What If Faith Cost Us Something?
Casey Ingold’s Sermon, Covenant Baptist Church, January 2nd, 2011
This week Casey drew our attention to a difficult question that is often ignored in our society: What if faith cost us something? What if calling myself a Christian involved the kind of sacrifice that it does in other countries such as China, or a Muslim country? The question could also be rephrased as, Is my faith real? Am I playing a game with myself or am I really sold out to Jesus? What evidence is there in my life that I have real faith?
To answer this question requires much soul searching. The first Bible passage that may come to mind is found in James 2:14-26. This has been a controversial passage over the centuries. It even caused Martin Luther to describe James as a “right strawy epistle.” Reading James requires that we understand that he uses terms like “faith” and “justified” in a different way the Paul did.
Here James points out that a “faith” that does not manifest itself in obedience to God (as illustrated in his examples of giving to those in need) is dead. Real faith, saving faith, will result in works flowing out of the believer as an evidence of the new life that is in Him.
James tells us that the demons are monotheists, but it only makes them tremble. Just saying “God is One,” (a fundamental article of the creed of the Jews) rises no higher than the faith of the demons if it is merely an intellectual assent.
He gives two examples of being “justified” by works: First, Abraham’s willingness to offer up Isaac, which is not the same example Paul uses in Galatians 3:6-29 and Romans 4. Here Abraham is living out his faith in obedience. The second is similar, with the harlot Rahab living out her faith by protecting God’s messengers at the risk of her own life because she believed in the one true God.
What About Us?
So how does this apply to us today, living in America with all its freedoms and affluence? As Casey pointed out, it would be easy for us to deceive ourselves. Historically, the church has flourished in places where it is persecuted. Do we need to be persecuted to know if we have genuine faith?
Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” The writer of Hebrews “explains the nature of true faith, giving not so much a definition as a description. Faith is trust in the unseen.” (Wycliffe Bible Commentary) He then launches out, listing what has been called “Faith’s Hall of Fame,” those who have lived out their faith under very difficult circumstances because they believed that “God is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6)
As we examine our own faith before God, let us meditate on these scriptures:
- Hebrews 11
- John 21:15-22
- Wives – Ephesians 5:22-24; Colossians 3:18; 1 Peter 3:1-6
- Husbands – Ephesians 5:25-33; Colossians 3:19; 1 Peter3:7
- Children – Ephesians 6:1-3; Colossians 3:20
- Fathers – Colossians 3:21
- Slaves (employees) Ephesians 6:5-8; Colossians 3:22-25; 1 Peter 2:18-20
- Masters (employers) Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 4:1
- 1 Corinthians 15:31b
- Luke 9:23-26
- 1 Peter 2:21-25; 4:1-5
- Ephesians 4:1-3; 17-32
- 1 John 1:5-10; 2:15-17, 28-29
- 1 John 3
As followers of Christ we are called to die to self and take up our cross and follow Him. This may mean going to a distant country or staying where we are. But either way, it involves what Paul calls us to in Romans 12:1, “Therefore I urge you brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.”
This may mean something as “simple” as serving my spouse even when, in my selfishness, I don’t feel like it, or giving to the poor instead of buying something for myself. It will always mean dying to self and living for God. This is the “cost” of faith. But the result is our knowing that we are walking with Jesus in obedience.