Summary: In this sermon we discuss the foundational values of Christianity.
Grant S. Sisson, MSCP
Faith, Hope and Love –
I Cor. 13:13 “And now abide faith, hope and love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
The greatest war in this world since I was born (baby boomer generation) has been over values. Values are everything. Values determine what we think about, how we act, what we expect to get out of life. The way we prioritize our values determines our character – and others know who we are and identify us by our character.
Character – thoughts, words, actions, habits, character. We choose our actions based upon our inner priorities. We might think that a certain action occurred without thought, but the fact is that we think about things constantly before we are in any given situation, and so our thoughts about that situation that we engaged in in the prior weeks, months, even years, do control the actions we engage in. What is most important to you in a given situation? It is that – not the situation, but your values brought into play because of the situation – that is what has already been thought about and prioritized. We think about this all the time without even being aware of it – “What if…?” or “I would rather … than …” or “Would you …or …?”
We know each other by character traits. We might say that someone is a good mechanic – we mean that he is skilled in the trade and consistently does a good job. So the fact that he knows about his trade comes from a value – it is more important to have a skill than to goof off at the beach. So he makes sacrifices to acquire his chosen skill. Or we might say “he’s a good family man.” What do we mean? We mean that he has prioritized his values such that he has the resources to take good care of his family – often in this context we mean that he is there spiritually and emotionally for them, as well as being a good provider of food and material needs. We are saying that he first decides what his family needs and then goes about taking care of it, rather than doing what he prefers to do and leaving his family to fit in however they can.
And so we see that values determine who we are. Far from being something to steer clear of in polite conversation, we observe each other constantly to find out what to expect from one another, and the way we know what to expect is to come to know that person’s values – what (s)he thinks it important.
As important as they are, you would think that the Bible would have a lot so say about values, and you would be right. In fact, all the teaching that Jesus left is a re-arrangement of values – if values determine our actions, and sin is a misdirected action, then the correction for sin lies not in law but in in changing a person’s values. That is the work of the Holy Spirit within us.
I Cor. 13:13 gives us the foundational values of Christianity. “And now abide faith, hope and love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
1. Faith. It is interesting that we start right here with the connection between God and man – his faith. It is in faith that the correction for sin, that is, the change in a person’s values, begins. Heb. 11:6 - “Without faith, it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” So the Christian life begins with the idea that there is a God, a Supreme Being, but not only that, but also that this God is acutely aware of and concerned about what happens to each of us. It is only in being sure of the Fact of God that we can have a hope for the future – others can wish that things might turn out a certain way, or try to manipulate others into getting his way, but cannot have this confident expectation that God will reward us - so the whole thing is initiated by faith.
a. What is faith? Heb. 11:1 “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Without this, our behavior will be radically different. Let’s look at some examples of faith from Scripture.
b. Heb. 11:8 – “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the Promised Land like a stranger ion a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.”