August 16, 2015
Today's sermon began as a single verse that the Lord showed one evening. I felt very strongly that He was giving me a message in that verse; a message for the church, and for me as your pastor as well. Obviously, since the title of today's sermon is 'Faith', it has to do with faith. The verse is found in the Book of Isaiah, Chapter 7, verse 9, the second half of which reads, "If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all." In context, the Lord told the prophet Isaiah that Ahaz, the king of Judah at the time, should "Keep calm and don't be afraid", (verse 4) even though they were under attack. When I read that, I couldn't help but think of all of the variations that have been spawned recently by the original 'Keep calm and carry on' poster with the crown on it.
Do you know where that originated? According to Wikipedia, it was produced by the British government in 1939 in preparation for the Second World War. The poster was intended to raise the morale of the British public, threatened with widely predicted mass air attacks on major cities.
So, you might be wondering, what does this have to do with us? We are not currently under attack. Oh, but we are. We are each and every day. Have we so quickly forgotten last week's sermon about Spiritual Warfare, against the prince of the power of the air, as satan is called in Ephesians 2:2?
Our first world war is for our soul. As individuals, we need faith to be able to stand before God on the day of judgment. All of our readings for today (Genesis 15:1-6, Romans 4:2-8, Ephesians 2:1-9) stress the same very important point. It is faith that saves us. Faith in the shed blood of Jesus on the cross as payment for our sins, and faith that He rose again from the dead. The faith that is then viewed by God as righteousness, and puts our name in the Lamb's Book of Life. Without that saving faith, we would be lost for all eternity. All the good works in the world cannot earn us a place in heaven. It's not what you do, it's who you know. If you know Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you have a guarantee, sealed with the Holy Spirit, for all eternity. (2 Corinthians 1:22) And no one can take that from you. That is the first faith you need to have, and the first you need to keep from doubting. God doesn't save your soul one minute and then the next minute you are lost again. Some call this the doctrine of 'Eternal Security'. There are entire churches that do not believe it. How sad is that? People that worry every minute of every day that they might do something to 'lose their salvation'. If you can't 'do something' to be saved, other than trust in Jesus, how can you 'do something' to be 'unsaved' again? If Jesus' sacrifice is good enough to save you in the first place (and God says that it is!), can it suddenly be 'not good enough'? There is no one, and I mean no one, that cannot be saved by putting their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no one so bad, that He cannot save them. And there is no one that once they have been saved, that God will not hold on to throughout their lifetime. Jesus Himself said, "And this is the will of God, that I should not lose even one of all those He has given me, but that I should raise them up at the last day." (John 6:39) Many of you know, that there was a time in my life that I fell away from God. But during that time, even though I didn't realize it, and certainly wouldn't have acknowledged it, God was still holding my hand. He was guiding me and teaching me, and preparing me for my service to Him. If your child disowns you, and runs away, and wants no contact with you at all, do they cease to be your child? No. Likewise, once we become a child of God, we will always be a child of God.
But saving faith is just the first step in our walk with the Lord. We don't 'get saved' and then instantly we are transported to heaven. Our second world war is living a life on earth that is filled with a faith that brings hope, and joy, and love. One that is strong enough to battle despair and depression. One that is strong enough to overcome anger and hatred. This is the war in which we need to 'Keep Calm and Carry On'. This is the one that is we do not stand firm, we will not stand at all. We can't lose our salvation, but we can lose our joy. We can lose our hope. And we can lose our love for God, for others, and even for ourselves.
And if we as individuals lose those things in our day to day battle with the forces of evil, what have we as a church to offer to others? How can we show them the love of Jesus, if we have lost it within ourselves? How can we offer them hope, if we have none? And how can we give them joy, if we are not filled with it?
So what exactly in our day to day lives should we have faith in God for, both as individuals, and as a church? First of all, we must have faith that in ALL things, God is in control. There is nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing that God is not aware of and in control of. It might not seem that way at times. Life can seem quite chaotic. There are many times we might be tempted to say, "God, where were you?" or "God, how could you let this happen?" Rest assured, He was there. And 'it' happened for a reason. We might not always understand that reason, but we have to remember that God sees the whole picture from beginning to end. We have to believe Him when He promises us in His Word "that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28) Do you love Him? If your answer is ˜Yes', then everything that has ever happened to you, is happening to you right now, and will happen to you in the future is for your good.
Secondly, we have to have faith that God both hears our prayers, and answers them; which means we have to have faith that God has the power to answer them. Does God still intervene at the request of His children? Of course He does! Throughout history, the Lord has dealt with mankind in different ways, but He has always answered the prayers of those who truly believed in Him and followed Him with their whole heart. And that has not changed one bit. So what burden is weighing you down? What is stealing your joy? Robbing you of hope? Keeping you from loving God and others with your whole heart? Take it to the Lord in prayer!