“For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.” James 2:26
My brain is hardwired for learning. I have an insatiable curiosity that drives me to learn new things, master new trades, and gravitate towards new hobbies. When my mind latches onto something, it will not (it cannot!) let go until I feel that I’ve reached a satisfactory level of mastery. Most recently, I’ve started tinkering in the garage re-purposing pallet wood. There is something very satisfying about taking wood that would otherwise be discarded and crafting it into home decor or furniture. In the process, I have learned something very important about working with weathered, brittle wood: You MUST pre-drill your holes! If not, it will crack, split, and splinter.
It’s hard to believe, but we are coming to the end of the Gospel of Mark. When I arrived in August I wanted to send two very clear messages. First, I wanted the church to know that I am very much committed to the idea of expository preaching. So, on day 1, we started with Mark 1:1. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, I wanted the church to know that the Gospel comes first. Before we seek “life application,” we want to see Jesus glorified. Our hope, our salvation, our life, our strength all flows not from “trying harder”, being more “self-aware,” or a deeper inner-focus. No, it all comes from resting and trusting in King Jesus- the Gospel. Essentially, going through the Gospel of Mark is like pre-drilling holes. Because the Gospel has been driven down deep into our soul, we can respond to the “imperatives” of Scripture with gladness and joy.
On May 12th, we will begin a series through the book of James- a book that doesn’t mention the Gospel and uses the name of Jesus only twice. Many have approached a book like James and have walked away splintered and cracked because they did not read it in light of the Gospel. James, though he never mentions Jesus or the Gospel, assumes his readers are well aware of the Gospel. The book of James is the Gospel applied. It is faith alive. It what a life transformed by the Gospel of King Jesus looks like. Therefore, it is not void of the Gospel. No, it is seeping with it! Preaching through the Gospel of Mark helps us to pre-drill the holes in our heart so that we are able to hear the imperatives of James without cracking or splintering. Rather than a burden to “clean ourselves up,” James shows us what Gospel transformation looks like. It details what it means to be changed “from one degree of glory to another.”
At Antioch, we lead with the Gospel. Our focus is on Christ. By going to the cross each week, we walk away transformed by the Spirit. So, I look forward to digging into James with you this summer. I pray that it will be a blessing and an encouragement.
Soli Deo Gloria,
Pastor Matthew S. Rickett