Simple Faith

Good morning and Happy New Year.  My name is Phil Human and I’m one of the pastors here on staff.  It’s a great morning for us to celebrate the new year as well as a signed purchase agreement for the land we are buying.

This morning we are in our second week of a little series we are calling Simple.  And I want to speak with you about a special guest we will have with us here in two weeks – a friend of mine named Joshua Becker.  Joshua has a ministry called Becoming Minimalist – that includes a blog and Facebook page that has about a million people subscribing to it.  900k people following the guys Facebook page – and I promise you that you will enjoy hearing him speak.  It will be challenging and rewarding and worth your time.

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Last week we talked about what a Simple Church looks like – today I want to talk about what simple faith looks like.

Before I offer you a definition of faith, let me first talk about what it is NOT.  And this is, I have to admit, a little bit of a pet peeve of mine.  I want you to know that Faith is NOT a blind leap. Faith is not blind.  I once heard someone tell me that they decided they needed God so they put reason and logic on a shelf and decided to become a Christian. That is a pitiful statement.  It’s simply offensive to me to think that I have to somehow turn my brain off to have faith in God.

Want to know what blind faith is?  Imagining that when you go home today there will be a brand new television sitting on your porch.  And you think that, if I imagine it to be, it will be – and so on the way home you stop by Ace hardware and you buy a television wall mount and the clerk says – Oh bought a new television, did you?  And you say, I have faith that there will be one sitting on my porch.  And the clerk says, what do you mean, do you have a tv or not?  That doesn’t make sense.

And you say, don’t make me question my faith, you might cause me to lose my faith and then I won’t get the tv I really really believe will be there.

And then you drive home thinking, I believe there’s a tv on my porch, I really really believe – and then you pull into your driveway and guess what.  You’re a dummy.  That’s blind faith.  Just because you believe something really really hard doesn’t mean it’s true.  You want your faith to be based on a reason.

Well – let’s run that scenario again.  This time your wealthy uncle calls you and tells you I just bought you a tv.  I bought it on Amazon and it’s going to be delivered tomorrow.  I’ll send you the tracking information.

And indeed you get an email from the US Postal service saying we are delivering a package to your doorstep this afternoon.  That afternoon your neighbor texts you and says – hey I looked out my window – did you know there’s a big old package on your doorstep?

On your way home you stop to buy a wall mount for your TV.  The clerk says, You got a new TV, huh?  And you say, “Yes I do.  I haven’t seen it yet but I have faith that my uncle isn’t lying to me.  That the US Postal service isn’t lying to me.  That my  neighbor who has seen it with his own eyes isn’t lying to me.  So yes, I have faith that indeed, there’s a television.  The clerk says – that makes sense.

In fact I’d say what would be irrational would be to say – well my uncle says he sent it, the Post office says they delivered it – my neighbor tells me he looked out the window and sees it, but since I haven’t yet touched it with my own eyes I shall reject it in the name of science!

That’s not good science.  That’s not good theology.

See, the deal is that I trust my uncle enough to believe him.  I think well enough of the post office to believe them when they say a package has arrived.  I think highly enough of my neighbor to believe him when he tells me there’s a box on my porch.

And that’s faith – and it’s certainly not blind.

So let’s use this then as a definition of faith.  Faith is thinking highly enough of God to trust him.

You know what God wants from us?  The same thing we’d want from any one of our friends.  We want our friends to trust us.  And God, the ultimate friend, desires that we think highly enough of him to trust him.  Even if we aren’t able to immediately see what God is doing.  Even when it doesn’t make immediate sense – we trust his character – we think well enough about him to believe him.

This is what God loves – it is what God desires – and it has always been this way.  Even all the way back to the garden of Eden – Adam and Eve were asked to place their faith in God.

How?  Well, there was a tree in the garden of Eden.  A tree called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  And God said you can enjoy every tree in this garden except for one.  Don’t eat the fruit from that tree.

People often wonder, why did God put a tree in the garden that he didn’t want them to eat from?  The answer is because God is relational.  And relationships are built on trust.

Can you imagine going to your friends house and they say – listen I need to run out for a minute – I’ll only be gone a couple of minutes – and then they start grabbing everything of value and sticking it in a safe – you’d be like – what’s up with that?  Don’t you trust me? This is ridiculous – why don’t you just sit on the porch – it’ll be easier for me to lock up the house – do you mind sitting on the porch while I run up the street? I’ll be back in a jiffy, old buddy, old pal.  You’d say – this person doesn’t think very highly of me.

Do you see?  The garden needed that tree in order to prove that their friendship was genuine.  Well, had there been no opportunity to disobey – what would God have accomplished?  Well he would have made himself some very nice robots.  But certainly not friends.  He might have created some pets to entertain him.  But any notion of a genuine relationship would have been a sham.

