October 15, 2017
Today we continue our series called “Reformation.” Reformation in the church happened 500 years ago when a monk named Martin Luther tried to get the church he loved to get back to God’s Word. He wanted them to get back teaching what the Bible said. Yet, what we have been seeing is that reformation didn’t just happen 500 years ago. We daily need to reform our hearts back to what God says. So in this series, we’ve been looking at the core values of the reformation. We’ve looked at Scripture alone, grace alone, and today we look at faith alone.
We live in an age of science and technology. More and more people are beginning to think faith is an ancient thing. Maybe you’ve heard some people even say that faith is a crutch for the weak. They say that people who have faith in God are emotionally weak and so they need to believe in something to get them through life. And so they criticize faith and those who have faith in something, namely God.
But the irony is that no matter who you are, whether you are sitting here or if you’re listening online, you believe something. Everybody has faith. Christians have faith in the God of the Bible. Agnostics have faith that there is a god but no one knows anything about him. They believe that God hasn’t made himself known. That’s faith. They believe in something. Even atheists have faith. They believe there is no god. But no one can disprove God. It is impossible to definitively disprove him 100%. So what is an atheist left with? They are left with faith. Trusting that there isn’t a god. See, everyone has faith in something.
But for a Christian, faith is extremely important. It is more than just a crutch for the weak. So today we are going to examine faith, and we are going to see how it is by faith alone that we are saved. And to do so, we are going to look at a man who had extreme faith: Abraham.
We are in Romans 4 this morning. Romans was a letter written by the Apostle Paul around 55 ad to the Christians living in Rome. Here’s what he said…
13 It was not through the law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. 14 For if those who depend on the law are heirs, faith means nothing and the promise is worthless, 15 because the law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression.
Faith, not your actions, determines your relationship with God.
In this section, Paul is talking about faith and what it does for Christians. So, he points back to Abraham. This man had a very unique story. At the age of 75, God told him to leave his relatives and go to a country he would show him later because God was going to make him into a great nation. Here’s the catch: Abraham was 75 and childless. His wife was barren.
So one night, Abraham calls a family meeting and says, “Brothers, sisters, cousins, dad, mom. God told me last night to leave all of you and head to a place he will tell me later. He told me I’d be the father of many nations.”…right. They had to think he was crazy. But Abraham knew God promised it to him and so he had faith in God’s promise.
But God didn’t just promise Abraham that he’d just have many kids. That wasn’t the great promise that was so exciting. The better promise was that through Abraham, God was going to bless the nations because it was from Abraham that the promised Savior of the world would come. Through him, he would become God’s heir. And God’s heirs, inherit the world. Quite the promise from God.
What did Abraham do to deserve this? Nothing. And that’s what Paul is saying it was not through the law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise, but by faith. The law is something you have to do. The law says you must do this, then you get this. So if it was by the law that Abraham receive this promise, God would have said, “Abraham if you do x,y, and z, then I will make you heir of the world.” But that’s not what God said to him. Instead, God said, “Abraham I’m going to make you into a great nation and my heir. This is the relationship I now have with you.” And Abraham said, “Okay. I believe you.” There was nothing he could do to earn this status with God. God simply promised it to him. And that leads us to our first point. Faith, not actions, determines your relationship with God.
Why is this so important? Because God has made promises to us too. He promises that our relationship with him isn’t determined by our actions but by faith in his promises. He promises to us that we are his children; heirs of heaven. We are going to inherit heaven and there’s nothing we have to do. And yet, it is so hard for us to believe this promise is free. It’s hard to believe that our status isn’t’ determined by our actions.
I was talking with a pastor earlier in the week, and we just so happened to be talking about how hard it is to believe that our relationship with God is based solely on our faith, our trust, in his promises. He had a lady call him up a few weeks ago. She was disturbed by all the recent news of the world. The hate between parties. She is convinced world war 3 is going to break out. And she said, “Pastor, I’m very upset. This whole place could blow up at any time. I need to make sure I’m ready to go to haven. What do I have to do?” The pastor said, “Well, do you believe in Jesus as your Savior?” “Yes.” She said. He said, “Then you’re ready!” “Great!” She said, “But what else do I have to do?”
We can fall into that thinking as well. We can think that we need to do something to show God that we belong in his family. And God says, “I promise I’ve made you my child. I promise I have written you in my will. Believe me.” Like Abraham, our relationship with God isn’t determined by our actions. It’s determined by faith in his promises.
Faith trusts God’s promises. Even when those promises seem to be unbelievable. And that leads us to our second point.
Faith believes the unbelievable.
16 Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. 17 As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.” He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.
18 Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 19 Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. 20 Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21 being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.
You talk about believing the unbelievable. Against all hope Abraham believed. Abraham was 75 when God made that original promise to him. But God didn’t make him the father of Isaac until he was 100 years old. Talk about believing the unbelievable. Paul says Abraham’s body was as good as dead and Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet, Abraham believed. Why? Because his faith was in the God who gives live to the dead and calls into being things that were not. In other words, he had hope in the all-powerful God. He trusted him. He believed him. He believed that when God said he would have a son at 100 that he would have a son because the God that created this world out of nothing promised him he would. And the all-powerful God can do anything. Even the unbelievable.
