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Lombard CRC

Faith: Head, Hands and Heart for Jesus

Many times when we think of ‘faith’

we think in terms of knowing things:

the faith.

What is your faith?

We usually understand that to mean,

tell me what you think you know about God!

 

So there are those who question

or even attack

the Christian faith

assuming human reason is superior;

judging all belief as

the willful suspension of rational thought.

A lack of critical thinking.

Just ill-formed opinion.

 

But we know faith is more than that.

When I say, ‘I have faith in you’

I don’t mean I have suspended

all rational thought about you.

It means, I trust you.

I know you can do it.

I have confidence in you.

I can depend on you.

 

It’s not just opinion.

I don’t say such a thing lightly.

I trust you because I know you.

I have a stake in my trust; and you do, too.

 

Romans 10 reveals to us that faith is not only

a knowledge

but also a conviction

and an assurance:

9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.

 

Do you see what that says about true faith?

Faith doesn’t just go thru the motions of

saying some things

or doing some religious exercises,

faith believes, trusts,

takes Jesus at his Word.

Faith is a verb.

 

This is what the Bible means

when it talks about being saved

by grace through faith.

As people came to a renewed faith in Jesus Christ and a renewed worship of God during the Reformation their eyes were opened by this definition of faith.

Because like us most of the time,

when someone asked what faith was,

most times the answer had to do

with knowing certain things,

believing in your head certain ideas or claims

about who God is and

what God has done and is doing.

 

You and I know, tho,

it is one thing to claim to know

some things about a person,

it is quite another thing to trust that person.

 

We have occasions and situations

that depend upon such relationships

with one another:

I trust my doctor

I commit my love and life to my spouse

I dare to order a sack of White Castle sliders . . .

We understand that without such trusts

life would be diminished.

 

And if so much of the good life

depends upon such commitments to other people, how much more when it comes to God!

That’s why we value faith in God so highly.

Why we say we are justified by faith alone.

Why your life with God is a faith-relationship.

 

So when we ask at POF do you have faith in Jesus,

we aren’t just talking about knowing about God,

we are celebrating your commitment

to his way and will,

his love and for his glory.

Trust and obey, says the old song.

What did we learn?

HC 1 –

That I belong, body and soul, in life and in death,

to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.

 

I understand in some way

how I can trust certain things to others:

We weigh what people say and do,

we read the terms and conditions,

we decide how much of life to share.

 

But it’s different with God.

We don’t set the terms and conditions; God does.

We don’t decide how much of life belongs

to the Lord, it all does:

body and soul, life and death.

 

So how do I yield my life,

Submit my wants and needs,

Trust my hopes to the Triune God?

It will only happen ‘by faith’.

 

So what is that?

Faith doesn’t turn a blind eye, but insists

there is more than what meets the eye.

Faith isn’t irrational, but understands

reason has its own limits and limitations.

Faith recognizes that in many critical seasons of life ‘seeing isn’t believing,’ but believing is seeing.

 

Dallas Willard:

Faith is not opposed to knowledge;

faith is opposed to sight.

Grace is not opposed to effort;

it is opposed to earning.

Commitment is not sustained by confusion

but by insight.

 

So what is that faith?

And I love the good news of Heidelberg Catechism answer 21

summarizing what the Bible teaches about faith:

  1. What is true faith?
  2. True faith is
    not only a sure knowledge

by which I hold as true

all that God has revealed to us in Scripture;

it is also a wholehearted trust,

which the Holy Spirit creates in me by the gospel,
that God has freely granted,

not only to others but to me also,

forgiveness of sins,
eternal righteousness,
and salvation.

These are gifts of sheer grace,
granted solely by Christ’s merit.

 

The summary of the Bible given here

teaches that faith is

Sure Knowledge

Wholehearted trust

Not just one or the other

Not one at the expense of the other

But both working together opening ourselves up to receive God’s grace:

knowledge,

conviction,

assurance,

that this one thing is certain:

The grace of God.

I think of

Head – that’s the knowledge part

Hands – that’s the sure part, the conviction

And heart – that’s the wholehearted trust part,

the assurance.

 

Faith is a sure knowledge:

‘with your mouth you profess your faith’

says Romans 10.

There is content to what you believe.

We love God with all our mind.

So faith knows some things about the Lord

and knows life with the Lord.

One criticism of Christianity is that

to be a Christian

you have to check your brains at the door.

