Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of October 22, 2017

Sermon: “Faith Alone!”

We are just one week away from the 500th anniversary of the nailing of the 95 theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg by Martin Luther and the results of that event literally changed the world.  Not just religiously, but politically and socially.

In the weeks and months leading up to this celebration there has been a focus on Luther, the man.  I’ve seen more articles on Luther and the Reformation in the public eye than any point in my short history on earth.

I’ve seen Luther memes on Facebook, people taking their play mobile Luther dolls with them to Germany to take selfies.  There are Luther bobble-heads, coffee cups, buttons, and masks, not to mention “here we stand” socks, and even Luther leggings…not a good look….

If we are not careful we can slip into this celebration being about faith in Marin Luther. 

The Reformation and all that goes along with it is not about a man, but is centered on the person of Jesus and what He has done for us as Savior of the World. 

Our text is from Paul’s letter to the Romans, the first chapter.  Paul writes, “I’m not ashamed of the Good News. It is God’s power to save everyone who believes, Jews first and Greeks as well. God’s approval is revealed in this Good News. This approval begins and ends with faith as Scripture says, “The person who has God’s approval will live by faith.” (Romans 1:16-17)

This past week I attended a Reformation conference entitled “Here We Still Stand.” It was an amazing conference filled with great speakers and inspiring music. 

I was challenged and I was filled, but I was also convicted.  I’ll be honest with you that most of what follows comes from what I gleaned over the past few days wrestling with what it means to, in the words of our text, “live by faith.”

One of the tenants of the Reformation is Sola Fide or Faith Alone.  It was a light bulb moment for Luther as he studied Paul’s letter to the Romans.  Salvation does not come by works and words of man, but the works and words of Jesus.

But what does it mean to live by faith?  Allow me to get personal for a moment.

Is faith alone enough to comfort this sinners heart?  Is my faith strong enough to handle the worst that the world can dish out? Is my faith able to comfort and uplift me even when I turn my back, and find myself engaged in that which I know is wrong?  Is my faith the example it should be as a pastor, a husband, and a father?

Can my faith bring relief to my rattling and sin sick heart as I shake under the gaze of an all knowing God who knows my dark places, who sees my misdeeds and who knows everything about me?  

Let me ask you a personal question, “How is your faith?”  Do you wish it was bigger, or stronger?  Do you wish it were bolder or just more like others? Deep down you know the doubts that plague you and the sin that sneaks in.  You know the places the devil enters to deceive and threaten.

What does it mean to live by faith alone?

If you have been around the church at all I’m sure you have heard a definition of faith.  It’s that trust that we have that we have been saved.  It’s an unwavering belief that Jesus is Savior. 

But perhaps we need to get some perspective and talk about what faith is NOT.

·Faith is not intellectual ascent, which is trying to understand the mystery and majesty of God or by memorizing scripture or praying more often.
·Faith is not moral courage.  It’s not simply standing strong in the face of all that is wrong.
·Faith is not a positive set of emotions.
·Faith is not an overwhelming sense of God’s presence.
·Faith is not even the absence of doubt. 
·Faith is Dependence!

You can’t be dependent unless you a lacking something that is bigger and greater and stronger than you are.  

The only requirement of great faith then is great need. 

Are you in need of something bigger and great and stronger to fight the battles and the demons in your life, to solve the problem of sin for you?  Me too!!

When the reformers talk about Faith Alone, we need to understand that it is a byproduct of who Christ is, not a reward for who we are.  It is given to us in the context of relationship, not earned by doing a list of requirements.

Faith is a gift given to us to possess but created by God HimselfAnd this faith saves!!

Please understand that the Gospel doesn’t sit around waiting for faith to appear and for us to claim it.  The Gospel shows up where it can be found, it speaks Christ, creates faith and claims us!

In this faith you are wrapped up, covered and claimed by the righteousness of God. It is found in word and sacrament where God promises to be.

In this relationship between the divine and the dusty it is faith alone that saves, created by the proclamation of Scripture alone, its object is Christ alone and is made real only because of Grace alone. 

It’s not the strength of your faith that saves, but the strength of your Savior!!  You see, Faith always has an object.  The strength of your faith is not in how much you do, or how much you believe.  The strength of faith is in whose you are. 

Living by faith is a battle between those things that compete for our dependence that battle for our heart, that contest for our allegiance; the objects we tend to put our trust in. This is not a passive experience.

To live by faith means that we live in the tension between the forgiveness we might know with our minds and the guilt we hold in our heart.

It is lived out, as we may understand the finished work of Christ on the cross on our behalf but struggle with the reality of the sinful life we lead each and every day.

The object of saving faith is our utter dependence on Christ Alone! You might think that you don’t have enough faith, but your faith is not the point. The object of faith alone is bigger and stronger and mightier than anything in this world.

The God who made all of creation, who put the stars in the sky, the water in the ocean and filled the world with life; the God who knows every hair on your head and the days of your life; the God who makes the sun to rise and the moon to shine, claims you as His own, sent His Son to die in your place and by His resurrection He gives you His righteousness and gifts you faith. 

For many it came at the waters of Baptism, for some it came as the Gospel was heard, it’s strengthened when the Word is proclaimed and read, and is fed when we gather at this rail where He feeds us. 

The strength of this relationship is found in Him, not you.

You see we are not here to celebrate 500, but to celebrate zero.  Faith alone proclaims what we find in Scripture that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  (Romans 8:1)

It’s not about the 500 things you should do or the 500 things you didn’t; but that there is nothing you can do to make God love you anymore and nothing you have done that makes Him love you any less.

It’s not about 500 years of getting our theology right or how the others got it wrong, but about how nothing else matters except knowing Christ and Him crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:2)

Faith alone has ZERO to do with you and everything to do about Christ.

But let me take it one step further. 

One day, faith alone itself will disappear. On that day when you are called home to heaven, when the trappings of this world are forever removed from us; on that day when doubt and despair are wiped away, faith alone goes with it and will be replaced by Christ alone. 

On that day, faith will become sight and the Savior Himself will be revealed and we will see with our eyes the one who has been holding us all along, Jesus Himself the object of our faith.

-Pastor Seth Moorman


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