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Demonstrating Our Faith

April 27, 2011

We have been examining the characteristics that are exemplified in real Christianity from the biblical point of view. And I will not take us through every verse that we have looked at in our previous lessons. I will instead summarize what we have seen and make some comments. We have learned that Paul was writing to Christians…that there was a church in Rome by 56AD when Paul wrote this letter. He mentions the fact that their faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. That is quite a testimony. Can we say that our faith is spoken of by anyone? Do other Christians mention us as examples of real Christianity? Do sinners look at us and say “That guy/girl is the real deal.” You answer the question in your own hearts as I have.

Well these Christians were true examples of what real Christianity looks like. They were steadfast in their faith and you already know howRometreated Christians. Christianity was against the law in Rome…we can read of the eviction of all Jews from Rome in Acts 18:2 which occurred in AD 48 at the command of Claudius. At this time there was a famine and the Jews were blamed. Specifically they were expelled because of the influence of ‘Chrestus’ a reference to Jesus Christ. There were officially recognized religions inRomeand Christianity wasn’t one of them. Soon the Church would go underground and live in the Catacombs.

And Paul wanted to write something to them that would help them. So he wrote this letter that is one of the Jewels of the New Testament. And we are privileged to partake of its riches by the grace of God.

As we turn our attention to Chapter 12 we have seen several items that the true Christian is called to do. And Paul isn’t issuing these commands in a vacuum. Paul who himself had been crucified with Christ, who was dead, who declared that he was crucified to the world and the world to him also said in Colossians 3 that we are dead and our lives are hidden with Christ in God. Indeed he declares in that same passage that Christ is our life. And so the true Christian has died to himself. He has died to his old life.

Here is Paul’s first command, 1Therefore I urge (Parakaleo) you, brethren, I am coming alongside you in spirit to urge, to exhort, to council you by the mercies of God, that is, because of the overwhelming flood of blessings that God has poured out upon you, because He looked down and saw your pitiable state; saw that you were helpless and unable to do anything about it, because He sent His only Son to die in your place and deliver you from certain death…because of this I call you to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, note that we are not called to kill ourselves.

There are no human sacrifices required in Christianity…Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain; He washed it white as snow. There are no works of flesh that we could do to deliver ourselves. But God; when we were helpless, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. And we are called to present ourselves as living sacrifices, dying to the world and all of its allurements, dying to our fleshly lusts, alive to God and dead to ourselves.

We are to Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” Indeed the man of God, the mature Christian, is known by what he flees from, what he follows after, what he fights for and what he is faithful to. In the scriptures we are called to flee from the world, follow after righteousness, fight the good fight of faith and be faithful to the word of God, not just hearing it but to doing what it says.

Now you can’t flee any further from the world and its lusts than to die. We must die to this world. It must not have any hold on us. And by the world I’m not talking about the planet, the globe. I’m talking about the world system of evil that reigns at this present moment and is seen in the actions of evil men and women whose sole purpose in life is to destroy. The devil, the thief comes to kill, steal and destroy. And so it is not a stretch for us to understand that his children would do the same. They reflect the characteristics of their father. He is a liar and the father of lies and so they follow after him and live lives based on lies.

We are to reflect the characteristics of our Father. Whoever says he is in Christ should live as Jesus lived. We are to be holy as our Father in heaven is holy. We are to do all we can to purify our lives specifically because we will be reflecting the holiness of our Father. We are to be living; holy sacrifices meet for the Master’s use. And this is the only sacrifice that is acceptable to God, and also it is that “which is your reasonable service.” It is only reasonable that, in light of all the spiritual riches that we enjoy, those fruits of God’s mercy toward us, that we should give God our highest service. Indeed would you not say that we owe Him our best? He gave His all. Can we even think of giving Him less?

And an example of that reasonable service is seen in turning away from the world. Today’s visible church does not resemble the original model except in a very few instances where there is still preaching of some kind. But most of that consists of psychological pep talks rather than the clear exposition of the Word of God. Many churches today resemble Country Clubs where you can be on a basketball team or a bowling league. You can be in a hiking for Jesus club or go swimming in theFamilyLifeCenter. While there is nothing wrong with these activities in and of themselves, there is little if any godliness on display, rather the flesh usually is what others see, especially when teams are competing against each other.

