The Lord's Church Serving The Gahanna Ohio Area
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This past week many of us were affected by storms. Some of us were even under a tornado warning for a brief period of time. Some may have received hail, high winds, and/or heavy rain. Often during this time the presence of God is felt.
Nahum 1:3b-5: “The LORD has His way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of His feet. He rebukes the sea and makes it dry, and dries up all the rivers. Bashan and Carmel wither, and the flower of Lebanon wilts. The mountains quake before Him, the hills melt, and the earth heaves at His presence, yes, the world and all who dwell in it.”
God is in control over the weather! Jesus, God in the flesh (John 1:1, 14), proved this to the disciples when He calmed a great storm (Mark 4:35-41). We may be scared when bad weather approaches, but we must remember that God is there. Likewise, when the storms of life try to shake us, God is there.
Psalm 56:3: “Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You.”
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The prophets of doom and gloom are everywhere. The economy is in the tank. Hundreds of thousands have lost their jobs. Every day we face the threat of another terrorist attack. Crime is on the rise. Drug and alcohol abuse is an increasing blight on society. Political scandals are a daily occurrence. Newspapers are filled with stories of man’s inhumanity to man. Is there nothing good to report?
Realistically, there are a lot of good things taking place in our world, but they don’t get reported. Sadly, the good stuff doesn’t sell papers or attract viewers, so it’s ignored. Most of us have experiences every day which reaffirm our faith in God and restore our confidence in mankind. Good things are happening, they just aren’t being reported. I, for one, refuse to let the purveyors of doom and gloom rule my day.
I know that God is still in charge (Daniel 4:17, 25, 34-35). I know that the Lamb of God rules the universe, and those who trust in Him will overcome (1 John 4:4; 5:4). I know that God’s ears are open to the prayers of His saints. He hears and answers (1 John 5:14-15). I know that “all things work together for good” for those who love God (Romans 8:28). And, I know that no matter what happens here, He has something better awaiting us on the other side (2 Corinthians 5:1).
I don’t deny that there are a lot of bad things taking place in our world, but I refuse to let them rule my day. The writer of Proverbs offers the following insights regarding life and the attitude we bring to each day. We would do well to hear and heed those admonitions. Here are but a few examples of what he wrote as an inspired author. “A glad heart makes a cheerful face, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed. The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge, but the mouths of fools feed on folly. All the days of the afflicted are evil, but the cheerful of heart has a continual feast. Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble with it. Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a fattened ox and hatred with it” (Proverbs 15:13-17). “Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad” (Proverbs 12:25). “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22).
I can only speak for myself, but I choose to see the glass as half full, not half empty. I choose to dwell on the good and not the bad. I choose to thank God each day for His blessings, and not to complain about my minor inconveniences. I choose to let the Lord and not the world direct my steps. I choose good news over the bad stuff. And, I choose to see the day as the Psalmist did: “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24). I choose to see the good! What are you choosing?
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There are some who believe that religious conviction and political involvement are incompatible. In fact, there are those who believe that deeply held religious convictions disqualify one from political office. Any reference to faith, it is argued, should be removed from political rhetoric on constitutional grounds. Yet, the Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, not freedom from religion.
I would adamantly oppose a state religion, but I strongly support the notion that we need more men and women of faith in political leadership roles. And, we need more people of faith speaking out against sin and speaking up in favor of righteousness. Religious leaders should lead in this regard. I’m not talking about the nonsense that often came from the mouths of men like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, but rather a plea that men and women of honesty, integrity and truth be elected to political office. We should be more concerned with character and less concerned with political affiliation.
The prophets of the Old Testament did not hesitate to take on their political leaders. Elijah, Elisha, Micaiah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Hosea immediately come to mind. Nathan, a prophet of God in Israel during the period of the United Kingdom did not hesitate to expose David’s sin with Bathsheba and call the king to repentance (2 Samuel 12:7-11). In the New Testament John the Baptist rebuked Herod and Herodias for their adulterous relationship (Matthew 14:1-12). Paul preached to governor Felix of “righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come” (Acts 24:25). The message of Scripture is that God’s laws are for all men, and those who openly flaunt those laws must be held accountable, even when they hold high office.
However, more is required of God’s servants than an indictment of sin. The apostle Paul admonished: “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:1-4).
I’d like to see more religion in politics, but don’t get me wrong. By that I simply mean that I’d like to see more honesty and integrity out of our politicians. And, I like to see more of our citizens praying for those in government that we might “lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.”
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It is easy for the people of God to become discouraged and lose their focus at times. Scripture encourages Christians to maintain their zeal for serving God. Titus 2:11-15 says, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.”
We are to be “zealous for good works” as laborers in God’s vineyard. Zealous is defined as “ardently active, devoted, or diligent; full of, characterized by, or due to zeal.” Suffice it to say that we are to be “ardently active” in doing good things for the benefit of the kingdom of God. This being the case, there are several areas wherein we need to renew our zeal.
One area that the church seems to lack enthusiasm for is personal evangelism. God wants Christians to be zealous for winning souls to Christ. I Peter 2:9-10 says, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
All Christians are part of the “royal priesthood.” That is, we are intercessors on behalf of God to people who are outside of Christ. There is no such thing as a clergy and laity class in the church. All the people of God are priests who are expected to teach their fellow man about Jesus. Thus, we need to realize that God expects every single one of us to be teaching alien sinners about Jesus.
The great commission was not just for the twelve apostles. God expects every one of His disciples to be working at converting people to Christ. John 4:35 says, “Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.” Without reapers, the harvest will turn to rot and ruin.
Christians need to renew their zeal for restoring erring Christians. Galatians 6:1 “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” Many congregations of the Lord’s people could increase attendance significantly if they were able to restore those who simply dropped out of service in the church. That being said, there must be an effort that is made to demonstrate that we are concerned about people who have become apostate.
God’s people need to renew their zeal for church attendance. We receive so many blessings from assembling with the saints in the presence of God. It is a tremendous source of encouragement to be around people who are in accord regarding their service toward God. In reality, we need to be present for every service of the church. Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
As the aforementioned passage states, assembling allow us to “stir up one another to love and good works.” In congregational settings, we are made privy to situations with brethren and people in our communities who might need benevolent assistance. Sometimes we become aware of things that were previously unknown regarding our own brethren. A group of likeminded people can accomplish much good. Everybody needs a good “stirring up” ever once and a while.
We are admonished in scripture to be zealous for good works. As representatives of Christ, we must allow our enthusiasm for Christ and His church to be seen by those around us. If we show no passion for our Christianity, the world around us might very well assume that our devotion is hollow in its final summation.
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A certain man who had two sons came to the first and said, “Son, go work in my vineyard.” The young man answered, “I will not,” but afterward repented and went. Then the second son was also commanded to go work in the vineyard. He said to his father, “Sir, I go,” but didn’t. Which one did the will of his father (Matthew 21:28-31)?
There is an important lesson in that parable. Jesus demands action, not just lip service! During his ministry He called attention to a statement Isaiah had made centuries earlier. The prophet had written, “…this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor me, but have removed their heart far from me…” (Isaiah 29:13). Jesus applied the prophet’s statement to His own generation. Men were quick to profess faith, but it was not a life changing faith. Theirs was a religion of the lips and not of the heart. Like the young man in the parable, men were saying yes but meaning no! Such a religion lacks value.
Can you see yourself in the story Jesus told? Have you said, “Yes, Lord, I will follow you,” but you have refused to obey His commands? Have you been baptized (Mark 16:16)? Are you a student of the Bible (2 Timothy 2:15)? Do you live your religion daily (Philippians 1:27)? Or, are you merely offering lip service to the Lord?
