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BY FAITH WE CAN WALK WITH GOD
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
24 APRIL 1988
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
Preparation: (Philippians 2:8-9)
8. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
9. Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name....
Over the past few months we have talked about faith, and that we need only enough faith to know that God is able to accomplish all that He says He will do.
And as we learn to rely more and more on God's faithfulness, we will also find that our own faith will grow.
We have also been talking about our "walk with God."
Our faith relationship is part of our "walk with God," but it takes much more.
The true test of our "walk with God" is the degree of our submission to Him. And the degree of our submission to Him is also a measure of our faith. It is also a measure of our pride.
Our pride says: "I can do it all by myself!!!"
There isn't one of us in this room, or anywhere else in the world, who has been able to do everything in their life all by himself or herself.
But if we learn to totally submit to God, then we will also learn that He is able to accomplish everything He desires to do.
And when we desire to totally submit, then, and only then, can we truly have a personal relationship with the Lord.
In order to submit to God, we have to realize that we are not very important in the over all plan of God. If we won't do what God wants us to do, then He will choose someone else to do His will.
This understanding will kill our pride, thus allowing the Holy Spirit to resurrect us into everlasting life.
And when we do this, we will also find that the hardness of our heart will be removed, and we will have empathy for the whole of God's creation (for every other human being, for every animal, and for the environment in which we all live).
Then we can be used of God for the important things.
This is the beginning of our true "walk with God."
In all that we have been talking about so far, there has been nothing said about what we have to do: what act of work, or what laws we must obey, in order to be acceptable to God.
And the reason is that we can never work our way into heaven, for we are not saved by works, but by grace.
Note what it says in Ephesians 2:8-9.
8. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;
9. not as a result of works, that no one should boast.
Boasting is a form of pride, and God's plan takes that opportunity away; for we really are not worthy of salvation, but are considered acceptable only by our basic faith and God's abundant grace.
With this in mind, let's go back and look at our Old Testament lesson verses for this morning, Genesis 15:1-6.
1. After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying,
"Do not fear, Abram,
I am a shield to you;
Your reward shall be very great."
2. And Abram said, "O Lord God, what wilt Thou give me, since I am childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?
3. And Abram said, "Since Thou hast given no offspring to me, one born in my house is my heir."
One of the highest status symbols of the time was to have many sons. You could be proud if you had sons, but Abram had no children of his own.
Thus, the offer of God to give him a great reward has produced a prideful desire. Nothing was of greater value than sons, and he and Sarai were beyond the child bearing age. What more could God do for them?
Note God's loving response:
4. Then behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, "This man will not be your heir; but one who shall come forth from your own body, he shall be your heir."
5. And He took him outside and said, "Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them." And He said to him, "So shall your descendants be."
6. Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.
In that day it was customary for wealthy, childless, elderly couples to adopt a servant and make him an heir. But here God says that this shall not be the case.
The promise that God is here telling Abram is the same one He told him more than ten years earlier. Abram believed what God told him the first time and also this time, but Abram was still struggling with the feeling that he had to accomplish it with his own power.
And Abram continued to struggle with this concept of his own involvement to accomplish the promise for about 24 years from the time God first told him.
But the most important thing to understand is that Abram never doubted God's promise. He struggled with it, but never doubted that it would come to pass.
Thus God reckoned it to him as righteousness.
There are two great lessons here for all of us:
God is able to accomplish anything and everything, but we must learn to wait on Him and for God's perfect time to perform it.
We also don't have to be perfect for God to accept us. We can still not understand everything. All we have to do is believe in God, and have the faith to know that He is faithful to perform all that He says He will do.
Now with this in mind, let's take a look at our Romans 4 verses for this morning.
1. What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found?
2. For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about; but not before God.
Our pride has us strutting all over the place, saying: “See what I have accomplished? Isn’t it great? Don't I deserve a great reward?"
And God's response is: "Yes, My child, I see; but it is not what I desired. All I desire is for you to believe Me and obey Me. What you have done of your own will is unacceptable to me."
Now as we turn back to our Scripture verses, we see that Paul ties what he is saying back to the Genesis verses.
3. For what does the Scripture say? "And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness."
As we continue, note carefully Paul's analogy of one working for a living, in comparison with a person's relationship with God.
4. Now to the one who works, his wage is not reckoned as a favor, but as what is due.
5. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness,
6. just as David also speaks of the blessing upon the man to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works:
7. "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven,
And whose sins have been covered.
8. "Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account."
Wow! We have been talking about the fact that even our good works are not good enough to earn our way into heaven, and here we see that even our bad works, our sins, can be covered and make us acceptable.
See, if we could earn our way into heaven by our good works, then our bad works would keep us out. And as we all know ourselves, none of us are without sin or have not done a bad work at one time or another.
But God's grace covers our sins, when we believe in Jesus Christ and obey our Father.
Our relationship with God is a very personal one. God knows every intent of our hearts and minds. When we totally commit ourselves to Him, He will establish a covenant with us.
Our salvation is such a covenant relationship.
After God had reckoned Abram's faith as righteousness, He gave Abram a command to have a permanent symbol of their covenant relationship. It was circumcision.
A man's circumcision is a very personal thing as well, and several times a day it was to remind the man who received it of his personal relationship with God.
But somewhere along the way, the symbol of the covenant became more important
than the covenant relationship itself. Thus Paul addresses this problem,
beginning at verse 9.
9. Is this blessing then upon the circumcised, or upon the uncircumcised also? For we say, "Faith was reckoned to Abraham as righteousness."
10. How then was it reckoned? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised;
11. and he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all who believe without being circumcised, that righteousness might be reckoned to them,
12. and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also follow in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham which he had while uncircumcised.
The circumcision was a sign, a seal of the righteousness which God bestowed upon the unrighteous because of their faith. It has no power of itself.
Neither does being circumcised or remaining uncircumcised have anything to do with our salvation.
In the same light, the fact of a person going to church every week does not mean that they have established this personal relationship with God that brings about their salvation.
Going to church is not an act of faith; it is an act of work. What really counts is our coming to church because we truly desire to do so, because we love the Lord and wish to serve Him, or because we are reaching out for His help.
Wearing a cross around your neck does not mean that you are saved; but having the Holy Spirit within you will indeed show that you have been saved, because the fruit of the Spirit will be evident.
And, as we said earlier, this will be most evident in our empathy for the whole of God's creation.
Similarly, owning a Bible does not enrich a person's soul, unless they read it, and internalize God's heavenly will.
Our salvation is based solely on our faith in God's faithfulness to do what He promises and His abundant grace.
Our walk with God will follow our salvation, if we obey Him.
Many people make the mistake of thinking that this process is reversed, but it is not.
Salvation must precede our walk, or our walk is not with God.
Why? Note what it says in verses 13-16.
13. For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith.
14. For if those who are of the Law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise is nullified;
15. for the Law brings about wrath, but where there is no Law, neither is there violation.
16. For this reason it is by faith, that it might be in accordance with grace, in order that the promise may be certain to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all,
Jesus died for each of us that we might accept God's free gift of salvation.
He wants each of us to come and walk with Him.
Walking is an action word. So even if we are already walking with the Lord, we have to desire even more, and continue to grow. For if we stop, we may be left behind.
If we want to see our church grow, and our own lives improve, then we must move forward.
Seek God in everything you do.
If you do something wrong, ask His forgiveness, and desire not to do it again.
If each of us would truly establish our relationship with God, by allowing Him to be both Lord and Savior of our lives, and then go out and share that good news with others, our church would be full.
Is the Lord speaking to your heart?
Then do what He is telling you to do.