Saturday, February 13, 2016

Faith's implications? Believing + "what must I do"?

I've heard it said that you can't have faith in Christ without accepting that faith has certain "implications".  There's believing, and then there is believing "in a saving way". There are implications in play, such that any sin, left unchecked, is an occasion for stumbling and falling away.

It sounds something like this:

Audio: 3 min. 35 sec.

Audio link for smartphones: Audio Link

This is the gospel in its most distilled and pure form ... Christ dies for our sins, Christ rises from the grave victorious. This is what has to be believed. This is the gospel of free grace, it's the offer God's making to the world. And it's received by faith alone.

But you have to understand ... it's received by faith, but it's not believed in a saving way merely by accepting that assertion as factually true. You can believe that Jesus said this, and you can believe that Jesus did this without believing in a saving way.

And this is what Jesus proceeds to flesh out. He shows the implications that must also be accepted. You know what I mean. You understand. Implications ... You enter into something, you accept all the implications that come with it. Implications are things that necessarily flow, they necessarily follow. Jesus is laboring to make things plain. He wants those implications to be in play as He calls them to faith because He knows there's no true faith without the embrace of true faith's implications.

So I'm wondering about you this morning. Are you embracing the implications of the faith that Christ calls you to? As a christian have you gotten confused to think that you can have faith in Christ without accepting faith's implications.

Jesus sat them down and He taught them about one of the necessary implications of faith ... it's an implication of lowliness. He said if you want to be first you have to be last, and you have to be the servant of all. Disciples, if they would believe, must become lowly, they must become humble, they must become servants.

Stumbling is appearing to embrace the path of life, only to fall off of it at some point. Stumbling is going to hell. He's showing us that unbelief stumbles. It might look like faith but it stumbles, and He says don't stumble. Do anything you have to do not to stumble.

Jesus put sacrifice (did you catch it) over against stumbling. Either sacrifice or stumble. What sacrifices are we talking about? Any sin, left unchecked, is an occasion for stumbling, for falling away.

Maybe your pet sin is drinking too much. You just ease into it and then you kind of glide over the line from a sanctified use to an unholy use of the substance. You start down that slippery slope. Is it a sin to have a hobby like golfing or hunting or playing cards? Of course it's not. Is it a sin to travel? No. But can pursuing those things as priorities temp you to stumble away from the pursuit of the kingdom as the only thing that matters? Yes it can. The last pet I'm going to point out is pet worries. You may have never considered that your pet worries can also provide the occasion to stumble away from the gospel. So long as you feed and care for a pet worry, you're engaging in a temptation to unbelief that's on the slippery slope of stumbling.

Two other perspectives to consider:

Audio: 3 min. 17 sec.

Audio link for smartphones: Audio Link

So the question of course is: If you were to die tonight, and you were to stand before God in His heaven, and He were to say to you, "Why should I let you in?" What would you say? Paul gives the answer...

"For by grace you have been saved, through faith. And this is not your own doing. It is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." And so the claim here is of a profound gift.

...It's almost as though this faith is the channel, or the canal, by which grace itself travels. The faith and the grace are the gift of God -- now think of what that means. It means I'm never going to stand before God and say, God, my faith is sufficient -- I have enough of it, or it's strong enough or it's adequate quality -- I've got enough of this faith thing.

Instead faith is entirely confidence in another. It's what pushes us away from any confidence in self. It's faith in what He provides, so that we begin to recognize, if this faith is the channel, that every trial, every disappointment, every confession of weakness, every acknowledgement of sin, is God's working in our lives, digging this canal in our hearts, saying "it's not you", "it's not you", "it's not you". So that ultimately in that emptiness of trust in us, we are ready for the freight that's going down the canal.

And the freight that's going down the canal is God's grace.  I have to provide for you what you cannot provide for yourself. Faith is not so much something we build in ourselves. It's an emptying of ourselves. It's ultimately saying there's nothing in me. I rely entirely upon God. In the historic christian statements, faith is receiving and resting upon Christ alone for our salvation.

It's not trust in my faith. It's not trust in my belief. You know, that's that trap. Do you understand that? That's the trap -- that we will forever go through our lives saying alright, do I have enough of this faith thing? Do I have sufficient quality or quantity of it? Instead of saying, no, listen, my faith is that God provides everything I need. I'm just collapsing upon Christ. I'm not looking to something in me.

So if you were to stand before God and His heaven, and He were to say to you, why should I let you in? What would you say? "God I'm just your workmanship. You made me right through Jesus. Nothing in me. Not my works, not my wisdom, not my strength. None of that. Not even the strength of my faith. I just rest on you."  And the wonder of that is that that is now the canal that the grace that is life travels on.

Audio: 1 min. 54 sec.

Audio link for smartphones:  Audio Link

We are very uncomfortable with the freeness of that gospel of grace. But unless you get that freeness, you'll never be able to understand the power the gospel.  You'll never be able to understand the power of love. 
The freer the gospel, the more sanctifying is the gospel. And the more that it is received as a doctrine of grace, the more it will be felt as a doctrine according to godliness. This is absolutely, utterly counter-intuitive. You would think that the more the gospel came at you and said:

You better do these things. You better be a godly person. You better start obeying the law.

The more you would be motivated to do it. No. It's the exact opposite of that. The freer the gospel, the more sanctifying its force. The more gracious the gospel, the more a power for godliness it is in our life. In the gospel (he goes on), we so behold God, as we may love God. It is there, and there only, where God stands revealed as an object of confidence to sinners. And where our desire after Him is not chilled by the barrier of human guilt.

That very peculiararity, which so many dread as the germ of antinomianism, that is, lawlessness ... You know, that idea where we can preach grace, we can preach the grace of the gospel, but you still need to tell people [that] they've got to be good people, or ... you won't be as good a christian as other christians if you're not (you know) living up to all these standards and keeping up with all these things. 
No, Absolutely not. You can't even begin to really obey the law until you have no fear of punishment from the law.

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