The Lord's Church Serving The Gahanna Ohio Area
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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.
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!
6 since 7/12/14
“…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?
6 since 7/12/14
Text: Matthew 14:25-31
Peter is often criticized for his lack of faith.
Earlier, he did struggle to believe in the Lord. He saw Jesus walking on the water and asked to come to Him. Jesus told him to come, and he began to walk on water. However, he became afraid of the wind and began to sink. Jesus then caught him and said, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt (Matthew 14:25-31)?” Doubt can easily creep into our minds and cause us to second guess ourselves.
As our faith grows, doubts should fade and fade away.
Peter needs credit because later his doubt did fade away. After Jesus’ ascension, Peter had a vision of unclean animals let down from heaven. Naturally, they were unclean and Peter knew he was not supposed to eat them. A voice from heaven said, “What God has cleansed you must not call common (Acts 10:15).” As he wondered what this vision meant, the Spirit told him to go with men to the house of Cornelius “without doubting.” We are told Peter got up and went with them, which led to Cornelius’ salvation (Acts 10:17-23).
Just as Peter learned not to doubt God, so should we.
Living the Christian life is not always easy. We often struggle with trials and temptations that test our faith. When we need God’s help through these times, we should not doubt at all that He can help us.
James encourages Christians to “ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind (James 1:6).”
We can rise in the hope that God will help us, or sink in despair, struggling for our spiritual lives.
Will you have faith in God?
8 since 7/12/14
“I wouldn’t touch that with a ten-foot pole!”
I have heard that saying many times, and often wondered what was at the end of that pole. Initially, I think of a basketball goal or street light. It must have not been anything good, for one would still not touch whatever it was. However, sometimes what can be at the end of the pole is good!
The Bronze Serpent Saved Physical Life.
As the children of Israel journeyed to Edom by way of the Red Sea, they became very discouraged. Having nothing to eat or drink except the manna God provided, they began to complain. God does not like complaining (Philippians 2:14), so He sent fiery serpents among them. Many began to die, and those that remained confessed sin to Moses and begged the LORD to take away those serpents.
The LORD instructed Moses to put a fiery serpent on a pole, and if anyone looked at it when bitten would live (Numbers 21:4-9). Later, King Hezekiah had it cut down as people began to burn incense to it (2 Kings 18:4).
Jesus Christ Saves Spiritually.
As some things have a physical meaning, others have a spiritual meaning. As Jesus was teaching Nicodemus His purpose, He reminded him of the serpent Moses lifted up in the wilderness. “…Even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:12-16)…”
We often sing, ‘My Faith Looks up to Thee,’ and we should remember more than the cross itself. Jesus died on that cross for you and me! “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2).”
9 since 7/12/14
Mark Twain famously quipped, “It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me; it is the parts that I do understand.”
I’m not sure exactly how he meant that, but in some ways I agree with him. There’s a lot about the Bible I don’t grasp, but I have plenty to do just to work on the parts I get.
Here is one of the parts I do understand: God wants us to do what he says.
You already knew that, of course, but it doesn’t hurt us to be reminded. It’s easy to get lulled into a sense of complacency and forget some of the basics.
James emphasizes this point here, and his in-your-face approach shows how serious he is about making himself clear:
“But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” (James 2:20-26).
It jumped out at me recently how often God tests people’s faith by telling them to do something that doesn’t make any sense at all.
In Abraham’s case, what God commanded him not only didn’t make sense, but it was also completely contrary to God’s nature. Did Abraham trust him enough to do something sinful? Did he believe in God strongly enough to offer a child sacrifice, a horrible practice he’d turned his back on when he began walking with God? Yes he did. By this point in his life he’d learned just to trust God . . . to do whatever he said.
And that’s a pretty good lesson for all of us – do whatever he says.
It’s not hard to do right when it’s relatively low sacrifice. It’s easy to follow Jesus when the road is smooth. But I think God is interested in something more substantial than that. He wants to know if our faith will lead us to do something more significant than attend church services, smile pretty, and act christianly.
I think he wants to know if we have real faith – genuine, life-changing, God-honoring trust.