Isn’t the joy of relationships the idea that my friends chose me, they like me, they are for me?  They think highly enough of me to trust me?

So God creates Adam and Eve and he asks of them, the same thing he asks of us.  To think well of him to believe him.  And trust him with our very lives.

So when the devil comes along – and you can read it for yourself in Genesis – the first book of the bible – chapter 3 – what is the temptation laid out?  Are you sure that you can trust him?  Are you sure that God isn’t keeping something from you?  Is he trustworthy?  And he begins to make Adam and Eve wonder about the trustworthiness of God.  He erodes their opinion of God to the point where Adam and Eve believe that God is holding out on them something they deserve.

This is what I’m getting at – you and I?  We are in the same boat as Adam and Eve. We often sit back and judge them for getting us into this mess – would not Adam and Eve have the right to ask us – what’s so different about us?  Do we think highly enough of God to trust him?  That’s faith.

And faith is everything to God.  In fact – faith has always been the one thing that God requires of us in order to re-establish our friendship with Him.  The only thing God requires for us to repair our relationship with him, is to think highly enough of him to trust him.  To believe him.

In the first century church there was a huge discussion about how a person was able to enter into a right relationship with God – and many people said – well, if you want to get right with God then follow all of his rules and regulations.  And the religious leaders of the Jewish nation declared that following all of the rules made one right with God.

That, by the way, is classic religion.  Religion says, we know the rules to follow in order to get on the inside track with God.  Religion is about rules.  And that’s why religion suffocates and kills everything it touches.  It reduces God to a petty sin patrolling.

The early church leaders went to great lengths to explain that no – the way a person is made right with God is by thinking highly enough of him to trust him and obey him out of love and respect, not duty.

Check out these important verses from the letter that the apostle Paul wrote to the Romans about 57 AD.  We call it the book of Romans – and chapter 3 is all about this idea of how someone is brought back into right standing with God.

21 But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. 

22 We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.

When we think highly enough of Jesus to trust him with our life, we are made right with God.  It’s not about joining a church.  It’s not about some kind of checklist of religious duties.  It’s not even about getting baptized or confirmed or whatever…  Our life with God – our standing with God is repaired through faith alone.

The way a person’s standing with God is restored – is to be able to say to Him – you know what – I believe you.  And I see that I can trust you – with all I’ve got.

And, by the way, this is not new.  Paul and the other leaders of the early church made as clear as possible that righteousness – has always been by faith.   And to prove it they go to back earlier than Moses and the Ten commandment – they go all the way back to Abraham.  Who was the Father of the Jews.  And they went to the Old Testament to Genesis 15 and they pointed out that it says this…

15 After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision:

“Do not be afraid, Abram.
I am your shield,
your very great reward.”

But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless…

He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”

This is Abraham’s moment – like Adam and Eve in the garden – made the decision to not believe God?  Abraham had to make a decision whether or not to believe God.

Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.

What does that mean?  God at that point restored Abraham into a right relationship with God.  That was the moment that Abraham crossed the line of faith.  Where Abraham said, I’ve seen enough of God – I think highly enough of him – to believe him.

Two thousand years later – Paul explains to the church that met in Galatia that salvation has always been through faith.

Galatians 3:9  So all who put their faith in Christ share the same blessing Abraham received because of his faith.

Abraham believed God – and the result?  A restored, right relationship with God.  Now why is this a big deal?  Because Abraham lived hundreds of years before the Law of Moses was ever delivered on Mount Sinai.

Abraham shows us how one is made right with God – it’s through faith.  He believed him.  And God said, that’s all I ever really wanted.

Faith is thinking enough of God to trust him – enough to believe him.  Enough to obey him.  Enough to follow him.

If you haven’t written that definition of faith down, can I encourage you to doso.  It will help you as you read through the New Testament especially.  Faith is mentioned 300 times in the New Testament – that’s a lot.  The NT is not very big.  And knowing what faith is will help you understand what you are reading.

Faith is not blind – it’s certain hope that God knows what the heck he’s doing with my life.  Therefore, I can live my life without fear, without freaking out any time something happens that appears undesirable.  All along our good shepherd says, I’m with you, trust me.

The Bible likes to illustrate faith more than define it.  In fact in the book of Hebrews, chapter 11, the entire chapter is filled with examples of people who display faith.   But I want to show you an example from the life of Jesus.

Check out this great little story from Matthew chapter 8.  Now Matthew is the first book of the New Testament.  The first four books of the New Testament are called the Gospels – and these are accounts of the life and times of Jesus.  So it’s important to read them.

