Faith comes by hearing the word of God about Christ
There are two sides to every coin. As we have pointed out last week that all men are
sinners; but only some acknowledge that fact and will allow God to do for them what they cannot do for themselves. Thus the other side of the coin is that we must take God at his word that he forgives, saves and imputes his righteousness to us sinners as a result of our faith. He does this so that He alone can receive glory and praise for being the gracious God that he is. On the former side of the coin God gave us His Law in order to make us recognize God’s unapproachable holiness and make us realize our sinful, unworthiness in his eyes. Consequently, it is by faith that we are to come to him for his forgiveness and help. In Abraham’s day faith preceded and was demonstrated in the act of his circumcision. In Moses’ day faith preceded and was demonstrated by bringing a spotless sacrifice admitting their guilt and need. In the New Testament, our faith is demonstrated by our reliance upon God’s provision of a spotless lamb, Jesus Christ – who died in our stead. It takes just as much faith to realize that you are sinful as it takes to realize you need what Jesus did for you. (Picture credit: Donell Trostrud)
Abraham Justified by Faith
Rom 4:13-25 Use this link for the NIV or your favorite version of the Bible. Highlight verses 13b, 16a, 18a, 19, 20, 21, 24.
As we ponder God’s character from the above passage, I wonder if God would answer our signature question below in the following way…
Who are you Lord?
I AM the God who is capable and able to do what I promise. Abraham and Sarah could have no children on their own, unless I gave them one. So too, you cannot go to heaven unless I provide the way for you. Both scenarios are impossible in your human terms. But I fulfilled my promise to them and I will fulfill my promise you too; if you take me at my word and trust that I am able.
I AM the God who is faithful to reward your faith. I orchestrate the events of your life to allow you opportunities to trust me with your life, in other words to exercise your faith. Hardships will happen; they come naturally and (by the devil’s intent). Without them you will never see your need of me to rescue you and consequently you will never have opportunity to receive any reward for your faith. Faith grows as it is challenged with hardship. Without impossibility there is no need for faith. To see me do great and mighty deeds first requires you to have great and mighty needs.
I AM the God who gives righteousness to man. As you trust me to save you, I will impute my righteousness to you. I will give you my mercy, grace, forgiveness and salvation. Then you will be able to join me in heaven to live with me forever. Faith is not some good work you do which warrants salvation as a reward. No. Faith is your receiving as a gift what I promised to do for you. Faith is the condition by which you can receive what I did for you just as Abraham received what I promised to do for him over and over.
I AM the God who raised Jesus from the dead. Without my sacrifice which was depicted throughout the history of the sacrificial system of the Temple in the Jewish nation, man would be doomed to perish apart from me. I came as the spotless lamb as promised in Gen 3:15 and died in your place. But that is not the end of the story. I died to forgive but I was raised to give you eternal life with me. Believe. Take me at my Word. I AM trustworthy. I AM able. I proved that in the resurrection. No one can deny that fact. I always do what I say that I will do.
What is faith?
In one sentence – “against all hope, take God at his word.” Faith grows when things look the bleakest. When we are at our wits end, at the end of our ropes, when we are flat on our backs with nowhere to turn; that is when we are asked to believe. That is when faith counts. When things are easy, there is no need for faith. I like to say, anyone can be “Christian when things are easy”… Faith requires conflict to be genuine. Faith requires pain. It requires hardship. Faith costs us, and sometimes dearly. The teachers Bible commentary says: “We should consider all the reasons why God cannot fulfill his promises and then “against hope”- believe. If we could see how God could fulfill his promises, there would be no need for us to have faith.” But Abraham believed God to be fully capable to do what he promised – even the impossible. This is the essence of saving faith – our believing God to do that which is humanly impossible for us and that which we do not deserve simply because he said that he would. In other words saving “Christian” faith is taking God at his word and acting on it.
Faith is not presumption, knowledge or just action
Half the Christian world lives in poverty and danger as their normative. Abraham was old and beyond hope. The verse says “Against all hope!” Yet he hoped in the promise of the faithful, capable God. Faith is expressed in thankfulness during hard times. All too often “Christians” complain about their difficult circumstances. How is that expressing faith? Faith is expressed in thanksgiving with joy. Peace accompanies faith in difficult trials. Faith gives comfort and help to others who are also hurting. Faith is not just knowledge of the facts, but it requires us knowing the stated facts of his promises in the Word and weighing them against man’s opinions. Faith is not just action; for that is what “Religion” is… Faith is an attitude which comes from our confidence of God’s promises and determines our actions which only God can see. Men can only see the action (James), but God sees the attitude of faith which prompts the action. Religion is action from human resource. Saving faith is in the heart which is changed by God and results in a change of action. Religion is man made, but Christianity is humanly impossible; it requires God to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves; and requires us to take him at his word. Faith is not imposed on us by God, but it is our response which God requires of us to please him and which he will reward us for as Heb 11:1, 2, 6 declare. God can draw us and move us to the point of believing by his grace, but it is up to us to choose to believe.
It is time to vote
Everything about the Bible, God and Christianity is impossible in human terms. Paul admits that it is foolishness in the eyes of the world. Special creation, Noah’s flood, miracles, resurrections, Christian love, martyrdom, the Bible as God’s authoritative truth, and future judgment to come; all of it goes against the grain of today’s beliefs and requires our faith. But it is these foolish things that we must trust God about. The world is cramming naturalistic explanations down our throats. We need to think of them as the alternative explanations for your faith to choose from. Adam had a choice – God’s tree of life, or his own ability to determine truth and understanding. Abraham had to choose between following God, and staying in Ur; between sleeping with Hagar or waiting for Sarah, and between sacrificing his son Isaac and disobedience. So it is the same with you. Will you trust God to save you in the death of his son Jesus or “Go it on your own”?
More to come,