Strengthen Your Faith
By Pastor Jim May
In what do you place your faith? Is it in our government, our leaders, or our military might? Do you have faith in the police to enforce the law? Do you have faith in your doctor to give you right treatment for whatever sickness you may have? Do you have faith in friends and family to do right by you? Do you have faith that all things will work to your good?
How strong is your faith in all of this? And the second question is, why do you have faith in these things? Have they ever failed to fulfill your expectations or to meet your needs?
When we talk about faith and we consider the things that we place our faith in and how many times those things fail us, it is no surprise then that we often are convinced that our faith in God and His grace will fail as well. If Satan can bring circumstances into your life that will cause doubt to arise then he will have effectively neutralized you. It takes faith to bring the victory; faith that the promises of God will truly come to pass.
There are a lot of people who place their faith in the laws of the church. They are not alone for so did the Jews all through the Old Testament.
How often do meet another Christian who casts a condemning eye your way because you don’t look as holy as they think that they look? It always amazes me to think that the church has written laws that demand obedience, and if we don’t line up with some preacher’s idea of what those laws should be, then we are automatically condemned. And yet we can listen to them also preach about the boundless mercy and wonderful grace of God though Jesus’ death upon the cross.
Which is more powerful; law or grace? Which one will condemn and which one will save? Which one brings death; and which one brings life? Living under law requires no faith; only obedience to the law, while living by Grace requires faith and faith alone, for law has no power in grace.
In the 10th Chapter of the Book of Hebrews Paul gives us a discourse concerning the power of the Law of Moses versus the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. If we can only get a full grasp of Paul’s meaning, I believe that our Faith can be vastly increased.
In the Old Testament economy, the Law of Moses reigned supreme, and yet it had no power to forgive or to wash away sin.
Hebrews 10:1-2, "For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins."
When God gave Moses the Law on Mt. Sinai by first writing the 10 Commandments, and then later on, giving Moses laws pertaining to every part of Jewish culture and life, he was doing so in order to let Israel know just how far they were from being perfect in the eyes of God. The law was meant to point out faults, and to bring condemnation and conviction for sin; but in that law, no matter how much it was obeyed, the guilt of sin and the condemnation for sin was never erased.
If the law had contained the power to save and cleanse a soul from sin, then why would so many animals have to be sacrificed over thousands of years? The fact is that the blood of animals, who had no eternal soul, and who were creatures born under sin, had no power at all except as a symbol that one day, there would be a perfect sacrifice, whose blood would have the power to cleanse sin, once and for all.
Such is still the power of the law. The only difference is what sacrifice do we expect men to make in fulfilling that law.
From the days of Moses to the present, the Jews believe that it is the sacrifice of animals and the sprinkling of blood upon the altar is what it takes to cleanse them from sin. But their sins are never truly cleansed, only covered; pushed ahead year by year. But every year, the High Priest of Israel had to make another sacrifice. Every year they were reminded once again that their sin was still there.
What about us today? What kind of sacrifice do we make and what kind of law do we try to follow? Our law may be different, and our sacrifices don’t require the killing of animals, but our law is even more condemning and more destructive, and has less power to free the souls of men than the Law of the Old Testament.
How can we say that we believe in the Grace of God and still believe that we can please God by living under law?
When the church lays down the law, or some preacher starts creating his own set of laws to govern the church, what power does that law have? Most of our man-made laws don’t apply to men nearly as much as they do to women.
How often do I see a condemning spirit come forth when we do not meet the expectations of other Christians! Ladies, if you wear makeup at all, or cut your hair, or your hem on your skirt isn’t at just the perfect height; if your sleeve is too short; if you have jewelry on; if you don’t wear hose, then there is a faction within the church that will look down their nose at you and tell you that not only do you look like a Jezebel, but that you aren’t even saved. Do you see the power of Law? The power of Law is only to condemn!
Are laws necessary? Of course they are. Without law there is anarchy. Without law there is no power to control or to govern the actions of sinful men. But we must not depend upon the obedience to the laws of the church for our salvation. Law cannot save.
No matter how hard you try you cannot please everyone! There is always a fine point of the law that you will fail. If I dress perfect according the will of those in the church, that doesn’t remove the sin in my heart. It doesn’t take faith to obey the law; only obedience.
If we don’t obey the law, then there is a sacrifice that will come. The hearts of men are sacrificed in the church all the time because of the condemning power of the law. How many people have I seen leave the church; or refuse to walk into a Pentecostal Church because of the condemning power of the law!
When you tell people that you are Pentecostal, what do they ask? Are you the ones that don’t let women wear pants? Are you ones that don’t believe in cutting your hair? Are you the ones who don’t do this or don’t do that? All that most people know about Pentecostals is that we have some strange laws in most of our churches. Those laws tend to condemn everyone and trying to live by them is impossible, so many people won’t come to church just because of the laws we have set down.
We have exchanged the law of Moses for the law of the church but the power to set men free is still not there. Sacrificing our time, our energy, our finances or anything else will not wash away the sin in our hearts.
