Sunday, June 26, 2016

How is Your Faith?

Three years ago I had the opportunity to preach a sermon at my church in the evening service. It was great! Unfortunately (or fortunately?), the recording device did not work that night. However, I still have the notes and since this is one of my favorite passages of scripture, and I was reminded of it in Sunday School this morning, I thought I would re-read it and post it here for my reader (s?). 

December 15th, 2013
Luke 12:28
Evening Sermon

Introduction:  Eric Liddell

Have you heard of Eric Liddell? He is the subject of the Oscar winning movie Chariots of Fire.

Olympic Gold Medalist and record setting sprinter.  Born in China and died in China at the age of 43.  Refused to run in his event due to convictions about racing on Sunday.  Instead ran a different and longer event and still won while also setting a world record time.

Eric left racing and followed the legacy of his parents by becoming a missionary in China. He taught English and worked in the church where his father was the pastor.  He went to a poorer area to help his brother who was a doctor and was caught up in the war between the Japanese and Chinese. 

Eventually he ended up in a Japanese-run run camp and died there for an inoperable brain tumor.  It was later revealed by the Chinese authorities in 2008 that Eric had been given the opportunity to leave the camp but had refused and given his place to a pregnant woman.

What motivates a man to leave a life of fame and fortune to labor and die on behalf of others in China? I submit to you that it was Eric’s great faith – his believing hope leading to obedience – which motivated him to serve God in this way.

Tonight we will be considering Luke chapter 12 and verse 28.

Luke 12:28
But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith!

I.                    You Are Not in Control of Your Life: an argument from lesser to greater
a.       The literary device
                                                              i.      Examples of Jesus using this argument
1.       Luke 12:24 Consider the ravens… of how much more value are you than the birds!
2.       Luke 12:6-7 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? …you are of more value than many sparrows
                                                            ii.      Other examples
1.       Hebrews 10:28-29 Anyone who sets aside the law of Moses dies without mercy…How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God…?
2.       Argument from Greater to Lesser: Matthew 10:25-31 If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of His household.

b.      Why is grass thrown into the oven?
                                                               i.      Few sources of fuel in those days and times
                                                             ii.      When the grass turned brown and dried out, it could be bundled up and used as fuel for the fire
                                                            iii.      The point is that grass is so unimportant and short-lived and yet God clothes it so beautifully.  God lavishes great beauty on seemingly insignificant parts of His creation.  This teaching calls to mind the detail that God shows in all His creation, even with the least valuable aspects of it.  Even grass is clothed with beautiful flowers beyond the most beautiful clothing imaginable which Jesus compares to Solomon’s clothing.

c.       The meaning of the argument in context
                                                               i.      The argument from lesser to greater emphasizes God’s care and concern for details and logically points to God’s concern for us.  If God cares so much for the details of His creation, as is evidenced by the birds and the beauty of the fields, how much more does He care for those made in His own image, and especially those who are children of God?  The implied answer is this, “a great deal more!”
                                                             ii.      Additionally, this argument points out our limited power.  Which of us can even keep track of all the sparrows or birds of the air, much less provide for them? Who can clothe the grass of the fields with such beauty as God?  Is it not then absurd to think that we can control our own lives when clearly so much is outside of our control?

II.                  O you of little Faith!
a.       What is Faith? “Faith is a living, bold trust in God’s grace, so certain of God’s favor that it would risk death a thousand times trusting in it. Such confidence and knowledge of God’s grace makes you happy, joyful and bold in your relationship to God and all creatures.” Martin Luther[1]
                                                              i.      A Gift
1.       Ephesians 2: For by Grace you have been saved through Faith.  And this is not your own doing but a gift of God, not a result of works lest anyone should boast.
2.       Faith isn’t something we can work up inside ourselves – it is a supernatural movement of the Holy Spirit on our lives.
                                                            ii.      Of Believing
1.       Hebrews 11:6b Whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that he rewards those who seek Him
2.       We believe based on what we have heard – the clear message of the Gospel
3.       We believe but we pray “please help our unbelief” recognizing we are weak
4.       We believe based on the evidence yes.  But we believe because of the Faith given to us as a gift from God.
                                                          iii.      Hope
1.       Hebrews 11:1 Faith is the assurance of things hoped for
2.       We have a hope of heaven
3.       Our hope is not empty but is a life changing force driving us to our final home
                                                           iv.      Leading to Obedient Action
1.       Our believing hope results in obedient action
2.       Just as Abraham and Job and all the other OT saints believed and obeyed, so do we
3.       Where there is no obedient action – there is no gift of Faith! Faith without works is dead and is no faith at all.  Again in Ephesians 2 For we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand.
b.      Meaning of this Phrase – The Opposite of Strong and Vibrant Faith
                                                               i.      This phrase is the opposite of the phrase “I have not seen such great faith in all Israel”
                                                             ii.      The entire teaching of Jesus in this passage is designed to combat a weak and failing faith – He is emphasizing this fact by saying “O ye of little faith”
                                                            iii.      Worrying is a rejection of the clear evidences of God’s power which were present in the ministry of Jesus.
                                                           iv.      When we have anxiety over our lives we show our lack of Faith!

