Tag: faith

Practicing our Faith

Practice is a word that has come up a lot for me in the past few weeks.  Now, it’s certainly not a new thing, being a musician and all, but the contexts of practice have so much greater application than we might imagine.  I feel like the pendulum swing in this is either that we don’t do the hard work of practice and expect to slide by, or we give ourselves no room for error and expect perfection immediately.  Both fail to recognize that we need to practice.

So, perhaps the questions we ask ourselves are, “How come I have to keep doing this?” or “Why can’t I do this yet?” Both lead to frustration. And in the context of living by faith, as we have been studying in Hebrews 11, what are we to do in those tough times? Practice. Look at Philippians 4:4-13:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.  Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity.  Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.  I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

There’s a recipe contained in the first part of this passage.
-Rejoice in the Lord, always
-Let your reasonableness be known to all
-Do not worry, but in prayer with thanksgiving cast your cares on God

And what comes from this recipe? The peace of God, which passes all understanding. Paul further elaborates on our thought life, aligning our minds to think on this list of qualities rather than being concerned with the circumstances we are facing. At the end of the passage, he reveals this truth that not only has played out in his own life but also is currently his situation, as he is writing from jail!

But the easy part to miss is what is sandwiched in between there. Paul calls us to practice what he’s been teaching.  And practice is a beautiful word, because it means that we can increase our skill level in those areas.  So when we say, “How come I have to keep doing this?” Because we are called to practice our faith.  And when we say “Why can’t I do this yet?” Because practice is not a means to an end, but a way of life.  And there’s so much we can practice.

Practicing dependence instead of worry.

Practicing thankfulness instead of complaining.

Practicing reasonableness instead of reacting.

Because remember, circumstances do not lead to joy.  Philippians 4:13 is not a magic phrase that means that whatever we set our mind to, God will accomplish for us or through us.  It means that we can face any circumstances and remain content in Christ.

Whatever.  Wherever.  Our circumstances don’t control our reactions.  We, in our free-will, have the opportunity in every moment to make choices.  Sometimes it means we have to learn how to adapt to our good bad brains in order to make the best choice.  And it also helps us see why self-control is a fruit of the Spirit.  But ultimately, we don’t get better at it without practice.

So, practice.  The things that you aren’t good at? Practice.  You want to be more patient with your kids?  Practice.  You want to be better at being on time?  Practice.  You’re tired of beating yourself up? Practice. And give yourself the room to make mistakes, to learn, to grow, not giving up when it gets hard, and not over-expecting that change happens instantly.  It takes time.  And remember that for those who believe, God works in us as we work out our salvation (Philippians 2:12-13).

And also, I’m saying this to myself, too.

Practice.

Love in Christ,

Pastor Ben

 

Marvelous Grace

On our way out of town for vacation, Julie and I took the kids on a slight detour past our first apartment in Knoxville, TN. It was the first time we had been there since we left in a Penske truck back in 2008. It looked just like we remember it. 

We then drove the winding road back towards the highway, a road I traveled quite a bit for classes, work, and church. We drove up the hill where I spun out the winter of my freshman year. I hadn’t learned how to drive in the snow yet. We drove past neighborhoods where our friends used to live, places we used to eat, and stores we used to shop at. Finally, we drove past the college and church I attended for close to four years.

With memories flooding back of the different places and people from those years in Tennessee, there is one word that explains how thankful I am for this short time in my life: grace.

Those four years were quite difficult to say the least. Everyday I fought the legalistic posture of my heart. I was working so hard to please God. I tried doing everything right and still didn’t feel like it was enough. I couldn’t keep the rules of the school the way they were intended to be kept. I was often scrutinized, questioned, and ridiculed. After an accidental rule breaking, I was asked a question that I didn’t have an answer to at the time: “What would Jesus think of you right now?” 

“He’d think I was a failure”, is how I wanted to answer. But I didn’t. I didn’t know at the time how much Jesus truly loved me. It was around this time I realized I was never going to be able to do enough to be good. I was never going to be good enough. I was never going to be righteous. 

Legalism is a deadly weight. It devalues the finished work of Jesus and elevates our filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). It is an unbearable task to earn any favor with God. There is nothing we can do to earn the righteousness of Jesus. No matter how often we keep the rules, no matter how “good” we are, no matter how churchy we appear, legalism is a lie from the pit of hell. Legalism continues to yell, “Do more! Do more! Do more!” while Jesus lovingly declares, “It is finished!”

It had been close to 10 years since I had placed my faith in Jesus Christ for the salvation of my sins, but in the Rocky Mountains of Tennessee, I learned and came to appreciate the grace of Jesus. While I was never going to be able to do enough to be good enough, Jesus did. While I was never going to be righteous, Jesus was and now through His grace, His righteousness covers me (2 Corinthians 5:21). We are so underserving of the grace of Jesus. His grace is truly marvelous.

