Series: Do we REALLY believe?
***Video is HERE***
It’s always been about Knowing & Trusting
Over the past couple of weeks, as we’ve been closing out this year we’ve been bearing down harder on the question of do we really believe.
At the Lord’s direction we began the year with this question and we’ve found that it’s at the root of everything the Bible addresses especially in the New Testament.
The gospels, which reveal the teachings of Jesus, and the letters to the churches which encouraged them in their walk with Christ, all are asking in one way or another this question.
There are places which seem to place an emphasis of faith in different places.
Paul, for example, addresses the need to know God and trust in Him rather than relying upon our own works for righteousness.
James, not at all disagreeing with Paul but pressing the other side of the issue declares, that faith without works is dead. By which we know he was saying that if one truly does believe, does actually have real reliance upon God – if it’s real – they will produce works.
It’s not a works to earn righteousness, it is works produced from our righteousness.
They are not works to gain Union with God, but works produced from our Union with God, just like a branch growing out of a vine.
Regardless of how you approach this topic, it is without question among the most important in the entire Bible.
It was because of a lack of trust in Adam and Eve but they listened to the advice of Satan and fell from union with God in the first place.
The first response of God to Adam and Eve after addressing their fall from relationship and trust, was a promise… a promise of future restoration… which in itself was an invitation to begin the journey back to trusting Him once more.
As we have seen over the last two weeks beginning with Adam and moving on to Abram and then to Jacob and Joseph and now this week with Moses, we see God progressively moving mankind from a place of distrust and doubt, a place of self-reliance and self-protection to a place of knowing Him. He does this, so that as a result, they might trust Him. Trust is at the core of everything God is looking for in man.
Many years after the lives of these Patriarchs, Jesus when addressing a crowd of intrigued but skeptical Jews who asked Him what they must do to work the works of God, Jesus replied, “This is the work of God that you trust in Him Who the father has sent.” And this trust was not the kind of trust that we’ve learned in churches over the last several generations. It is not a belief in a set of facts.
Nowhere did Jesus lay out a fact sheet and say, “believe these things and all will be well.” The invitation was ALWAYS to trust in HIM.
Believe it or not it isn’t even an issue of simply trusting that Jesus died for our sins. That would, in effect, be to believe the right thing – but you could believe the right thing without ever placing your trust in Him.
As I’ve said before, you can believe that a life-raft will support you without climbing in and relying upon it alone to support you.
The belief Jesus was aiming at is a place of complete devotional reliance upon Him that is born out of having heard His words and believing not only the words but the heart and the character of the One Who spoke those words. A placing of all of yourself within His care and control.
It is trusting INTO His Lordship through submission to it. It is a commitment to devotedly follow Him forever.
This relationship of knowing and trusting IS the gospel and if we truly trust Him, there will be evidence that we belong to Him in the choices we make, the thoughts that we think (even in secret), the actions that we take and the words that we speak.
We will progressively become more and more like the One we claim to follow.
I cannot stress this near enough.
If you think you have faith – but do not practice and produce godly works – you do not really believe at all. Your faith, according to scripture, is dead…precisely BECAUSE it is producing NOTHING.
Now, to illustrate the importance of relational trust, we’ve been hop-frogging through the biblical time-line, eavesdropping on the encounters God has had with hearts He found who would trust Him.
This began in the garden by requiring three things from mankind…
- They needed to offer some sort of blood sacrifice to atone for their wrong doings (which knowledge was illustrated in the fact that both Abel & Cain KNEW to give it) TRUSTING it would cover their wrongs and allow some sort of connection with God.
- They were to seek after (or call upon the name of the Lord) and trust Him with all their heart. And Hebrews tells us that those who seek God must first believe that He exists and that He WILL reward them for seeking Him.
- They were to do what they believed was right in their own eyes. What was an invitation to attempt to consider their thoughts and actions from His perspective rather than their own.
During that time and even after, men made idols as physical objects to worship in an attempt to tap into the power of God without having to truly open their hearts to Him. Power without commitment. This was the time Paul referred to in Acts 17 as the time of ignorance, a time in human history which God, in His mercy, overlooked.
Then in Abraham God found someone who would enter into relationship with Him and stay in the conversation long enough to establish a covenant based upon knowing and trusting.
You don’t have to take my word for it… go back to the stories and see.
Abram would ask questions, “how will I know?” if the Land you’re leading me to is safe, is the one you’re going to give me, that I will have a son, that from that son will come multiple nations… How will I know these things?
What was he asking? He was saying to God,
“Sure you’re telling me these things but how can I trust that it’s true? How can I know that what you’re saying can be relied upon?”