Not true:

faith is not opposed to knowledge;

it is opposed to sight:

Hebrews 11 –

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

That is, we don’t put faith in ourselves

because our experience, even our reasoning,

even our best is limited:

that’s why 2 Corinthians can say:

we live by faith and not by sight . . .

 

It’s knowing Scripture

and then experiencing

the sovereignty, grace, and power of God

in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit that

gives a foundation and meaning

to even the suffering and sorrow of this life.

 

Faith for faith’s sake is not enough.

Not any old belief

in any old god will do.

There is one Lord, one faith . . .

vs 12 – there is no difference between Jew and Gentile – the same Lord is Lord of all

and richly blesses all who call on him.

13 – for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

 

Knowledge of the Lord

and the promises of forgiveness and kindness

also help us when things don’t go our way.

 ‘In this world you will have trouble . . .’ Jesus said.

Not because God is cruel

or God is weak and unable to help,

but because this world is a place broken by sin

and its consequences remain.

And our Father desires his people

to be present in and with those who suffer

as a witness for Christ Jesus

to say we can’t avoid trouble,

what we need is a deliverer.

 

This truth, this knowledge was in the news this week.

Senator Bernie Sanders

I think broke constitutional law

when he sought to disqualify Russell Vought

for a government position

based on Vought’s Christian faith.

Sanders criticized the foundational Christian belief that salvation comes by and through Christ alone:

He said: “I don’t know how many Muslims

there are in America.

I really don’t know, probably a couple million.

Are you suggesting that all of those people

stand condemned?

What about Jews?

Do they stand condemned too?”

 

How would you answer?

When facing accusation,

Jesus reminded us

that the Holy Spirit will be with us

to give us what we need to say.

The Holy Spirit always gives us

the revelation of Scripture

for the difficult times and questions of life.

So here too,

what the Bible says about this

in answer to Senator Sanders’ question is:

Yes, all those people stand condemned,

in fact, every one of us stands condemned

but for the grace of God.

No good deed,

no great knowledge,

no religion

can deliver us and take away our guilt and shame.

This is the point of the cross,

the reason for Jesus sacrificing his life.

This reflects God’s deepest desire

that none be condemned,

and that life is found in trusting

in the cross and resurrection of Jesus:
‘ . . . the same Lord is Lord of all

and richly blesses all who call on him . . .’

Now of course, you are free to reject this grace.

But how you feel about it

doesn’t make it false.

 

Faith is a knowledge about the deep love and lordship of Jesus.

 

But more, it is also sure: a conviction.

Have you ever felt so convicted inside

that you just had to do something?

 

            I have to call her to see how’s she’s doing.

            I have to go help, if I don’t who will?

            I just have to trust him with this.

 

That’s what we’re talking about here.

Faith is not an end in itself.

It’s not merely knowing some things about God.

It’s knowing Jesus enough to love him

with what you do and choose not to do.

So faith also means acting, serving, loving,

living for Jesus.

 

Not only is faith not just knowing

something about God,

faith means life is not just about me

and for what I can get out of it from God.

So many Bible verses like Colossians 3

remind us that to love God is to love our neighbor

and to follow Christ is to put the needs of others

ahead of our own:

‘. . . as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved,

clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience . . . ‘

Do you hear those commands?

These are not about you getting more

or what you like,

but giving the love of Christ to others.

 

Grace is not opposed to effort;

it is opposed to earning.

I don’t earn God’s love,

so great is the love of the Father

that we are called right now children of God,

says 1 John,

For God so loved the world

he gave his One and Only Son . . .

Philippians reminds us

we don’t work for our salvation,

that’s the grace part, it’s a gift given,

but we do work it OUT!

That’s the conviction part.

 

But there’s more.

Because so soon as we begin

to work with our hands for the Lord

we find out just how limited our own efforts are.

 

Faith is that assurance

that what Jesus accomplished

he accomplished for me too.

That’s grace –

God gives you

as a gift

more than you deserve.

In the end it’s not really

how much you think you know about God.

And it’s not about how much good

you think you’ve done

or how good a person you think you are.

It’s about Jesus knowing you.

 

It’s about that grace.

Jesus – who put on our human flesh.

Who knew what it was like

to put in a hard day’s work

and have little to show for it.

Who knew what it was like

to be tired as he slept

in the bottom of the disciples’ boat.

