The Shape of Our Faith

Path2

John 8:23-24, 31-32 – But [Jesus] continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. [24] I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.”

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. [32] Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

To the Point

Jesus rarely, if ever, beat around the bush. Time was precious to him, so he usually cut straight to the chase. He knew how to get the attention of his hearers. In our Scripture, Jesus shared with those to whom he was speaking several important facts about them and the world in which they lived.

  • They were worldlings (i.e., they operated under the dominion of Satan and the patterns of this sinful, fallen, enslaving world.
  • Jesus lived in the world but was not under its influence as they were. (in vs. of)
  • As such, they were going to die in their sins.
  • They must believe Jesus’ claims about himself if they were going to be rescued from dying in their sins.
  • To “believe” means more than (though not less than) simple intellectual recognition, or even acceptance of data.
  • To those who professed to believe in him (verse 31), Jesus said they must also “hold to his teaching.”
  • Therefore, only by genuine faith in Christ – which “holds to” (i.e., obeys) his teaching – can a person know the truth (Jesus is the truth, John 14:6, and so is God’s Word, John 17:17). It is also by this means of believing or faith that a person will, therefore, be set free from both the bondage and condemnation of sin.

We Have to Show Our Pearly Whites

True, biblical, and God-glorifying faith in Christ has teeth to it. It’s got a practicality that demands to be noticed. It’s unlikely the early church was so heavily persecuted and martyred simply because they intellectually accepted particular truth-claims about Jesus and then told others they needed to do the same.

Instead, because they believed Jesus was who he claimed to be and thus loved him, they therefore obeyed him. Put another way: They put their faith into practice.

As their faith in Christ permeated every sphere of their lives they began to be noticed by the worldlings around them. It was this authentic non-conformity to the world around them that led to their persecution. They refused to be “squeezed into the mold” of this world.

The Shape of Discipleship

If we would be people of the truth, we must be Christ’s disciples. If we would be his disciples, we must believe in him, trust him, and obey him. Nothing less is worthy of the One who is the true Lord and King of the universe, which includes this world.

The “Pretenders to the Throne” notwithstanding, (their reign, after all, is temporary), our allegiance must be to Christ alone. And that allegiance has a shape to it. It is not mere intellectual ascent of a few doctrinal propositions (though it includes that). It is not simply a warm-fuzzy feeling in the pit of your stomach. It is far more. Allegiance to Christ is incarnational. It has skin on it. It has teeth to it. If we would be his, we must submit to his Lordship – his absolute authority – by obeying him in every sphere of our lives. Only then can we rightly claim to be his disciples.


Walking Points

· How is obeying Jesus after you have placed your trust in him different than seeking to earn your salvation?
· In what areas of your life is it hardest to live faithfully as a Christian? Why do you think that is?
· What are three ways you can equip yourself to more faithfully “hold to” Jesus’ teachings in the various spheres of your life? What would faithfulness in each area look like?
· Take a minute to pray right now and then share your ideas with a friend who will also pray for you and hold you accountable.


Prayer

Heavenly Father, I know I cannot earn my salvation. I cannot, by my own efforts, merit your favor. I do not deserve the wonderful relationship with you that you have graciously called me to. And yet, O Lord, protect me from believing the lie that I don’t have to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ. Please lead me away from thinking joyful obedience to your commands is not a sign of my love for you. To increasingly become more like your Son will mean conformity to his likeness in my thoughts, words, and deeds. Yet, in and of myself, I cannot move in that direction. I humbly ask you to fill me more and more with your Spirit so I can become the man you have created, redeemed, and called me to be. In Christ’s name I pray. Amen.


This Week’s Prayer Guide

[You can use this prayer guide in your own personal prayer time. However, I encourage you to use it with a group of Christian men. Each week you should spend time praising God for who he is, confessing your sin to him (be specific) as well as expressing gratitude to him for his gracious forgiveness. Also, don’t forget to thank God for the many ways he has poured out his goodness in your life. Then, focus on the following areas of supplication, which will change from week to week.]