III.                Application: How is Your Faith?
a.       Faith that God Will Provide for Our Physical Needs
                                                               i.      The correct contextual application for this text is that God will provide for our physical needs so we don’t need to worry
                                                             ii.      This doesn’t mean that we don’t plan or work hard to provide for our families – for if anyone does not provide for his own he is worse than an unbeliever.  If there is ever a corrective for those who would use “Faith” as a cloak for laziness and apathy in planning it is this passage.  Faith leads to obedient action and not laziness.  When Abraham was commanded to sacrifice Isaac did He not have to get up and do it? Did not the Angel have to restrain his hand? When God provided the Ram did he not have to loose and sacrifice it?
                                                            iii.      But when we work hard for God’s glory we must leave the rest to Him. Noah built the Ark not knowing what would happen and God did the rest.  Elijah prayed and God brought the rain.  We go to work and God provides the earnings.
                                                           iv.      God is all powerful and sustains all things at all times.  From the farthest galaxy, to the rotation of the earth, to the sparrows and the ravens. God is upholding and sustaining all of these things. 
1.       We must recognize our weakness and frailty. Those who are controlling must submit and repent.  We are not in control.  Our Faith is not a manipulative and controlling faith.
2.       And so if God takes care of all these things – will God not take care of you? Your heavenly Father knows that you have need of these things.
                                                             v.      In light of these truths –when we worry  it is not only a great failure on our part when we don’t joyfully rest in God’s power over all things – but it is actually a personal affront to Him and His awesome power.
                                                           vi.      And if God cares for the grass in the field, the birds of the air, and His beloved children, does He then not also care for the needs of His church? Brothers and Sisters, our God knows the needs of Andover Baptist Church and He will provide for us.  We must plan and be diligent, but God will provide for the budget.

b.      Faith that God Will Help Us Kill Sin
                                                               i.      Are you beaten down with sin and struggling with it? The Apostle Paul said that the good he knew to do he did not do and the things he knew NOT to do – that is what he ended up doing! Oh wretched men and women that we are.  And yet we have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood.
                                                             ii.      But do we have a believing hope that God will rid us of our sin and does that believing hope lead us to faithful obedience?  Because of our faith are we fighting valiant battles in a Holy war against the world the flesh and the Devil in our lives?
                                                            iii.      If Jesus knows of our physical needs, for He was a man, how much more does He know of our Spiritual needs? Which one of the prophets did we not kill? How He longed to gather us to Him like a hen gathers her children under her wings.  Oh how He knows of our sins – for He suffered and died for them.  We must wage our war against sin by Faith – with belief that God will help us win the battle and hope in the day when we will sin no more.
                                                           iv.      Do our lives show that we believe God is not powerful enough to conquer our remaining sin? We will not fight sin if we have little faith.

c.       Faith that God will Bless our Evangelism
                                                               i.      Where is your faith? We want to evangelize and see a revival but we sometimes see such little fruit.
                                                             ii.      Do we really believe that God is upholding and sustaining all things? If he takes care of the flowers and the birds do we not then believe that He will also bless our evangelism?  Do we doubt that He will give us courage and the words to say? Do we doubt that He will bring in the harvest?  Oh but He will bring in the harvest!
                                                            iii.      When we have weak Faith, we will struggle with evangelism.  When we fail to believe that God gives the increase and we lose sight of the hope that we have that many will come to salvation – we will fail to move to obedient action.  Our hands hang down and our eyes look to the ground.  We say to ourselves “who will listen to what I have to say?”  No one! No one will listen to what we have to say, but when the Holy Spirit moves they will listen to what God has to say through us!

Conclusion: How is your faith?
“Ask God to work faith in you, or you will remain forever without faith, no matter what you wish, say or [can ]do.” Martin Luther[2]
Christian friend pray for a revival of Faith in your heart.  Pray with Peter, “Lord Help me I am sinking” and he will lift you up.  Turn from your faithless ways – and be more concerned with pleasing and obeying God than what you will eat or what you will drink or what you will put on.
Maybe you say, “I think I believe in God but I don’t know if I have true saving Faith.”  Pray for the gift of Faith.  Pray that the He will send the Holy Spirit to change your heart and give you new life in Jesus Christ.  The Faith that you seek is a gift and does not come about because you attend church or do good works – but it comes as a gift to the undeserving.  Ask for it!

[1] accessed on December14th 2013. An excerpt from “An Introduction to St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans,” Luther’s German Bible of 1522 by Martin Luther, 1483-1546
Translated by Rev. Robert E. Smith from DR. MARTIN LUTHER’S VERMISCHTE DEUTSCHE SCHRIFTEN. Johann K. Irmischer, ed. Vol. 63 Erlangen: Heyder and Zimmer, 1854), pp.124-125. [EA 63:124-125]

[2] Ibid

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