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DO WE REALLY BELIEVE, OR DO WE SOMETIMES MAKE BELIEVE?

A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS

By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

13 AUGUST 1995

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

2 Samuel 12:14
Psalm 33:12-22
James 2:1-8

Today let's begin our excursion in faith by asking a few questions.

Do you believe in God?

I thought you would all say, “Yes.”

So let's go a little further. Do you wholeheartedly believe in God?

And again we have an affirmative answer.

Do you believe God's ways are the best ways?

Again we have a “yes” answer, just as I would have expected.

If this is true, then why don't we always live as God desires us to live?

Because, while we say we believe, we put limits upon our faith.

Fairly often people say to me, “When you say it, it sounds so easy, but I can't do it.”

And do you know the main reason why they can't do something?

It's because they say they can't do it.

They have little or no faith in themselves in that area of their lives or in the abilities that the Lord our God has given them to accomplish the task before them.

Faith is like anything else; it takes practice to have it work.

Let's use Kay for an example.

I know Kay would be a fine computer operator, and that she is very capable of doing the church books on the computer.

God also knows that she can do it.

But Kay has never operated a computer before, so the unknown of its operation frightens her a little, so she says, "I couldn't do that."

Now, to put things in perspective, God can be a whole lot more formidable than a computer; and I believe most of us have seen and heard Kay input data to the Lord and receive back her answers, and much of what we have seen and heard has been done on our behalf.

We have seen and heard Kay act and speak for the Lord with complete confidence. She represents His Church as His ambassador.

The funny thing is, I really don't think Kay realizes how much faith she exercises in this area of her life, and yet when it comes to a little computer...

The difference is that Kay has grown up with the Lord, and not with computers.

Kay is making believe that she can't operate a computer, and she is living in her make-believe world when it comes to computers.

Since I have been in this church, I have seen many of you exercise your faith.

I have seen you walk through your fears, to pray out loud for the congregation, and to lead or participate in part of the service.

But faith involves more than simply overcoming our fears; it involves our responsibility as well; for if God is to work through us, then we must be His continual witness to the community.

God is not going to be mocked.

If we invoke God, or the power of God in a certain situation, and then turn around and deny Him by our worldly actions, we become a bad witness and by our actions we cause others to blaspheme.

Now, we are not talking about situations involving the use of a computer.

Listen to what the Lord said to David after his sin with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12:14):

14. "However, because by this deed you have given occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also that is born to you shall surely die."

David did many things in the name of the Lord.

He exercised great faith in most areas.

But he failed to have enough faith in the Lord to carry him through his temptations, or he made believe that because he was king, he could do whatever he wanted to do.

James gives us another example of lack of complete faith in God from the standpoint of the Church and our position of responsibility within it. (James 2:1-8)

1. My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism.

God made us all equal in His eyes.

Personal favoritism is when we make believe that we are more equal than someone else.

2. For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes,

3. and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, "You sit here in a good place," and you say to the poor man, "You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,"

4. have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?

People treat the rich more equally, because they hope they will gain some of their prestige or wealth.

And people treat the poor less equally because they see no gain coming to them from the relationship.

5. Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?

6. But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court?

7. Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called?

8. If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law, according to the Scripture, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF,” you are doing well.

Do we love everyone because God made us all to be His children?

Do we love each other, beyond our mutual sins, to the person God desires us to be?

Do we have the faith to exhibit unconditional love?

Or, do we selectively make believe that certain people are unworthy of our unconditional love?

Listen to what we are told in Psalm 33:12-22.

12. Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,

The people whom He has chosen for His own inheritance.

We are blessed because the power of the Lord our God is with us.

But we can lose this blessing when we fail to live our faith, or when we make believe it doesn't apply to us, individually or collectively.

13. The Lord looks from heaven;

He sees all the sons of men;

14. From His dwelling place He looks out

On all the inhabitants of the earth,

15. He who fashions the hearts of them all,

He who understands all their works.

Who is less equal?

Who is more equal?

We are all equally equal.

God has made no distinction in the way he created us.

We are the ones who make believe that this is not so.

16. The king is not saved by a mighty army;

A warrior is not delivered by great strength.

17. A horse is a false hope for victory;

Nor does it deliver anyone by its great strength.

So much for humanity trying to solve its problems through wars and violence.

Because we don't unconditionally love each other, we make believe that wars and violence are the only ways to solve our problems.

18. Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him,

On those who hope for His lovingkindness,

19. To deliver their soul from death,

And to keep them alive in famine.

20. Our soul waits for the Lord;

He is our help and our shield.

21. For our heart rejoices in Him,

Because we trust in His holy name.

Do we really, always?

If Jesus came to save the world, then why aren't those who are called by His name doing more to save it, and less to destroy it?

The former Yugoslavia is a perfect example of having little or no real faith in God and living in a make-believe world without any love, because, in their own eyes, each side is more equal than the other.

And my beloved brethren, we are beginning to do the same things to ourselves in this country, and much of it in the name of Christianity.

But these people must be living in a make-believe Christianity that has a different Jesus than the One I know.

22. Let Thy lovingkindness, O Lord, be upon us,

According as we have hoped in Thee.

But what happens, if we don't hope in the Lord?

For as we share God's unconditional love, so we receive it from Him.

And as we contemplate this, remember that God's unconditional love applies to Him, and to the whole of His creation (to humans, to animals, and to the environment).

If we have not love, we are not the Lord's.

Live by faith.

Exercise your faith.

If you lack faith in an area of your life, work at improving it.

But in everything we do, weigh its intent with love, so that we know that what we do is for the Lord our God.

Amen?

Amen.

Your Comments are welcome

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