Petitions – prayers for yourself

· Help me to grow in wisdom and become who you created and redeemed me to be.
· Renew my mind and enable me to cultivate a godly perspective and attitude regarding the various spheres and circumstances of my life.
· Today’s events and interactions with others, planned and unplanned
· Other needs

Intercession – prayers for others

· My family, immediate and extended
· Those struggling with sin, illness, or relational difficulties
· Other needs

Take Jesus at His Word

trust

John 4:50 – Jesus replied, “You may go. Your son will live.” The man took Jesus at his word and departed.



If the Royal Official Could

The royal official didn’t first wait for a miracle before he believed. He didn’t wait for Jesus to first “prove himself” worthy of trust. He took Jesus at his word. He believed Jesus. Jesus told the man his dying son would live. That was all the official needed from the Lord. To be sure, Jesus didn’t owe the man such kindness, but he was pleased to bless him anyway. That’s the definition of grace.

How I wish this verse described me more. To take that step of faith, without prior confirmation of the desired result, can be frightening. Yet I sometimes find myself still wanting that confirmation in advance. Sometimes the Lord is pleased to throw me a bone, in spite of my small faith. But he would rather have me remember the hundreds upon hundreds of ways he has already proved himself capable and faithful to me and my loved ones throughout my life.

A Work in Progress

And yet I am encouraged. Despite my shortcomings the Lord is still drawing me closer to himself and conforming me more and more to the image of his Son. Slowly (so very slowly) I am maturing in my faith. The trust I long for comes more often than when I first began my pilgrimage. Is that your story too? Can you relate to that?

How precious it is to believe, and then have the eyes to see the blessing and the hands to receive it. The royal official believed first, then experienced the miracle. This isn’t a presumptuous faith, holding God to promises he never made. It is a dependent faith, one that cries out to God, “My hope is in you and you alone O Lord”.

Prayer and Scripture must undergird our growth in Christ. Reading God’s Word, reminding ourselves daily of his goodness and greatness, and then praying and meditating upon it builds us up with encouragement and confidence for both present and future faith. And this is needed. With such confidence in God, many throughout Scripture were able to face impossible odds and come out victorious on the other side. The nature of our victories may vary, but we too may be confident when we take the Lord at his Word.


Walking Points

• What’s the hardest part for you about trusting God?
• In what situations do you find yourself wanting that “prior confirmation” before stepping out in faith and trust? Why do you think that is?
• What are some things you can put in place today to help you grow in your ability to take the Lord at his Word in your daily life?
• Tell a fellow Christian your plan and begin praying together for your faithfulness to grow.


Prayer

Trustworthy God, to whom else shall I turn? You alone have the words of eternal life. You alone are worthy of my hope. Forgive me for those times when I have not trusted you, when I have first turned to other places and people to meet my needs. Out of pure grace you have been faithful to me and my loved ones time and time again. Your track record in my life is long and spotless. And yet, my faith in you can still be feeble and fleeting. Forgive me. Please give me greater confidence in you, a longer memory of your great work in my life, and help me to draw closer to you, that I might know you better and love you more. In Christ I pray. Amen.


This Week’s Prayer Guide

[You can use this prayer guide in your own personal prayer time. However, I encourage you to use it with a group of Christian men. Each week you should spend time praising God for who he is, confessing your sin to him (be specific) as well as expressing gratitude to him for his gracious forgiveness. Also, don’t forget to thank God for the many ways he has poured out his goodness in your life. Then, focus on the following areas of supplication, which will change from week to week.]

Petition – prayers for yourself

• Help me to mature in my faith and to increasingly please God by my thoughts, words, and deeds.
• Particular struggles in various relationships
• My activities for this day
• Other needs

Intercession – prayers for others

• My Family
• My local church
• My denomination
• Para-church ministries, particularly Christian education and discipleship
• Evangelistic ministries
• Other needs