Faith As Understanding

 

Hebrews 11 tells us that “by faith we understand…” A paraphrase might say, “by faith we THINK.”  But the modern perception is that Christian’s don’t think, that they would rather just accept what they are told and blindly believe. In this message we discuss the fact that not only is being a Christian compatible with thinking, but it requires, demands, and constitutes the most profound thinking in the world. We discuss that thinking leads to faith, how thinking leads to faith, and why thinking leads to faith, all of which will always lead us to Jesus Christ.

 

The Never-Changing God

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)

Our God NEVER changes. One may think, “great, how is that of use to me?” It is of great importance to us! Think of the ways that Jesus responded to the crowds in the first chapters of Mark: there were three different instances when Jesus was almost crushed by crowds of people. He even had to tell his disciples to prepare a boat that He could get in if the crowds started to crush Him (yes, that many people were running to Him!) When He went home to sleep that night, the scriptures say that the entire town was at His house! Yet, He skipped his meal, stayed and ministered to and loved on the people so much that his own family remarked that he was “out of his mind.” So, if He never changes, He still has this disposition, and He still reacts this way to those who run to Him.

Here is solid comfort. Our human nature cannot be relied on, but we can rely on God! However unstable I may be, however fickle my friends may prove, God does not change. If He changed as we do; if He willed one thing today and another tomorrow, if He were controlled by His mood, who could reveal their secrets to Him? However, we can bring Him praise and worship, because He is ever the same! His purpose is fixed, His will is stable, His Word is sure. Here then is a Rock on which we may fix our feet, while the mighty oceans of life try to sweep us away. (My translation of A.W Pinks Attributes, pp 692 Kindle)

Think about it. His character is permanent. He could never change for the better, for that would imply that there was something about Him that needed improving before, and thus, He wouldn’t be a perfect God. He has always been, and forever will be, the same, perfect, God. The permanence of His character guarantees the fulfillment of His promises:

For the mountains may depart
    and the hills be removed,
but my steadfast love shall not depart from you,
    and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,
    says the Lord, who has compassion on you.”               Isaiah 54:10

His promises are true. His hatred of sin endures forever. His love for His children never changes. His satisfaction with the sacrifice His Son paid for our sins will never change…Aren’t you glad that our God never changes?

Start The New Year Remembering Your Identity In Christ

As the new year begins, I believe that the church at large, myself included, needs to remember our identity in Christ- as it pertains to sin. If your like me, when you think about who you are in Christ-you often think of yourself as forgiven, loved, set-apart, saved, etc. These identities are very true and important, but God has reminded me early in this year of another aspect of my identity in Christ- dead to sin.

Paul writes in Romans,

We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.” Romans 6:6-8

We as believers are told not only that Christ died for us (substitution) but that we died with Christ (identification). He not only provided the forgiveness of sins, he provided the deliverance from the enslavement of sin. Watchman Nee says, “Our sins were dealt with by the blood,we ourselves are dealt with by the cross.” The blood of Christ seals and provides our forgiveness (“without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins- Hebrews 9:22b); But the cross of Christ delivers us from what we are in Adam- slaves of sin!

You see, we were joined with Jesus on the cross. One may ask you, “who was crucified at Calvary?” Certainly most Christians would answer with Jesus, but how many would answer that we were crucified there with him, too? It is a beautiful fact–that we were united with Christ in his death and resurrection. We were united to him in death, as our old selves were crucified with him, and also united in his resurrection, as our new selves were given life!

Fellow believers, we are set free from sin! We are not only forgiven from our past, present, and future sins, but we are a new creature! (2 Cor. 5:17), able to have victory over sin, and to say “NO” to temptation. C.H. Spurgeon once said, “You cannot be married to Christ until you are first divorced from sin.” You may ask, “How can we be divorced from sin?” The answer is that Jesus provided the very divorcement papers! He declared us divorced when we were crucified with Him at Calvary.

Does this describe your walk with Jesus? Can you say that you have accepted this great truth by faith, and leaned on the Spirit to live by it? This is God’s desire for us: to trust in Christ, receive the forgiveness of sins, and to walk a new life in the Spirit, a life characterized by freedom from sin. Throw yourself upon Christ! Trust in Him! This was our greatest need- to be made dead to sin, and alive to God- and He perfectly provided for us. Our old self has been crucified, and our new self has risen with Christ in power. Will you join me in pursuing a life that lives out this identity this year?

Belief and God Working: The Two Go Hand In Hand

This morning I was reading in Mark 6, where Jesus returns to his hometown, Nazareth. The people have heard of Jesus’ miracles and authoritative teaching, yet when he comes back home, they utter, “How are such mighty works done by his hands? Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon?…And they took offense at him” Mark 6:2-3.

Jesus replies that he is honored by people everywhere else except for his hometown, a reoccurring theme that has happened ever since the ancient prophets taught in Israel. The verse that struck me, however, was verse 5 and 6, “And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief.” This is the first time in Mark’s gospel that we see that Jesus’ power can be limited for those who do not believe. This is not to say that he could not physically do any miracle that he wanted, because, him being fully God, he had the power to do so. He simply could not bring himself to force his miracles on a hostile, skeptical audience.

