Living By Faith: Believing God is Good
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We’ve talked a lot about the power of faith, what it means to live by faith, how we need to trust God for future grace.
I’d like to add just one last piece to our series.
I remember when I was young I really disliked having family worship. I remember prayer times that were just miserable as a kid. Christianity seemed like something I had to endure. I guess it was the right thing, but the right thing usually wasn’t very fun.
Many times people view the Christian life as sacrifice, “even though we don’t like it, we’ll do it for Jesus.” We need to come to church, read our bibles, serve others. Even though we don’t always like it, that’s just the cost of being a Christian.
Mt 7:13-14 [text]
There’s an easy road, a fun road, but that’s the road that leads to destruction.
The Christian life is a narrow road, a hard road, a life of sacrifice and self-denial. Perhaps when we were growing up, it meant:
No cussing, no going to certain parties, no sex, no to a lot of “fun” things
Instead you have to go to church, read your bible, obey your parents, turn the other cheek
But that’s the price you have to pay if you want the road the leads to glory.
The power for Christian living comes from endurance, self-discipline, self-denial.
Maybe from the outside (or even from the inside), that’s what it looks like. Christians are people who have to carry these extra loads, follow all these rules, do something to make up for our wrongs and guilt.
But I’d like to suggest to you today that this isn’t what Christianity is about. That is not the faith by which we live.
Hebrews 11 is the great chapter on faith.
There is a clear message that living by faith is not a life of sacrifice and self-denial; rather, the picture is one of delayed gratification: you could have some pleasure now, but you postpone that pleasure, deny yourself that pleasure, so you can have a greater pleasure later. Most of us here live by this in some way:
Do you want to spend everything you earn today (paycheck to paycheck) or do you want to deny some spending so you can save up for vacation, a car, a house tomorrow?
Do you want all your fun today and settle for a mediocre career, or do you want to work hard now and enjoy life later?
We deny ourselves some fun and spending today, not because we don’t want to gain, but because we want to gain more!
Look at Moses.
We read that he chose mistreatment and
disgrace instead of pleasures and treasures, because he was looking ahead to
his reward. He saw the pleasures of
The Christian life isn’t one of self-denial as much as it is one of delayed gratification.
(Mt 7) It’s not, “What a difficult road this Christian life is.”
It’s rather, “This is the road that leads to glory!” Yes, it’s a hard road, but this is the better road. Christians take the narrow road, not because we like to deny ourselves, but because we don’t want to deny ourselves the greatest good.
Christianity is about denying ourselves the good so we could have the best. Faith is looking forward to a greater reward.
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 earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)
That’s faith. Faith is believing that God is better.
Until a year and half ago, I used to drive a 91 Nissan Sentra E. It was the car I got in seminary and because I was pretty poor in seminary, this was a bare bones car. But I was happy with it.
Imagine someone offers me, P. Paul, why don’t you give me your Nissan Sentra, because I’d like to give you a $120,000, 6.0L 438 hp, BMW 760Li sedan [picture]. Just give up your Sentra.
Christianity is not about giving up Sentra’s as much as it is about getting your BMW’s.
Christians aren’t people of self-denial as much as they are people of greater pleasures.
The problem is not that we desire pleasure too much, but that we desire pleasure too little.
Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. (C. S. Lewis, “The Weight of Glory”)
The difference between a Christian and a nonChristian is not about their virtue, self-denial, sacrifice, etc. The main difference is about their faith: what do you believe is better.
It is not virtue that causes someone to give up their Sentra for a Beemer. It is only to believe that the Beemer is better.
If you believe the best you can get is the stuff of earth (a successful career, a nice car, a nice home, a nice family), then you run after those things. If you believe the best you can have is God, divine purpose and joy, love and significance, then you run after God.
I’m not asking anyone to make any sacrifices, to do anything noble. I’m asking to chose which ever road you think is better. It comes down to what you believe.
Have you ever had someone ask something like, “So are you free this Saturday afternoon? Do you have some extra time?”
Well, you might think, it sort of depends. Maybe. Why do you ask? Because if you’re asking if I have time to help you move your piano or help babysit kids for a church event, I might be busy. But if you’re asking because you’d like to invite me over for lunch or you have extra tickets for the Phillies game, I might not be busy.
