Saturday, September 01, 2012
Living by Faith - Sermon Notes for September 2, 2012
Becoming a Disciple, Part Three
Living by Faith
Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 2, 2012
We’ve been standing in the crowd watching the helpless, blind beggar Bartimaeus sitting at the gates of Jericho become a seeing, dancing disciple of Jesus, following him on the road to Jerusalem. How did that happen? Well Jesus ‘happened’ of course. Yet its also true that Jesus told Bartimaeus that it was his faith that had made him well. Bartimaeus was given a gift greater than sight, the gift that led to seeing and dancing - the gift of faith. Yes, ‘the faith’ is an objective body of truth, but ‘faith’ as it is used here is a subjective trust in another, in this case in the Other!
* Faith as the Gift of God
- Ephesians 2:8-10; Romans 1:17
- Faith isn’t a merit or something that merits God’s favor. Faith is a gift that lays hold of Christ’s merit and makes his work our only sufficiency before God.
I. Faith is Resting - in the perfect and finished work of Jesus.
* “Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace whereby we receive and rest upon him alone as he is offered to us in the Gospel.” - WSC 86
* Faith is ‘an absolute transfer of trust from ourselves to another.’
- BB Warfield
- A ‘person of faith’? That’s true of demons, as James wrote! Faith is authenticated by its object not its mere presence. Saving faith is faith in Jesus, and that is why Bartimaeus called out to him so desperately. This is Biblical faith, trust in Christ that arises from a heart made new. We don’t have faith and so become new, we are made new and so have faith.
II. Faith is Wrestling - with the doubts we encounter and the enemies we face.
A. It is by faith alone that we are justified but the faith that justifies is never alone.
- Hebrews 11:1-3, 32-39
- Sometimes faith means shutting a lion’s mouth and sometimes faith means chains and death.
B. Faith is not something we leave at the starting blocks of the race we’re running, but rather the fuel that propels us from beginning to end, ‘through many dangers, toils, and snares...’
- “Faith seeks understanding.” - St Anselm.
* This is certainly true, yet God owes us no explanations. I am all for apologetics, but the finest apologetics cannot and do not answer every possible problem or objection. The ultimate apologetic is Jesus himself - and thus the ultimate stumbling block too! There are many questions for which I have but partial and inadequate answers, matters I am still searching out; mystery, paradox, contradiction - all remain. But in this search and in my questions, I have Jesus and Jesus has me.
* “It is not ,strictly speaking, even faith in Christ that saves us, but Christ who saves us through the gift of faith. The saving power resides exclusively, not in the act of faith itself, but in the object of faith...Christ himself.” - BB Warfield
- Thank God! My faith is weak - yes; but my Savior is strong!
This also means that faith in Jesus Christ is not faith in a formula, but rather in the realities a theological formula expresses. One can be a very orthodox demon! Authentic faith is faith in Jesus himself - “The believer’s act of faith does not terminate on propositions, but in the realities such express.” - St Thomas Aquinas
It is moreover true that while I must believe as an individual I never believe all alone. We are personally saved by Jesus but we are never saved in isolation. We hear the Gospel - and so believe - through the work of others, and we confess and live our faith with and before others as well. The whole Church is a community of faith, of trust in Jesus.
III. Faith is Rising - to the high calling of being a disciple now and a saint who dwells with Jesus forever.
Faith is not ‘for this life only’ (1 Corinthians 15), but rather embraces all of this life with the perspective of what is yet to be. Faith not only looks back at the finished work of Christ on the cross, and upward to the intercession of Christ on his throne, but forward to the future of joining Christ in his glory. We not only live by faith, but die in faith - and that, writes Paul, is gain!
* Hebrews 12:1-3; 2 Corinthians 5:7; Philippians 1:21
- “...we contemplate the blessedness of faith even now...as if we already possessed the wonderful things which our faith assures us we shall one day enjoy.” - St Basil
Bartimaeus did not go back for the cloak he cast aside, and forgot about his reserved seat at the main gates of Jericho. He could see now, by faith, and was too busy following and rejoicing to ponder such trivialities. He was on his way with Jesus and headed to Jerusalem.
So are you.
For Bartimaeus faith came before sight...that's the way it is for us all.