Monday, April 23, 2012

FAITH Makes A Difference

FAITH Makes A Difference

Intro.: One of the most famous believers, dating back 800 years, was an Italian named Giovanni di Bernardone. His father, who had married a French woman, and who had just completed business in France at the time his son was born began calling him Francesco (or "the Frenchman"). 
  1. Though born to wealthy parents, he demonstrated an early concern for the poor. One story that has survived has him selling  cloth for his father in the market. While there, a beggar came to his booth  asking for alms. Not able to help him immediately, he eventually walked away  from his table and found the man. He gave him everything in his pockets - for which his friends chided him and his father severely scolded

  2. Francisco chose to join the military at the age of 20. He spent a year as a prisoner of war before he could return to his hometown. Something happened during that year - he began to find a deeper faith. It was not a quick conversion - but it took time. There were additional arguments with his family, there were times he without - without food, clothing, or shelter.

  3. At the age of 28 he heard a sermon based on Matthew 10:9-10, "Do not take along any gold
    or silver or copper in your belts; not bag for your journey, or two tunics or sandals or a staff" And that is exactly what Francesco did.

  4. Francesco, or Francis, as we know him today, would eventually begin an order of Catholic priests and followers known as the Franciscans. Francis was never ordained - rather he preferred to live the ordinary, simple life of summed up in their early mission statement, "To follow the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ and walk in His footsteps." Ironically, the Franciscan order was officially recognized 802 years ago this week, on April 16, 1210.

  5. There is, of course, more to this story. But lets be satisfied that this is a part of the story of a man that has come through the centuries to be known as "St. Francis of Assisi".
    This is the man who is said to have written the prayer I want to begin with today.

    The actual history of the Prayer 
    of St. Francis is not known - I was sad to find out this week.  Though attributed to St. Francis, the first known reference to it was in French worship pamphlet published in December 1912. The Pope had it translated into Italian in 1916. The first known English translation was made in January 1929.

  6. Let me share the Prayer of St. Francis with you
    this morning:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may seek
not so much to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
  1. I chose to start with this prayer because it echos the Fruit of the Spirit that we have been studying.
  2. I also chose it because it contrasts two very different ideas: faith and doubt.
T.S. In the time I have remaining, I want to look at three related, but very different concepts.
  1. Unbelief is the one thing that will keep us from entering God's Kingdom
    1. It is the reverse of what we find in John 1:12, "to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God" Believing in Jesus allows us to
      become children of God - the lack of faith is the very thing that will keep us out of the family of God.
    2. Being famous does not keep us from getting into heaven, being rich does not keep us from getting into us into heaven, being good does not keep us from getting into heaven. Unbelief does.
(Ill.) One day Mark Twain took his little daughter on his knee and told her all about the rulers and other prominent men whom he had met in his travels. She listened attentively. When he had finished, she said, "Daddy, you know everybody but God, don't you?" Mark Twain was certainly an intelligent person. Yet he did not believe in God. 2
    1. Jesus put it this way, "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the father except through me." (John 14:6)   Unbelief gets us nowhere.

  1. FAITH is the one way into heaven.
    1. I found something interesting as I began to prepare for this week's sermon - the Greek word for faith is pistis and every time it is used in the New Testament, it is translated as "faith" except in Galatians 5:22 where it is translated as "faithfulness"
    2. Let me suggest that the fruit of the spirit that Paul is referring to is "faith" -
      1. When we put choose to follow Christ, the Holy Spirit becomes a part of our life.
      2. And as a part of our life, the fruit that we find described in Galatians 5:22-23 begin to grow in us
      3. Faith is part of that fruit - the faith that is needed to grow in Christ.
    3. Let me quote two verses that I quoted earlier:
      1. "to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God"
      2. "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the father except through me."
(Ill.) I don't want anyone to leave today not understanding the importance of this. In 1956 Billy Graham conducted a crusade in Oklahoma City. One noonday he spoke to a joint meeting of the city's civic clubs. Dr. Graham's message was a simple sermon on salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. 

At the end of the meeting some of the men in attendance rushed forward to thank him for his message. One said, "I have been going to church all my life, but that is the first time I have ever heard that! It is the greatest thing I ever heard."3
    1. It is the greatest thing any of us have ever heard. Salvation is simply God offering His Grace through our faith in Jesus Christ.
  1. DOUBT is not the absense of FAITH. That is UNBELIEF.
(Ill.) In his book, Spiritual Depression, Martyn Lloyd-Jones writes: Doubts are not incompatible with faith. Some people seem to think that once you become a Christian you should never be assailed by doubts. But that is not so, Peter still had faith (as he panicked in the storm in Matthew 14).  His faith was not gone, but because it was weak, doubt mastered him and overwhelmed him and he was shaken. Doubts will attack us, but that does not mean that we are to allow them to master us.4
    1. There was time in my life when doubts overwhelmed me. Rather than trusting God, I let those doubts define my life.
    2. It was only after looking at two very basic truths, that I was able to reconnect my faith to God - letting Him again take control of my life.
    3. The first truth we have already looked at - "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the father except through me." (John 14:6) As CS Lewis has said - Jesus was either a liar, he was a lunatic, or he was Lord and told the truth. I have no reason to think that Jesus was liar or that he was a lunatic. Jesus was telling the truth, He is "...the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the father except through me." (John 14:6). My faith remained intact.
    4. The second truth had to do with the OT - the OT was written hundreds and thousands of years before the birth of Christ, but from the very beginning of Genesis to the end of Malachi there exist verse after verse that point us to Jesus Christ.
    5. When my faith is weak, when I have doubts, I come back to what I know to be true - God is ultimately the author of scripture - he so guided the hands of its many  writers that what they wrote was God's truth.
    6. There is an old French proverb that says, "He who knows nothing, doubts nothing."5
    7. DOUBT does not need lead us away from God - DOUBT can lead us instead to increasing FAITH. 
Conclusion: Let me conclude by reviewing what we saw this morning:
  1. FAITH is a fruit of the spirit
  2. FAITH is the one thing God requires to become part of His family.
  3. The absence of FAITH is UNBELIEF -
  4. DOUBT provides the key to finding answers to our deepest spiritual questions - rather than leading us away from FAITH, it can lead us to a deeper FAITH.

1Kurian, G. T. (2001). Nelson's new Christian dictionary : The authoritative resource on the Christian world. Nashville, Tenn.: Thomas Nelson Pubs.
2AMG Bible Illustrations. 2000. Bible Illustrations Series. Chattanooga: AMG Publishers
3Hobbs, H. H. (1990). My favorite illustrations (126). Nashville, TN: Broadman Press.
4Morgan, R. J. (2000). Nelson's complete book of stories, illustrations, and quotes (electronic ed.) (243). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
5Water, Mark. The New Encyclopedia of Christian Quotations. Alresford, Hampshire: John Hunt Publishers Ltd, 2000.