Ironically, it seems that many are content to be the second son, saying yes to the Father’s demands, but unwilling to obey. The Lord saw through that man’s hypocrisy, and he’ll see through ours as well.
Which son are you? I hope not the second! Why not say yes to Jesus, and then follow through?
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A superstition is defined as “1 a: a belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance, or a false conception of causation b: an irrational abject attitude of mind toward the supernatural, nature, or God resulting from superstition 2: a notion maintained despite evidence to the contrary” (Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition, page 1183). Superstitions are unsupported by facts. They originate in ignorance.
Faith is often associated with superstitions. In fact, one of the definitions provide in Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary for faith is “firm belief in something for which there is no proof.” I suspect that to be the definition many people attach to “faith” in Jesus Christ as the Son of God. Nothing, however, could be further from the truth.
Faith, as that word is used in Scripture, is not belief without proof, but belief based on evidence. Peter admonished Christians to provide reasons for their faith, because our faith is reasonable (1 Peter 3:15). Since the beginning of recorded history there has never been a better explanation of origin than the one found in Genesis 1:1. God did it, and the available evidence lends credence to the claim. No evidence to the contrary has been forth coming.
Regarding the identity of Jesus, one cannot improve upon Peter’s assertion that He was the Son of God (Matthew 16:16). That such a man as Jesus lived is beyond dispute. That He has had a profound impact for good upon the world is undeniable. Some would say He was a good man, but not the Son of God. To which I would ask, “Would a good man allow others to think that he was something he was not?” Either Jesus was who the Scriptures revealed Him to be, the Son of God and Savior of the world, or He was a liar and an impostor. The evidence points to the former and denies the latter. Our faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God is supported by the evidence.
Superstitions are beliefs without proof. Faith, as that word is used in relationship to Jesus Christ, is belief based upon evidence, and that faith comes by hearing the word of God (Romans 10:17). Have you examined the evidence? Do you believe?
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Scripture Reading: Psalm 73:27-28 KJV
Lesson Text: Hebrews 10:22
A. In this message, it is my goal to encourage you to draw closer God that you might have a right relationship with God, instead of being alienated from Him – Psalm 34:18.
B. A broken heart, and a contrite heart are minds whom have allowed the Spirit of truth (to crush or bruise their spirit), to convict them of their sins with sorrowful remorse.
C. Discussion concerning Peter and his remorseful spirit – Matthew 26:75.
D. Many people fail to draw closer to God because they have an obscured view of God.
(1) Some have a transcendent only view of God as being far, distant, and uninvolved, due to God’s power and his infinite knowledge – Psalm 147:5.
(2) Others do not draw close to God because they blame him (God) for all the thorns and briars in their lives – James 1:17; John 10:10.
(3) A great number will not draw near to God because they have become friends of the world and enemies of the cross of Christ – James 4:4; Philippians 3:18-19.
a. It is always difficult to get close to someone whom you are at odds with!
E. It is good for me to draw closer to God:
(1) because it is through the sacrifice of Jesus, that I can be reunited with God and have everlasting life – 2 Corinthians 5:17-18
(2) I can have my sins forgiven and be made whole through Jesus – Ephesians 1:3, 7.
I. Let Us Draw Near with a True Heart in Full Assurance of Faith
A. One of the essentials of becoming a Christian and drawing closer to God is having a pure heart – Hebrews 10:22.
(1) This is a heart free from, or mixed with anything which defiles or contaminates the mind such as the sinful things of this world – Matthew 6:24; James 4:4.
(2) In Psalm 24:3-5, the word of the Lord describes the type of character who will dwell with the Lord – James 4:8.
a. This type of character, having a true heart, will require you to deny yourself and follow Jesus to gain the blessing of having a right relationship with God – Mark 8:34-38.
b. In (Matthew 19:16-22), the rich young ruler wanted eternal life but he fail to deny himself and follow Jesus.
B. We draw closer to God by having true heart in full assurance of faith in God – Romans 10:17; Hebrews 11:6.
(1) This is a complete trusting in what God says is true, and acting on it by obeying God (You know what you know is right because God said it).
(2) Noah and Abram trusted God and obey Him and where blessed – Proverbs 3:5-10.
II. You Hearts Must be Sprinkled from an Evil Conscience and Washed in Pure Water
A. The Hebrew writer says to draw closer to God your hearts need to be sprinkled from an evil conscience (repentance) – 2 Corinthians 7:9-10.
(1) In the Old Testament the blood of an animal was sprinkled by the priest on the altar to make atonement (Leviticus 1:1-9;1:10-13).
(2) In the New Testament your sins are made clean through the blood of the Lamb – Revelation 1:5-6.
B. To draw closer to God, we must recognize there is a barrier called sin keeping us separated from God.
(1) You and I can be brought near to God through the blood of Jesus Christ – Ephesians 2:13.
(2) We do this by having our bodies washed in pure water being baptized (immersed) into Jesus death, the place where His blood was shed – Romans 6:3-4; I Peter 3:21.
A. If you are not a Christian, you can draw closer to Him by faith, repentance, and baptism – Acts 2:38.
B. If you are a Christians whom has drift far away from God, why not get closer to Him – James 4:7-10.
C. Now is the time to get closer to God because tomorrow is not promised.
Salvation: Hear - Believe - Repent - Confess - Be Baptized - Live Faithfully
299 since 7/12/14
Nightmares can really be scary. Ask old king Nebuchadnezzar. On more than one occasion he was bothered by his night visions. Daniel 4 is a case in point. That night things were well in Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar retired for the evening feeling very confident, but he awoke frightened and troubled. He had a dream about, of all things, a tree.
A tree grew to great height. Its leaves were healthy and its fruit abundant. Birds built their nests in its branches, and the beasts of the field found comfort in its shadow. But, a divine messenger came down from heaven to demand that the tree be cut down and destroyed. Only the stump and roots were to remain. Why was this to be done? So that the living may know “that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men” (Daniel 4:17).
Daniel interpreted the dream for king Nebuchadnezzar. It seems the old king had gotten a little too big for his britches, and this was God’s way of letting him know he had crossed the line. That tree represented the king. He was about to be toppled. For seven years Nebuchadnezzar would dwell with the beasts of the field and eat grass as oxen. This would be true until he acknowledged that “the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will” (Daniel 4:25). It was a not so subtle reminder that God was still in charge!
There are times when we also forget who is really in charge. God is alive and still in control. Once in a while it may look like the devil has gotten the upper hand, but it’s only temporary. Victory belongs to the redeemed! God has a way of dealing with those who have dealt Him out of the game. And, it’s not pleasant as Nebuchadnezzar was about to find out!
The next time you are feeling discouraged, just remind yourself of this important lesson. God is still in charge! We are on the winning team. Remember what John wrote: “…and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4-5).
Smile! God’s still in charge and all is well in the universe.
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Recently, Brother Brian Giselbach conducted our gospel meeting on “Foundations of Faith.” His last lesson was centered on helping us when our faith becomes weak. One person that came to my mind who had his faith often challenged was Noah. Just imagine how he was mocked, ridiculed, and ignored while building the ark God asked him to make. Would it really rain? What indeed was rain? Did God know what He was talking about?
“By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith (Hebrews 11:7).” Noah knew it was going to rain, and did what God told him. Because he found grace in the eyes of God (Genesis 6:8), Noah showed he was willing to listen and obey Him. When the rains came down, the ark went up! Noah was saved by water and the world was lost.
Today, God warns us of things not yet seen. The Bible, God’s Word, tells us what will happen to those that obey Him; it also tells us what will happen to those that do not obey Him.