And I’ll tell you that the first three – Matthew Mark and Luke are very similar.  They share many of the same stories – though often times from different angles.  In fact – I snapped this picture from my bible just yesterday to show you – that in my bible – this was an NLT Study Bible – (And if you don’t have a study bible – then give yourself a present and buy one.  I use an NLT – Study Bible) they have a heading – and under the heading you will see that the same story appears in Luke chapter 7.  And if you do read it you’ll actually discover that Matthew abbreviates the story.

And part of the fun for me at least of studying the bible is to ask why the differences.  And I’ll tell you why – because Matthew here is writing his book to a primarily Jewish audience – and he is trying to help the Jewish audience come to the incredible understanding that you don’t have to be Jewish to be made right with God.  That following the Jewish law is not what makes one right with God.

He’s trying to help his Jewish audience understand that one becomes a child of Abraham NOT through one’s bloodline, but rather by displaying the same kind of faith that Abraham displayed.  And that’s difficult for a Jewish person to understand. So He is going to tell about a time when Jesus commended a non-jewish person for their faith

Check it out…

When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. 

A centurion is, of course, a Roman soldier!  Of all the dirty heathens!  A soldier of the oppressive Roman Empire!

“Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”

Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”

Now the biggest surprise that a Jewish person who is reading Matthew for the first time is seeing that Jesus doesn’t tell the Roman guy to get lost.  Instead, Jesus actually offers to help him.  But now for the real surprise.

The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed.

10 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.

This Roman Centurion thought highly enough of Jesus to trust him – enough that he was confident that Jesus could just say the word and it would be done.  And Jesus exclaims – Now THAT’s what I’m talking about!  That’s faith!  That’s great!

Jesus was flabbergasted by this kind of faith.  He had not seen it displayed by the people he would have expected to see it from – in fact the Jewish people kept saying to him – do some more signs for us Jesus.  Do more miracles.  Show us more proof.

To the surprise of the first century Jewish person reading Matthew – it’s a non-jew who is the first to display great faith in Jesus.  He had seen enough, or heard enough, to place his faith in Jesus.  And it delights Jesus.  He is tickled pink!

Faith always turns God’s head!  He delights when we think highly enough of him to trust him.

As we come to a conclusion here – I want to talk about how we can strengthen our faith this year – but I simply have to start by asking – Have you placed your faith in Jesus?  Do you think highly enough of him to get off the fence and say – I will trust you with the day to day governance of my life?

Faith rescues you and restores a right relationship with God.  Are you ready to follow Him?  Last week we had a wonderful baptism.  And one of the men – BB – said I came in here on the fence about God – but I’ve seen enough – I’m off the fence and ready to follow Him.

Are you ready to get off the fence?  If so then today – the first Sunday of 2018 – right now is your moment of salvation.  It’s your Abraham moment.  Believe Jesus, and righteousness will be credited to you.

Now – regarding how to strengthen our faith…Let me prose three ideas.

First – if faith is thinking highly enough of God – then you must address issues that are keeping you from thinking highly of him.

And I’d suggest first – run at your doubts.  Do you have some doubts that you are afraid to address?  Doubts are invitations to discover more about God than you know right now.

Every once in a while I speak with someone who somewhere along the line, perhaps when they were younger, were scolded for expressing doubts – perhaps in Sunday school or maybe you attended a religious school – and you were reprimanded for asking difficult questions.  That is a shame.

There are no doubts that you have that cannot be addressed.  Now, we have to admit that not everything we want to know will always be adequately answered on this side of eternity.  But we must never feel any shame for asking questions.

Don’t allow your doubts to be an obstacle of an elevated view of God.  You deserve an answer to your questions.  So run at your doubts – find answers – and come to some reasonable conclusion about the nature of God and His interactions with humanity.

  1. Keep an eye out for God moments. Noticing – recognizing when God’s at work in our life – will elevate our view of Him and strengthen our trust.  This is why some people like to keep a spiritual Journey.    A good journal will act as a record of all the times God delivered.  It builds confidence and elevates our view of Him.
  2. Be honest with God about any areas in your life where you are struggling to trust him. Want to know what areas you are struggling to trust God with?  Easy.  Anything you are worrying about – or anyplace in your life where fear exists.  Then you will have identified a area in your life where you don’t trust God.

Name it and bring it to God.  Drag worry out of the shadows.  Worry and fear are cowards – they call out from the dark – drag them in front of you and drag them by the ear to God and say – this thing says you can’t be trusted.

Imagine if Adam and Eve grabbed that snake in the garden and said – let’s all go to God and talk this out.  That snake would have been like, Nah!  I take it back!  Right? Make your fear and worry identify itself and drag it by the ear to God.

Lord, you know I was awake last night worrying about my finances.  Please help me to display faith.  Will you remind my soul to think highly enough of you to trust you?

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