This is a transcript of a sermon I gave at oaktreechurch.com on Sept. 18, 2016
Now I can finally add the audio…
At some point in our lives, we are probably going to experience a time when our faith in God feels empty or dead. There are times when it feels like our prayers go no higher than the ceiling. There are moments when we feel abandoned. Like we are left hanging out in the wind. Please realize that feelings tend to lie to us. To address this, first I want to let you know, that if you have faith in Jesus as savior, he promises, he will never leave you nor forsake you. Second, God is omnipresent, that is a fancy way of saying he is always everywhere, all the time. He is with us always. Third, as a believer, we have God’s Holy Spirit living inside of us. However, the Scriptures warn us that our faith can be dead, not that God leaves us, but that our faith is not as vibrant and alive as it could be. Today we are going to talk about how we can live out a vibrant and living faith.
Last month, Ben spoke to us about Philippians chapter 4 and contentment. He said basically that we need to choose to trust God in everything, to allow God to be in control, to not worry, and to be content. All that in a nutshell… He also said that we tend to mess that up. I agree we mess that up a lot. We get the be confused with the do. We are supposed to be content. Let God sit on the throne of our hearts and be content where God has us in this life. Nothing, absolutely nothing, has ever nor will ever take God by surprise. We have nothing to worry about… We are also supposed to know that life is not about us, it is all about God. That is how we are supposed to be, but aren’t we supposed to do something?
On Saturday mornings, our men’s group has been focusing on who we are in Christ, what we are supposed to be as people created in the image of God, and what we are supposed to do, as men of God in the church. Some of us called it the do be dos… How we are supposed to be and what we are supposed to do…
I propose to show you through Scriptures that we are not supposed to just be lumps on God’s log, but we are supposed to do something while we are here as well.
First though, let’s talk just a little bit about how we get this wrong and wrong in a really bad way sometimes. Let me make one thing perfectly clear, there is nothing I can do to earn God’s love. I’ll say that again, there is nothing I can do to earn God’s love. One more time, all together this time, there is nothing I can do to earn God’s love. Paul said, It is by grace that we are saved… Grace is a gift, salvation is a gift, God’s love is a gift, we cannot earn it. There is nothing that we can do to earn God’s love. Trying is how we fall into religion and forget all about the personal loving relationship that we can have with God.
We get this wrong, just like everyone else, going all the way back to the Garden, by running on self-will not God’s will. To put it very simply, we sin. That is a theological way of saying, we miss the mark. We are imperfect beings, even though we are all created in the image of God. Our image is broken and has been since the Garden of Eden. We are born flawed. We do the wrong things automatically from a young age and it only continues into adulthood and beyond. We mess up. Since the beginning of time, mankind has fallen into temptation. The method of tempting has also remained the same through the ages. In the Garden, Eve was tempted with the lust of the flesh (what the body wants), the lust of the eyes (what looks good), and the pride of life (those things that we possess and our status in life). These are the same temptations Jesus faced in the desert. They are the same temptations that John warns us of in his letter, 1 John. We give in to temptation sometimes. We mess up as people outside the church and guess what, we even continue to mess up as people inside the church.
As a believer who is supposed to be growing and maturing, last year I really messed up and I gave in to temptation… I made a major purchase that I can’t afford and didn’t even tell my wife about it until later. It has really messed things up for us financially. It hurt our relationship, it caused distrust and resentment. It has affected almost every area of our lives. I messed up bad. I operated on self-will run riot and not God’s will. I have repented of that, God has forgiven me for it, he has shown me grace, I am trying to make it right, but I am still paying the consequences for my sin.
There are a couple biblical examples of messing up that I would like to show you as well. David and Solomon are two of the greatest pillars of the nation of Israel. They are the best two kings that the nation of Israel ever had, as recorded by the Bible. Yet, they both messed up in some pretty big ways.
In 2 Samuel 11, we find the famous story of David and Bathsheba. David, the man after God’s own heart, the apple of God’s eye, messed up big time. David fell into lust, and had an affair with Uriah the Hittite’s wife, Bathsheba. After the affair, he found out she was pregnant. So, David brought Uriah back from the battlelines and tried to get him to sleep with his own wife, to cover up that she had gotten pregnant by David. He refused. Saying that he would not enjoy the comforts of home when his unit was still out on the battlefield. So, David arranged to have him murdered in battle. David messed up big time! Most of us will never mess up this bad, but David did… And, David had many consequences to pay, for his sin. The worst result of this though is in 2 Samuel 11:27 “But what David had done upset the Lord.” How terrible for David or for any of us, to know that our actions have grieved God. As punishment, among other things, David was not allowed to build God’s temple because of his sin. This had been one of David’s greatest desires, and God said, no.
One book over in our Bibles, David’s son, Solomon messes up really bad too. The Scripture tells us he was the wisest man to ever live. In 1 Kings 11, the Bible tells us about how Solomon messed up. He had many foreign wives and concubines, and fell into idolatry worshipping other gods. He even tells us in Ecclesiastes 2:15 “So I thought to myself, “The fate of the fool will happen even to me! Then what did I gain by becoming so excessively wise?” So I lamented to myself, “The benefits of wisdom are ultimately meaningless!” Solomon also had many consequences for his behavior. He felt empty inside in spite of all the grace God showed him and the wisdom he had been given. As a result, the kingdom of Israel was split because of Solomon’s sin. Yet, at the end of Ecclesiastes, Solomon tells us, Ecclesiastes 12:13 “Having heard everything, I have reached this conclusion: Fear God and keep his commandments, because this is the whole duty of man.”