Even in the Old Testament, the prophet Samuel tells us that obeying the voice of the Lord is far better than sacrificing to fulfill the law.
1 Samuel 15:22, "And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams."
All that obedience to the law can do is purify the flesh. But what about the heart? The law cannot cleanse the heart. It takes the cleansing power of the blood of the perfect sacrifice to do that. The blood of bulls and goats could purify the people of Israel for another year, but never wash it away.
It took the sacrifice of the perfect Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, to wash away sin completely.
Hebrews 10:9-12, "Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;"
Now comes the reason that we must have faith. We do not live by the law, but we live by faith. Faith must be exercised so that we may believe in the power of the blood of Jesus Christ to cleanse us from sin and to fulfill every requirement of the law on our behalf.
Paul says in Galatians 3:11, "But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith." Since you cannot be justified by the Law then there must be another way, the way that Jesus has given us through His death upon the cross. It is the way of Faith alone.
Hebrews 10:38, "Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him."
What does that mean to “draw back”? Drawing back means turning around, pulling away from something, going back to what was before. When we leave the Grace of God and stop depending upon Jesus alone for our salvation and start reaching back to the Law for our deliverance, then we cease to walk by faith, and we become unprofitable for the Kingdom of God. God takes no pleasure in the shedding of blood, even in the blood of the sacrifices. He desires for us to walk by faith that no blood is needed for the sacrifice of God’s only Son is all that will ever be necessary to obtain salvation.
It takes faith to believe in what Jesus has done for us, for it is something that we cannot see with our natural eyes, touch with our hands or taste with the flesh. It is all spiritual in nature so that no man could say that he completed it on his own.
Hebrews 10:19-23, "Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; And having an high priest over the house of God; Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised)"
We enter God’s presence by faith, not because we have been good, but because Jesus is Good. We do not walk in as sinners who are condemned to death, but as sons and daughters who have been given full pardons. If we trust in Jesus’ shed blood, by faith; walk into the Throne Room of God the Father, by faith; and then allow Jesus to be our Advocate, by faith; then we shall obtain the promises of God our Father, also by faith.
It is no wonder that the Bible tells us that without faith it is impossible to please God. It takes faith to believe in Jesus. It takes faith to believe that God exists. It takes faith to trust in his Word. It takes faith to even believe that there is eternal life. Faith is our hope. Faith fulfills our dreams. Faith gives us a reason to continue living in this old world. Faith is what makes it worthwhile to fight every battle and overcome every obstacle. Faith is absolutely necessary to be an over comer and our faith needs to be strengthened every day.
The idea of making our faith stronger is what Paul is talking about when he tells us that we need to come together often as Christians to help one another grow.
Hebrews 10:24-25, "And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching."
In these last days there are many pressures that tend to separate us and keep us from coming together. Satan’s plan is to divide and conquer, but there is strength in numbers and when we come together we become a more powerful force to fight against him.
When the old wagon trains traveled westward across the plains they didn’t go by one or two. They traveled in large groups for protection. A single wagon traveling alone wouldn’t have made it very far. (I have gained a newfound respect and admiration for the brave souls that traveled in those wagon trains across endless miles of danger to reach their dreams. They were true pioneers.)
You and I are travelers and strangers in a foreign land. We are marching onward to Zion, that beautiful city of God. This world is not our home, we’re just passing through.
I went through a lot of places in past several days that made me so thankful that I was only passing through. I certainly would not have wanted to live in most of the places that I saw. It’s hard to live among the cactus and rattlesnakes, and none of it could ever feel like home.
How many of God’s people settle for where they are rather than to keep searching for home. Satan draws them back and they move in next to a cactus and then they just begin to dry up spiritually. God uses the cactus to prick them often to remind them of where they are but they in that dry and thirsty land, but they just seem to get too comfortable living with the cactus and laying by the snakes and scorpions to come back to Him.
We are instructed to travel together through this life. All of God’s people need to stick together, to get together, as often as we can, so that we might encourage one another, strengthen one another and help one another along the way. No man is an island. We all need one another and its not going to get easier in these last days. We are going to need to help one another more as time goes on.
It is at this point in Paul’s writings that he decides to tell us what faith really is.
Hebrews 11:1, "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."
We need to have a strong faith so that we will not falter in our walk with the Lord. The stronger our faith is, the closer we will be to Jesus. Strong faith keeps its eye upon the goal and strives for the prize.
Faith is what makes me know that what I hear in God’s Word and what I feel in my heart are real, more real than the natural world around me. It takes faith to see Heaven. It takes faith to believe in eternal life. It takes faith to believe that God is leading us all the way.
The stronger you believe; the less likely that you will turn back. Let us work for making our faith stronger. Let’s gain strength from one another and go all the way.
Do you know that Heaven is real? Do you truly believe in Jesus as your Lord and Savior? You don’t need the law – You need Jesus! Is your faith strong this morning?