We, too, must be moved with godly fear. We cannot come to God without faith (Hebrews 11:6), and that faith must work (James 2:17,20). Noah was saved in water, and today the waters of baptism help us be saved from our sins through the blood of Christ. Jesus said, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned (Mark 16:16).” Baptism is for the remission of sins (Acts 22:16).
Noah was saved through his faith; will your faith save you?
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Text: Genesis 12:1-3 ESV
Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
Many tributes deservedly can be paid to the patriarch Abraham. He is the source of several nations including the nation God called His own people.
- Peoples who trace their origin to Abraham still have a vigorous existence 4000 years after his death and still maintain their identity.
- He was the father of kings and the father of persons who influenced the thinking and the course of the world.
- Three world religions trace their origin to Abraham: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
- Of all the tributes that justly can be bestowed upon Abraham, no tribute equals the one conferred upon him by God. This nomad who lived a primitive existence as he wandered among foreign cultures was capable of having a faith which God declared to be the Christian’s model for faith.
The Christian’s understanding of God’s promise to produce a universal blessing through Abraham far exceeds Abraham’s understanding. The Christian knows the full meaning of the promise, knows the ultimate fulfillment of that promise was achieved in the death and resurrection of Jesus, and knows the ultimate objective was the opportunity for all people to have salvation in Christ. He has the written Word. He can see God working through history to keep that promise.
Yet, the best any Christian can hope to do is to equal the faith of Abraham. God’s purpose began to take its earliest earthly form in Abraham because he was capable of having a faith which God could reckon for righteousness. It is that same faith which will allow the Christian to be righteous before God.
The New Testament pays great tribute to Abraham, the man of faith. His name appears 30 times in the gospels, 8 times in Acts (5 in one sermon), and 32 times in the epistles.
I. Abraham: A True Man of Faith.
Perhaps no one, except Christ, embodies the full meaning of faith more than the patriarch Abraham. The Bible quickly identifies Abraham, then called Abram, as a man of faith.
Genesis 15:6 ESV – And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness. Throughout the history of Israel, Abraham is viewed as the “father of the faithful”. He is central to the story of God’s people.
Isaiah calls Abraham, “the rock” from which Israel was hewn, and “the quarry” from which they were dug (Isaiah 51:1 ESV).
It was the covenant that God made with Abraham that anticipated and promised the coming of Christ (the offspring through which the world would be blessed – Gal. 3:16 ESV).
Christians today are described in the New Testament as the spiritual heirs of the promise made to Abraham.
The Faith of Abraham as a type:
A. Both Paul and James reference the faith of Abraham as typical of the faith God has always desired and expected of His people. His faith was comprehensive, and thus was accounted to him for righteousness.
1. To those who wanted to find their salvation in the law of Moses, and return to that law as a means of justification, Paul references Abraham as an example of justification by faith, not perfect law keeping:
Rom 4:16 ESV – That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring – not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, … All men, like Abraham are justified by trusting in God.
2. To those who would define faith as just believing apart from obedience, James references Abraham’s faith as the classic example of faith that obeys God:
James 2:19-22 ESV – You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe – and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works;
B. Abraham was reared in the city of Ur (Genesis 11:27-31 ESV), in the land of the Chaldeans. The city of Ur was located in Mesopotamia at the intersection of the Tigris and Euphrates River. It was dedicated to Nannar, the moon god. Nannar’s temple was in the center of the city, along with a colossal Ziggurat that was dedicated to her honor. Nannar was considered the queen and the landlord of the people. In the book Archaeology and the Old Testament by Unger, it is said that the moon god “owned their farms, their shops and their wealth.”
The scriptures tell us in Joshua 24:2 ESV that Abraham’s father, Terah, “served other gods.” It is unusual to find children that do not follow their parents in the course of their religion. Although Abraham was born in a city of idolaters and was raised by an idolater, he chose to serve Jehovah.
II. God’s Call
According to Stephen, God called Abraham to leave his family while he was still living in Ur.
Acts 7:2-4 ESV – And Stephen said: “Brothers and fathers, hear me. The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, and said to him, ‘Go out from your land and from your kindred and go into the land that I will show you.’ Then he went out from the land of the Chaldeans and lived in Haran. And after his father died, God removed him from there into this land in which you are now living.”
We might be able to reason why God did not want Abraham to stay in Ur. God was calling him away from the wickedness that surrounded him and his family. But God’s sanctifying purposes are deeper than just Abraham’s environment. This call was a test of faith.
After the death of his father, God called Abraham again.
Genesis 12:1 ESV – Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.”
God’s requests represented major challenges to Abraham’s faith.
A. First, he must sever his ties with his kinsmen. There are many today who will not leave family ties for any reason.
B. Second, he had to sever his tie to the place he had settled, to familiar things and customs, and with his roots. There are many today who have such a powerful bond to the place they live that they will not sever that bond for any reason.
C. Third, he had to leave the known for the unknown. God gave him no description of his destination. Abraham knew nothing about where he would be or how long he would be there. There are few who would make a move today with so little information.
D. Fourth, he had to trust God’s ability to protect him among strange peoples. In that time it was not safe for a man of wealth to live as a foreigner among strange peoples. Most people today would be hesitant to place their security solely in the hands of God.
III. Abraham’s Response
How did Abraham respond?
Hebrews 11:8 ESV – By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.
This verse describes a faith that obeys God even when it does not know where it is going. Abraham was walking by faith, not by sight. The writer of Hebrews cannot teach us about faith without a close look at Abraham. He walked by faith, was justified by faith, and died in faith. What can we learn from Hebrews 11 ESV about the faith of Abraham?
A. “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out… ” (Heb. 11:8 ESV)
How do we know that Abraham believed God? That is an easy question. He obeyed. Obedience is a recurring concept in Hebrews 11 ESV, and an inescapable characteristic of true faith.
1. In the Greek language, “he was called” is a present participle, and thus could be translated, “as he was called”. When did Abraham obey? As soon as he was called. He was packing to go at the first words of God. There was no reluctance or hesitation. There was no arguing or rationalizing.
a. This type of implicit obedience does not appear out of nowhere.
Abraham had absolute confidence in God’s words. Implicit and complete obedience is born out of real faith. Abraham did not just agree with God; he trusted God.
b. In the same way, disobedience is the fruit of disbelief.
What was the first thing that Satan ever attempted to get men and women to do?
Gen 3:1-5 ESV – Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” – Satan wanted Eve to doubt God’s word – To disbelieve the full truthfulness of God’s commandment. Satan understood, and still does, that sinful conduct begins in disbelief. Adam and Eve could be led to sin if they were convinced that God did not speak the truth.
c. The effort to strengthen our faith or confidence in God’s words is not just an intellectual pursuit. We must learn to live by faith, or we will fall through disobedience.
Heb 3:12-14 ESV – …Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.
Heb 3:18-19 ESV – … And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.
B. “he went out, not knowing where he was going.” – Abraham was not motivated to leave Ur or Haran because it appeared to be the most logical thing to do. He did not have a well ordered plan of his own. He was simply following the directions of God – not knowing what was ahead.
1. Was his faith blind? He was not blind to the reality of God, or His character. He knew God, and he believed Him. We must trust in God to lead – As a child trusts in his father and mother to provide.
Prov 3:5-7 ESV – Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.
C. Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house. He was called to leave Ur behind. The call of God in Gen. 12 ESV was specific:
Genesis 12:1 ESV – “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. How difficult was this?