Where is God exalted in all of this? When men and women have conformed to the world and assumed the trappings of the world in ‘christianized’ form, when Churches have turned away from the simple biblical model for the church and incorporated programs and committees and boards and all the accouterments of a business, you can see conformation to the world. This is why the visible Church is in the state that it is in.

And we are called to turn away from all of this. The world is not our home. The world and the Church are not to mix…you will get nothing but perversion. For this reason Paul issues this warning in 2Co 6:14 “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? James declares that to do so borders on prostitution saying in Jas 4:4 “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”

It is for this reason that Paul says 2And do not be conformed to this world, do not succumb to the tempting allurements of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye and the boastful pride of life for they only produce misery and more sin. Instead he says…but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, and here we are talking about a spiritual cleaning of  house, a renovation in our thinking which produces a single-minded devotion to God.

We are to have the mind of Christ 1Co 2:16…we are to put on the Lord Jesus Christ and give no opportunity for the flesh. We are to be heavenly minded so that you may prove so you will be able to know what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.  

 

James tells us that every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father of lights in whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. God does not compromise. He remains constant, never changes; never vacillates like we do. And He has provided a pattern for us to follow. We are called not to conformation but to transformation so that we will reflect the nature of Jesus Christ in our lives. In this way men will see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven. And we will know the truth and the truth will set us free. Free from what you ask? How about freedom from ruling sin, freedom from compromise, and freedom from ignorance, and the freedom that comes from understanding what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. When we know the truth, when we know what the will of God is, we are no longer left wondering…we know what God has called us to and we go forth in obedience. And there is great freedom in obedience.

But we must always guard against that bane of humanity, pride. We are called in verse 3 to be humble which is a sign of godliness. It is the exact opposite of worldliness which is exemplified in the sin of pride. Paul had seen pride in all of its ugliness, from the Jews who rose up against him and sought his death because he preached the truth, to the prominent gentile men and women of various cities who, stirred up by these same Jews, went on to beat him, stoned him or throw him in prison…all for doing something good. He had merely preached the truth and healed people. And for this he was punished. This is the ugly side of life. Many say it is ‘reality’ but I say it is insanity because men who embrace the world are spiritually insane. Since they have no hope in life they don’t like it when they see someone who does. It bothers them, it rankles them and sometimes it prods them to violence.

The world can be likened to the man who had the legion and ran around naked in the hills, howling and cutting himself with rocks. In the same way sinful men and women run around seeking fulfillment in all manner of sinful activity. They too run around naked, howling and cutting themselves. Paul had been like this as seen in Acts 9:1   Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, 2  and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.

But what happened to the man when Jesus cast out the demons? He was sitting, clothed and in his right mind. And all he wanted was to be with Jesus. He was now thinking soberly as God had granted to him a measure of faith. And what of Paul? 3 As he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; 4  and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” 5  And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” And He said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting,

6  but get up and enter the city, and it will be told you what you must do.” 7  The men who traveled with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. 8  Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; and leading him by the hand, they brought him into Damascus. 9  And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank. 10 Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and the Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11  And the Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying, 12  and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him, so that he might regain his sight.” 13  But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he did to Your saints at Jerusalem; 14  and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.” 15  But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; 16  for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.” 17  So Ananias departed and entered the house, and after laying his hands on him said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road by which you were coming, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18  And immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he regained his sight, and he got up and was baptized; 19  and he took food and was strengthened. Now for several days he was with the disciples who were at Damascus, 20  and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” 21  All those hearing him continued to be amazed, and were saying, “Is this not he who in Jerusalem destroyed those who called on this name, and who had come here for the purpose of bringing them bound before the chief priests?” 22  But Saul kept increasing in strength and confounding the Jews who lived at Damascus by proving that this Jesus is the Christ.