He wants us to have the kind of faith that obeys even when what God said does not make sense to us. Even when it’s different from what we want to do. Even when it hurts. James’ major point in this section is that there’s no such thing as a faith that refuses obey. That’s a faith that’s dead, which is not faith at all.
7 since 7/12/14
One hundred years ago faithful Christians assembled for the first time on this corner (6th and Washington Streets in Marietta, Ohio). They were compelled to move from the West Side to this spot in 1913 because of one of the worst floods in the history of the Ohio Valley. The church here traces its beginnings to a handful of brethren who came together sometime around 1884. Little could they have anticipated the extent to which those initial meetings would ultimately impact this city, our nation, and the world.
In the fifth of his eight visions Zechariah saw a golden lamp stand and the two olive trees (Zechariah 4:1-14). The trees were the two anointed ones, probably Zerubbabel and Joshua, the civil and religious heads of the community. The prophet was given assurance that the temple would be completed, and that the candlestick (oil lamp) or light of the temple would not go out. Zerubbabel, who had laid the foundation, would complete the capstone (Zechariah 4:9). This would be accomplished, not by might and power, but by the Lord (Zechariah 4:6). One should not despise the day of small things (Zechariah 4:10).
The historical background regarding the day of small things is found in Ezra 3:8-13. When the foundation of the temple was completed “All the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid” (Ezra 3:11). “But many of the priests and Levites and chief of the fathers, who were ancient men, that had seen the first house, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice; and many shouted aloud for joy” (Ezra 3:12). “So the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of weeping of the people: for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the noise was heard afar off” (Ezra 3:13).
What had appeared to some as a cause of great joy was for others a cause to weep. True, the new temple would be nothing like the old, but laying the foundation for this temple signified a rebirth of the nation and restoration of worship to God. Those who wept failed to see the big picture. Small beginnings can produce great outcomes.
Look at the trees which line the Washington Street side of our building. Each huge oak started from a single little acorn. Jesus used a similar analogy regarding the mustard seed (Matthew 13:31-32). Many of today’s huge corporations got their start in someone’s basement or garage. Many of the great educational institutions of our day had very humble beginnings.
Nearly two thousand years ago, one man, Jesus Christ, baptized by His cousin, began a ministry that ultimately changed the world. Satan thought he’d won when Christ was crucified. Little did he understand the significance of the Lord’s resurrection. One empty tomb brought hope to a lost world. One person, one event, one mistake can have profound implications. Never underestimate the significance of little things.
We have come today to celebrate the past. It would be impossible to measure the good that has been done by this congregation over its storied history. But, today is not just about the past, it is also about the future! We are committed to continuing the work of faithfully preaching the gospel both here and abroad. We are resolved to speak where the Bible speaks and to be silent where the Bible is silent. It is our aim to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind, and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. These are challenging times, and we must rise to the challenge and let our light shine for Jesus.
Thank you for being here today, and sharing in this celebration with us. To those who are traveling, may God grant you a safe journey home. As we remember our past, may we recommit to the future and unswerving loyalty to our Savior. “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).
8 since 7/12/14
Have you ever heard someone tell you that they saw something, and you just didn’t believe it?
Someone may say, “There’s a zebra in the bathroom!” Naturally, a zebra would not be in a bathroom; therefore you would not believe it. When that person keeps insisting, you finally agree to go when they say, “come and see!” Sure enough, there is a zebra in the bathroom because one got loose from the zoo and happened to wander in.
John pointed out Jesus to his disciples, and they asked where He was staying. Jesus told them, “Come and see” and they followed Him (John 1:39).
Later, Nathanael asked Philip if anything good could come out of Nazareth. Philip’s response was, “Come and see (John 1:46).”
When Jesus heard Lazarus had died, He inquired where his body lay. The response was, “Lord, come and see (John 11:34).”
John was shown the seven seals, and the four living creatures each told him “Come and see (Revelation 6).”
Imagine what response you could give if someone asked about your faith:
- “Where do you go to worship God?”
- “How can I receive eternal life?”
- “Can I get to Heaven?”
A natural response could be: “Come and see!” See you this coming Lord’s Day, Lord willing!
3 since 7/12/14
A couple of weeks ago, everything seemed to be all worked out. The house in Alabama had a buyer, contracts were about to be signed, and we could officially close on a house in Ohio in a matter of weeks.