1. Have you ever thought about what it would be like to be enrolled in a witness protection program? How could you leave your family and never contact them again? It would be difficult to be convinced that I had to completely sever the relationship.
a. Abraham was called to leave behind what he was most familiar with, and trust God to show him a new way. Every person who comes to God in faith is called to leave behind his past lifestyle through genuine repentance and follow God. God calls us to a commitment to leave sin behind and not return.
1. Rom 6:2-7 ESV – …How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 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.
2. This pilgrimage of demands that we live in this world without becoming like it.
Rom. 12:2 ESV – Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
2 Cor. 6:14 ESV – Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?
Paul tells us that Jesus “gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,” Gal. 1:4 ESV.
a. The pressure to conform to the world around us and settle in here is sometimes called “worldliness”. There are certain activities that characterize worldliness, but it is primarily an attitude. It is the desire to stop sojourning and begin to take up residency here. It is giving into the flesh and living by the desires that characterize the world around us.
3. The apostle John presents an undeniable dichotomy. He tells us that we cannot “love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 John 2:15 ESV) There is no point of compromise, ever. The world we live in will always oppose Christ, and thus His people.
a. The challenge for us is to retain our “pilgrim status” and not be enamored with what this world offers. To defeat worldliness we must grow spiritually to the point where we do not desire the world. The things of the world lose their attraction.
b. Abraham’s faith is impressive because he was not a poor man who had nothing to leave behind, or nothing to become attached to. He fully participated in the world, and did it successfully. But he lived detached from the world around him because of his faith in God’s promises. He still considered himself a stranger and longed to go somewhere else.
IV. Lessons from the Life of Abraham
A. Abraham was a man of sacrificial selflessness.
In view of the vast wealth the gentleman possessed (Genesis 13:2 ESV), one can only imagine the property holdings he must have surrendered when he yielded to the Lord’s command and left his native Ur.
He lived the balance of his life – a full century – as a wanderer, abiding in tents along the way (Hebrews 11:9 ESV).
His vision of, and dedication to, the concept of the coming Messiah made all other considerations subordinate (John 8:56 ESV).
B. Abraham was a man of conviction.
Though his forbearers had been idolaters (Joshua 24:2 ESV), he was unswayed by family ties; rather, he cast his lot with the one who created him. How unlike so many today who measure their religious activity by what father or mother believed.
To Abraham, truth was more important than a genealogical connection. Faith was thicker than blood! This makes sense only in the light of an eternal reality.
C. Abraham was a man of faith, or trust.
Frequently the term “faith” suggests the idea of trust, and this aspect of the word aptly describes Abram. Because of his trust in Jehovah, the patriarch left his homeland and kinsmen, he journeyed close to a thousand miles (“not knowing where he went” – Hebrews 11:8 ESV), pursuing the will of the Lord, with only the promise of arriving at a destination that God would show him (Acts 7:3 ESV). No map, no radar was available – only the benevolent hand of his Maker.
D. Abraham provides a magnificent example of what constitutes true loyalty to God.
His path was charted generally by a course of unwavering obedience. His was not a “faith-only” philosophy. When he was called by Jehovah, he obeyed, walking by faith and not by sight (Hebrews 11:8 ESV).
The word “obeyed” in the text literally means to “hear under.” It implies a recognition of the authority of the speaker, and reflects a willingness to submit thereto.
The life of Abraham abounds with lessons from which the sincere child of God can profit.
If we learn from these valuable truths, we too can be characterized as “the friend of God” – as the prophet was (James 2:23 ESV).
We are encouraged to walk by faith ever growing in our friendship with God. Let us thus “walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham” (Romans 4:12 ESV).
And we hold on to our hope in Jesus Christ as we trust in God’s promises to us. We are men and women of the promise! We are fully persuaded, even as Abraham was, that God will give us an eternal victory far more marvelous and grand than we can now imagine. For this victory we patiently wait as we walk by faith.
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Faith is an essential element in our response to God.
“But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). Faith is defined in Scripture as “…the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Living faith is the operative agent in man’s obedience to God. It is faith that leads to action. Faith and works are inseparably linked. One is ineffective without the other (James 2:14-26).
Given the importance placed on faith in Scripture, it is imperative that we understand the meaning of faith.
Faith is often seen as the proverbial “blind leap into the dark,” a crutch for weak individuals. But nothing could be further from the truth.
Superstitions result from ignorance and fear of the unknown. They are maintained despite evidence to the contrary. They are unsupported by facts. They originate in ignorance. Faith is often associated with superstition. In fact, one of the definitions provided in Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary for faith is “firm belief in something for which there is no proof.” I suspect that to be the definition many people attach to “faith” in Jesus Christ as the Son of God. Nothing, however, could be further from the truth.
Faith, as used in Scripture, is not belief without proof, but belief based on evidence.
Peter admonished Christians to provide reasons for their faith, because our faith is reasonable (1 Peter 3:15). Our faith in Creation, in the Bible, in Jesus Christ, in the resurrection, in eternal life rests on a solid foundation of evidence.
Given what we know about the universe, faith in God is far easier to sustain than faith in the Big Bang, or any other evolutionary hypothesis. The same can be said for our belief in the Bible as the word of God, and our faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God.
I have no doubt that faith will always be under assault by non-believers, but I also know that faith has nothing to fear from truth. As our knowledge increases, our faith will grow proportionately. “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).
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Many thanks to Brian Giselbach of the Wood Avenue congregation in Florence Alabama for preaching this series of lessons for us. We also truly appreciate the many Wood Avenue members who devoted their time in outreach and encouragement leading up to this series.
Be sure to listen to each of the lessons in this series.
Foundations of Faith
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Foundations of Faith
What Do I Do About My Faith Getting Weak?
1. Now and again we sing a song: ”Revive us again: Fill each heart with Thy love; May each soul be rekindled, With fire from above.” Just because we sing it doesn’t mean we believe it!
2. Revival is Biblical! Isaiah 57:15. Revival is God’s will!
3. We are considering the question: What Do I Do About My Faith Getting Weak?
4. Revival is the answer to faith getting weak because weak faith is a reversal of God’s will for our faith. God wants faith to grow and thrive. If your faith is getting weak, then we want to interrupt and reverse that process.
5. Years ago, the apostle Paul addressed the problem of spiritual weakness in texts like Hebrews 5:12-14 and 1 Corinthians 2:14, 3:1-4. I am highlighting these texts deliberately because they show the connection between spiritual weakness and weak spiritual thinking. I want to capitalize on this relationship in this sermon.
I. When our faith is weak, these are not the best moments (times) of our lives.
A. We want to limit these times and prevent them if we can. The result of a sustained, weakened faith is the loss of our souls.
B. Perhaps it would be best to have this conversation one-on-one.
C. Where you are in your relationship with God is the most important thing in your life. We know this because Heaven has made a considerable investment to save you from Hell (1 Tim.1:15; John 3:16; 3:36).
II. Why do we sometimes find ourselves in a condition of spiritual weakness (of complacency, of doubt, of discouragement, of disobedience) and in need of revival?
A. I will venture an explanation: The missing ingredient in so much of our faith is our own ”do-or-die” commitment to live seriously for Christ! We have simply failed to make up our minds to be thoroughly His.
B. Consider the ultimatum of Jesus in Luke 9:23 and Luke 14:27. What is discipleship but the daily yielding of my faith and life to His Lordship?
C. Consider John’s explanation of spiritual maturity: 1 John 3:9. Think of this statement in light of 1 Thessalonians 2:13. As long as we know the Word and as long as we yield ourselves to it we will be spiritually mature (Psa.119:11; 1 John 1:5-9).