This is what Paul is talking about then when he speaks of transformation. And notice from Paul’s life that we have not been saved to inactivity; we have been called to service. From offering ourselves as living sacrifices which is our reasonable service to fleeing the world and seeking transformation of mind and life as we renew our minds in the truth of God’s word, which results in humility of mind and esteeming others better than ourselves, we have been called to serve the living God.

And we have looked at the various forms of service such as prophesy, ministry, teaching, exhorting, giving, leading or showing mercy. We learned that as Christians we are called not to just simply ‘show love’ which many times is merely a hypocritical affair, but to really love one another. There is to be heart-felt love and compassion for others.

You have no doubt heard from some preachers the exact opposite: that we are to perform acts of love whether we feel love or not. But Paul declares that this hypocrisy. You either love or you don’t. But don’t fake it because the world can see through fakery. When Jesus said that they, the world, will know that we are Christians by our love for one another, He was speaking of the real thing. And Paul said that of all the characteristics we can demonstrate, love is the greatest.

We saw also that we are to really hate evil with a sense of horror that makes us tremble. And with the same gusto we are called to cling, to stick like glue to what is good.

We are to 10Be devoted or full of tenderness to one another in brotherly love and the outworking of that will be seen in the exaltation of others, the lifting up of others as we give preference to one another in honor. Do you see where humility once again comes into play? It is such an essential part of the Christian that it shows up everywhere. And for the real Christian who has suppressed the evil old nature and is walking in humility and godliness, this is all real. There is no play acting involved but instead there is a genuine appreciation and admiration for one another.

I think the idea here of trying to outdo one another in trying to show respect for one another is just amazing. It is so contrary to the world and to what we see in the visible church in many cases. All the game playing that goes on in the name of Christianity is bizarre to the point of insanity. And if we have been truly born again and have been transformed by the renewing of our minds so that all we want to do is please Jesus, we will be very noticeable. And it is not that we are called to go out and wear sandwich boards and hoot and holler on street corners.  We are simply to live for Jesus for His sake, for His glory…and that’s it.

We are not to be phony because anyone can see through a phony given enough time. We are to be faithful to Him who called us. And that involves diligence. Rather than just going through the motions or putting out just enough effort to get by we are called to diligence. We are to be 11not lagging behind in diligence, but we are to be fervent burning or boiling in spirit, our zeal for God as we prophesy, serve, teach, exhort, give, lead, or show mercy is to be done with a zeal that burns, boils; like a pot of water that is boiling over specifically because we are serving the Lord;

 

In Col 3:23 Paul gives us this instruction “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men,” This is the main idea. If we have offered ourselves as living sacrifices unto God which is our reasonable service, and if we have turned away from the world and have been transformed by the renewing of our minds, then we will be marked by these things; we will prophesy pure unadulterated truth, we will serve with a joyful heart, we will teach the whole council of God, we will exhort and encourage those in need with earnestness borne out of a desire to see others grow up into the image of Christ. We will show mercy to those who need mercy and our demonstrations of love will be real for our love will be real. We will truly hate what God hates. We will shudder at the thought of evil and will shrink back away from it in horror. And we will cling to that which is truly good. Our measure of what is good will be that which God has declared to be good. There will be a true devotion to one another with a desire to see each other grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Indeed our love for each other will be seen in our genuine appreciation and admiration for one another.

And this will not be any halfway, humanistic, effort with a hidden agenda behind it. Our service toward each other will be an exercise of genuine love for one another. Our reasoning behind all of our actions will be scriptural. We will be acting in obedience to the command of God who calls us to 32 “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. 1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; 2 and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. Eph 4:32-5:1

In this world of hopelessness we will be 12 rejoicing in hope. The word, rejoice comes from the Greek Chairontes and speaks of being joyful because of the grace of God. The analogy has been used of the skipping and frisking of a lamb. This is a joy that is demonstrative: you can see the outworking of it in action like the little lamb playing in the field. And what is the catalyst for our rejoicing? It is hope. Again the Greek word is elpidi and refers to favorable and confident expectation. And what is our hope? It is the confident assurance that we belong to Jesus Christ, that we are not our own but belong body and soul to Him. It is a hope that is never disappointed because God’s love toward us is renewed every morning, great is His faithfulness. He promised that He would never leave us nor forsake us. It also points to our blessed hope, the return of Christ to the earth to receive us unto Himself and so we shall ever be with the Lord.

