What would you do if someone gifted you with the car of your dreams and threw in free gas for that car as long as you drive it, “just to stay in shape” (a Dennis Eckersley saying)? Would you keep that car in a garage and wash and polish it once a week and never ever drive it? That would be absurd! Not only would you not fully enjoy the car, you would also disappoint the one who generously gave it to you for the purpose of driving it wherever you wanted to go, with His help and direction.
The same is true with the Christian Faith. It is best enjoyed when it is put in motion. For example, two sets of Scripture verses are often quoted to explain what faith is but, if you read on, the verses that follow tell us why we are given the free gift of faith:
Ephesians 2:8-9 reads, “For it is by GRACE you have been saved, through FAITH – and this is not from yourselves, it is the GIFT of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” So, our FAITH is a FREE GIFT that is given to us by God’s GRACE [unmerited favor] and it cannot be earned by our working for it. If we read one more verse, Ephesians 2:10 tells us why we have been given this free gift of faith: “For we are God’s WORKMANSHIP, created in Christ Jesus TO DO GOOD WORKS, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
The same goes for Titus 3:4-7: “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we have done, but because of His MERCY. He saved us through the WASHING of REBIRTH and RENEWAL by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been JUSTIFIED by His GRACE, we might become heirs having the HOPE of ETERNAL LIFE.” Titus also tells us that our faith comes from God’s GENEROUS MERCY and GRACE. Because we are given the free gift of faith by God’s grace, we have been justified [“JUST AS IF WE’VE NEVER SINNED”] and we have the SURE HOPE of ETERNAL LIFE. But, why has God given us the free gift of faith in His Son Jesus Christ? The answer is in verses 8-9: “This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who trusted in God may be careful to DEVOTE THEMSELVES TO DOING WHAT IS GOOD. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.”
To say that one has faith in Jesus Christ without repentance – turning away from sin and agreeing with God that His way is the best way, asking for and accepting His FORGIVENESS and GRACE [the fuel that keeps our faith growing] to live a life for His glory and praise – is like having the car of your dreams with a full tank of gas and never driving anywhere. It is simply absurd, foolish and misses out on the life Jesus wants to give us. In John 10:10b, Jesus tells us why He came: “I have come that they may have LIFE, and have it to the FULL.”
I heard it said that it is easier to steer a moving ship than one that is docked and not moving at all. The same is true with our faith. Our faith must always be in motion, doing the works God would have us do. That is how our faith grows deeper and richer. The Book of James puts it this way:
“What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by ACTION, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder.”
Faith is the free gift of God and by this faith we are saved. However, God’s gift of faith does not merely believe God exists. God’s free gift of faith means that we believe He exists and that we trust Him and know that He is good and just. Hebrews 11:6 states, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who honestly seek Him.” Our believing in God means that we know that He loves us and, in return, we love Him. There is no “shuddering” going on. This loving, trusting relationship causes us to move into action to love others as God loves us. The Apostle John writes:
“We know that we live in Him and He in us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent His Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like Him [Jesus]. There is no fear in love. But perfect love DRIVES out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because He first loved us. If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And He has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother” (I John 4:13-21)
“Faith” is an action word. God’s love, demonstrated by His grace and mercy, puts our faith into motion by loving and caring for others as we are loved and cared for by God. Faith in motion stays in motion to love and serve God by loving and serving others in the Name of Jesus. Faith does not always make sense to the rest of the world, but for those who have been given faith to believe and trust in God, it makes all the sense in the world to follow Jesus as “the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6a).
Have you ever done something because, deep down in your heart, you know it’s what God would have you do? You may not know all the details and everyone around you may think you’re nuts, but you know by faith it’s what God wants you to do and He will guide you all the way. The Gospel of John is filled with people of all walks of life encountering Jesus and doing the unthinkable because of the gift of faith – believing and trusting in Jesus.
First, we meet John the Baptist (not your ordinary “Joe“, to put it mildly), who is described in the Gospel of Mark as one “who wore clothing of camel’s hair, with a belt around his waist and he ate locusts and wild honey” (Mark 1:6). In the Gospel of John, chapter one, it states, “There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning the light [Jesus], so that through him all men might BELIEVE. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives life to every man was coming into the world” (1:6-9). John the Baptist really didn’t know all the details of his “mission” from God. When the priests and Levites asked him if he was Elijah or another prophet, he answered “no” to both (v. 21). All he knew was. “I am the voice of the one calling in the desert, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord (v. 23) and “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you don’t know. He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie” (vv. 26-27).