1. We have the means to be spiritually strong. We must not allow our faith to enter into a state of habitual weakness (in which is failure and loss of interest in the things of God; in which is discouragement; in which is sin and rebellion).
2. The difference between weak faith (that excuses weakness and is moving away from God) and mature faith (that overcomes weakness and is moving closer to God) is a mind that is fully decided in following Christ.
III. So let’s talk about revival! Six simple steps you need to take in order to get your life back on track with God (six things to do when your faith is getting weak):
A. STEP # 1: You need some time to think!
- If your faith has been weakening, then you need to be alarmed because of the potential danger. So get off by yourself, and do some thinking.
- Paul said: “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves” (2 Cor.13:5).
- Test yourself against the measure of God’s Word!
- Peter told us that we don’t grow spiritually because we don’t use the mind properly: 2 Peter 1:2-11.
- The first remedy to spiritual lethargy is to turn your mind back to God. Example: The prodigal son (Luke 15).
B. STEP # 2: Decide once and for all that personal sin (all personal sin) is going to be taken seriously!
- Sin is what makes revival necessary. You must stop flirting with sin – period!
- Sin is ugly! Sin is slavery! Sin will kill your soul! Sin will rob you of Heaven (Rom.6:23)!
- Jesus said that one of the things that’s going to condemn people is the fact that “their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed” (Mat.13:15; eyes and ears are simply metaphors for the mind).
- Revival comes when we open our minds to the reality of sin.
C. STEP # 3: Be thorough when it comes to repentance!
- This is how the mind properly reacts to sin. “Repentance” is the toughest word in the dictionary of Christianity. See Luke 13:3, 5; Acts 17:30-31.
- Repentance is about making up your mind to walk in a different direction. Re-pentance is about making up your mind to be done with sin (and to serve God).
- Repentance requires thought and deliberation.
- Review your life! Acknowledge your sins (1 John 1:9)! Chart a new course!
- Let godly sorrow do its work (Psa.51:17; Isa.57:15).
- Contrition is an inherent component of repentance. Repentance requires the abhorence of sin (Rom.12:9). Learn to hate personal sin!
D. STEP # 4: Eliminate the negative and accentuate the positive!
- Again, this is mind-work.
- Jesus spoke about purging our lives and foregoing any pleasure in order to avoid going to Hell (Matt.5:29-30). This includes change in our relationships and our exposure to the influences of the world (1 Cor.15:33; Psa.101:3).
- This means protecting and sanctifying the mind for the glory of God (2 Cor.10:5), and gravitating toward those things that are going to be positive forces in our lives (Phil.4:8-9).
- How do we do this? You must to prioritize personal Bible study and prayer, worship and church attendance, involvement in good works (like benevolence, and evangelism, and visitation, and encouragement).
E. STEP # 5: Focus on Christ and be committed to Him (“Do-or-die!”)!
- Be all in! Belong completely to Him!
- He is the object and foundation of our faith. Faith will only be as strong as our focus. But focus is an action of the mind!
- Focus on Jesus as our example of perfect, robust faith. The writer of Hebrews exhorted us to “look unto Jesus” (literally: turning away from all others; Heb.12:2).
- But also this: Jesus Christ calls us to the highest and best that we’re capable of (Luke 9:23; Matt.5:41; Matt.6:33).
- Here is where you begin your focus: “Search the Scriptures: for in them you think you have etemal life; and they are they which testify of Me” (John 5:39). See also John 15:14.
F. STEP # 6: Let your motivation be the beauty of the grace of God!
- There is no substitute for being thoroughly taken (emotionally and mentally) with the grace of God (1 John 4:19). Let the beauty and wonder of God’s grace move you to decision, action, and praise.
- Be on guard against the wrong ideas about grace. Sometimes sin, failure, indifference, and weakness are excused on the basis that God has done all the heavy-lifting by sending His Son to be our sacrifice for sin – and therefore there is nothing for you to do.
- • Grace doesn’t lead to spiritual weakness, but to careful and joyful obedience (Titus 2:11-14). God’s grace is the reason to grow, and mature, and be strong in the faith.
- • You will never find an excuse for sin or weakness in grace (Rom.6:1-4). God’s love and grace is the provocation to a more complete, enjoyable, useful, and sanctified life in the service of Jesus Christ.
1. What do I do about my faith getting weak? The answer is REVIVAL!
2. Revival begins with the mind being restored to God.
3. Jesus died so you wouldn’t have to live another day (or die someday) in sin.
4. The Son of God is offering to save you from eternal catastrophe. Today is the day to have a change of heart and mind, and set your life on a new course.
5. Accept His offer of salvation by trusting in His grace, confessing your faith in Jesus Christ (Rom.10:10), turning from your sins (Luke 13:3), and then dying to your sins in baptism (Rom.6:3-4; and being united with Christ).
6. This is where all of us make our start. If we’ve turned our back on Him (and allowed our faith to get weak), let’s turn back to Him at once (1 John 1:9).
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Foundations of Faith
Does God Exist?
1. Does God exist? Yes, God does exist! But not just because I believe it or say it.
2. Someday, if I ever deny His existence, He will still exist. The existence of God is not dependent on my recognition or my acceptance of Him.
3. There are many people who deny the existence of God. When they do this they end up diminishing their own existence more than they do the existence of God.
4. Sadly, faith is no longer a cultural expectation. We live in an age of skepticism, doubt, and unbelief.
5. Consider this: If God does exist, and if He created everything we see around us, then His existence is the most important thing we could contemplate.
6. Consider this also:
– If God does exist; He may expect me to believe that He exists and He may expect me to respond to Him in some particular fashion.
– And if I fail to meet this expectation, He may even hold me accountable for this failure.
I. Does God exist?
I have already answered the question in the affirmative. But I understand, this doesn’t make it so.
A. The first order of business in a discussion of the existence of God is to define what we mean by “God”!
1. This is not easy to do. But I have to try. Based on the Bible, when I talk about God, I mean the eternal, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent Creator revealed to us through Jesus Christ and the Bible as being:
(1) Without beginning or end
(2) Comprised of three personalities (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit)
(3) He has a great and deep love for human beings.
2. This is a vastly imperfect definition of “God”. However it is accurate as a general definition.
B. We can dispense with the ultra-extreme atheistic position. In order for a person to say (unequivocally) that there is no God, he would have to possess all knowledge (because it may be that the one thing this person does not know is that God exists). Only the most arrogant individual would take such an extreme position.
1. Most atheists are actually agnostics. They claim that a person cannot know whether God exists, and so they choose to fall on the side of unbelief (and adopt the irreligious lifestyle their unbelief demands).
2. They then claim that their anti-God stance is intellectually superior to those of us who believe in God (insisting that the burden of proof lies with us; that we have to prove God’s existence to them). I would argue that the burden of proof lies with the unbeliever: He has to prove that the physical world is all there is, which he cannot do.
C. Another point to think about: Why isn’t God’s existence so obvious as to render the efforts of unbelievers and deniers completely foolish and without merit? There are a few things to consider:
1. The Bible itself recognizes the fact that God is not always forcefully obvious (Job 23:8-9).
2. We have to consider the possibility that God is not obvious to us on purpose. He wants us to respond to Him voluntarily (by faith; not against our will).
3. God has provided just the right kind of evidence (and amount of evidence) so as to require humility and the correct learning skills so that the good and honest soul can properly interpret the evidence – without coercion.
4. Finally: It is God’s prerogative (not man’s) to determine when, where, and how He reveals Himself to us. Consider the fact that God provided evidence that is abundant and overflowing when He sent His Son, 2,000 years ago, to live and work among men. But some choose – wrongly – to deny the historical evidence and demand some kind of repeatable scientific proof from God – Examples: Luke 16:19-31 and John 20:24-29.