Who was falsely accused and falsely labeled.

Who was one of us,

tempted in every way just as we are.

And who took up the cross of our shame and guilt.

For you.

Knowing that much about you

that you are dead and lost

and without God and hope and peace

if you are without Jesus.

 

Assurance.

‘Believe in your hearts,’ says Romans 10.

My heart made calm and given peace

by the cross of Jesus.

 

You can know a lot and not know that love.

You can do a lot and never meet Jesus.

So faith is finally taking to heart

the precious gift that puts me

in a healthy and right belonging to God.

I trust Jesus my Lord.

 

Some people say

if you want to believe in Jesus

that’s okay for you, but it’s not for me.

And others may say

there’s no way I could be religious enough,

or good enough, for God,

so it’s not for me.

Or maybe you say life is so hard,

so difficult,

I guess God must not be for me.

 

You may feel these things,

and your feelings may be true feelings,

but they aren’t the truth.

For the blessings of God are ‘sheer grace,’

did you hear the language of Romans 10 –

anyone . . . anyone who believes in him . . .

everyone . . . everyone who calls on

the name of the Lord will be saved . . .

and what did the catechism answer say:

God has freely granted,

not only to others but to me also,

forgiveness of sins,

eternal righteousness,

and salvation.

These are gifts of sheer grace,

granted solely by Christ’s merit.

For even me too!

 

So remember, what is true faith?

Head, hands and heart for Jesus.

Sure knowledge and wholehearted trust.

Together: until there is a continual flow

of the grace and mercy of God

running from what one says

to what one does

to who one is.

 

Here’s how it works:

Okay, so I know some things about God.

I study the Bible

I’m in a small group

I’m doing my devotions

And so I’m learning all I can about God.

 

But then something happens.

A tragedy.

A deep loss.

Life doesn’t go as I had planned.

And it doesn’t make sense.

I realize that for all I know about God

I don’t know much at all.

I can’t reason my way out of this mess.

So now what?

Do I despair?

Give up?

 

No, because faith is more than knowledge;

it is also conviction.

So I don’t give up.

I respond by doing something:

I pray

I ask others to pray for and with me

I trust and obey

I bring myself to stay in fellowship

with the people of God in worship and in service,

I exercise patience, forbearance, kindness . . .

 

And in that conviction God speaks:

thru the fellowship of believers,

Mysteriously thru the prayers of others for me,

And in the actions of serving God

I find myself near to Jesus.

I may not get an explanation for what happened because God is sovereign

and he doesn’t have to explain himself to me,

But I experience the presence of Jesus.

 

Yet there comes a time when I can’t do enough.

I can’t fix what is broken.

Even our compassion and care are limited.

So it’s at that moment when I remember

faith is finally trust.

I am assured

that when Jesus said ‘It is finished’ on the cross

he meant it.

So there is nothing I can do

to make God love me anymore

and there’s nothing I can do

to make God love me any less.

There is nothing that can separate me

from the love of God

that is in Christ Jesus my Lord.

And my heart is healed again

in the assurance of God’s love.

 

But what if I have my doubts?

How do I get past my doubts?

Where there is doubt,

faith has its reason for being, says Daniel Taylor.

That’s why God gives us the gift of faith.

Faith is precisely for those times when doubt

is possible or even persists.

 

If you are struggling right now with faith,

this is your next step:

start with head, hands or heart.

Perhaps your anxious thoughts

are urging you to pick up the Bible again and read,

opening your mind again to the transforming Word.

Or it’s time to get off your spiritual couch

and do something,

act out of the conviction of Christ’s call to follow.

So serve in some way; choose to do something

simply because Jesus says so.

Or perhaps your weary soul needs rest.

When your thoughts run away with your heart

keep in mind a simple promise from God,

a phrase from Scripture,

offering those words as a prayer throughout the day

until you can says yes,

this promise of forgiveness,

this blessing of peace,

this hope of heaven

is for me, too.

 

It may be the hardest response of all,

but this is faith,

when I live by prayer,

when I patiently do the right thing

leaving the consequences to the Lord,

when I in grace recognize that the Spirit is in you, too,

when I seek to bless and give first,

leaving the rewards to God’s grace.

Then my times don’t dictate my faith:

the Spirit does.

 

See?

Head, hands and heart all for Jesus.

That’s true faith.

 

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