Sermon: Christ-Following Faith

Sermon preached at Merredin Uniting Church on 22 June 2021

Hebrews 11:1-6

Mark 4:35-41

Whenever I think of an anvil and a blacksmith, I am reminded of the early days of my Dad’s engineering business where a blacksmith would put the iron in the fire and when it was really hot, he would pull it out and hammer it on the anvil until it took on the shape he wanted. It reminds me that God often forges us through the hammer blows of life so that we might be everything that he intended us to be.

But the word “forge” can be used in two very different ways. Yes, we can be forged into something beautiful and right, BUT it is also very possible to be a “forgery”, an imitation of the real thing. And this can happen also in the way of our faith – we can be “forged” into the real thing, or we can be a “forgery” – an imitation of the real thing but actually a fake.

And very often in the world out there, people are confused, they look at the imitation and recognise that it is not real. And if it is an imitation Christian, they may choose not to be followers of Jesus. That is really sad – because they have not yet seen the real thing.

So what is the real thing?

What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus?

What do we mean when we say that we believe in Jesus?

First lets look at the forgery.

The forger sets out to create an appearance – to use the correct words, creeds and ceremonial actions to impress others into believing something which is just not true. 

A forged bank note may look like the real thing but it is actually quite worthless. It might have all the right marks, signatures, metal strips and pictures but the Reserve Bank which issues the real notes does not recognise it. 

It has no backing from on high!

Similarly, a person who professes to be a Christian and who does all the stuff BUT who does not have the backing from on high … the relationship with Christ … is a forgery.

The sadness is that forgeries are so rampant that they have almost replaced the real thing – we need to get back to real world faith.

We need to come back to the Bible and find out just what it means to be a follower of Jesus. 

I was reflecting about this and I thought that we will probably still do the same stuff on the outside but we will be different inside. Our attitude will be different because it will be the attitude of Christ – as Paul called for in Philippians Chapter 2. 

We will have Christ-Following Faith!!!

Let me take you to the sea of Galiliee. The disciples are taking the boats to the other side and Jesus is resting – sleeping on a cushion in the stern of the vessel. A furious squall rises up and the boat is nearly swamped. The bravado of the disciples disappears in the face of the storm – they rush to Jesus, who is still fast asleep, “Don’t you care if we drown?” they ask.

He gets up; rebukes the wind and tells the waves to be still and then when everything is completely calm he turns to the disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

What is this faith that Jesus expects? Didn’t the disciples have at least a little bit of faith when they chose to leave everything to follow Jesus. How can He say that they have NO faith?

Christ-following faith is not the faith that causes us to rise up and follow Him … no, its much more than that. It is the faith that enables us to look to Jesus in the midst of the storm and, seeing Him at rest and asleep, being comforted to know that everything is going to be alright.

It is sometimes common to speak critically of those who practice their faith on Sundays but who seem to abandon it during the week. We like to classify these people amongst the forgeries but often that is not the case.

Yes, perhaps some are just putting up a pretense but quite often, it seems to me, the church has not expected much more from them than attendance at a Sunday service.

But faith is not lived or practiced in the church. Jesus never expected this … those who followed Him were not often in the Temple or synagogue. They were on a mountainside, or alongside a river, or walking along the road between the fields. 

Faith was exercised alongside a well in Samaria, on a boat in Galilee and in the graveyard at Garesene.

Christ-Following Faith – the faith which Jesus taught and to which He called His people is meant to be practiced in the streets of our life, not especially in the church on Sunday.

So let’s look at the text from Hebrews 11. 

It says that “faith is to be sure of the things we hope for, certain of the things that we cannot see.”

That is an interesting definition because it really is no definition at all.

It doesn’t tell you what faith is; it simply tells you what happens when you have it. And that’s a very different thing. When you HAVE faith, you are sure of things hoped for; when you HAVE faith, you are certain of the things you cannot see.

Ultimately, it seems, you can never define faith but you can know it when you see it. The author of Hebrews goes on to describe in Chapter 11 a whole army of people in whom we can see faith. His intent is that when we look at that list we might be able to understand what it means to have faith.