Paul was so full of confident assurance in Christ that it came pouring out of His lips in praise to God saying, 3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,  4just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him In love 5He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace 8which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight 9He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him 10with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him 11also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, 12to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. 13In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation–having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.

 

In Rom 8:31-37 we have another outburst of this same hope in Christ when Paul says; “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? 33Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; 34who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. 35Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36Just as it is written, “FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED.” 37But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

Let me give you a few more biblical examples. The first one is found in Habakkuk 3:17-18 Now God had sent him with a horrific message of judgment to bring to theland ofJudah.

And as he pondered God’s devastating warning that He was sending the Chaldeans to conquer and all but decimate His people, Habakkuk made this astounding statement of faith.  Listen to this declaration of hope; 17 Though the fig tree should not blossom And there be no fruit on the vines, Though the yield of the olive should fail And the fields produce no food, Though the flock should be cut off from the fold And there be no cattle in the stalls, 18 Yet I will exult in the LORD, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. This is Christian hope. And it exemplifies what Paul says when he says that we are to be ‘rejoicing in hope.’

In Ro 5:5 he says “and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Have you ever wondered how someone can have hope in seemingly hopeless circumstances? I think of Opal Cochran when she was in the hospital in her last illness. Here she was, dying and all she wanted to do was tell the nurses about Jesus. She had hope, the kind that doesn’t disappoint. She knew whom she had believed and was persuaded that He is able to keep that which she had committed unto Him against that day. And we know Peter says that we are always to be ready to give a reason for the hope we have within us.

But that begs the question; do we have this kind of hope.

Can we say with Paul that we are confident of this very thing: that He who has begun a good work in us will continue to perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ? Do we have a hope that endures, that stands the test of trials?

James, after opening his letter declaring himself to be a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, addressing himself to the 12 tribes that have been scattered abroad, says ‘greetings.’ And the word used here is a different form of the same word Chairein. And the progression of the passage basically sounds like this; Rejoice, and count it all joy when you encounter various trials. Why? Because the testing of your faith produces the fruit of patience says James. And Paul declares “And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; 4  and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; 5 and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Do you remember the account in the book of Acts where the disciples had been arrested and thrown in jail? This is a fascinating look into the heart of the early Christians and how they faced trials. It is found in Acts 5:12-42

 

And here is what I want you to notice. In verse 41 after they had been put in prison and on trial and beaten they were not the least discouraged. Listen to these words “So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. 42 And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the ChristThey were rejoicing in hope for they knew that they were right where God had placed them and were doing what God had called them to do.

And finally I want you to consider our Lord Jesus Christ. We know from the scriptural accounts of the horrors He endured on our behalf…well, we can grasp the words themselves but really we don’t know the half of what Jesus went through. But, and understand who the Author of scripture is; listen to this staggering statement that reveals the heart of our Lord and Savior. We find it in Heb 12:2:3 where we read that we are to be “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. “For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

 

We have been saved from our sins and the penalty due us by God Himself who sent his only Son to die in our place and take our punishment upon Himself. We have been declared ‘not guilty’ by a holy God whose justice was satisfied at the Cross. 1Jo 4:10 “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

 

Is it such a hard command to obey; to give our lives to Him who gave His Son for us? Why do we halt between two opinions? If Jehovah is God then SERVE HIM! But if you love the world and the things of the world: if in your heart you are gazing at the world as Lot’s wife did, looking toward Sodom, well, I think you know enough truth to understand that anyone who does so is not born again. You will be demonstrating your faith by your actions. If you trust in the world and the things of the world then you are not saved. If however you have turned your back on the world and have set your face as flint toward the heavenly Jerusalem, then your life will reflect your faith and you will be a living, breathing example of what Christianity is all about.

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