Forward in Faith #36
The Effort of Faith
Last week we talked about being trained, raised, and disciplined by our Father so that we might move along in the process of becoming like Jesus Christ.
Today, in the latter half of chapter 12 I want you to see actions, the efforts in which the faithful engage, the Efforts of Faith.
Please be certain, these are not action, works, deeds that we can DO to become faithful. These are efforts carried out by the faithful because we are people of faith, not FOR faith.
I would go further today New Life to encourage you that if your faith is weak, if you are struggling to be what God wants you to be. If you are honestly feeling spiritually down, defeated, or discouraged my guess is that it could be related with one of the areas that we are told in this passage to make effort in our faith, namely, Peace, Holiness, Worship, Responding to God and Gratitude. So a very practical look today at the things we are admonished to DO or BE IN our expression of Faith, because we are Christians
Read with me 12:14-29
So we have some very practical ways of live as the faithful of God …
1. Live at Peace With All vv14a, 15
Jump right in with the hard stuff here huh? It says
“make every effort” – dioko - dee-o-ko = run swiftly in order to catch, pursue, press forward, follow
I like this NIV rendering “make every effort” – because there is an understanding that sometimes peace is not possible. Sometimes you don’t have control. Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes that there IS a time for peace and a time for war. Yet, God makes it clear that whenever possible, peace is what we should seek.
This verb is in the imperative form. That means it is important to us
PEACE – eirene = peace, freedom from worry, the opposite of war and dissension
Now, I recognize that sometimes we don’t really know how to go about getting peace. How can I get peace? Well, if we can’t figure out how to get peace, a good place to start is to do the opposite of what we KNOW brings dissension. Selfishness, put downs, greed, tearing down, fault-finding, walls of separation, magnifying differences instead of celebrating commonality. That brings dissension, instead do the opposite.
If living at peace is a characteristic of the faithful, then living in dissension is evidence of a lack of faith.
It is because we don’t believe that this world is not our home, so we don’t have to fight to keep our temporary stuff. We don’t believe that God will vindicate us so we fight for vindication. We believe in our own “goodness” so we fight with those who aren’t as “good” as we think we are.
So … let me give you action points on each of these efforts of faith
- Action Point #1 –
Ask – “am I at peace with everyone?” “Is there anything I can or should do on my end to BE at peace if possible?” Commit to do the opposite of dissension. I am not telling you to be a doormat or ignore wrong or ungodliness, but do all you can toward peace and Get Started Today
We must be careful, lest our dissension causes others to stumble because of our bitterness that grows and defiles. Remember Hebrews 7 taught us that Jesus is the King of Peace and we are his subjects so we should be people of peace.
2nd effort of faith
2. Be Holy vv14b; 16-17
Notice we are to make every effort toward peace with men
And we are to make every effort to holiness toward God.
“Holy” – hagiasmos - hag-ee-as-mos = consecration, purification, sanctification of heart in life
Now we are not talking here about the holiness that Christ imparts to us or imputes to our account when we receive him as our Savior. No, this is something we are told to actually pursue, TOWARD God as a faithful one.
It is the purpose for which God called us.
1 Thess. 4:7 – God did not call us to be impure but to live a holy life
Romans 6:19 – … Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness
Romans 6:13 in the Literal Translation tells us to present yourselves to God as living out of the dead … People we need to LIVE out of the dead places we work, out of the dead way we WERE, out of the deadness of our flesh we need to LIVE, be Holy – sanctified – consecrated to God, ALIVE out of dead all around us.
I read this week that after Washington Redskins defensive lineman, Albert Haynesworth, signed a contract recently, he got a check for $21 million. Yet, he left the check uncashed because he wasn’t sure if he wanted to play in their defensive formation. Really, $21 million and we aren’t sure we want to play their way?
Don’t we get that way as believers sometimes? We belong to Christ. We have received him. He has contracted with us to give us eternal life and power for today. But, we don’t cash the check for today and LIVE in its goodness and blessing cause we aren’t sure we want to play God’s way.
Well, MAKE EVERY EFFORT to BE Holy. That verb, diako, goes with both nouns, peace and holy.
So we are told to pursue holiness. We certainly pursue wickedness, especially before we knew the Lord.
Again Romans 6:19 – “Just as you USED TO offer your bodies as slaves to impurity …”
Just as you pursued pleasure … can anyone relate?
Just as you pursued selfishness … anyone say “guilty”?
Just as you pursued immorality … well?
Just as you pursued anything unholy … can I get a witness?