Suddenly, things began to take a different turn. A clause in the contract means the house has not been sold, and the buyer is walking away. However, all hope is not lost! A former interested party is still interested in the house, and a decision is forthcoming. What will happen? Only God knows.
Does this sound like you? Everything seems to be going your way, and all of the sudden – BOOM! Something happens and plans have changed. What are you to do?
Remember the words of James: “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience (James 1:2-3).”
Therefore, I am glad all this is happening! My faith is being tested, and is becoming stronger every day. I am becoming more patient to endure whatever life may throw at me.
If I am found faithful, I will be rewarded. What about you?
6 since 7/12/14
Many of the oldest denominations have a history of keeping their membership under control by keeping them ignorant of what the Bible actually says.
Prior to the Protestant Reformation, Bibles were literally chained to the pulpits of churches and were considered to be objects of mystery by the laity. Even the oldest of the Protestant denominations continued to make the Bible the exclusive property of the clergy by teaching their membership that it was just too mysterious for them to understand, and that one must be “ordained” before he may even begin to understand its secrets. Even in the twenty-first century, there remain those who never call into question what their preacher tells them, because they have been taught not to study the Bible for themselves and to depend completely upon the clergy to tell them what to believe.
This is not in accord with the will of God!
As a matter of fact, the Bible teaches Christians to be skeptical of what they are told, and to demand proof of the veracity of what is preached to them. “Prove all things; hold fast to that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me [Jesus]” (John 5:39). “These [the Bereans] were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11). These are only a few of the Bible verses, which help us to understand that skepticism is a desirable quality in every member of the Lord’s church.
Some argue that having faith means that you cannot have answers to some of life’s essential questions.
But the Bible describes faith differently. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” The text does not say that faith is something we have, in spite of a lack of evidence, but rather that faith is something we have because of the evidence. Whereas one might say, “I don’t know if God is out there, but I have faith,” a New Testament Christian says, “I know that God is out there—therefore I have faith.”
Many point to Second Corinthians 5:7 as proof of the assertion that faith is some kind of an ethereal feeling we have, rather than a firm conviction. But, when the text says, “For we walk by faith, not by sight,” it is not saying that we walk by faith because we have no sight. Rather, it is declaring that faith is superior to sight. Our sight may be deceived, but our faith cannot be deceived, because it is based upon substantial evidence (Hebrews 11:1).
Faith is not a blind leap in the dark.
It is a kind of trust that we have in God, because we know that we have good reason to trust in Him “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). Faith is about being convinced of the reality of God, and then putting complete trust in Him. “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).
Being a skeptical Christian does not mean that one has no faith.
As a matter of fact, it is absolutely essential for every Christian to have strong faith. As questions of your preacher and your Bible class teacher, when you do not understand what they are saying to you. Look up the passages of Scripture that they cite and see if what they are telling you is true. Preachers and Bible class teachers can make mistakes and they can have sinister agendas, so do not simply accept everything you are told about religion, without question.
If the people in your church are discouraging you from asking questions and searching the Scriptures, then it may be time for you to seek a church where the pursuit of Bible knowledge is encouraged, rather than discouraged. At the churches of Christ, skepticism is a virtue, rather than a vice.
People learn the truth by seeking answers to their questions.
It is my sincere hope and fervent prayer that you will find the truth you seek.
11 since 7/12/14
Go ahead and step outside. Take a look around. Inhale, and then exhale. What do you see? What do you feel?
God’s creation is all around us. Hebrews 11:3 states: “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.”
What we see is evidence of the God we do not see. Paul said, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse (Romans 1:20).”
How did God create the world? Remember, “…the worlds were framed by the word of God…” The very first thing God said was, “Let there be light (Genesis 1:3)!” What happened? There was light!
We know Jesus also had a part in creation, because He is the Word of God in the flesh that was in the beginning (John 1:1-5,14). Without Him there was not anything made that was made.
Later in John 1, we learn that no one has seen God at any time (John 1:18). Even though we do not see Him, we have faith that He is here! Faith is necessary to come to God (Hebrews 11:6), and it comes from hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17).
Let us share God’s Word with others, so they can know Him too!
