Thursday, September 02, 2010

Faith in Action (pt. 2)

Have you ever noticed that no matter how much you desire to be free of it, sins tentacles have a lock tight hold in all kinds of areas of your life? It has been my desire, and is still my desire to be totally free from sin. Sin is insidious. It entices and toys with you, and then when you give into temptation, becomes a sticky, stinking cesspool, from which you cannot seem to fully escape. It's mire of guilt clings to every pour of your flesh.

After a while, you grow to hate your sin. You detest it. But you can't escape it. Paul called it "this body of death" in Romans 7. The illusion seems to be to a particular practice of justice, once done. Where a murderer, once convicted was bound naked, back to back with the victim, by tight binding arm to arm, leg to leg. Then the murder was sent out into the countryside, where he would search in vein for relief. After a while the corruption of the rotting dead corpse would spread into his flesh, and after a while of living rot, he would die a painful death.

Paul, looking at his own reality stated: "I am of the flesh, sold under sin. [15] For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. [16] Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. [17] So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. [18] For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. " (7:14-18).

It seems that saints throughout all history have felt this way. In Psalm 38, David recorded his expereince, "there is no health in my bones because of my sin.[4] For my iniquities have gone over my head; like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me. [5] My wounds stink and fester because of my foolishness, [6] I am utterly bowed down and prostrate; all the day I go about mourning. [7] For my sides are filled with burning, and there is no soundness in my flesh. [8] I am feeble and crushed; I groan because of the tumult of my heart." (Psalm 38:3-8).

And here is the power of faith. As I argued in part one, faith is not an external airy fairy thing, but rather, "faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. "(Heb 11:1).

When my wife says she loves me, I can't see yer love. But I know my wife, so I have a confident assurance, that she is telling me the truth. I have a conviction based on who she is.

God is trustworthy. I know him. He keeps the stars in their course faithfully. He brings the seasons, faithfully. He promised freedom from sin. He promises redemption, "we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears1 we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is." (1 John 3:2). This is a restoration to the way we were creates, "In the image of God" (Gen 1:27).

I trust God
I trust his promises
made through Christ
and in the Scriptures.

Christ promised: "if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed" (John 8:36).
The Scriptures make plain: "We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. [7] For one who has died has been set free from sin." (Rom 6:6-7).

In Paul's words, "Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? [25] Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Romans 7:24-25).

Now the obvious question is, "who cares?" Faith in Action, is the confidence that you will overcome sin? What about practical things? For every person who has ever suffered the guilt of the enslavement of sin, no other deliverance can be preferred. If death or poverty was the price for overcoming sin, I would gladly submit.

But there is no price. There is only promise. God promises, for all those who put their hope and trust in Christ, that we shall be free of sin. Thank Christ.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Faith in action

Thinking about "faith" today. I've heard it before, but in conversations about the gospel, which we as Christians express, (eg. "faith in the work of Christ, to reconcile us to God"). We are often confronted with what we now assume to be a fairly standard response.

Faith has been seen as a nebulous quality that some seem to possess. "I don't have the kind of "faith" you have", one might hear in a daily conversation. But of course, that is a nonsensical statement.

Faith is not a think to be possessed, but an action of trust one takes. In fact, we might say that faith is a synonym for "trust" or "reliance". gives the basic definition of faith as, "confidence or trust in a person or thing: faith in another's ability". Interestingly, it goes on to give some further definitions, including this one, "Christian Theology. the trust in God and in His promises as made through Christ and the Scriptures by which humans are justified or saved." (reference).

So what exactly does it mean to have "faith" in this Christian Theology sense? The Dictionary definition informs, that it is by such faith "humans are justified or saved". Look at the parts of this admirable definition:
1) Trust in God...
2) ...and in His promises...
3) made through Christ...
4) ...and the Scriptures...

