Monday, February 21, 2011

How Deep Is Your Faith?

How Deep Is Your Faith?

Intro.: We are always measuring something:

  1. If you were to run a marathon – we would measure your speed

  2. If you were a baseball player, we would measure your RBI's (if you were a hitter) or your ERA (if you were a pitcher)

  3. If you go to the doctor, he takes you blood pressure, your weight, and your pulse.

  4. We are always measuring something.

  5. I would like to read a passage this afternoon, that helps us to measure our spiritual lives.

Read: I John 2:3-6


Trans:Before I start, let me say this

  1. If you keep track of what I am preaching, you will notice that I skipped over verse 2.

  2. I want to save verse 2 for Easter Sunday.

  3. I am skipping it for now – but we will return to it in a few weeks

T.S. For now, I want to look at two tests in I John 2:3-6 that allow us to measure our faith.

  1. The first test is this – do we keep His commandments.

    1. I doubt this one will raise many concerns – we expect believers to live holy lives. We expect their behavior to stand out.

(Ill.) Somebody once wrote, “Behavior is the mirror in which everyone show their image.”i

    1. It, of course, echoes John's own words, “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments.”

    2. It is not hard to understand that Jesus has expectations for us.

(Ill.) Do you remember the story of the woman caught in adultery. The crowd of men sought to trap Jesus – but getting him to either condemn the woman to death, a capital offence; or to ignore her offense, and break God's law. Instead Jesus takes the middle ground – he tells the men who have thrown the woman at Him to stone her - “He who is without sin cast the first sin.” Of course there is no man standing there that can claim to be without sin and they slowly walk away, one by one. Jesus is left alone with the woman and as the scene comes to a close, His asks a simple question, “Where are those those who condemn you?” And the woman replys, “No one, Lord.” Jesus ends with words of grace, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”

    1. Jesus' response to the woman caught in adultery is the same He has for us – he recognizes that sin is real; but, at the same time, he can tell us “go and sin no more.”

    2. There is one danger in recognizing that our behavior is a, is one, measure of our faith. That danger is called “legalism”

    3. Legalism is the imposition of a set of rules or requirements on a person.

    4. Legalism can come in many forms -

      1. For some it is self-imposed – we expect so much of ourselves that we can and will never live up to them.

      2. For others it is imposed by a church – a group of believers are so certain that they know God's expectations, that they impose it on others.

      3. It may even be denominational – the rules of a denomination may be just as stifling as that imposed by a local church.

      4. Someone has even defined theological legalism – where someone will so define God that his expectations are self-serving.ii

    5. The legalist's rules, whether we create them ourselves or are created by others, force us into a mold that is not of God's choosing. It is a mold into which we cannot fit – Why? Because we were not made for it.

(Ill.) This last summer we had our deck remodeled. I am not sure why, but when we first had it installed, Bo Dandy thought he had to stay on the deck – even though there was a perfectly good set of stairs to move into the backyard. His brain was hardwired to keep within the 8' x 8' deck. Eventually he let go of the rules that constrained him – he found he had freedom when he moved into the 60' x 60' backyard. Too often, we let our rules confine us – and it is only when we let go of the legalism that constrains us that we truly find freedom in Christ.

    1. As believers, we are called to obedience without legalism. It is not always easy to find the difference – but maybe the second test for faith that John gives us may help us to better understand that difference.

  1. The second test is this – we walk like He walked.

    1. I suppose we could interpret this as meaning we are all expected to move to Israel – then we can walk – no, that's not right – if we all moved to Israel, we could all walk where He walked, not like He walked.

    2. What does it mean to walk like He walked? Let me suggest three ways

      1. Obedience – We have already discussed this, but one thing remains to be said. Obedience is what we are to be – because it was what Jesus was like. He was obedient in a way that we cannot be. He was perfect, without flaw. As for us, I think Michaelangelo said it well, “The true work of art is but a shadow of divine perfection.iii It is true of art, it is also, at best, true for us.

      2. Faith – To walk like He walked is to have faith. Faith whatever the circumstances, faith when life gets tough, faith as we face life's blessings and life's difficulties. Jesus did not always like what what God wanted for him – do you remember that last night in Gethsemane - And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” The next few hours would be difficult – but his first choice was God's will, not His own.

(Ill.) The story has been told of a man who was crossing a desert in the days of the pioneers. He ran into trouble and was dying of thirst when he spotted a pump near an abandoned shack. He had no water to prime the pump, but he noticed a jug of water near the pump with a note attached. It read: “There is just enough water in this jug to prime the pump, but not if you drink some first. This well has never gone dry, even in the worst of times. Pour the water in the top of the pump and pump the handle quickly. After you have had a drink, refill this jug for the next man who comes along.” What would the man dying of thirst do? To follow the instructions and prime the pump without first taking a drink would be an exercise of the kind of belief the Bible speaks of. Biblical belief requires that one stake his life on the truth of the promise. If the man follows the instructions, he takes the chance of pouring out all the water and getting none to drink if the pump fails. So he must trust that the message is right. He must act in belief, without first receiving, and must trust in the truth of the promise.iv

        To walk like Jesus walked, is to live a life of faith.

      1. Love – Francis Shaeffer called Love “the mark of a Christian”. What was it that Christ loved? Let me suggest three foci of Jesus' love:

        1. First of all there was a love of God – here was the focus of his life. Here is what he put first, above all else. Do you want walk like Jesus walked – learn to love God.

        2. Above all, Jesus loved mankind. The first Bible verse most of us learned as a child, and the one verse we still remember, is John 3:16, For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

        3. Jesus also loved himself. Not to the point of pride, but with the realization that he had the job of loving all that God loved – and God loved Jesus. The same is true for us – God love us, you and me, how can we not love something that God loves.

(Ill.) St Bernard of Clairvaux once suggested that there are four stages in Christian maturity:

          • Love of self for self's sake – a selfish love

          • Love of God for self's sake – What can God give me

          • Love of God for God's sake – I love God for who God is

          • Love of self for God's sake – I love myself, because God loves mev

          Do you want to learn to love like Jesus loved? Learn to love yourself as Jesus loves you.

Conclusion: Two tests –

  • Do we obey God

  • Do we walk like Jesus walked.

I won't do the measuring, but I hope that, this week, you and God will take time to sit down and see how well you measure up:

  • Do you obey God

  • Do you walk like Jesus walked


iWater, Mark. The New Encyclopedia of Christian Quotations. Alresford, Hampshire: John Hunt Publishers Ltd, 2000.

iiOlford, Stephen F. and David L. Olford. Anointed Expository Preaching. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998.

iiiMichaelangelo quoted in Larson, Craig Brian and Brian Lowery. 1001 Quotations That Connect: Timeless Wisdom for Preaching, Teaching, and Writing. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 2009.

ivGreen, M. P. (1989). Illustrations for Biblical Preaching : Over 1500 sermon illustrations arranged by topic and indexed exhaustively (Revised edition of: The expositor's illustration file). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

vSt. Bernard of Clairvaux as quoted in Larson, Craig Brian and Brian Lowery. 1001 Quotations That Connect: Timeless Wisdom for Preaching, Teaching, and Writing. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 2009.

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