These men were used mightily by God. By grace, God showed them favor and blessed their lives. Grace is simply the unmerited gift of God, giving us something that we really don’t deserve. But, how much more could God have used them, if they hadn’t messed up? How much more could God use us, if we stay on the Path? Yet, we mess up. So, what are we supposed to do? How can we have a vibrant and living faith?
First of all, we have to operate under the correct motive. We can’t earn God’s love. But, because we love God, we should want to do things to glorify him. Remember, the last two weeks as we did a flyover of the entire Bible, we learned that God does things for one reason. Do you remember that reason? To glorify himself. And, our motive in everything that we do should be the same, to glorify God. How do we do that? Almost 20 years ago, a dear friend gave me a few short phrases that remind me to stay on the Path and glorify God and to have a vibrant, living, and growing faith.
The first step on the Path is to have faith. Your first phrase is HAVE FAITH. Why have faith? Because without faith it is impossible to please God. Hebrews 11:6 says, “Now without faith it is impossible to please him, for the one who approaches God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” We cannot glorify God unless first we have faith. But, have faith in what? The Bible makes this very simple for us. Have faith in Jesus, who he is and what he did. Jesus, the Son of the Living God, himself God, lived, died, was buried, and rose again on the third day to make us right with God by taking the punishment for our sin, making it possible for us to have a relationship with God as our Father. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so that no one can boast.” Remember, grace is the unearned, unmerited, gift of God, it is free and available to everyone. It is available to each of us. It is available to you. You can take this vital step, right now, where you sit. In your heart, have faith in Jesus, who he is and what he did. If you have taken this vital step now, please mark it on your connection card so that we can touch base with you and help you along the Path. And, you can find out more about this vital step in our book, The Path, which you can find in the lobby.
Once we have faith and have started our journey toward a vibrant, living, and growing faith we have some work to do. Your second phrase is DO GOOD. Turn with me to James 2:26, on page 1361, if you are using one of the Bibles in your seat, it will also be up on the screen, or you can use your device, this is our memory verse for today, this is what James said, in a section on living a godly lifestyle, “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.” Whoa, you just told me that I have work to do?! YES! Not to earn God’s love. Not to earn salvation, because that is a gift of grace… Remember, we just looked at Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so that no one can boast.” But, when we love God, our response to his love and grace should be that we want to glorify him. We glorify him through good works. We glorify God by showing others the same kind of grace that God has shown us. Paul tells us in the very next verse, verse 10 “For we are his workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so we may do them.” This word, workmanship, in Greek means, handiwork or masterpiece. It is also where we get our English word, poem. We are built to be his poem, his masterpiece, and do his work. We also have a purpose, a purpose that he planned out for us. The writer of Hebrews tells us “And let us take thought of how to spur one another on to love and good works,” Here it is again, work. One more time, Paul told Titus “showing yourself to be an example of good works in every way.” So, as we boil this down, we are to have faith, we are also to do good.
What does do good look like? Well, that’s next… SHOW LOVE. Have faith, do good, show love. Jesus said, John 13:34-35 “I give you a new commandment – to love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. Everyone will know by this that you are my disciples – if you have love for one another.” Here Jesus is speaking specifically to his disciples. Telling them the first place that they should show love is between one another. So, for those of us who are disciples of Christ, where is the first place that we should show love? The first place that we show love is right here. Right here, in our local church, then to other believers outside of this local church in the universal Church, then to the world at large. The command to love is repeated throughout the New Testament. John tells us that we love because God loved us first. This is agape love, unconditional love, love that surpasses understanding, Fruit of the Spirit love. This is the Brotherly Affection and Unselfish Love that the Path talks about.
So far, we’ve got have faith, do good, show love, now we add DO THE NEXT RIGHT THING. But how do we know what the next right thing is??? By studying Scripture. Paul tells Timothy in 2 TImothy 3:16-17 “Every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work.” Here it is again, equipped for every good work. We have work to do. Our book the Path talks about knowledge. It is through knowledge of God’s word that we are able to discern what the next right thing is. We don’t all need to be Greek and Hebrew scholars of the original biblical text because God has used those people to give his Word to us in our own language, in many different translations, so that we can understand it. However, we do need to know the Word if we are going to live according to God’s will for our lives. It is at this point that we learn to live a life of obedience. This is the section called self-control in our book the Path. Sometimes, doing the next right thing is to do nothing at all, sometimes, it is to pray over a situation, but it is always a step of obedience to God’s will over our own will, especially when the Scriptures are clear on an issue. JW von Goethe once said, “Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.” What in our lives have we known without applying and what have we been willing to do without actually taking action?
Remember, HAVE FAITH, DO GOOD, SHOW LOVE, and DO THE NEXT RIGHT THING.