure on you. Maybe you’ve felt peer pressure from other Christians to do something you thought you must do by taking on an extra responsibility but it never worked out. So now you’re afraid of when the Lord calls us to do something that seems like a huge sacrifice.
There are differences between pressure from other believers and the call of God. Fear God and not men. Sometimes its hard to hear God through the noise of this world and fuzz of the doctrines of men. But Our faith says that the Lord who created the universe has the power to make his will known to you. He’s been speaking to man since the beginning from walking with Adam and Eve in the garden, to writing laws on tablets of stone telling us not to lie, murder and steal, to sending prophets to show where people were failing and what to do, to sending his Son as a living example and revelation of His divine character, to sending His Holy Spirit who writes the New Covenant on our hearts leading us into all truth. God will make His will known. Do we have the faith to submit to it and carry it out? We know its true. We believe and love the truth. But do we act upon it. Faith will produce works. Salvation isn’t faith and works but faith THAT works.
God wants 3-D Christians. In which area you are lacking in may God challenge you this morning to grow deeper in your faith.