Then our text reminds us of Esau who traded his birthright for his supper. Remember, he was hungry and his brother said “sure I’ll give you a plate of my food, but I want your share of Dad’s inheritance.” He traded his birthright for a bowl of beans. He was hungry for the wrong thing.
Do we ever do that? We trade the blessing of God for a bowl of beans sometimes don’t we? Without our active pursuit of holiness, we miss God. It doesn’t mean we lose our salvation, but we cannot experience his blessing when we don’t have his “face” that is we don’t have his favor.
Mat 5:8 Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God
- Action Point #2
– When a Christian doesn’t pursue holiness it is pointless. That is what it means when it says in v16 that Esau was “godless”. The word is bebelo – pointless, wordly, common – don’t we have enough worldly commonness in the world than to let it in the church? Can’t the faithful rise up and LIVE like we were made to live?
How? Romans 6:19 again tells us to throw ourselves into the pursuit of consecration to God with the same passion that we have pursued ANYTHING else.
Wow, do you get that?
Did some of you party hard before Christ? Pursue holiness with the same passion
Did you pursue education or success hard? Pursue Holiness.
Did you love your shows or your teams and never miss them, know everything about them? Pursue holiness the same way!
Efforts of the Faith #3
3. Come to Zion vv18-23a
When Moses and Israel related to God it was at a mountain that they could see and touch. And sometimes we think it was easier for them to be people of faith. But we have something they never did. We have God IN us! The way Israel had God revealed to them was more than they could bear but God has made it possible for Christ to be IN us. Colossians 1:27 … God has made known to us the glorious riches of him in us … Christ in you, the hope of glory …
V21 says that God’s presence caused even Moses to be trembling with fear – Deut 9:19
When we pursue peace and holiness we have full access and when we enter in to worship, on a spiritual level, we interact with Heaven v22 says.
Oh people, I read the Old Testament and I wish I could have seen the burning bush and God’s presence over Mt. Sinai, and I long someday to go to visit Israel and Jerusalem and see all those places. But we have a greater thing in that we can interact with Heavenly Jerusalem. I read my Bible and I see that one day we will see the New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven. A city with beauty and splendor, a city whose gates are always open.
But until my faith becomes sight I can enter those gates now. And I SHOULD make the effort … so HOW?
- Action Point #3 –
Worship. When we worship we get a taste of Heaven. We join with 1000s upon 1000s of angels in “joyful assembly” – panegyris pan-ay-goo-ris a festal gathering of the whole people to celebrate public games
When we worship we celebrate the victories of God
The angels in Heaven cry out “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord Almighty, the whole earth is full of his glory.” Isaiah 6:3 and you then you know what their worship did? V4 says that AT the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook.
Action point … SHAKE this Church with Worship! Lift your voices! Raise the roof and touch the residents of Heaven when you do.
Effort of Faith #4
4. Come to God vv23b-24
When we worship we touch Heaven and we touch God
So, we come to God our
A. Father / Judge
On what basis does God now judge us? On the basis that we are his children, the “church of the firstborn” we have a promised inheritance and God is bound to give what is promised though we aren’t perfect and don’t always look like his child … he double checks the roll and finds our names are “written in heaven” … the word is apographo - ap-og-raf-o = register; to enter in public records the names of men, their property, and income
Well, when you gave yourself to Jesus Christ, you were justified, that is declared righteous before God, and Redeemed, which is purchased out of slavery to sin, and you have been given property in Heaven and the birthright of an heir and it is sealed in Heaven’s Court. So, then, we can come to God …
Hebrews 4:16 says approaching the throne of grace with confidence to receive mercy and find grace
Why? Because we come to God as we come through
B. Jesus our Mediator
Remember it is not that Jesus is standing there holding God back and if he stops we are toast? No, his intercession has been accomplished and it is DONE. This isn’t a conditional promise / covenant based on law keeping. No, it is a new deal, based on the blood of Christ, shed for us and is better than any ever offered.
So keep on coming, keep pursuing God
It is the effort of faith … we can keep coming … keep rising
- Action Point #4 –
If you have fallen, then get up with confidence. Your relationship with God is based on the promise of God made available by the work of Christ. If you are walk with him, keep coming because there is nothing like the relationship we have in Christ Jesus.
Effort #5 in Faith
5. Receive Not Refuse vv25-27
God reveals himself to his faithful.
He reveals himself through scripture, through the preaching of the gospel, through prayer, by the work of the Holy Spirit.