But sometimes you feel bad asking, and so you just have to trust, is this person trying to give or trying to take? What do you believe about this person?
More ultimately, the question is do you believe that God is good or that God is bad. Is God trying to give or trying to take away? Do you believe that God is good?
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (Jn 10:10)
Is God someone we have to protect ourselves from, or is God someone we should run to?
Ge 3:1-6 [text]
We see the account of the Fall, and in it, we see the nature of sin and temptation.
What did the serpent do to Eve?
He said, “God isn’t being honest with you. You won’t die. No, you’ll be like God. He’s not looking out for your best interest. He’s trying to keep something good from you.”
The fundamental question is, Do you believe that God is good? Is he trying to keep something from you, or is he trying to bless you?
Then notice vs. 6, Eve saw that the fruit was good, she ate it, only to find out that she was deceived.
The root of sin is to doubt the goodness of God, to think that something else is better.
That is Satan’s ploy: to make us doubt God, to make us feel that we’d do better running our own lives than following Him.
When it seems that there are sacrifices in the Christian life, it is a narrow road, do we still believe that God is good? Do we see it has delayed gratification? Or do we think that God is just trying to take away? Is more of God a good thing or a bad thing? Do you believe that God is good or bad?
The crux of Christian living comes down to what do you believe?
1. The Christian live is not about giving, but about receiving.
It’s not about virtue but about faith. It is that we believe God is trying to give, not take away.
We never pay God back, we only go further into debt.
Couples’ Get-away, our spouse is a gift from God. Our children are gifts from God.
2. The Christian life is not about boasting, but about thankfulness and humility.
There are no heroes, no noble or self-sacrificing angels. There’s no self-righteousness, nothing to boast about. We’re only receive.
No gets applauded for choosing to give his Sentra for a 438 hp BMW 760Li
We’re just ordinary people who believe this is the better road, God is good.
3. The Christian sees where the road is going
Sometimes we recognize this is the better road when we get the bigger picture. Like delayed gratification; it’s not always immediate.
If you ask, “Would you like to have a dry salad or a chocolate fudge sundae?” Most of us would probably rather have the sundae. But if a person had a salad at each dinner, another person had a sundae at each dinner, for 1 year: I think the salad person would be a happier person.
If you ask, “Do you want to read your Bible and pray or watch TV?” I think most of us would probably rather watch TV. The goodness, “betterness” is found long-term. Let’s suppose a person each night spend half an hour watching TV and another person spend half an hour in the Bible and prayer with God, one year later, who is the happier person?
One person spends all his money on himself, goes to the shore all summer, eats out all the time, sees movies, goes to Broadway, buys himself nice clothes and gadgets, etc.
Another person gives most of his money away, goes on a mission trip for the summer, hosts people at his place, serves Sunday School or welcoming committee.
1 year later, who is the happier, more fulfilled person?
The joy, goodness, betterness if found long-term; look down the road 2, 5, 10, 50 years. An obedient, Christian life is far more satisfying, meaningful, than one that eats the chocolate fudge sundaes and watches all the movies of the world.
4. The Christian develops his spiritual taste buds
There is a sense where worship, Bible, prayer are wonderful and powerful ways to experience God. But not always for all people.
I think we all go through a learning process of developing our spiritual taste buds.
When someone first reads the Bible, it can be, for many, rather boring. It’s not a BMW, it’s a Hyundai. But as you learn how to read the Bible, as you develop your theology and study skills, as you learn to listen to God and recognize God, the Bible becomes sweeter and sweeter.
Prayer can be difficult. It’s not easy to pray, and for many, it feels like a waste of time. But as you learn how to pray, as you learn how to settle your spirit and focus your heart and be honest before God and be lead by his promptings, prayer can become sweeter and sweeter.
There is a divine pleasure in the Christian life. God wants to meet with us, God wants to show us His glory. But it may be a learning process, growing in the means of grace.
On that note, let me turn to the Table.
God wants to meet with us, God wants to remember his love, his sacrifice, his faithfulness to us.
Do you believe that God is good? Do you believe this is the better road?
I invite you to stop, remember the cross, remember how He’s not a God who’s trying to take away, but a God who’s only giving and giving.