In fact, John the Baptist did not know who he was making the way for, until he saw Jesus coming to be baptized by him. He said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because He was before me.’ I myself did not know Him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that He might be revealed to Israel” (vv. 30-31). John the Baptist did not know who the Lamb of God was, but while he was doing God’s bidding, God revealed Jesus to him. Not only that, but when two of John’s disciples asked about Jesus, John pointed them to Him and urged them to follow Jesus. The disciples went to Jesus and asked Him, “Rabbi (which means Teacher), where are you going?” and Jesus replied, “Come, and you will see” (vv. 38b-39). These two disciples of John the Baptist did not ask which part of town He was staying or how far away it was or any other detail, but they simply followed Jesus to where He led them. Both John the Baptist and his disciples were doing God’s will without knowing all the “whys” and “how comes” and that’s how their faith grew. We do not know all the “whys” and “how come‘s” but those who trust in Jesus know, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much” (Luke 16:10a). The important thing is to keep our faith in motion and keep doing what we already know God wants us to do. When we trust Jesus with all aspects of our lives, our faith in Him will grow and we will not have to know all the answers, because we believe that Jesus knows all the answers and Jesus will never STEER us wrong.
In the rest of John chapter one, we learn that one of the two disciples who was sent by John the Baptist to follow Jesus was named Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter (v. 40). After spending the day with Jesus, Andrew had faith that Jesus was the one he was looking for. He could not wait to go to his brother and tell him the GOOD NEWS: “We have found the Messiah (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus” (vv. 40-42). When Jesus first met Andrew’s brother, He said to him, “You are Simon, son of John. You will be called Cephas (which, when translated, is Peter)” (v. 42). Why did Simon accept the new name Jesus gave him? I believe Peter received God’s free gift of faith the minute he saw Jesus’ face. Peter did not know all it would mean to follow Jesus, but he knew his life would be changed. After Peter, Jesus found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” And Philip answered Jesus’ call and also, like Andrew, found his brother Nathanael and said to him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote – Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (vv.44-45). Nathanael was not as easy of a sell as the rest. Perhaps his limited knowledge got in the way, when he asked, “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” He knew from the Old Testament Scriptures that no prophet was to come from Nazareth. He did not know that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Micah 5:2 records, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for Me one who is ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” Despite his hesitation, Nathanael was a seeker of truth, as John the Baptist, Andrew, Peter and Philip were; only he was more cerebral in his search for the truth. In biblical times, a Hebrew would often sit under a fig tree to meditate on the Old Testament Scriptures. Perhaps, that’s what Nathanael was doing when Jesus saw him under a fig tree (v. 48b). Jesus said of Nathanael, “Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false” (v. 47). It took very little for Nathanael to realize Jesus was the Truth he was seeking after (vv. 48-51).
Jesus’ first believers, the ones who had been given the faith to believe that He was the Messiah, the Savior of the world, were very different in personality, in occupation, and in their lifestyle, yet they all believed and put their faith and trust in Jesus as “the Way and the Truth and the Life” (John 14:6). John the Baptist was the prophet that made “straight the way of the Lord” (Isaiah 40:3 and John 1:23b). John knew that his work was completed when he met Jesus the Messiah. He stated in John 3:30, “He [Jesus] must become greater; I must become less.” He urged his disciples to follow Jesus. Soon after, John the Baptist was put in prison and beheaded for his faith in Jesus (Matthew 14:1-12 and Mark 6:14-29).
(The following Information is from sanctuaryri.org.)
The Gospels of Matthew (10:2-4), Mark (3:16-19), Luke (6:13-16) and the Book of Acts (1:13) all give a list of the first twelve disciples Jesus chose to follow Him. “Disciple” (the Greek word “mathetes”) means “learner” or “follower” who accepts and follows the views and practices of a teacher. Jesus’ first twelve disciples are also called “apostles” (the Greek word “apostolos”) meaning “one who is sent out with a special commission as a fully authorized representative of the sender, like an ambassador.” Jesus had many followers, but only the twelve disciples were the men Jesus chose to pour His life into and have deep relationships with, whom He used to change the world.
We already met Peter. His name in Greek (“Petros”) means “Rock”. He and his brother Andrew were fishermen who lived in Capernaum and fished on the Sea of Galilee. We know Peter best from his impetuous nature and his “foot-in-mouth disease”. For example, he was the one who wanted to walk on water with Jesus, then started sinking when he realized where he was and Jesus saved him from drowning (Matthew 14:28-32). Peter also said that he would never deny knowing Jesus, yet He did just that; not only once, but three times (Matthew 26:31-35, 69-75). There are many other times when Peter “messed up”, too numerous to mention at this time. However, maybe Peter “messing up” so much is why we can relate to him. I “mess up” all the time. Jesus knew, despite Peter’s “mess ups”, that he was going to be a great man of God who would help build His Church (Matthew 16:13-20) Even when he denied that he knew Jesus three times, at least he was “following” Jesus when the rest of the disciples ran and hid. In the same way, even with all my “mess ups”, Jesus knows that I love Him. I also know that He is making me into the woman of God He wants me to be. By God’s grace, I will keep on walking (or rolling in a wheelchair) with Him until He has completed His work in me. I know Jesus will do the same for you.
We will meet the other disciples next time. Until then:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded my a cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us RUN with perseverance the RACE marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:1-3)