Knowing myself, if I was in Jesus’ place, the Nazarenes’ skepticism would have actually prompted me to work miracles, to prove them wrong. Yet, this is another example of our Lord’s great humility. He has no desire to prove himself right, to put people to shame, or to prove them wrong by obvious miraculous works. Instead, he keeps teaching and preaching, drawing those to him who truly believe.

My sincere worry, though, is that other believers and myself sometimes become like Nazareth. How many times do we say ,”Well God doesn’t do that anymore,” or “Well I don’t think God would do that.” How many times do we offer our requests up to him, yet we know in our hearts that we doubt that he will do what we ask! How many times do we enter into a situation without first consulting him! How many times do we make a decision without first asking his guidance! I believe that the reasons we do such things is from a lack of belief. My heart aches to wonder how many times we have limited God and his power by our unbelief!

Do you doubt that God will provide for your family financially? Do you doubt that he can turn your brother, sister, son, daughter, or mother’s life around? Do you doubt that he can bring revival or healing in your church? Do you doubt that he can take your weary and tired heart, and set it ablaze for him? Do you doubt that he can reunite your family, or place you in the job that he wants you? Do you doubt that he can speak to you? Do you doubt that he can heal your cancer, give you a child, or draw your friend to salvation?

My friends! I beg you to please ask him to help our unbelief. An easy believism has plagued our society and culture, that has drawn us to use God as nothing but a cherry on the top of our lives. O, how we could feel his presence and see his miraculous hand if we would only believe!! We must draw ourselves close to him, through the reading of his Word and through prayer, with an open heart, saying, “Lord, help us to understand and to believe!” My friends, I ask you to start this journey with me! I will not stop until I feel the Lord’s presence and see him working! Pray for belief!

Mark 9:24, “Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!

“Heavenly Father, would you please work in our hearts and help us with our unbelief! O, how the inner longing of our hearts is to know you and to see you work in our lives! Do not let us be like your hometown, but lead us to a heightened, stronger belief in you and in your power! Do not withdraw your mighty hand from us O God! We need you to bring us to this belief, for on our own, we cannot come to you. Please strengthen us, speak to us by your Spirit, and prompt us to the reading of your Word and to prayer, that we might draw nearer to you, and that our faith may increase. Oh Lord, I beg you to help us with our unbelief!”

Gospel Call: “Come to me….and I will give you rest.” -Jesus

We read Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  This is one of my favorite verses of scripture because it depicts the call to salvation, a demonstration of what saving faith looks like, and the promise of rest that Jesus intends for us to live with! So, let’s unpack it:

First, Jesus issues a command: “Come.” It’s a simple term, but can mean so much. How do we come to him? Well, we can’t come to him with the idea that he will just be the cherry on top of our lives. That’s not coming to him. We don’t just need Jesus as another component to our lives to just complete our lives, we have to come to him with the intent of making him the center of our life, laying everything down at the feet of the cross. “I am the bread of life,” Jesus declared; “he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst” (John 6:35).

Jesus issues the command to “Come” to those who labor and are heavy laden. The Pharisee’s at the time were imposing so many religious laws, acts, and rituals on the Jew’s at the time, that if they made even a small error they were counted unrighteous and unfit for heaven. Jesus is saying, “Are you tired of working for salvation? Are you tired of worrying if you’ve done enough to get into heaven? Are you tired of trying hard to be good enough to please my Father? Good, you should be, because you can’t please him…on your own. ” If anyone at the time felt like this, they were personally encouraged by Jesus to come to him. Although the term itself is not used in the text, Jesus gives a call to repent, to turn away from the self-centered and works-centered life and come to Him. The person who is weary and heavy-laden despairs of his own ability to please God. He comes to the end of his own resources and turns to Christ. Desperation is a part of true salvation, because a person does not come to Christ as long as he has confidence in himself. To repent is to make a 180-degree turn from the burden of the old life to the restfulness of the new. If a person does this, Jesus promises them rest.

So, what is the rest that Jesus promises?

The dictionary gives several definitions of rest that remarkably parallel the spiritual rest God offers those who trust in His Son. First, the dictionary describes rest as cessation from action, motion, labor, or exertion. In a similar way, to enter God’s rest is to cease from all efforts at self-help in trying to earn salvation. Second, the dictionary defines rest as something that is fixed and settled. Similarly, to be in God’s rest is to have the wonderful assurance that our eternal destiny is secure in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. If we back up to verse 11, Jesus says that there is no one on earth who is greater than John the Baptist, yet the person who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he! Guys, we have such an amazing glory awaiting us in heaven. Jesus promises us that even the person who is the least in heaven, is considered much greater than the best person who lived on earth! And if we come to Jesus, he promises that this glory awaits us! At the end of our lives, if we are in the faith, we are not rewarded for what we have done, we are rewarded for what Christ has done! And how much glory and praise does He deserve!?- So much that there cannot even be a time frame on it, because it would not be enough-it has to be eternal!

Third, rest is defined as being confident and trustful. When we enter God’s rest we are given the assurance that “He who began a good work in [us] will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). Finally, the dictionary describes rest as leaning, reposing, or depending on. As children of God, we can depend with utter certainty that our heavenly Father will “supply all [our] needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

My friends, you are invited to this eternal rest. Hebrews 7:25 says, “Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.”

He promises rest, and so much more. It’s up to you to go to him!