D. Speaking of evidence: It is sometimes said that it is impossible to prove the existence of God.
1. The truth is: We all weigh and consider evidence differently. Some people need more evidence (or persuasion) before making a commitment, others need less.
2. In one sense it is not possible to prove the existence of God.
(1) God does not have a physical body – so we can’t exactly weigh Him on a scale or measure Him with a tape measure.
(2) Nor can God be examined under a microscope or seen through a telescope.
(3) God is a spiritual being; not a physical being. His existence is beyond the scope of scientific investigation.
(4) Besides, God doesn’t have to condescend to our standards in order to “earn the right” to be believed in.
3. Another way to make a case for something is to present several lines of evidence that, although no single line of evidence is conclusive, many lines of evidence converge to make it possible to reach a reasonable conclusion. In other words, you present a kind of “legal case” based on “inferential proof”.
II. How do we know there is a God?
A. Since the Bible claims to be inspired of God (2 Tim.3:16-17), what answer does the Bible gives to this question?
1. God, the author of the Bible, makes no formal case for His existence. The Bible simply begins this way: Genesis 1:1. We shouldn’t be surprised by this. I have never picked up a book where the author begins by making a case for his own existence.
2. In the absence of any formal argumentation one has to speculate whether God is suggesting that if people are foolish enough to deny His existence, then they don’t deserve the effort it would take to persuade them otherwise.
3. Nevertheless, God has not left us without witness. There are important clues in the Bible as to how a person might go about establishing a case for the existence of God. Examples:
(1). The statement Pharoah made to Moses in Exodus 5:2. In response, at the behest of God, Moses gave overwhelming evidence (through ten plagues) that God was to be feared and obeyed!
(2). We don’t have miraculous power at our disposal today. But we do have the handiwork of God Himself, and it is beautiful, marvelous, and sometimes terrifying (Psalm 19:1). God has displayed His power in creation. Like Pharoah, we disbelieve to our doom.
B. The Biblical case for the existence of God:
1. The Bible presents a case for the existence of God based on cosmology (the existence of the world/universe): Hebrews 3:4; Job 12:7-10; Romans 1:19-20
(1) The Cosmological Argument is based on the general experience that everything in the universe (cosmos) is actually an effect that must have had a cause. Not only that, but every effect must have an adequate cause.
– If you were walking on the beach and found a watch lying on the sand, you would naturally assume that some able-bodied person(s) had produced it, and you would recognize it as a something especially suited for the purpose of displaying time. You wouldn’t say: “What a remarkable coincidence! All the parts randomly came together to produce this watch.”
– We would know immediately that this watch was no accident. We would know that it was caused, and we would know that it wasn’t caused by a school of fish or a flock of seagulls. The existence of that watch must have an adequate cause… and the only creature we know of that can create a watch is a human being.
– Even so, the universe, and all its parts, is an effect. Something had to have caused the effect (because something doesn’t come from nothing). And that cause must be God!
(2) The Teleological Argument is based on the idea that the universe demonstrates a high degree of organization, and that such characteristics imply a designer (or architect). Of course the Designer is God. Numerous examples of design in nature could be given.
Note: None of these arguments are invincible to the point that they can persuade every unbeliever to become a believer. As I said before, God stops short in providing unequivocal evidence for His existence. He gives us room to deny Him if that is where our prejudice and disposition leads us. If this argument (pointing to creation as evidence for God’s existence) has limitations, then it’s because God Himself has put these limitations in place. I maintain that it is reasonable to observe creation, and from this observation, come to the conclusion that God made all that we see around us. This the Biblical case for the existence of God.
2. The Bible presents a case for the existence of God based on morality and conscience: Romans 2:14-15
(1) Example of the reaction of the world when the first photographs of the concentration camp at Auschwitz were released following WWII. Intuitively, people of conscience knew that what had happened was wrong!
– Where did this recognition of right and wrong (this moral compass) originate?
– None of the arguments offered by the Nazis were satisfactory.
– All efforts to justify man’s inhumanity to man fail to satisfy us because they carry with them the subtle suggestion that morality is arbitrary. If morality is arbitrary, then suddenly, our world becomes a very dangerous place. Every person becomes a law to himself; which actually translates into lawlessness.
(2) The truth is: There are general moral principles that are universally recognized. It will not do to argue against this on the basis of thousands of hypothetical moral dilemmas or “what-if” situations (real or imagined) where right and wrong are ambiguous. Just because dusk and dawn exist doesn’t mean you can’t identify daylight or dark.
(3) The great thing about the moral argument is that once you get a handle on it you discover something amazing: The moral argument is not a description of how people behave; it is a prescription of how people should behave! In other words, it is right to be kind, and generous, and honest, and courageous, and just. It is wrong to be selfish, cruel, deceptive, abusive, and ungrateful. God created moral order. Therefore, God exists.
3. The Bible presents a case for the existence of God based on His activity in history:
(1). If it can be demonstrated that the Bible is Divinely-inspired (that it cannot be the production of a man or group of men), then it can be concluded that God exists. This wonderful truth can be demonstrated by pointing to several lines of evidence.
(2). Once the Divine inspiration of the Bible is established, there are a couple of directions you can take. In my judgment, the best “road to take” is that which focuses on the personality and ministry of Jesus Christ.
(3). This argument is used by Paul in Acts 17. See especially: Acts 17:30-31. What is interesting about Paul’s words is the response that followed. Some mocked and were disinterested. No doubt they considered themselves reasonable and intellectually elite. But then the Bible focuses on the smart ones. Based on Paul’s message, some believed (Dionysius the Areopagite, Damaris, and a few others).
1. There are other arguments and reasons to believe in the existence of God. It has been my purpose to highlight the arguments that are found in God’s own Word.
2. We need to be assured that we do not stand on shifting sand (when we believe in God). When we say “There is a God in Heaven,” we stand on immovable bedrock.
3. Jesus once said (John 14:1): “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.” It is here that we come to the “holy ground” of faith. Faith in God is rational (as the arguments for God’s existence demonstrate). But there is much more. Faith in God must be personal.
4. God invites you to know Him convincingly and personally through His Son Jesus Christ.
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Foundations of Faith
Faith and Feeling
Bible Reading: John 1:1-5
1. Feelings and emotions have a definite role to play in our lives. But they should never be substituted for facts or reality.
2. Human beings often believe things just because they feel like it, even though the evidence doesn’t quite measure up. Sometimes the consequences of doing so are serious, sometimes they are not.
3. But what are the consequences if the things we believe – or don’t believe – pertain to large issues like the existence of God, or moral issues, or relationships, or matters of life and death?
4. Assuming faith in God, a central question of life is: How is God’s will to be determined? Has God revealed His will to us objectively, or, must we rely on our own intuitions and emotions in our approach to the challenges, problems, and issues we face?
5. Everyone grapples with the question of how to determine God’s will. The temptation is strong to believe that our intuition and emotions are indicators of God’s will and purposes.
6. We wrestle with this for a couple of reasons: Because we trust our own inclinations and find it hard to admit when we’re wrong (and so pride gets in the way). And then the problem is compounded when trusted friends (and a few religious thinkers) are too quick to advise us to follow our hearts (even leaving the impression that God’s Spirit prompts us and moves us emotionally). Also, it’s just easier to follow our own inclinations.
7. So I am saying we need to be cautious. God’s Word teaches us to be cautious: “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa.55:8-9). Translation: God and man don’t always think alike. We need to take great care in how we discern God’s will!