5 since 7/12/14
During David’s reign, the Ammonites, assisted by the Syrians, confronted the army of Israel. Joab, captain of Israel’s army, with the Syrians on one side and the Ammonites on the other, divided his forces between himself and his brother Abishai. He then said to Abishai: “If the Syrians are too strong for me, then you shall help me, but if the Ammonites are too strong for you, then I will come and help you. Be of good courage, and let us be courageous for our people, and for the cities of our God, and may the Lord do what seems good to him” (2 Samuel 10:11-12).
I’m particularly struck by the phrase “may the Lord do what seems good to him.” In addition to their personal courage, they were dependent on God’s help, whatever that might entail. They simply asked that God do what seemed good to Him. Do you sometimes find yourself at a loss to know what to pray for, or how to put it into words?
Maybe we should just ask God to do what seems good to Him.
If you are like me, you have prayed many times for someone’s health to improve, only to watch them slowly decline. I know we should pray for the sick, and I know that God hears and responds to those prayers (James 5:14-16). Yet, His response is often not the one we were seeking. I don’t question it for I know He knows best.
It seems to me that Jesus and the early disciples had a pretty good grasp of this idea. It is repeatedly expressed in their plans and petitions. They sought the Lord’s will, and not their own. In the garden Jesus begged the Father for a way out of His impending crucifixion, yet said each time, “your will be done” (Matthew 26:39, 41, 44). Paul often spoke of his plans for ministry, but acknowledged that all such plans were subject to the will of God (Acts 18:21; 1 Corinthians 4:19). James admonished his readers to make all their plans submissive to God’s will (James 4:15).
God knows best, even when we cannot see it.
I look at the turmoil in our world, man’s inhumanity to man, wars, famine, disease and I am compelled to respond, “May the Lord do what seems good to Him.”
I look at those battling cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and a host of other physical problems and pray, “May the Lord do what seems good to Him.”
I look at those struggling with financial burdens, a lost job, a bad investment, a failed business and ask, “May the Lord do what seems good to Him.”
I look at a world similar to the one Paul confronted in the first century when men worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator (Romans 1:25), and can only respond, “May the Lord do what seems good to Him.”
I look at souls who are lost, some having heard the gospel repeatedly and others not at all, and I pray, “May the Lord do what seems good to Him.”
Yes, we must be strong and courageous, but remember that God is stronger, and He knows best.
May we always pray that God will do what seems good to Him!
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One verse that has been on our hearts lately is Romans 8:28: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”
We can see this applying right this very minute. Our house in Alabama is being sold, the ministry I will give up has been taken care of, and opportunities abound to where I am going. Please notice a few things about this verse…
- We know! Let us not doubt God, but be confident that He is able to do more than we can ask or think (Ephesians 3:20).
- All things work together for good. Not just some things, but everything we do God can use for His good! It is a good God that we serve, and He has always been good to us.
- God knows we love Him when we keep His commandments (John 14:15). When we do what He says, He will take care of us! Thus, God has a purpose for all of us.
Let us not doubt God, but follow His lead. If we do His will, He will take care of us. Let His purpose be done for us, not our own. “…Not My will, but Yours, be done (Luke 22:42).”
5 since 7/12/14
Growing up, my favorite author was Franklin W. Dixon. The Hardy Boys was my favorite series, and I soon collected the entire set (including the handbook).
Carolyn Keene is just as popular with girls for penning Nancy Drew. Many authors wrote classics, fiction, nonfiction, and biographies that thrill many readers. They create characters and expound upon their adventures.
The greatest author of all, however, is Jesus Christ! Jesus is the author of “eternal salvation to all who obey Him (Hebrews 5:9).”
No one else can create anything as wonderful! He even tells us how to receive it – by doing what He says! In order to come to God, we do so through faith in Jesus (Hebrews 11:6). Thus, Jesus is “the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).”
There is a lot of confusion in the world, especially regarding matters of faith. But, this confusion did not come from God! He is “not the author of confusion, but of peace (1 Corinthians 14:33).”
What is your favorite book to read? I hope and pray it is the Bible. After all, God is its author (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Everything you read there is true, and you will be prepared for living now and in eternity.
5 since 7/12/14