[No, I'm not talking about the two lovely ladies in my home Church, Grace M. and Faith G.]
We have been looking at this entry from my church home’s statement of faith:
We believe that salvation is the free gift of God, entirely apart from human merit or works, and is received through personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior, and that believers are kept secure in Him forever. Ephesians 2:8-9; John 10:27-30; John 3:16-18, John 14:6; Acts 4:12
We have been working through some questions to investigate this statement. You can look back at where we have been thus far here and here. The meat of this statement can be separated into three main topics.
1) Salvation is a free gift, not earned or deserved.
2) Salvation comes through faith.
3) Salvation is secure.
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. - Ephesians 2:8-9 NASB
This well-known verse states that I can’t save myself. Clearly, I need a Savior.
Today, let’s take some time here and define terms.
The simplest definition I know for grace is Jesus. Perhaps you have heard the acrostic definition: G.R.A.C.E - God's riches at Christ's expense.
Grace is God’s favor expressed toward one who doesn't deserve it. To be clear here, when I say God’s favor, I am talking about that sozo we detailed on Monday. It is the abundant life Jesus promised. The grace of God is a life, saved, healed, delivered, and free, culminating in an eternity in the arms of the one who created you and loves your soul. We may or may not experience all of it here and now, but I keep pressing into that full life.
Lest I get in trouble here – there is another side of a life filled with grace. The above description is a description of the inner life of grace. From the outside, it might just look like all hell broke loose and was aimed directly at you. Paul describes his grace filled life a couple of times, and if I didn’t know what was on his insides, I would pass on abundant life, thank you very much.
It is in fact grace that gave him the ability to face that which God put before him, and grace that supplied him with the ‘equipment’ he needed to face it.
And when there is failing, or falling, or missing the mark in life, it is grace on all sides keeping us secure.
I can’t earn grace by good works.
I can’t buy grace through sacrifice.
I can’t win grace through perseverance.
I can only access grace by faith.
What is faith and how do I ‘get me some?’
To investigate faith, let’s first head to the Bible:
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. ... And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. - Hebrews 11:1, 6 NASB
The above two verses come from Hebrews 11. [I might need to expand my top 10 list because this one is on it for sure.] Hebrews 11 marches right through the History of faith, reminding us of those who have gone before us, and how they responded to God’s call on their life.
From these verses I understand that faith is a knowing that God exists and is involved in the lives of men and women. He wants to be sought and rewards seekers. Remember Jesus simple instructions in the Sermon on the Mount? – Ask, Seek, Knock – [Matthew 7:7] That’s what faith looks like.
We can see faith in the calling of Matthew the tax collector in Luke 5:27-28. He was at work one day, and up walks Jesus and says, “Follow Me,” and Matthew just left it all there and followed.
Faith is demonstrated when there are:
We can see it even more clearly depicted in Peter’s water-walking experience in Matthew 14:28-29.
At the outset Peter lacked faith. So Peter asks Jesus to call him. Jesus did – “Come!” Then Peter headed right out toward Jesus.
Peter asked for a call.
Jesus called Peter to come.
Peter believed he could.
Peter obeyed the call of Jesus.
Throughout Hebrews 11, God’s great hall of faith, you see men and women who responded to the call of God on their life.
You may have noticed that I am combining belief and obedience to come up with faith. Many would tell you that believing the right ‘religious facts’ is all that God requires. That is, in fact, one of the most dangerous things about a course like ‘Foundations.’ Folks begin to think that because they believe the right facts about God, the right creed, they are in a good place.
In our class on the second birth we talked at length about fact that Jesus’ call was to confess, repent and believe. Am I now mixing in works – obedience – with these first three?
Works of righteousness do us no good. As a matter of fact, obedience to the law for the sake of achieving some sort of ‘worthiness’ can only end in death.
Believing alone, and by that I mean having the right ideas about religion, does us no good, and again can only end in death.
Faith, saving faith, must have the three elements we see above, a call, belief, and obedience.
Since “without faith it is impossible to please God” (from Hebrews 11:6) I want to take you to one more passage to demonstrate this pattern.
Romans 10, where last time we looked at TNT – (Romans 10:9-10) actually takes us through this same process of call, believe, obey. Check it out:
that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;
... for "WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED." How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, "HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!" - Romans 10:9, 13-15 NASB
You see – there must be preaching of the word, in order for people to hear the Savior call out to them – ‘Come and follow Me’ – so that they can believe and ‘Call upon the name of the Lord.’
Next we must understand that faith is not something we manufacture, it is a gift from God given to every man.
For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. - Romans 12:3 NASB
Faith is a gift from God, which is given in the hearing of His word spoken to man’s heart.
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. - Romans 10:17 NASB
It’s interesting to me that the Greek word for ‘word’ is not ‘logos’ but ‘rhema’ – not written word but spoken word. We must hear the voice of Jesus calling across the water, like Peter did – ‘Come.’
Are you ready to get out of the boat? C’mon – let’s go for a walk!
Thanks for coming by today.
Perhaps next time I will actually get to question three.
Until then, I remain,
Your brother Ben