I. Let’s probe this a little deeper. Our emotions and inclinations have an important role to play in our response to God.
A. First: God wants the whole human personality to belong to Him (Mark 12:30).
B. Second: Faith itself has a subjective, personal quality to it.
1. Many examples in the Scriptures of emotional responses to Jesus.
2. The message of Christ effects each of us personally and uniquely. One person may respond to the message of the death and resurrection of Christ because the historical evidence is so compelling; another person may be affected more by the thought of overwhelming Divine love. Both responses are acceptable to God.
3. Every response of faith to the gospel is a subjective response because it arises from each person’s own knowledge of God’s Word (imperfect though it is), and conviction of sin (imperfect though it is), and will (imperfect though it is).
4. One of the most important expressions of our faith occurs in our worship of God. God designed worship to be an emotional exercise!.
II. However, it remains a fact that emotions (and even heartfelt intentions) can be out of harmony with God’s will.
A. Dare we forget what happened to Eve in the garden of Eden (Gen.3)? She had an emotional response to something (the forbidden fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil) – an emotional response prompted by the devil – and the result was disastrous. She should have trusted what God told her (for her good)!
B. Which brings to mind an important caution: We don’t always know what prompts our emotional responses. It may be hormones, insomnia, medication, an upset stomach, prejudice, or even pride. One thing is clear: There are some feelings and desires (like lust, and bitterness, and hatred) that are completely out of harmony with God’s will (and they are detrimental to the soul). Here is an example: 1 John 2:15-17.
C. May I propose a better way? Let me direct you to 1 Corinthians 2:12-13.
1. Paul was inspired by the Spirit to speak God’s message (which he did faithfully)! But even as Paul lived and ministered the Word of God, he described how inspiration was being transferred to a Book (2 Tim.3:16-17; 1 Cor.14:37).
2. Today, God speaks to us through this collection of inspired writings we call the Bible. God has a plan for this Book. He wants it to be received by you with an open mind and an open heart.
3. When this happens there is a coming together of mind and soul (of thought and feeling) in perfect harmony. This is where God wants you to be. This is what He designed you for.
III. But is this really possible? Is it possible for the objective and the subjective to harmonize? Yes, and here’s how:
A. First: Be sure your mind (informed and trained by God’s Word) is guide to your emotions!
1. Seek to meet life on a more intellectual/reasonable basis (by a mind that has been taught of God). Think before you act. Seek wisdom. Pursue the ways of God.
2. This is not to say that intellect and reason are to be given absolute sway. Absolutely not. Your mind can mislead you as easily as your emotions. But God makes His first appeal to us by means of the intellect. We know this because He has chosen to communicate to us through words (language): Romans 10:17
3. This is one of the characteristics that separates us from the world: Ephesians 4:17-24; 2 Corinthians 10:5; Romans 12:2
4. Peter (in a burst of emotion) once complained that the crucifixion of Jesus should not be allowed to happen. But Jesus rebuked Peter: Matthew 16:23.
5. On the moral front, the only successful way to navigate the issues of the day is to yield ourselves to God (by understanding and obeying His Word; Heb. 5:12-14).
B. Second: Be sure that your mind (informed and trained by God’s Word) stimulates your emotions!
1. Because the truth ought to stir us! Consider: Luke 24:32; Jeremiah 20:9.
2. Do you remember what happened on the Day of Pentecost? It’s a perfect model! Peter preached the Word of God, and those who heard it were ”cut to the heart” (Acts 2:37). God’s Word brought conviction to those hearts, and that led to obedience to God (Acts 2:38-47).
3. Just as we don’t want passionless preaching, so we don’t want to be guilty of passionless hearing. See Ephesians 5:14.
4. Faith without emotion is like a fire without a flame. We need to be passionate about what we believe. When we contemplate what our God has done for us – what this God has given to us – it ought to stir us.
5. When we encounter (in God’s Word) the truth of Hell, and the lostness of the Iost, and what it’s going to take to convert a cold and calloused world…. Well, it’s just not going to get done without a fervent and heartfelt regard for God’s wondrous grace!
1. May the Lord do some stirring today, in all of us, to make us like His Son, to worship in spirit and truth, to love God’s people with a holy love, and to seek Heaven’s gate.
2. Let me close this sermon with an earnest appeal for you to do some serious thinking (followed by heartfelt desire for the things of God and the things of life).
3. I know of no other way to invite you to be a Christian (and live the Christian life) then to remind you that God’s Son died so that you could avoid Hell and go to Heaven.
4. The gospel of Christ is appealing on every level (intellectually, emotionally, spiritually, and morally)! Will you come to Christ today?
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Foundations of Faith
Why Should I Have Faith,
When There Is Evil And Suffering In The World?
1. Some believe they have found a defect within Theism: It is argued that the existence of an all-loving and all-powerful God is incompatible with the reality of evil and suffering in the world.
2. Admittedly, this argument is not easily refuted. And so it is properly called “The Problem Of Evil And Suffering” or The Argument From Evil (AE).
I. Before we go any further…
We have to acknowledge the fact – even apart from discussions about faith and evidences – the human mind naturally processes and seeks understanding when it comes to events involving human suffering:
A. There are five stages (levels) the mind goes through in its search for understanding:
B. We’re human beings! We need understanding! We need explanation!
C. Thankfully the Bible helps us deal with the emotional aspects of human suffering and evil: Psalm 23; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Revelation 21:4; Revelation 20:7-15; Romans 12:17-21; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9; 2 Peter 3:7.
D. But some will use the tragedy and suffering as an opportunity to argue against the existence of God! This is The Argument From Evil. There are three main responses that theists can make to AE:
(1) We can point out problems with the argument.
(2) We can try to explain evil and suffering.
(3) We can offer additional arguments for the existence of God that outweigh the AE.
II. We will talk about the first two of these responses:
A. Problems with the Argument From Evil:
1. There are inconsistencies with the argument.
2. The AE uses ambiguous terms.
3. The matter of unproven and unrealistic assumptions.
B. And then: We can try to explain evil and suffering (in some rational fashion). Note: We need to exercise caution in being a know-it-all when it comes to explaining suffering. Suffering may exist for many reasons (some of which are known only to God).
1. First of all: We can explain the compatibility of God’s existence and the existence of evil by using basic Bible teaching.
2. Second: We can offer two explanations for why God allows evil to exist in the world.
3. Third: A distinction should be made between natural evil (pain, misfortune, death) and moral evil (sin).
III. So why does God allow suffering to exist in the world?
A. First: God allows suffering to exist because it keeps the world from becoming too attractive to us (1 Pet.2:11; Heb.13:14; 2 Cor.5:1, 5).
B. Second: God allows suffering to exist because suffering can bring out our best in service to others (Phil.2:1-4).
C. Third: God allows suffering to exist because suffering puts to silence the enemies of God (1 Pet.2:15; Matt.5:16).
D. Fourth: God allows suffering to exist because suffering makes us thankful (Phil.1:3-8; Acts 17:28).
E. Fifth: God allows suffering to exist because suffering teaches us that we are not in control.
F. Sixth: God allows suffering to exist because suffering purifies us (1 Pet.1:6-7; Jam.1:2-5).
G. Seventh: God allows suffering to exist because in the midst of suffering we learn how to pray.
H. Eighth: God sometimes causes suffering and difficulty! Providence allows this (Hebrews 12; James 1:2-4; Matt.5:45; 7:24-27).
If we take God out of the picture (if we say God does not exist), how does this improve the situation? How does it make life easier, less painful, more in control?
Additional: What do we learn from the Book of Job when it comes to the problem of evil and suffering?
