A few years ago I shared this message and for some reason in preparation for this weeks blog I was looking at all that is going on in the Christian world today and it came to mind. It has not been posted as a blog to the best of my memory. So…..back in the day it went this way.
Faith is in general the persuasion of the mind that a certain statement is true. Its primary idea is trust. A thing is true, and therefore worthy of trust. In faith we know that the Lord sustains our lives and watches over us in every moment. Faith is not a matter of accepting certain doctrinal teachings, but rather a trust that God can bring transformation. In the Wesleyan tradition, the journey of faith includes an expectation of transformation, change and holy living. “are you going on to perfection?” We come together as a community of faith, believers who share the joy, hope, love and peace of the faith. For many of us when we leave our church, walk outside these walls and drive off, we then come face to face with the stark realities of life. The world we live in today is one of many uncertainties. The church, and our christian faith is under constant attack. The things that provide some sense of sanity in this uncertain world, home, family, faith and church are at risk. Homes are lost; families torn apart and churches are being closed as others face a decline in membership and support. A nation that once called out to God …..now whispers his name so as not to offend anyone; one nation under God has now become a nation which must first debate when and where or even if his name may be evoked. This is indeed a world of many uncertainties in which we see each day a loss of faith, a people who should be on their knees, but instead are running from the faith seeking to grab something to hold onto in these uncertain times.
I was a young man voting in his first national election when Barry Goldwater was the nominee of the Republican party.I remember him saying… “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.” Boy did that get him in trouble. He was from that day on labeled a war monger, a man of uncertain temperament. Those words cost him the election. Well, I am no Berry Goldwater, but we can no longer continue doing as we do. We must defend the faith. Extremism is a harsh word and in its simplest form means to go beyond the norm. Faith has often been answered by those who disagree with our faith with extremism.
Our lord was beaten in such a manner that the flesh was torn from his body. He was spit on, ridiculed, and made to carry his cross through the streets to the place of his crucifixion. Six inch nails were driven through his hands and feet. Nailed to a cross while solders cast lots for his clothes and challenged him; “come down off that cross, are you not the king of the jews? With agonizing breath He said “father forgive them.” While he was still known as Saul, Paul held the cloaks of those who stoned Stephen. He obtained letters authorizing him to go to Damascus and bring those known as “people of the way” back to be imprisoned. Then there are those who took up the cross. The Apostle Paul was stoned and left for dead. He got up and went back into the town and continued to preach the good news. At the council in Jerusalem Peter spoke in defense of the faith on behalf of Paul and Barnabas. James the brother of jesus defended the need to take the faith to the gentiles.
We have lost our faith to religion. The jews lived and died by the law. Peter reminded them that day that no man could possibly keep all the law. It is the faith that believes Jesus Christ is the son of the living God and through him only can we come to the Father……this and this alone….grace freely given… that is our salvation. In the OT the word faith in the sense of belief occurs only five times. OT faith was never mere assent to a set of doctrines or outward acceptance of the law, but absolute confidence in the faithfulness of God and a loving obedience to his will. We find that in the NT the words faith or believe occur almost 500 times. Jesus offered himself as the object of faith and made plain that faith in him was necessary for eternal life.
Going back to what Barry said, I believe another word would better communicate a christian like attitude. Boldness……“the trait of being willing to undertake things that involve risk or danger” Yes, I like that word better…..Boldness in the defense of the faith is no vice. And moderation in the pursuit of the faith is no virtue. We must return a sense of boldness to the faith, we only need to look to the boldness of our missionaries who daily take the faith of our fathers to others in all kinds of circumstances.
So what is this faith we are called to defend? Faith has both an active and passive sense in the bible. The first relating to one’s loyalty to a person or commitment to a promise; the other being confidence in the word or assurance of another. Faith is not merely what a person believes, as example, an accurate doctrine or creed, but also and more importantly, that the object of our faith is valid. The empty tomb validates our faith. I believe it to be a reasonable statement that we are governed by our thoughts; we ultimately become what we dwell most upon in our minds. The Apostle Paul gave these instruction to the romans:
Romans 12:2 “do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what god’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
One of my favorite passages, one I have shared many times:
Philippians 4:8 finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
What is the value of faith? 2 Chronicles: 20-20……… As they set out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “listen to me, Judah and people of Jerusalem! Have faith in the lord your god and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful.”
We are established as a people through our faith. Isaiah 7-9 …………“if you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.”
Our faith is a gift of god
Luke 17: 5 The apostles said to the lord, “increase our faith!” Romans 12: 3 “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.”
Here is a passage we all know well……8 “to one there is given through the spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same spirit, 9 to another faith by the same spirit?” The purpose of our faith is to gain understanding and truth.
John 8:31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “if you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Faith helps us to grow in God’s grace
Hebrews 4:16 “let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
We are able to rejoice through our faith.
Philippians 2: 17-18 “But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. 18 so you too should be glad and rejoice with me.”
We can use our faith to strengthen ourselves
Romans 6:13-14 “do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. 14 for sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.”
Through faith we become transformed into the image of Christ, a people strong in the faith.
Ephesians 3: 12 “in him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.”
Boldness in the defense of the faith is no vice. The distractions are many and many mean well; but I would say to you that the removal of a nativity scene, the objection to a cross in the desert, the obsessions and honors given to people of questionable Christian behavior are regrettable distractions to people of faith.
-the bold faith of our lord that would allow him to do no less than the father’s will, even if it meant his death.
-the bold faith of Paul having been stoned and left for dead, he got up, went back and continued to preach the good news.
-the bold faith of Peter rising to speak on behalf of Paul and Barnabas’ ministry to the gentiles.
-the bold faith of James who challenged the church at Jerusalem, knowing that there were those who opposed the gentile.
We need a boldness in our faith that says ….come as you are. The faith belongs to all who seek Jesus Christ.
The church has lost its boldness. We must put aside the distractions of this world and come together in defense of the faith. To defend the faith is to defend Jesus Christ. “I am the way”
Don’t leave your faith here in the pew. Take it with you and share with all……jk