Romans 5 tells us that we are justified by faith, and that when we were godless, powerless, sinners who were God’s enemies, that is when God demonstrated His love for us. That is when Jesus was given to die for us! Ephesians chapter two explains this further. Turn there with me and let’s read verses 1-10. These are familiar words, are they not? Let’s listen further to 2 Timothy 1:8-14. And finally, Titus 3:3-7.
Do you hear an echo in those verses? All of these passages have basically the same message, do they not? Each one speaks of God’s saving work of grace for us, not because of our goodness, but because of what? His love. Our response of faith brings us into this saving grace. By obedient faith we accept God’s saving work in Jesus Christ. God initiates and we respond. God calls and we answer. God does the work and we are the workmanship. How do you know that you are saved today? What evidence would you offer?
We’ve been studying three great evidences that point toward our relationship with God. A seeking hope, a saving faith, and a serving love.
Where is your hope? Where is your faith? Where is your love? If your answer to these is “in God,” and your hope, faith and love are not split between Him and other gods, or watered down by worldliness, then you can be sure that His salvation is working in you. You see, hope in God gives us endurance and motivates us to be seeking the kingdom of God first. Faith directs us toward God’s saving grace where we believe and follow Jesus Christ, God’s Son who died for your sins, was buried and rose again as Lord and Savior. Love for God compels us to serving in His name and living to please Him. Jesus said, “If you love me you will keep my commandments.”
This morning I want us to biblically unpack that word faith some more and let God’s word inform us as to what it means and how it works.
Simply put, faith has to do with belief and trust. These things are the foundation of our saving relationship with God. The New Testament begins with four stories of Jesus’ life. God really, really wants us to know and learn to put our faith in His Son. Why? Our salvation depends on it! Our relationship with God is built here. The gospel stories are filled with what Jesus showed and taught us about saving faith. Let’s look briefly at two.
Jesus often asked His disciples, “Where is your faith?” Mark 4, near the end of the chapter, tells about a time when Jesus was with His disciples in a boat going across the Sea of Galilee and a storm came up. Jesus had been teaching and working with the crowds and was so exhausted he went to sleep. The storm came hard and fierce. The waves and wind caused the boat to take on water and it began to sink. The disciples were scared to death. They are imagining themselves drowning, and there lies Jesus in blissful repose. So what did they do? They woke Jesus up with these words, “Master, don’t you care if we drawn?” Mark 4:38. When I was a kid in church we used to sing the song, “Master the Tempest is Raging.” I used to love the way the chorus would build up to a crescendo: “Whether the wrath of the storm tossed sea, or demons or men or whatever may be, no water can swallow the ship where lies the master of ocean and earth and skys!” Well, the disciples woke him and Jesus got up, commanded the wind and waves to be quiet and still, and suddenly it was calm. Jesus then turns and asked them why they were afraid, and said, “Do you still have no faith?” Well, then they really were terrified! Not at the storm but at who was with them in the boat! Who is this, that even the winds and waves obey Him!
Would that produce faith in you?
In Mark 5, a synagogue ruler (in Luke 8 his name is given: Jairus) came to Jesus to beg him to come heal his sick daughter. On the way Jesus gets distracted by a woman who sneaks up and touches his garment believing that if she can just touch it, she will be healed. Lo and behold, it worked! A large crowd was following and pressing upon Jesus as he made his way to Jairus’ house, but when she touched Jesus clothes and was healed Jesus stopped the whole procession and began looking around asking who touched him! Peter, a bit bewildered says, “Lord, people have been pressing against you, and yet you ask, “Who touched me?” But Jesus persisted. Then the woman came and fell at his feet and confessed the whole truth. Jesus told her, “Your faith has saved you, go in peace.” The word here is the same greek word for saved that you see in Ephesians 2:5&8. Jesus put faith and saved together over and over in the gospels. Well, the delay has cost precious time and while Jesus is talking with this woman, Jairus’ friends come to him and tell him, “Your child is dead, why trouble the teacher further.”
What must those words have done to the heart of Jairus?
Jesus said to him, “Don’t be afraid, just believe.” Now we know the rest of the story, don’t we? Jesus goes and raises this little girl from the dead. But let’s pause at the place where Jesus says the words, “Don’t be afraid, just believe.” There are two commands here. 1. Don’t be afraid. Think of it. This man has just learned that his daughter has died. What does that do to hope? How can faith help at that point? Where’s the love of God in this? Jesus words seem almost too hard to imagine. What did Jesus expect? What emotions hit us when death comes? Jesus knows. Fear is a crushing emotion. Horror, grief, and depression can overwhelm faith.
But, guess what? Faith can conquer fear!
2. Jesus gives the second command, “Just believe!” The greek words are “mono pisteuo” or only believe. Faith needs an object, a focus. Jesus tells this synagogue ruler to believe. He does not say what to believe, or who to believe in, but what is implied is that Jesus is commanding this man to believe in God’s power in Jesus. Jesus knows that faith in Him is saving faith. Faith in anything else is not. What is the focus of our faith?
Look at this image: Slide of Bible and Jesus on the cross. Which of these is the central object of our faith? Which one is the source of saving faith? Do you find yourself wanting to say, “Both?”
We know that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ. And we know that James and Peter both tell us that we are saved by receiving the word planted in us. So, yes, the Bible brings us to saving faith. But a Bible without Jesus would not be a saving source of faith at all. In fact, the Bible has many stories of God’s people and even God’s church, but without Jesus, it would be without any saving power or source.
What would the law of God do to us, if that was all we had? It would condemn us.
What would all the stories of faith do to us if Jesus were not in them? They might inspire us, but they could never save us. What about all the wisdom literature of the Old Testament? What about the prophets, the psalms, the letters of the apostles?
Let’s accept this truth. Saving faith centers on Jesus Christ, who He is and what He has done, His death for our sin, burial and resurrection from the dead. That’s why Paul could say to the Corinthians, “I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ a and Him crucified.” And in Philippians Paul tells us that Christ is his purpose, Christ is his pattern, Christ is his prize and Christ is his power. The New Testament is all about Jesus Christ! Four books tell us of His coming, life, teachings, ministry, death, burial and resurrection. Acts then tells us how the gospel of Jesus spread from Jerusalem to Rome. The epistles instruct us in how to live for Jesus and the book of Revelation tells us how Jesus will return.
When we talk about saving faith we must always remember that it is the gospel of Jesus Christ that has the power to save. When we put our hope in God through Jesus Christ we are drawn toward Him. When we put our faith in Jesus Christ we follow Him. When we love the Lord Jesus Christ we obey Him, we serve Him.
You are going to put your hope somewhere. Where ever you place your hope, that will determine what you seek. You are going to put your faith somewhere. Where ever you put your faith, that will dictate your future. You are going to give your love to someone or something. Whatever it is will control what you do with your life.
The Bible shows us that God seeks us, God paid for our salvation with the price of Jesus’ own blood on the cross, and God entrusts us with the saving gospel of His grace. God loves us and sent His Son to serve us and to give His life a ransom for many. Therefore let us do these three things: Put your hope in God and seek Him. Put your faith in God and receive His saving grace and share it with others. Love the Lord your God and serve Him.
This is our mission: seeking, saving, serving as we put our hope, faith and love in God through Jesus Christ.