TRUE FAITH IN GOD LEADS US INTO ETERNAL LIFE...
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
ByFrank L. Hoffman, Pastor
16 June 1996
Today we are going to look at what God's word tells us about having truth faith in Him, and what happens to those who put their faith some place else.
Paul, in his letter to the Romans, 1:8-17, tells us about the way faith builds upon faith.
Let's start our faith journey there.
8. First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world.
At this time Rome was a pagan city.
It was the capital of the Empire.
One would not expect the true believers to become established in such a place, and live according to their faith.
And because they did, people all over the world were talking about it.
Paul, as part of his ministry, is using them as an example to help others grow in their faith.
9. For God, whom I serve in my spirit in the preaching of the gospel of His Son, is my witness as to how unceasingly I make mention of you,
10. always in my prayers making request, if perhaps now at last by the will of God I may succeed in coming to you.
11. For I long to see you in order that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established;
12. that is, that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and mine.
Even though Paul and the members of this Roman church are strong in their own faith, they each need to continue to grow in their faith.
And it is because of their own strong faith that they encourage each other; for one is stronger in one area, and another in some other area; thus together, they become stronger in many areas.
Think about it. The really strong Christians attend church and Bible study regularly, or have other ways of sharing their faith with other believers.
13. And I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that often I have planned to come to you (and have been prevented thus far) in order that I might obtain some fruit among you also, even as among the rest of the Gentiles.
14. I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish.
15. Thus, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.
16. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
This is the true faith that leads to eternal life.
17. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "But the righteous man shall live by faith."
Paul is quoting from the prophet Habakkuk (2:4).
4. "Behold, as for the proud one,
His soul is not right within him;
But the righteous will live by his faith.
Paul is talking about the people who have true faith, for it is to them he is writing; but Habakkuk is showing us a comparison.
Habakkuk is telling us of the difference between those who are God's children and those who are not; those who will inherit the kingdom, and those who will not.
Isaiah tells us the same thing in 26:1-6:
1. In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah:
"We have a strong city;
He sets up walls and ramparts for security.
2. "Open the gates, that the righteous nation may enter,
The one that remains faithful.
Do you remember what Habakkuk and Paul said?
The righteous shall live by faith.
And here Isaiah is reminding us that the New Jerusalem will be opened only to those people.
3. "The steadfast of mind Thou wilt keep in perfect peace,
Because he trusts in Thee.
4. "Trust in the Lord forever,
For in God the Lord, we have an everlasting Rock.
Also remember that everyone has some form of faith, but it may not be true and everlasting faith.
Putting our faith and trust in God is the only answer, and the only way we can be sure of the outcome.
Note what we are told about those who put their faith elsewhere:
5. "For He has brought low those who dwell on high, the unassailable city;
He lays it low, He lays it low to the ground, He casts it to the dust.
6. "The foot will trample it,
The feet of the afflicted, the steps of the helpless."
Who will walk upon the habitation of the unrighteous?
Those whom they have afflicted with their evilness?
Let me tell you a story from the book of Jeremiah, beginning at chapter 42.
Once upon a time,
A long, long time ago,
Some 2,600 years ago, to be more exact,
There lived in the land of Judah,
In and around the city of Jerusalem,
A remnant of the people of Israel;
Those who had not been taken into captivity to Babylon;
Because the people had turned away from God and put their faith in other gods, and in other things.
And living in the midst of these people was the prophet Jeremiah, who had been trying to convince the people to listen to God.
Then one day when conditions were very bad, and the people were planning to leave their land and go to Egypt, all the people came to Jeremiah, led by two of their leaders, Johanan and Jezaniah.
And they asked Jeremiah to ask the Lord his God what the people should do, that they might live and not die.
And Jeremiah told the people that he would do it; and that he would withhold nothing that the Lord said, whether good or bad.
He also reminded them that the Lord is faithful to carry out His desire, even when the people are unwilling.
So Jeremiah petitioned the Lord, and ten days later the Lord answered him.
Jeremiah called all of the people and their leaders together, and related to them everything that the Lord had told him.
The Lord said that if the people would remain in their land and begin to once again build it up, he would prosper them.
He also told them not to be afraid of the Babylonians, for He would protect them and have compassion on them.
The Lord also warned them of what would happen if they didn't listen and continued in their quest to go down to Egypt.
He told them that everything they feared in their own land would follow them to Egypt; and that they would die there by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence.
And the Lord reminded them, that just as He had poured out His wrath upon the disobedient people of Jerusalem, so He would do upon the land of Egypt.
The only way the people could live was to stay in Jerusalem.
Jeremiah told the people that they were only deceiving themselves thinking that things would be better in Egypt.
And it came about that no sooner had Jeremiah finished speaking, than they again deceived themselves by failing to listen to the word of the Lord.
They left for Egypt, and they even forced Jeremiah to go with them, saying that what Jeremiah told them was a lie.
Most people haven't changed, even to this very day, for they say that they want God to be with them; but in their hearts and minds, they don't really want to be with God.
They want God to conform to their ways, but they don't want to conform to God's ways.
And God deals with us today, just as he dealt with the people then, which brings us back to our story.
Now, while Jeremiah was in the city of Tahpanhes, Egypt, the word of the Lord came to him again.
And He told Jeremiah to take some large stones and hide them in the wall of Pharaoh’s garden, as a sign to the people.
God is going to bring Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, the very person the Israelites fear most, and he will conquer Egypt and set his throne over these very stones.
Furthermore, Nebuchadnezzar will destroy all the gods of the Egyptians, in some of whom the Israelites put their faith.
And because of their abominations, the remnant of Jerusalem will be destroyed along with the Egyptians.
God explains that He does these things, not out of vengeance, but because the people continually provoke Him to anger by their unrighteousness. God wants to provoke the people to return to Him, and to put their trust back in Him, because of the mighty power they have seen.
But even after explaining that none of them would live if they continued as they were, do you know what they did?
They said that they weren’t going to listen to Jeremiah, and that they were going to let their wives continue to sacrifice to the queen of heaven just as they had done in Judah.
And because of the hardness of their hearts, God reconfirms His message, and all the people who went to Egypt, died in the land of Egypt.
I look at the signs of our times, today, and I see the same message from the Lord.
Unless we, as the so-called religious community of this country, set the stage of a truly loving and compassionate God, and turn from our far-right hardness of heart ways, and lead this country back to God, on His terms, we might also perish.
And being that this is Father's Day, what greater gift could we give, than to give every part of our being -- heart, mind, soul, and spirit -- to our God and Father who is in heaven, and live as He wants us to live.
Your Comments are welcome
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