The question is what will you do with the truth that God reveals to you?
When he reveals himself he expects a response.
When he shows sin he wants repentance and alignment with the truth
When he reveals what he is doing to work around you, he wants you to join him
When he shows you a need he wants you to meet it
When God reveals himself to you he is SHAKING you so that the shakable things can fall away and the unshakable ROCK Solid things can remain
Sometimes he shakes us with circumstances
Sometimes he shakes us with simply a word of truth
“See to it” – blepo – watch out for, understand,
Understand, receive what God has for you
Hebrews 3:12 - /See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.
And so here it says do “Not Refuse” –
The phrase “not refuse” is paraiteomai - par-ahee-teh-om-ahee = to ask along side, beg to have one near
This phrase is really a positive from the one speaking asking the hearer to not turn away but come along side. James 4:8 says COME NEAR to God and he will Come Near to you
We must, in faith, DESIRE what God desires for us. Accept the Savior’s invitation to come along side, invite HIM in, beg him daily, minute by minute to be near us.
- Action Point #5 –
When God reveals himself, respond to it, desire it, embrace it, consume it like, adjust to it.
You must draw near to him through his Word daily in personal study
You must draw near to him through prayer begging his presence and favor
You must draw near to him in the faithful preaching and teaching of his word that those God has placed in your life, through this body can minister to you as God has ordained
Eph 4:11-13 It was he (Christ) who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare god’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
God has put me as your Pastor in your life to speak to you
God has given you this Word of Truth that you can trust
God has placed his Spirit within you by which you can relate directly to God
Respond to all of these revelations and receive THEM … don’t pick and choose the revelations you like, and discard what you don’t … receive it all
Start with God’s revelation of this message today and take it home. Pray over it in time alone with God and ask “what must I do to adjust my life with your truth?”
And God will bless you as you turn toward him
Finally effort of faith #6
6. Be Thankful And Worshipful vv28-29
It is an admonition in response to the unshakable nature of God’s Kingdom given to us that we. “KEEP ON HAVING Grace” Or “Keep On Being Grateful”
“BE” – echo = possess; hold on to; experience
And our gratitude is expressed in
‘Worshipful Service” – latreuo = serve, minister, worship
Because what we have from God is ETERNAL and can never be taken from us, we serve in worshipful reverence to God
Not because we are AFRAID of losing our place
Not because we need to earn his favor
But because of his unmerited favor toward us simply because of our place in Christ, we will live in Thankful, Grateful, Service of Worship
That is, LIVE LOVE OUT LOUD!
- Action Point - #6 -
Love him by serving him – Going, proclaiming the gospel, sharing the good news, as we go, along the way, intentionally going to the easy, the local, the hard, and the far way
Love him by loving others
Are you simply receiving or are you giving back to him in worship?
But it is not a simple self-serving love or worship. Nor is it a familiar worship … it is with “reverence and awe” – those words, though we are familiar with them are often hard for us to comprehend. What is “reverence and godly fear or awe” ?
I ran across definition I can better understand
Eulabeia - yoo-lab-i-ah = caution, circumspection, discretion, reverence toward God
A.T. Robertson described it as “apprehension of danger as in a forest” … in other words it is that feeling you have when you know something is there and you think it could be powerful or dangerous but you can’t see it or understand it. That is this feeling of Holy Fear. It is knowing God is there, but not being able to fully understand him, and that feeling in the pit of your stomach of dread that keeps you in check in awe of the power of the unknown. But because of Christ who shows us God while we have that fear, we KNOW that he is GOOD … and his love endures forever
So we WORSHIP Him in grateful adoration
A. W. Tozer says - The fear of God is … astonished reverence. I believe that the reverential fear of God mixed with love and fascination and astonishment and admiration and devotion is the most enjoyable state and the most satisfying emotion the human soul can know.—– (Book –“whatever happened to worship”)
Do you see this optical illusion on the screen? See the darker diagonal lines?
Now, focus your attention on the red dot in the center and notice how the lines fade away and all that is there is the red dot on a field of white.
Being Thankful and Worshipful helps us achieve Hebrews 12:3’s command to “fix your eyes on Jesus”
When we, in gratitude, worship him, eyes on him, the things of this earth, good and bad, fade from importance, prominence, and concern, in the light of who Jesus is and what he has already done for us. Then our faith is built up
SONG - TURN YOUR EYES UPON JESUS
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in his wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of his glory and grace.
Alright New Life,
I’ve given you some work to do, what will you do receive or refuse?