Here are people who did some amazing things that were a pleasure to God. They won battles, presided over miracles, endured incredible hardships and even overcame death itself. It is a demonstration of faith on the street, rather than in the church.

Ultimately faith can only be described in terms of a collection of stories about people who lived a life of faith – and that is why testimonies are such an important part of our witness to Christ!

The bottom line in each testimony in Hebrews 11 is amazingly simple:

  1. They had a certainty about how to meet and commune with their God
  2. They develop a remarkable degree of self-control as they come to understand the importance of having God fill their interior lives, and 
  3. They each realise that every person has a part in history and that it is vitally important to make that history in accord with the purpose of God.

In other words, they trusted God and so had little or no fear about the things that generally intimidate people. 

When they looked within themselves, they had a clear understanding of their personal weaknesses and strengths and knew how to manage these with God’s help. 

And, not surprisingly, they seemed to be guided by a dream or mission that absorbed them and made sense out of all of life’s details.

They are models for us – “a great cloud of witnesses” seated in the great stadium of heaven, who cheer us on as we undertake our own race through life on the fields below.

The question is whether they have anything to cheer about.

How can we live the life of faith? Sure of the things we hope for and certain of that which we do not see?

Lets think now about another boat. 

A sailing friend invites you to join him on his sailboat. You’ve never been on a sailboat before so as you climb aboard you make jokes about your lack of seaworthiness.

He gives you some simple advice.

“I want to put your mind at ease,” he says, “so that you can really enjoy the time on the water. I only need to tell you two things: first, this boat cannot tip over no matter what your senses tell you, and second, it cannot sink.”

It cannot tip over because of something to do with the relationship between the area of the sail and the size of the keel. And it cannot sink because of the way in which the hull has been constructed. You don’t understand it but you have been told that it cannot tip over and it cannot sink – that’s all that matters.

You trust him and are prepared to enjoy yourself. That’s faith

And then when the wind comes up and it seems that the boat is going to tip over, you refuse to worry because he has told you that the boat cannot capsize.

That’s also faith. You have trusted him and you have mastered your feelings.

Now he calls you to take the wheel while he works the jib up front. You experience a feeling of exhilaration as you do your part in guiding the boat towards your destination. You are becoming part of its history, your name might even be written up in the logbook as having been at the helm during this particular journey.

That’s also faith.

Living our life of faith is just like that.

It is that simple!

It is not doing the things which are apparently expected of Christians – going to church, grace at meals, and so on …

It is accepting the invitation of Jesus to follow Him. And that invitation is right there! You can’t avoid it – Come, follow me!

And our life of faith grows as we take God’s word about realities that I don’t yet have the experience to perceive and it matures as I involve myself with the whole process of making the journey happen.

The boat cannot tip over, and it cannot sink!

You can take Jesus’ word on that … your life is a journey to a defined destination.

It is a journey with Jesus.

And you can relax.

You don’t need to pretend anything, simply trust His word.

Will you do that?

Lift your eyes – look into the wonderful face of Jesus

And the things of the earth will grow strangely dim ..

In the Real World – with capitals! – life in Christ is lived not only on Sundays but in the ordinariness of our lives.

In our morning prayers for the day, as we wake. 

In situations through the day as we walk with our Lord.

In relationships, as we try to love each other as Christ has loved us.

At the end of the day, as we give thanks for God’s presence with us.

In our peace – the shalom of God – as we journey through each day.

Hold on, to the live you have … it is a gift of God, don’t spoil it for earth’s sake. But rejoice in the grace and favour which God has bestowed upon us.

“Bestow” is an interesting word. It means “stowed, or stored, within us, as a gift”. 

God has given us life as a gift. When we misuse it and confess that failure to God, he restores it and gives it back to us again. We are “born again” into a new beginning, a new life, a new start.

Will you take up this gift of God today?

Will you live your life for God?

Will your whole life become a wonder of God’s Amazing Grace?