Jacob Leeming

Beware An Impotent Faith

There is hearing that is quickly sabotaged by the devil and thus never amounts to anything (v. 12). There is hearing that is marked at first by joy, yet pitters out in times of testing (v. 13). There is hearing that begins well, but is eventually choked out by the cares, riches, and pleasures of life (v. 14). And finally there is hearing that “holds fast” to the Word, in an “honest and good heart” and bears fruit with patience (v. 15). This, and only this, is the kind of hearing that is pleasing to God, having its roots in a sincere and Spirit-wrought faith. 

With my whole heart I cry; answer me, O LORD! I will keep your statutes. I call to you; save me, that I may observe your testimonies. (Psalm 119:145–146)
One of the hallmarks of genuine faith is an express intent to do what God commands: “With my whole heart I cry; answer me, O LORD! I will keep your statutes. I call to you; save me, that I may observe your testimonies.” Faith, in other words, does not stop short at mere admiration of God’s Word. It doesn’t settle for bare recognition of the truth or rightness of His testimonies. Rather, faith sees all of these things, and gladly gives voice to them, but is nevertheless incomplete until it has been manifested in the world through action.
Just as a groom will not be content to admire his bride-to-be for very long, but at some point must actually marry her, so the same is true of faith. Faith, unconsummated through obedience, is in the end no faith at all. In order for faith to be true, it must produce doers of the word, not hearers only (Js. 1:22).
The reason this is important to say is because we live in a time where it has become acceptable — even normative — for Christians to experience the Word of God washing over them week after week while remaining substantially unchanged. Sure, we tell ourselves, our lives may not look all that different on the outside, but our hearts are being encouraged! Our “love,” as intangible and ethereal a thing as Casper, is warm and fuzzy and brimming over with good intentions!
The trouble is, the Scriptures use pesky phrases like “the obedience of faith” (Rom. 1:5) and “faith working through love” (Gal. 5:6).
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When Christ is All in All

Where humility is lacking, disorder will reign; where humility is present, love, oneness of mind, and mutual agreement in the gospel will prevail. Humility is indispensable for unity. One of the implications of this is that a church marked by division and disorder is a church that, among other things, lacks humility. It is a church filled with members who have lost sight of the primacy of the gospel and the supremacy of Christ, and who are therefore left jostling for the fulfilment of their own private interests.

…complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:2–4)
Wherever divisions (1 Cor. 11:18), strife (3:3), distinctions (Js. 2:4), or disorder (3:16) exist in a church, you can be sure that something somewhere has gone awry. As any used car owner will tell you, that cacophony of screeching, scraping, clunking, and bumping noises under the hood is not a sign of automotive well-being. To the contrary, such sounds are a dreaded indication that something (and probably many somethings) is not functioning as it should. Attention is required to set the broken parts to right.
But just as the proper state of a vehicle is for everything to be in working order, operating together in harmony and cooperation, so the proper state of a church is to do the same. Despite the inevitable pull the saints will feel toward decay and fragmentation, they must, as the apostle here says, strive to be “of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind” (v. 2). This, apparently, is not only possible for gospel-believing churches, but is in fact the normative pattern for them. The apostle stakes his joy on it, after all (v. 2).
So how are we to maintain this oneness? The means are given in verse 3: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” Selfish ambition and conceit, then, are the culprits that will disrupt and hinder unity. Humility, on the other hand — the attitude whereby you consider others and their interests more significant than your own —
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The “Troubler of Israel”

Christians today must remember their identity and calling. We are not competing, as one fellow said, for a “seat at the cool table.” Rather, our lot is in the fens and marshlands outside the city limits (Heb. 11:38). We are “strangers and exiles,” and thus we are those called by our Lord to join Him outside the camp to “bear the reproach he endured” (Heb. 13:13). This is not to say, of course, that we should abandon the world to its idolatrous and suicidal whims, but it is to say that we should content ourselves with nothing less than total nonconformity to it (Rom. 12:1–2).

He said to them, ‘What kind of man was he who came to meet you and told you these things?’ They answered him, ‘He wore a garment of hair, with a belt of leather about his waist.’ And he said, ‘It is Elijah the Tishbite.’ (2 Kings 1:7–8)
The power and potency of the saints has always consisted in their ability to remain distinct from the world. Just as the usefulness of leaven consists in the fact that it is not the dough, so the usefulness of the saints is found in the fact that they are not the world. They are an alien substance, a foreign ingredient; a people altogether different in character, message, and conviction — and yet, by virtue of their difference, the means God uses to exert a preserving and correcting influence on idolatrous societies.
The examples of this are many. Whether we think of Moses in the court of Pharaoh (Heb. 11:26), or Daniel with Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 1:8); whether Elijah and John the Baptist (2 Kgs. 1:8; Matt. 3:4), or Paul before Agrippa (Acts 25:23); whether we turn our eyes to history and think of Polycarp and Ignatius, Latimer and Ridley, Alfred and Asser, Bunyan and Ryle, the case is always the same.
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A Royal Calling

If “image” speaks of humanity’s relationship to creation as kings or vicegerents, “likeness” highlights humanity’s relationship to God as sons. Just as Seth is later described as the “likeness” of Adam (Gen. 5:3), so ’ādām is here called the “likeness” of God, pointing to the close, covenantal relationship shared between God and human beings. Adam, in other words, is God’s son.

Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness, so that they will have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ (Genesis 1:26 LSB)
The concept of human identity is one that has undergone various changes throughout the centuries. In ancient Mesopotamia, for instance, it wasn’t uncommon to view human beings as mere slaves of the gods, helpful earth-dwelling creatures that could manage the menial work on behalf of the cosmic bigwigs. Aristotle later gave to the world the definition of the human being as a “rational animal.” But this, though slightly more dignifying, was equally insufficient in its own right as a full definition of the human person.
Contemporary reflections on the nature of human beings haven’t improved much. Today they fluctuate somewhere between pond scum and silly putty. Human beings are thought to be both the distant cousins of the green stuff living on the inside of your son’s fish tank, and also the kind of creatures that can alter the fundamental structure of their being with some lip gloss and high heels.
Whatever we are, we are apparently quite malleable. But malleability seems to be the only constant.
A Royal Calling: Image and Likeness

The words “image” and “likeness” in this text convey two related but distinct ideas. “Image,” as the term was widely understood in the ancient Near East, refers to humanity’s status as a living symbol of God’s rule and authority on the earth.
Like a statue representing a king’s claim to a certain territory, ’ādām (mankind) images God’s rule to the rest of creation. Hence the attention given in the following verses to the theme of dominion.
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And God Said, and It Was So

We, therefore, are the ones who must be changed in order to suit the world, not the other way around. Thankfully, this is the very thing God has promised to do in the new birth. Through the giving of His Son and the pouring out of His Spirit, God has begun a new creation in the hearts of His people that will not be eclipsed by sin or decay.

As is the case today, so it was true in the ancient world that pagan creation myths begin with chaos. Whether we think of Marduk subjugating the Babylonian deities to create the sky and earth, or the Darwinian forces of natural selection working to bring order out of an inherently disordered universe, pagan thinking always begins with rivalry. The order we perceive throughout the cosmos, in other words, is not the result of sovereign and almighty wisdom, but rather the conclusion of a violent struggle between competing powers. And the strongest wins. “Might makes right,” to the unbelieving mind.
The Scriptures, however, turn this pattern on its head. In contrast to the fundamentally chaotic character of both ancient and modern pagan thought, the Bible presents God as He truly is: the Almighty Creator of heaven and earth. As the repeated phrase “And God said…And it was so” demonstrates with sterling clarity, the God of the Bible contends with no one for His seat on the throne of the universe. He simply speaks and reality is shaped according to His will:
Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him! For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm. (Ps. 33:8)
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Follow Hard After Him, and He Will Never Fail You

We shall never find happiness by looking at our prayers, our doings, or our feelings; it is what Jesus is, not what we are, that gives rest to the soul. If we would at once overcome Satan and have peace with God, it must be by “looking unto Jesus.” 

Few Christians in the history of the church have been able to articulate the unique glory and goodness of Jesus Christ as clearly as Charles Spurgeon. Thus, since the greatest need of our day is a recovery of this very thing, I thought it would be helpful to use one of Spurgeon’s devotionals for this week’s article.
Listen and be encouraged, then, by the Prince of Preachers as he lifts the attention of our hearts to the Saviour, though separated by nearly two centuries. May God produce in us a similar Christ-centredness for the renewing of the Church, the good of the world, and the glory of His name.
“Looking to Jesus” (Hebrews 12:2)
It is ever the Holy Spirit’s work to turn our eyes away from self to Jesus; but Satan’s work is just the opposite of this, for he is constantly trying to make us regard ourselves instead of Christ. He insinuates, “Your sins are too great for pardon; you have no faith; you do not repent enough; you will never be able to continue to the end; you have not the joy of His children.”
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Biblical Love in a World Gone Mad

The role of the Church in these chaotic times is therefore to testify, with as much clarity and courage as God will grant, to the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Those who are perishing will cry that this is unloving, but those who are being saved will, by the Spirit’s power, receive this gospel as a fragrance of life to life (2 Cor. 2:16). 

Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world that we might live through him. (1 John 4:8–9)
Our present age is one in which “love,” as we refer to it, has become so distorted as to be hardly recognizable. Acts of flagrant rebellion against God are gleefully sanctioned in the name of love; evil is everywhere celebrated, supposedly, for the sake of love; oppression is promulgated for the cause of love; and lies are disseminated throughout every corner of society under the guise of love. And lest we risk falling into abstraction, what I am referring to here are things like Toronto streets being filled with all manner of public sexual deviance in the month of June, libraries suddenly becoming the favourite haunt of bearded, cross-dressing weirdos, and untold numbers of children being murdered and mutilated each year precisely by those who ought to be protecting them.
There is scarcely a good thing left in the world that we have not perverted under the pretence of “love,” and yet most people are more upset that I referred to drag performers as “cross-dressing weirdos.” Such are the times, I suppose.
Even so, it continues to be true that despite our culture’s myriad distortions of love, love itself remains pure and undefiled.
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The Incomparable Consolations of God

A generation of cheerful Christians, comforted by the presence of their Lord and steeled by the unshakeable hope of resurrection and eternal life, would be a marvellous thing indeed.

When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.Psalm 94:19
Human beings are, by nature, finite creatures. Further, we are finite creatures living in a fallen and cursed world. This means, to put it bluntly—even if a little morbidly—that there are always at least ten thousand potential disasters that could befall us at any given moment. Safety, for creatures such as us in a world such as ours, really is somewhat of an illusion, which is why the Scriptures frequently refer to the cumulative weight of human strength in terms of mist and grass (Js. 4:14; 1 Pet. 1:24–25). The dandelions have more durability than we do.
One of the inevitable feelings that arises when we pause to consider the true precariousness of our state is a creeping sense of fear or anxiety, what the psalmist here calls “the cares of my heart.” The LSB renders this verse well, capturing the compounding burden of anxious thoughts as they “multiply within me.”
Still, fears must be conquered rather than obeyed. Thus the psalmist pauses here only for a moment before quickly moving on to the response of faith in the latter half of the verse: “your consolations cheer my soul.”
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The House of Eli and Our Modern Hubris

The great need of our day is thus to heed the wisdom of the psalmist; to kiss the Son lest he be angry, and we perish in the way (Ps. 2:12). We should remember that reality is structured so as to one day give all glory to Christ as Lord (Phil. 2:10-11). Seas and rivers, hills and nations will clap their hands and sing together for joy when He comes to judge the earth (Ps. 98:7-9). The obligation that rests upon each of our shoulders, therefore, is to simply lay aside the burden of hubris and join the chorus.

Therefore the LORD, the God of Israel, declares: ‘I promised that your house and the house of your father should go in and out before me forever,’ but now the LORD declares: ‘Far be it from me, for those who honour me I will honour, and those who despise me shall be lightly esteemed. (1 Samuel 2:30)
In many ways, 1 and 2 Samuel may be read as a working-out of the principle stated by God in the above verse: “those who honour me I will honour, and those who despise me shall be lightly esteemed.” Initially uttered as a judgment upon the house of Eli, this statement forms one of the major themes of the two books, with different figures emerging on either side of the divide. On the one hand, we are met with various man-honouring figures such as Eli, Hophni, Phinehas, and Saul; on the other, we find various God-honouring figures in the persons of Hannah, Samuel, and David. The basic question, however, remains constant: Who will be glorified? Who will receive honour? Those who glorify Yahweh will themselves be glorified (1 Sam. 9:6; 2 Sam. 6:22), but those who despise Yahweh (by giving glory to others) will be “lightly esteemed.”
The word “glory,” translated by the ESV in this text as “honour,” is a term that carries with it the idea of weight or heaviness. To give glory or honour to someone is to ascribe a certain degree of weight, significance, or value to them. This is why Eli is condemned in this passage. His sin was honouring his sons above Yahweh — giving more weight to them than to God (v. 29).
By contrast, Samuel is presented in the text as an example of what it is to give proper honour or weight to Yahweh as the King of Israel. Through a life of obedience yielded to God in humility and faith, Samuel gives Yahweh the glory He is due.
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The Orienting Centre of All Reality

Where is the comfort of the people of God found? According to the psalmist, it is found in the remembrance that God has purposed to be exalted in all the earth — and His purposes do not fail. Thus, when all the world seems to give way, when the fabric of creation itself appears to be upended (vv. 2–3), when that which seemed to be most firm turns out to be brittle and transitory, the Church can rest secure in the knowledge that her covenant Lord will not let His promises become void.

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (Psalm 46:10)
Every ship needs a heading — a chartered course, a fixed destination, an immovable point toward which it is aimed that keeps the vessel moving unswervingly in the same direction. Human beings are no different. Without a clearly defined telos we are quickly buffeted and blown off course. We become frequent victims to the relentless tyranny of shifting affections, bodily weakness, or wavering resolve.
Thankfully, God has given the Scriptures to guide His saints through such dangers and snares. In them, we hear the God of Jacob thunder and we are brought back to the orienting centre of all reality: “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”
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