The good news of Jesus reminds us that we are saved through faith in Jesus Christ. It is faith that pleases the Father (Hebrews 11:6), faith in His Son, Jesus. While our natural tendency given to us from Adam (Genesis 3) is to cover ourselves, there is freedom in knowing that we can’t. Our sin covering, our standing before God, only comes from the finished work of Jesus on the cross. Our joy comes from the victory we have through His resurrection. And none of this was deserving. When we fell short of God’s standard of righteousness, Jesus measured up (Romans 3:23). It is all because of grace. 

As the old hymn says, 

“Marvelous grace of our loving Lord, grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt! Yonder on calvary’s mount out-poured, there where the blood of the Lamb was spilt. Grace, grace, God’s grace, grace that will pardon and cleanse within; grace, grace, God’s grace, grace that is greater than all our sin!”

If I were to be asked the question again, “What would Jesus think of you right now?” I’d respond with great joy, “He loves me as His own, not for what I have done, but for all that He has graciously done for me”. And it is this grace of Jesus that frees us to live in obedience to all his commands.

By Faith Alone in Christ Alone

Welcome to the weekly newsletter for Grace Life Church. Every week, we want to give you a midweek reminder on upcoming events, the sermon text for the coming Sunday, and additional content that will encourage you to continue pursuing Jesus everyday. I’m praying the additional content provided on the Grace Life Blog will strengthen your faith in Jesus. 

This is also my prayer for our upcoming summer sermon series on Hebrews 11. 

The book of Hebrews was written by an unknown author to Jewish believers who were likely slipping back into their Jewish traditions so they could avoid persecution. The author wants to instill in them that Jesus is better. He’s better than angels. He’s better than Moses. He’s better than the Jewish sacrificial system. He’s better than the Old Covenant. Jesus is better because He is the fulfillment of every promise God spoke in the Old Testament. He is our perfect sacrifice, our great High Priest, and the Author and Finisher of our faith.

And faith is what God desires for His people to live by. Right before we read through the list of names in “The Hall of Faith”, we see in Hebrews 10:37-39,

[37] For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; [38] but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” [39] But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls. (ESV)

Christian people are people who live their lives by faith. We’re not people who “shrink back and are destroyed”, but we are people who have a sincere faith that preserves our souls. That faith is in Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ alone. It’s Jesus who preserves our souls. And because of who Jesus is, we live by faith in the Son of God who gave Himself for us (Galatians 2:20).

Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen”. The Chrisitan life is marked by faith. By faith, we believe in the Triune God of the Bible. By faith, we believe that God keeps His word. By faith, we believe Jesus came, lived a perfect life, died and rose again, ascended into heaven, and will return. By faith, we believe the Holy Spirit dwells within us. Faith is assurance of our hope in Christ and it is the conviction that all things of God are true. And by faith, we live.

But how are we to do this? How are we to live by faith and not shrink in cowardice? This is why Hebrews 11 was written. Faith is a somewhat difficult concept to define and oftentimes is best understood through illustrations and examples. Hebrews 11 describes people who lived out their faith when God commanded them to do something. The chapter is filled with examples of men and women from the Old Testament who have laid hold of their future reward with God. Chapter 11 is intended to deepen our confidence in Jesus, not throw it away. (Hebrews 10:35) 

We see the examples of men like Abel and Moses and women like Sarah and Rahab who lived by faith knowing that without faith, it would be impossible to please God. By faith, we also draw near to God, knowing He exists and is a rewarder of those who seek him. 

God has called us to live by faith in Him and though we have not seen Him, we believe in Him, and by faith, we live our lives to please Him. As one pastor stated, “Hebrews 11 is full of men and women whose moral and spiritual failings, depravity, and sin give us great hope that only through Christ, in Christ, and because of Christ are we accepted into the kingdom of God!”

As we study Hebrews 11, may our faith be strengthened in the glory of our Savior and our hearts encouraged to walk by faith in Christ alone and not by sight. 

Here’s how you can prepare for our weekly sermons through Hebrews 11.

Read

Each week, we’ll share the verses that will be covered in Sunday’s sermon. You can find those verses on your Sunday Sermon notes or in the weekly newsletter. The sermon text will be just a verse or two, so do the work and study out the names of the men and women from Hebrews 11. For instance, when we study the faith of Noah, find out what the Bible says about Noah. You can read about Noah’s life in Genesis 6-9. We won’t tell you where to look; we want you to study on your own!

Pray 

Pray for the Lord to strengthen your faith in him as we study together Hebrews 11. Pray for the preacher, that he will honor God’s Word and encourage us to seek the Lord. Pray, knowing God’s Word does not return void (Isaiah 55:11) and His Word is sharper than any two edged sword (Hebrews 4:12).

Respond

God speaks to us from His Word and when He speaks to us, we must respond. To not respond is disobedience. Throughout this sermon series, respond to the Lord’s leading in your life. Maybe it’s trusting Him more fully or maybe it’s taking a step to serve Him or others in some capacity. Like Peter stepping out of the boat and onto the water, the Lord calls us out and by faith we obey. 

I’m looking forward to studying Hebrews 11 with you and I pray that our faith will be strengthened in Jesus Christ, the One who is at the very center of our Faith.

 

By His Grace, 

Pastor Matt

Making Jesus-Centered Disciples For God's Glory


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