Sunday, November 07, 2004

Living By Faith

Intro:  Do you like getting something for nothing?

  1.  I do – Christmas and birthdays are important 
  2.  I occasionally get the pleasure of winning something – tee-shirts, phones, or books have all come my way as the result of winning some kind of prize.
  3.  I have never won anything really big – trips or cars, that kind of thing 
  4.  But I have won the biggest prize of all – the right to spend eternity in God's presence.  
  5.  I certainly do not deserve to be there.  Those who know me best know just how true that is.  
  6.  And that is, of course, what Paul has been teaching in his letter to the Romans.  “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  And that does include me.
  7.  That God would allow us broken people into heaven is a bit easier for us to accept than it might have been to the first century Jew.  

Read  Romans 4:1-8

Tran.  Paul uses two examples to help the Jewish readers of his letter understand what it means to be saved by faith.
Paul is aware that the Roman church is made up of two very different audiences.  There are the Romans who are much like you am me – grateful that God is willing to love us.

But there is also a group of Jewish element who have spent their entire lives knowing that they must serve the law.  And now this strange new cult (as they would see Christianity) comes along and says that they don't get into God's presence through good behavior – but by faith.

T.S.  Paul uses the examples of Abraham and David to help them understand what this means.

  1. First Example of Living by Faith is Abraham
      1. I expect that Abraham is remembered more fondly than any other person in the history of the Jews.

(Ill.)        His name in Hebrew means “Father of Multitude”.  Though not everyone in the middle east has roots going back to Abraham, a great many of the people groups that we find there today have roots going back to Abraham.  But perhaps more importantly, each of the three major religions that have their roots in the middle east can trace their spiritual heritage to Abraham.

      1. The story of Abraham was one of the first I ever taught in Sunday School – even as a young college student.  It is the story of a young man who is asked by God to leave his own country, and eventually his own people, and move to a land he had never seen.  The journey would originally take him 400 miles to the Northwest and then, after a period of fifteen years, at the age of 75, he would travel with his immediate family to the the Southwest to what we know as the land of Palestine.  
      2. Abraham was the kind of person that others could look up to for an example of faith.  He obeyed, he prayed, he was blessed by God.
      3. He is the type of believer that might find themselves feeling pretty good about their spiritual life.  I mean, if any OT character deserves a pat on the back, it would be Abraham.
      4. It's not just me that feels this way.  Paul did too – look at verse 2:  Romans 4:2 (NIV) “If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about.“ But Paul does not stop there.  Look at the whole quote - “If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God.”  

(Appl.)  It is an easy trap for any of us to fall into.  Things are going pretty well.  We have seen some prayers answered.  We have had our devotions for the past week.  I mean, I (or you) have done all that you might expect.  And I deserve some recognition.  And then I can hear the words of Paul echoing, “If, in fact, Floyd was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God.  We have no more reason to boast than did Abraham.  

      1. Listen to what Paul says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness  .. to him who does not work, but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.

(Ill.)        It is a banking transaction.  We take a check into the bank and they credit our account just as if we it were cash.  

      1. Justificationis exactly that – when we place our faith in Christ, we are justified.  It is just as if we had never sinned.  

  1. Second Example of Living by Faith is David
    1. Paul gives a second example – David.(Ill.) 
    2. David had less reason to boast – you remember the story of David and Bathsheba.  Here was a man who sinned.  You might remember his words of confession found in Psalm 51:
1 Have mercy on me, O God, 
               according to your unfailing love; 
               according to your great compassion 
               blot out my transgressions. 
2 Wash away all my iniquity 
               and cleanse me from my sin. 
3 For I know my transgressions, 
               and my sin is always before me.        
(Appl.)  There is a problem with confession in modern American culture – if I have to confess, it means that I have done something wrong.  But that is exactly what we mean when we  talk about being broken people.  If David, “a man after God's own heart” finds it necessary to confess, I suspect the same is true of me and you.
(Ill.)  Under the Lights
In How To Be Born Again, Billy Graham wrote: Several years ago I was to be interviewed at my home for a well-known television show and, knowing that it would appear on nationwide television, my wife took great pains to see that everything looked nice. She had vacuumed and dusted and tidied up the whole house but had gone over the living room with a fine-tooth comb since that was where the interview would be filmed. When the film crew arrived with all the lights and cameras, she felt that everything in the living room was spic and span. We were in place along with the interviewer when suddenly the television lights were turned on and we saw cobwebs and dust where we had never seen them before. In the words of my wife, “I mean, that room was festooned with dust and cobwebs which simply did not show up under ordinary light.”
The point is, of course, that no matter how well we clean up our lives and think we have them all in order, when we see ourselves in the light of God’s Word, in the light of God’s holiness, all the cobwebs and all the dust do show up.* [Billy Graham, How To Be Born Again (Waco: Word Books, 1977), 118.]
    1. Where Abraham might have reason to boast, David did not.  And yet David knew he was called “blessed”.  
    2. “blessed” is an interesting word.  It means to be content, to be happy – even in the midst of difficult times.  David was blessed.  Not because of what he did – but because, in spite of his sin, he placed his faith in God.
    3. Whether it is Abraham, David, you, or me, our works will not get us into heaven.  
Conclusion:  Let me finish by reminding you of three key truths that form the core of the Christian message:

        1. We are broken people - YES
        2. We are believing people – YES
        3. We are forgiven people – YES

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