THE APPLICATION OF FAITH
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THE APPLICATION OF FAITH

A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT

THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH

AND

THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS

7 MARCH 1993

Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

Genesis 1:29-31
            9:3
1 Corinthians 10:23-33
1 Timothy 4:1-5
2 Timothy 4:1-8

A lot of people say that they believe in God, and in their own way, they probably do.

But God wants us to do more than just believe; He wants us to have faith, and faith is acting out our belief by the way we live.

Now, when we add this ingredient to the fact that most people say they believe in God, we find a much smaller number of people among the group of believers.

Our preparation verse for this morning, 1 Corinthians 10:23, reflects upon this concept of the combination of faith and belief.

23. All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify.

In other words, what we do with our belief may be lawful in the eyes of God, but it neither profits nor edifies us, or others, or God.

How can something be lawful in the eyes of God and at the same time not profit or edify Him?

This occurs when humans do not follow God's intent for their lives, but rather live by the concessions, or compromises, that God allowed to bring errant humans back into obedience, much in the same way we do with our children.

Note what we are told in 1 Timothy 4:1-5.

1. But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons,

2. by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron,

3. men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods, which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth.

4. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it is received with gratitude;

5. for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.

Let's take one example of this.

If someone advocates the abstaining of certain foods for the season of Lent as a sign of our faith, and we do abstain, but our life doesn't become better both during and after Lent, then we haven't profited from our abstinence.

On the other hand, if we didn't abstain from certain foods during Lent, but our life changed for the better because of our focus upon God during this season, we profited from our experience and we edified God in the process.

As a way of improving our faith, some people suggest doing, or not doing, certain things. Such things work only if they help us to focus upon God, but if they don't, we are no better off.

If it is simply a ritual, the doing or not doing of something really has nothing to do with our faith.

And there is another aspect of food that we need to understand in this context, and it is that the food had to have been created by God (1 Timothy 4:3).

God created plants for food and said it was very good (Genesis 1:29-31); He did not create animals to be our food, thus animal foods are part of the concession following the Flood.

So, something must be in the will and intent of God to truly edify us and please God.

This fact has been understood by Christendom throughout its history, and is the reason why people abstained from animal foods during times of repentance and reflection.

Let's go back to 1 Corinthians 10:23-33, and see how this ties together.

23. All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify.

24. Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor.

God puts no restriction upon what clothing we wear, as long as it makes us presentable and does not provoke wrong thoughts in our neighbor.

So, in dressing we should also consider what our neighbor considers to be proper.

Now, consider that a certain country abuses a portion of its society, and we import clothing from that nation. If in our heart we know that buying or wearing their clothing supports their abuses, then we shouldn't buy or wear that clothing, because it gives the wrong impression to our neighbor, both here at home and in that country.

And consider the horrible suffering that is inflicted upon animals so that humans can wear their fur; what does it say about our feelings of compassion, and what impression does it convey to our sensitive and compassionate neighbors?

Let's go with our 1 Corinthians passage:

25. Eat anything that is sold in the meat market, without asking questions for conscience’ sake;

26. for the earth is the Lord's, and all it contains.

27. If one of the unbelievers invites you, and you wish to go, eat anything that is set before you, without asking questions for conscience’ sake.

28. But if anyone should say to you, "This is meat sacrificed to idols, do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for conscience’ sake;

29. I mean not your own conscience, but the other man's; for why is my freedom judged by another's conscience?

30. If I partake with thankfulness, why am I slandered concerning that for which I give thanks?

31. Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

32. Give no offence either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God;

33. just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of the many, that they may be saved.

Paul is addressing people who eat animal flesh, and in particular, the dispute concerning the flesh of animals that were sacrificed to idols.

He is not addressing those who do not eat animals for reasons of compassion.

Prior to the Flood there was to be no eating of meat, but following the flood, in Genesis 9:3, we are given the concession to eat meat.

And remember that a concession is not in the will or intent of God; it a compromise to limit the waywardness of human beings.

Therefore, if humans raise the animals with compassion, and kill them with compassion, and thank God for supplying that food for us, then it is lawful.

Now, on the other hand, if the animals are not raised or killed with compassion, they are, in essence, sacrificed to the idol of money.

This is also true if the meat is not properly processed, as was the case in the West where the processor allowed meat contaminated with feces to leave the plant.

In such cases, our abstaining from the eating of meat is justified, as it is making a statement for the conscience’ sake of our neighbor, that such practices are not godly.

What we have to do is deeply and sincerely look at the world around us and separate ourselves from ungodly practices, which is our act of faith.

This is preaching the word of God with our lives, and not just with our mouths.

To go along with such ungodly practices would be an act of hypocrisy, even though in both cases, we may believe in God.

2 Timothy 4:1-8 addresses this issue. Let's take a look at these verses.

1. I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom:

2. preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.

3. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires;

4. and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths.

We did this in this country when we wanted more land: we hired preachers who said that killing the "heathen Indians" was doing God's will, which it wasn't.

We did the same ungodly thing with the black Africans, to justify using them as slaves.

To deny the fact that all people and animals have souls and spirits, and that we all suffer and feel pain, is to defy the truths of God, no matter what some people try to make the Bible say.

5. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

6. For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come.

7. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith;

8. in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.

Can we include ourselves among this group of believers who have fought the good fight for what is godly in this world?

I pray so; for that is the only way we can show the application of our faith to others and to God.

Amen.

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