WE CANNOT WORK OUR WAY INTO HEAVEN...WE GET THERE BY FAITH
WE CANNOT WORK OUR WAY INTO HEAVEN...WE GET THERE BY FAITH
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
3 MARCH 1996
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
Romans 4:1-5, 13-25
Recently there was a report on the radio about a man who was in a coma for seven years; then suddenly he woke up, and from all indications, he is all right.
In a similar manner, I believe that the vast majority of the people in this world are in a “spiritual coma.”
But, unfortunately, few are coming out of these “spiritual comas.”
Such people are alive, but asleep to all, or most, of the spiritual things around them.
Just as the doctors try to wake up physically comatose people and become frustrated and finally give up, so does the Lord our God, with the “spiritually comatose.”
God tries to wake us up spiritually, but only a small percentage respond.
But unlike most doctors, God never gives up during our physical lifetime.
All the days of our lives, God keeps calling to us, "Here I am. Wake up! Come and talk to me."
He only gives up when we die physically.
Most people think they can work their way into heaven, so they practice their religion, or do "good deeds" as if seeking a reward; however, for the most part, they are still in a spiritual coma.
People who try to work their way into heaven are just as hard of heart as the rest of the world’s people who don't do anything; in fact, they may even be harder of heart.
Look at the Inquisitions; religious people tortured and killed other people to have them confess Christ as Lord.
Jesus Christ never did that.
And that same hardness of heart put Jesus to death.
In fact, He died for us, that we might come to believe.
Abraham was one of those people who woke up from his coma when God called to him.
Listen to what we are told in Romans 4:1-5:
1. What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found?
Using our same frame of reference for this morning, we could continue the question and ask, "What did Abraham accomplish while in his spiritual coma?"
And the answer is: “Nothing.”
2. For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about; but not before God.
3. For what does the Scripture say? "And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness."
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,
Going back to our frame of reference, when Abraham woke up from his spiritual coma, and came to truly believe, his faith was considered sufficient to make him a child of God.
Nothing else could accomplish this, but because of this, what he did after he woke up became an exercise of faith and not of works.
Let's now jump ahead to verse 13, and see where we can enter this picture; that is, if we have awakened from our own spiritual comas.
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.
Now, this is a two-edged sword.
The civil law says that it is permissible to own a gun.
We buy toy guns for our children.
We show them all kinds of violent things on television.
We design video games to teach them how to kill efficiently.
We take them out into our woods and teach them how to kill the animals.
We teach them how to be hard of heart.
But then, if they kill another person, they are some horrible being who deserves to die.
Yet we are the ones who made them that way.
Now, true belief and faith does the opposite; it brings life.
True belief and faith awakens us to the infilling of God's love, which in turn softens the heart.
You begin to feel the pain and suffering of the world around you, and you can no longer kill or even pretend to kill.
We come to realize that guns of any kind are still designed to kill, or to train us to kill.
But some might say, "I don't kill."
But we're not merely talking about guns or killing, we are talking about the spiritual awakening that softens the heart.
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,
17. (as it is written, “A father of many nations have I made you”) in the sight of Him whom he believed, even God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist.
Or, we could say that even in this lifetime, by grace, God gives life to those who were formerly spiritually dead, or in a “spiritual coma.”
The man who came out of his seven-year coma didn't do any works; he couldn't. He just came out of it.
The thief upon the cross beside Jesus could no longer do any works, for his hands and feet were nailed to the cross.
His salvation came only through his faith and the grace of God.
18. In hope against hope he [Abraham] believed, in order that he might become a father of many nations, according to that which had been spoken, "So shall your descendants be."
19. And without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah's womb;
20. yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief, but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God,
21. and being fully assured that what He had promised, He was able also to perform.
Do you understand what this is telling us?
When we become spiritually awakened, we also trust in God and realize that even the physically impossible is, in fact, possible with God.
It is no longer by our works, but by the works of God.
With this spiritual awakening comes salvation, as it did with Abraham.
22. Therefore also it was reckoned to him as righteousness.
23. Now not for his sake only was it written, that it was reckoned to him,
24. but for our sake also, to whom it will be reckoned, as those who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead,
25. He who was delivered up because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification.
Remember that only those who are spiritually awakened are able to have the faith that brings about this justification. (Romans 5:1-2)
1. Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
2. through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.
So, if we don't have peace, it should be a reminder that we may not be fully awake.
Or, it may be a sign that our faith is becoming weak and we are slipping back into a “coma.”
Please wake up!
The time of the end is near.
Exercise your faith.
Have the peace of heart and mind you really are searching for.
And in the process, share the love of God, which will help bring this peace to others, even to the whole of creation.
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