A. We learn that faith does not provide an escape from suffering! Second to this, we learn that we (as men and women of faith) have to face difficult questions pertaining to suffering in the world!
B. We learn that faith in God is a source of strength when we suffer (or when others suffer)! How does faith help us? By teaching us to trust God’s wisdom and judgment; to put the matter in God’s hands.
C. We learn the proper relationship between God and man! Man has to answer to God (as difficult as that is); God does not have to answer to man. Job teaches us that it is man’s role to be submissive to God; and to respect God’s sovereignty! We need to serve/trust Him without expecting Him to explain everything to us (which is seeing, not faith).
D. We learn that God is concerned about the faithful who suffer. Furthermore: God does not allow any trial to come upon His people which is greater than they can bear (1 Cor.10:13). And God rewards those who endure their trials (Rom.8:18).
E. We learn to exercise caution in being a know-it-all when it comes to explaining suffering. We learn that suffering mayexist for many reasons (not just one reason).
F. We learn that there are several reasons as to how the presence of evil/suffering in the world is to be explained:
- Suffering tests a man’s character (Job 1:6-12; James 1:2)
- Suffering results from one’s personal sins (Job 4:7-9; John 5:14)
- Suffering purifies the sufferer (Job 23:10; Mal.3:2-3)
- Suffering chastens and humbles God’s children (Job 33:19-30; Heb.12:1-11)
1. Each of these views has something to say for itself and is true of certain cases. No one of them is a total answer. We must especially guard against seeing all suffering as punishment from God (John 9:1ff).
2. In God’s answer to Job, the point is made that man cannot under¬stand everything in his experience (Job 38:1ff).
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Have you ever felt like you were not being as effective as you could at something? Teachers may wonder if their students really grasp the lesson; employees may wonder how their company is doing; athletes may wonder how to be a game changer. Have you ever wondered how effective you can be in the kingdom of God?
Paul told Philemon: “I thank my God, making mention of you always in my prayers, hearing of your love and faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints, that the sharing of your faith may be effective by the acknowledgment of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus. For we have great joy and consolation in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed by you, brother (Philemon 4-7).”
Philemon can be effective sharing his faith! Paul says this can be done by acknowledging all good things in Christ Jesus. After all, God is the giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17). Perhaps the greatest gift is His Son, Jesus Christ (John 3:16). Therefore, all spiritual blessings are in Christ (Ephesians 1:3), and we need to share Him with others!
When we come together as the Lord’s church, we are to “consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching (Hebrews 10:24-25).” By encouraging one another, living faithfully, and doing good works, the sharing of our faith may be most effective!
What are you doing to help the Lord’s kingdom grow? Can others acknowledge what you are doing for the cause of Christ? Let us work together, that we may be effective for Christ!
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“…as they sailed he fell asleep: and there came down a storm of wind on the lake; and they were filled with water, and were in jeopardy” (Luke 8:23).
Sudden storms on the Sea of Galilee were not uncommon. The disciples knew the fury of the sea. At least four had made their living as fishermen. As they crossed the lake a placid calm settled over the water. Jesus slept. Suddenly, terror struck as a fierce storm swept over them. It must have appeared that shipwreck was imminent. They rushed to Jesus, who was still asleep, crying, “Master, master, we perish!” Jesus stood, spoke, and there was calm. Then he turned his attention to the twelve and asked, “Where is your faith?” In the anxiety of the moment they had forgotten who Jesus was. He had cleansed a leper, healed a soldier’s servant, and raised a widow’s son. The storm was no threat to him.
Illness, an accident, the death of a loved one, and our world comes crashing down around us. Fear sweeps the soul. Our ship is about to sink! But, there is no need for fear. Where is our faith? Jesus still calms the storms of life. He reassures, “Let not your heart be troubled, ye believe in God, believe also in me” (John 14:1).
The hope and confidence that Christ gives to our lives is illustrated in the beautiful Psalm 23. David wrote, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”
Faith overcomes fear. It was a lesson the disciples had forgotten on the sea that day. They let their fear overcome their faith. But, there is nothing to fear when Jesus walks at our side. Is He your Lord and Savior? Where is your faith?
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Text: Mark 14:3-9.
Jesus entered the town of Bethany, and was encountered by a woman who poured costly oil on his head. Some people thought she had done a foolish thing; after all, the costly oil could have been sold for a lot of money and given to the poor. However, Jesus taught us a few lessons that we need to bear in mind.
1. She did a good work! This shows us that she had faith. James wrote, “…show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works (James 2:18).” God expects us to do good works also! Today His word prepares us for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
2. They would always have the poor, but not always have Jesus, with them. Soon Jesus was going to return to His Father who sent Him (John 7:33). At other times, it is good to give to the poor (Matthew 19:21).
3. She did what she could! James wrote, “If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to him, ‘Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,’ but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead (James 2:15-17).” Similarly, the poor widow put in the treasury all she had; Jesus commended her (Mark 12:41-44). Peter and John did not have silver and gold to help the lame man, but gave him the ability to walk again in the name of Christ (Acts 3:1-7).
4. Wherever the gospel is to be preached (in all the world), this woman’s action is a testimonial to her. Luke records the words of Jesus: “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem (Luke 24:46-47).” Remember how she did this for His burial (Mark 14:8)? It was important!
Just as this woman’s action is a testimonial to her, our actions are a testimonial to us. What will others say about us? More importantly, what will God say as we appear before Him in the Day of Judgment?
“Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on…that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them (Revelation 14:13).”
“And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works (Revelation 20:12-13).”
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Text: James 2:14-20
A. Do you have the kind of faith that Jesus would be impressed with?
B. How would He know your level of faith?
1) James tells us that even demons believe…and tremble!
2) Demons do not act upon their faith as we should.
C. Our faith, however, must work.
I. Faith is essential.
A. Faith is described as the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1).
B. Faith comes from hearing the word of God (Romans 10:17).
C. Faith pleases God, when we come to Him (Hebrews 11:6).
II. Jesus commended some for their great faith.
A. A centurion asked Jesus to just speak the word, and his servant would be healed; Jesus said He has not found such great faith in Israel (Matthew 8:5-10; Luke 7:2-9).
B. Faith of the blind led Jesus to heal them.
1) Blind men came to Jesus, and He healed them according to their faith (Matthew 9:27-30).
2) A blind beggar named Bartimaeus sat near Jericho and cried out to Jesus, and his faith made him well (Luke 18:35-43).
C. Jesus saw the faith of those that brought a paralytic to Him (Matthew 9:1-2; Mark 2:1-5; Luke 5:17-20).
D. Jesus described the faith of the Canaanite woman as great (Matthew 15:22-28).
E. A woman with an issue of blood was made well because of her faith (Matthew 9:20-22; Mark 5:25-34; Luke 8:43-48).
F. A renown sinner was saved because of her faith (Luke 7:37-50).
G. Jesus told the thankful leper that his faith made him well (Luke 17:12-19).
III. Jesus wants us to have as great a faith.
A. Jesus told the disciples if they have faith as a mustard seed, nothing will be impossible for them (Matthew 17:20; Luke 17:5-6).
B. Paul taught the Romans that through Christ he received the apostleship for obedience to the faith (Romans 1:5-6).
C. Paul commanded Timothy to pursue faith with those that call on the Lord with a pure heart (2 Timothy 2:22).
D. Paul sent to know the faith of the Thessalonians, and was encouraged by Timothy’s good report of it (1 Thessalonians 3:5-10).
A. Would Jesus say of you, “Great is your faith”?
B. Are you coming to Him, doing His will?
C. Are your works evidence of your faith?
D. Is there a good report of your faith?
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