It was through statements that God made… questions that Abraham asked and answers God gave to those questions, that a relationship of knowing and trusting was forged.
It was to Abraham that God promised that through his seed, all the nations of the world would be blessed. We read about that also in the New Testament.
Gal. 3:15-29, “(15) Brethren, I speak in the manner of men: Though it is only a man’s covenant, yet if it is confirmed, no one annuls or adds to it. (16) Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “AND TO YOUR SEED,” Who is Christ. (17) And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect. (18) For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no longer of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise. (19) What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator. (20) Now a mediator does not mediate for one only, but God is One. (21) Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law. (22) But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. (23) But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. (24) Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.”
Not by a system of beliefs, but by belief in and reliance upon our Creator. Back to the garden, only this time we are on the south end of the Tree of the knowledge of Good & Evil. We have tasted of evil and know its bitter fruit of separation, guilt, shame and isolation, but we have now also tasted of He Who is good and fruit which is unto union, righteousness, glory and eternal communion.
“(25) But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. (26) For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. (27) For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (28) There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (29) And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”
We then looked at Isaac, Jacob and ended with Joseph. Seeing in their life’s story the need to desire God, honor Him, respect Him, be willing to endure suffering rather than dishonor Him.
In short a relationship of devotional love and commitment which is something which gets very little teaching in the modern church.
Modern church is all about the love of God for us – His passion for us – His pursuit of us and His devotion to us – it is us, us, us, us but VERY little is taught about genuine commitment and devotion to Him, in terms of holy living beyond emotional hype. A praise song here, a verse of encouragement there – but very little genuine respect and devotion that compels us to spend ourselves on Him.
In Abram, God was foreshadowing the New Covenant – even before He initiated the Old Covenant. The New Covenant foreshadowed in Abram was a covenant of trust.
Let’s turn to Rom. 4:1-25,
“(1) What then can we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? (2) If Abraham was justified by works, then he has something to brag about–but not before God. (3) For what does the Scripture say? Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness. (4) Now to the one who works, pay is not considered as a gift, but as something owed. (5) But to the one who does not work, but believes on Him who declares righteous the ungodly, his faith is credited for righteousness. (6) Likewise, David also speaks of the blessing of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: (7) How happy those whose lawless acts are forgiven and whose sins are covered! (8) How happy the man whom the Lord will never charge with sin! (9) Is this blessing only for the circumcised, then? Or is it also for the uncircumcised? For we say, Faith was credited to Abraham for righteousness. (10) How then was it credited–while he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while he was circumcised, but uncircumcised. (11) And he received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while still uncircumcised. This was to make him the father of all who believe but are not circumcised, so that righteousness may be credited to them also. (12) And he became the father of the circumcised, not only to those who are circumcised, but also to those who follow in the footsteps of the faith our father Abraham had while still uncircumcised. (13) For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would inherit the world was not through the law, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. (14) If those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made empty and the promise is canceled. (15) For the law produces wrath; but where there is no law, there is no transgression. (16) This is why the promise is by faith, so that it may be according to grace, to guarantee it to all the descendants–not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of Abraham’s faith. He is the father of us all (17) in God’s sight. As it is written: I have made you the father of many nations. He believed in God, who gives life to the dead and calls things into existence that do not exist. (18) Against hope, with hope he believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what had been spoken: So will your descendants be. (19) He considered his own body to be already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb, without weakening in the faith. (20) He did not waver in unbelief at God’s promise, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, (21) because he was fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. (22) Therefore, it was credited to him for righteousness. (23) Now it was credited to him was not written for Abraham alone, (24) but also for us. It will be credited to us who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. (25) He was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.”
Last week, we also discovered what the purpose of the law was –
- It was to confine all under sin
- It was a tutor to bring us to Christ
So, we introduced Moses before ending last week. God, again reached out to mankind, through Moses – offering Israel the opportunity to trust Him directly, but they refused.
“Do not let God speak to us again. You go, listen to what He tells us to do and report it back to us. We will obey.” was their reply.
Of course this was all part of the setup for faith. God knew they would not draw near Him and would not obey and this teaches one of the most fundamental and yet most important lessons of the law.
Obedience outside of relationship, is the very definition of “works”. It is to perform FOR – rather than to live a changed life WITH. It is a covenant based upon separation and distance, attempting to gain a favor which cannot be gained -only given.
This was God allowing the decision of Adam and Eve to be played out in full, so mankind, through Israel, could experience it’s full expression and follow it out to its logical end which is death.
Those patriarchs who actually DID have a real relationship with God, did so not based upon the law, but based upon faith.
Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Job, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, Miriam, Caleb, Joshua, Rahab, Samuel, David, Solomon and so on…all had a relationship with God based upon trust where on some level or another right standing with God was credited to them due to relational trust and each one, to one degree or another, reflected that real relationship with a changed life.
Their faith was NOT meaningless, it was NOT dead – it was real!
You remember Wednesday night as we looked at Elijah and how, even though he knew God by revelation, it was not enough to keep him from running in fear. God not only allowed him to run, He empowered him to run…all the way to the end of himself. He met with God on the mountain and walked away a changed man who fulfilled his ministry.
This is the type of “works” God is looking for. Not shame based, guilt riddled, performance for a disconnected, Arbiter of humanity, but a relationship of knowing and trust, one where we can stand before Him even with the knowledge of our sins, but be unashamed, bathed in His love and acceptance and a deep, penetrating awareness of belonging. A relationship which draws near when God speaks rather than draws back, and like all true relationships it not only perseveres through opposition it actually thrives under it.
Two passages here may help to illustrate –
Heb. 10:32-39, “(32) Remember the earlier days when, after you had been enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings. (33) Sometimes you were publicly exposed to taunts and afflictions, and at other times you were companions of those who were treated that way. (34) For you sympathized with the prisoners and accepted with joy the confiscation of your possessions, knowing that you yourselves have a better and enduring possession. (35) So don’t throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. (36) For you need endurance, so that after you have done God’s will, you may receive what was promised. (37) For in yet a very little while, the Coming One will come and not delay. (38) But My righteous one will live by faith; and if he draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him. (39) But we are not those who draw back and are destroyed, but those who have faith and obtain life.”
Heb. 12:18-29, “(18) For you have not come to what could be touched, to a blazing fire, to darkness, gloom, and storm, (19) to the blast of a trumpet, and the sound of words. (Those who heard it begged that not another word be spoken to them, (20) for they could not bear what was commanded: And if even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned! (21) And the appearance was so terrifying that Moses said, I am terrified and trembling.) (22) Instead, you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God (the heavenly Jerusalem), to myriads of angels in festive gathering, (23) to the assembly of the firstborn whose names have been written in heaven, to God Who is the judge of all, to the spirits of righteous people made perfect, (24) to Jesus (Mediator of a new covenant), and to the sprinkled blood, which says better things than the blood of Abel.
(25) See that you do not reject the One who speaks; for if they did not escape when they rejected Him who warned them on earth, even less will we if we turn away from Him who warns us from heaven. (26) His voice shook the earth at that time, but now He has promised, Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also heaven.
27) Now this expression, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of what can be shaken–that is, created things–so that what is not shaken might remain. (28) Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us hold on to grace. By it, we may serve God acceptably, with reverence and awe; (29) for our God is a consuming fire.”
Much time passed from the days of Moses and the giving of the law and the time of Messiah.
Many prophecies were spoken and many hopes were kindled, but few hearts believed enough that it produced actions. To these, the answer of “Do you REALLY believe?” can be answered in the affirmative. Yes…they did!
Without really meaning to we have so far, retraced the basic outline of faith given in Hebrews 11. Let’s read some of that account before stepping into the beginnings of the New Covenant.
Heb. 11:1-40, “(1) Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (2) For by it the people of old received their commendation.
(3) By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.
(4) By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks.
(5) By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. (6) And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
(7) By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.
(8) By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. (9) By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. (10) For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.
(11) By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered Him faithful Who had promised. (12) Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.
(13) These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. (14) For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. (15) If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. (16) But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared for them a city.
(17) By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, (18) of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” (19) He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.
(20) By faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau.
(21) By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff.
(22) By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones.
(23) By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. (24) By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, (25) choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. (26) He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. (27) By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing Him Who is invisible. (28) By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them. (29) By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned.
(30) By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days.
(31) By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.
(32) And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— (33) who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, (34) quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. (35) Women received back their dead by resurrection.
Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life.
(36) Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. (37) They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— (38) of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
(39) And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, (40) since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.”
I hope this message will bless you richly…not because I taught it, but because it reveals Christ. He alone is our blessing and if in any way – whether big or small, 100% accurate or even just partially so – I have revealed our great God and Savior to you in a relationally knowable way, then this was time well spent on both our parts.
We at Living Grace Fellowship encourage you to place your trust in Jesus Christ, deliberately choosing Him and bowing the knee to Him as your Master and Lord, so as to come to realize Him as your Savior.
You have a special place in God’s family & kingdom. The fact that you exist… that you are His creation, says you were in His heart, you are His delight!
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