Summary: A sermon encouraging a church to grow in faith, especially faith for bringing and inviting friends and family to attend.
Faith Without and Faith Within
(Staying put when the furnace gets hot)
Intro – The Scriptures teach that “without faith it is impossible to please God.” Jesus says that faith as a mustard seed can move life’s mountains. Other brothers and sisters encourage and remind me to “keep the faith.”
The Scriptures teach that I’m saved by faith, kept by faith, a child of Abraham by faith, a joint heir with Christ by faith and that the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God. The disciples asked Jesus, “Increase our faith.” John wrote that our faith is the victory that overcomes the world.
But as important as faith is (Scripturally) it is often not practiced by the average Christian to any great degree. The average Christian is much more apt to go by what he sees, feels, thinks, touches or observes rather than by what he does NOT see, feel, think, touch or observe, which in reality, is sight and not faith.
1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for. 3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. 4 By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead. 5 By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.” For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. 6 And 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.
Frankly, that’s one reason churches like ours, that make their focus a concerted attempt to reach irreligious, lost, and unchurched people, sometimes find the going very tough. The mistake that’s made is born from a good motive, that is to be accessible and understood by people of no faith.
In the most successful examples, such as Willow Creek in a suburb of Chicago, North Point in Atlanta, Saddleback Community Church near Los Angeles, and most of the other areas where this model is effective, the church makes the message plain without watering it down to any degree. Where possible the church affirms a style and form that people can be comfortable with long enough for God’s Spirit to bring faith to their hearts, while the church continues to model that faith.
But some churches who start out to reach seekers, wind up looking and acting so much like the people they’re trying to reach, and on top of that watering down the message in an effort to make faith more palatable, acceptable and presentable. In effect they are saying, “Look, we’re just like you – come join us!”
And they rarely scream back the answer, but the answer is, “If you’re just like me I don’t need you. I’ve got plenty to do – not looking for something to fill my time. Thanks, but no thanks.”
If we’re not people in whom God sees and rewards faith, we are salt without savor, lights covered by baskets, and we’ve lost our influence, effectiveness and power to speak Christ to the perishing.
THE DEFINITION OF FAITH: “FAITH IS TAKING GOD AT HIS WORD, DIRECTING ONE’S LIFE ACCORDINGLY, AND LEAVING THE RESULTS UP TO GOD.”
Now I want to admit, and be quick to acknowledge, that there are so-called Bible teachers who abuse the very concept of faith.
Faith doesn’t (and nothing can) force God’s hand. Faith is far more about trusting His heart than it is about forcing His hand. That doesn’t mean we don’t ask Him to alter circumstances at times, believing with all I am that He’s going to, but a real man or woman of faith just keeps serving, loving and trusting when His answer is “yes,” the same as when it is “no.”
In class students will often ask, “Is this going to be on the test?” For a Christian, having, keeping, building faith is on nearly every meaningful test you’ll ever face.
Repeatedly, over and over in Christ’s ministry He would say, “The Kingdom of God is like”. . . and then head into a story that illustrated His point.
He did it so much; the Scriptures say of the Lord Jesus that He spoke nothing except by way of a parable.
Often He would tell two or three parables that seemed to illustrate the same basic points; just to be certain that everyone around really understood what he was teaching.