What a great definition. The reason man needs to be saved, in the first place, is because of sin. Our first parents (as Genesis 1-3 records), were created by God to live as regents of the earth, ruling creation in obedient fellowship with their loving creator. God's adversary, the Devil, determined to etch out a kingdom for himself, and so swayed Adam and Eve, through half truths and false promises. They rejected God, and joined the Devil's rebellion. As a result, God judged the race guilty, and condemned humanity to death, placed a curse on the universe, and gave people over to the domination of sin. In essence, God said, "you want to live rebellion against me? That is called sin. You will now learn what that truly means, by being given over to sin. Sin will rule you and dominate you, until you die. You will see that Master sin is a harsh enslaver, who cares nothing for his victims." So as man awaited the final judgement, he was committed over to sin, the flesh and the devil. The Bible articulates it this way, "in Adam all sinned" (Romans 5:12), God thus considers all people, "under sin" (Romans 3:9). As a result of this nature (called a "law" or "principle" living in our flesh in Romans chapters 8 and 9), "all have sinned [personally] and fallen short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).

Now this explains what is going on in this world. Even when people determine to do good, to make a clean break from "bad habits", they find it an enduring trial, and often fall into a depressive spiral of being trapped all their lives. Jesus said, "everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin" (John 8:34).

The only way to be set free, is by the power of God. Only, we have made God our enemy, in our rebellion. The bible tells us that we are by nature, God's "enemies" (Romans 5:10) since, "a mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God" (Romans 8:7). What is a mind set on he flesh? The Bible describes the "deeds of the flesh" this way:

Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God." (Galatians 5:19-21).

So, when we set our minds on these things, we are demonstrating that we are, and are behaving as, the enemies of God. It also these things, that we willingly embrace, that we soon find are our true enemies. Like "Golem's Ring", our "precious" sins, begin to twist and destroy us, enslaving us to their service. "The wages of sin [paid out daily in increments] is death" (Romans 6:23). We are being killed, but we are also being made less and less human.

Humanity was created glorious, "in the image of God" (Gen 1:27), destined to "rule" (Gen 1:28-29), "crowned with glory and honor" (Psalm 8:5-8). But in become enslaved to sin and the devil, we lose that glory, we corrupt that image, and we become, "like brute beasts, creatures of instinct" (2 Peter 2:12). In fact Peter goes on, these brute beasts who live by animal instinct "food for the belly and the belly for food", are "born only to be caught and destroyed, and like beasts they too will perish" (2 Peter 2:12b).

So we are, in a proverbial pickle.


To be continued...

Friday, April 30, 2010

What If?

What if Jesus saw the church he wanted to build (Matt. 16:18), before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4)? What if Jesus was God? As far as the heavens are about the earth, so far are God’s ways and God’s thoughts above our thoughts (Is. 55:9).

What if we stopped following men, and started following Jesus? Jesus paints a picture of what his church will accomplish. Jesus church will:

1) display his wisdom before the heavenly realms (Eph. 3:10).

2) consist of a people which would be “a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes” (Revelation 7:9).

3) grow one disciple at a time (Matthew 28:19-20).

The church exists, for one purpose only: “to glorify God” (Eph. 3:21), and is left on earth for one mission: “to make disciples” (Matt. 28:20).

What if we joined Jesus in this goal, and on this mission, and saw God’s wisdom displayed in Calgary, by the shocking transformation of sinners into saints, the hurting into the helping, people from every cultural background, every age group and every socio-economic condition all joined together on a single mission? What if we were the ones through whom Christ accomplished his purpose, to glorify God, one disciple at a time?

What if Jesus told us how to do this? The Bible seems to suggest that he did. 1 Corinthians 3: 10 warns, “Let each one take care how he builds…”. Paul wrote to Timothy, “I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.” (1 Timothy 3:15).

What if we asked, “am I doing God’s work God’s way?”

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Isn't Preaching Passe?

In the post modern world, many suggest that we are facing something entirely new, in the opposition to preaching that is faced by the church today. A cursory reading of history however, shows us this is an ages old problem faced generation after generation.

How should we respond? Does Jesus ministry have anything to teach us? The following message looks to answer that question: "Preaching: The King's Ministry"

Preaching: Isn't that Passe? from Chad Graham on Vimeo.

For other sermon resources, visit