God has made some unbelievable promises to us as well. As we look through the Bible, God’s truth, we see promise after promise. God’s truth promises in Acts 16, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.” There is nothing we can do to contribute to gain heaven. God has done it all. But that seems unbelievable at times, doesn’t it? Nothing in life is free. So there’s a part of us that feels like we have to contribute to our salvation. We have to do something. That promise is to unbelievable.
Last week we saw how God promises that by nature we are all sinful. We are all dead in our sins and if we don’t have faith in Jesus, we will end up in hell. But that seems like an unbelievable promise. We don’t feel evil. We don’t feel like we are that bad of people. That promise is to unbelievable.
God promises us in Romans 8 that nothing can separate us from his love. But as we look at our circumstances, we don’t feel very loved by God. In fact, we feel lonely. Helpless. Hopeless. Then something happens that triggers a memory from the past. The scene rolls through our minds like a movie. We feel the emotions we felt, we hear ourselves saying those words again. We feel the impulse and the action we took. Soon the movie shuts off, and we jump back to reality. Guilt sets in. We know that God promises that nothing can separate us from his love, but how could he love us when we struggle to love ourselves? How can he forgive us when we can’t forgive ourselves?
In Matthew 6, Jesus tells us not to worry because he promises that we have a father in heaven who will continue to provide for all our needs. But we don’t feel we can trust him because he might not take care of us the way we want him too.
Faith believes the unbelievable. But sadly our feelings, emotions, and reasoning get in the way. Instead of trusting fully in God’s promises, we doubt. And if our salvation was based on us: whether that be how good we are or how strong our faith is, we’d be doomed.
But Paul has good news…
22 This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” 23 The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, 24 but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.
This right here is the point Paul has been trying to make this entire time. Why was Abraham righteous in God’s sight? Why was he an heir? Simply because he trusted God’s promises. God promised him he was an heir and through his faith, God transferred that perfection to him.
The same is true for you and me. These words weren’t’ written just for Abraham, but for us whom God will credit as righteous. God’s last name is holy. When we were born into this world, we weren’t born part of the holy family. There was nothing we could do to become part of the holy family. But God said, “I’m going to make you part of my family. I’m going to make it so that you have my last name.” And he sent Jesus who lived up to the family name of holy. He lived his entire life perfectly. He earned a spot in the Father’s will because he lived up to the name holy. Though he was perfect and deserved no punishment, he willingly died on the cross, taking the punishment that you and I deserve. And when Jesus was on the cross, do you remember what he cried out and said? “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.” Do you know what God did? He took his name out of the will. Turned his back on Jesus. Why? So that your name will never be erased from God’s will. And then he rose from the dead. Now the Father says, “You are part of the holy family. Your sins, your wrong doings, your failures, have all been taken away. I’ve dealt with them for you. And through Jesus perfect life and innocent death, I’ve adopted you. Made you my heir. Just believe this is true. Believe you’re one of the holy ones.”
Through your faith, God credits you with everything that Jesus did. It is only by faith in what Christ did that you are saved. He takes everything that Christ did and he gives you credit for it. He doesn’t ask you to do anything. He simply tells you to believe this promise. It’s an unbelievable promise. And yet it’s a promise that Father Holy has made to you. Since God promised it, it must be true.
The final thing about faith I want you to take home this morning is this…
The object of your faith, not the size of your faith, is what matters
There’s a story of two men who both had to fly to a destination. The first man got on the plane and was totally normal. He sat down. Got comfortable against the window. He barely heard the flight attendant making the announcements before he was so relaxed he fell asleep. The other man got on the plane a nervous wreck. He face was pale. Hands were shaking. He held the vomit bag in one hand while his knuckles on the other hand turned white because his grip was so tight on the arm of the chair. By the end of the flight, both had reached their destination. So, which one had faith?
They both did right? They both had faith in the pilot to get them to their destination. It didn’t matter how big their faith was, the pilot still got them there. Here’s my point. We can sometimes be concerned that our faith isn’t as big as so and so’s and so we question whether we are saved or not. But realize it doesn’t matter how great your faith is. What matters is who your faith is in.
As we grow in God’s Word, our faith will get stronger and stronger until we are like that first man on the plane. As we continue to grow in God’s promises, we fear and anxieties of life will leave us. Fear of the future will disappear. The heartaches of life won’t seem as bad as we know our heavenly Father is there with us and we trust he has a plan in our life. And we know that plan is to get us to heaven by his side.
Faith believes the unbelievable promises of God. Through our faith, God transfers everything that Jesus did and he gives us credit for it. You are declared holy in his sight. No matter what happens today, tomorrow, or whenever, you are ready because of Jesus.
So as we leave here today, what are we going to do? Nothing. Salvation is done. You’re an heir of heaven through faith alone.