When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth? [Luke 18:18]
If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. [Matthew 17:20]
[Reducing a fig tree to a dried nothing:] If you have faith, you will be able to do what i did to this tree and even more. You will be able to say to this mountain: “go, fall in the sea”. And if you have faith it will happen. Matthew 21:21
If you want to be perfect, then go sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor. if you do this, you will have treasure in heaven, then come follow me. Matthew 19:21
What is faith?
Hebrews 11:1 Faith is the evidence of things unseen.
What faith isn’t: a doctrine statement.
How you livin’?
If faith is the evidence of things unseen, what evidence is there of our faith? I know that “faith without works is dead” [James 2:26]. Usually for me, this meant I should be ‘doing’ stuff for others. Being kind, generous, ect. Here’s what I’m noticing: Lots of people are kind and generous. So what?
My neighbor’s a great example. He’s awesome. He’s almost an empty nester and is looking to clear out his kids old stuff. So our kids are constantly getting mitts, basketballs, hoops, all kinds of goodies. On top of this, the dude plows our driveway for us 90% of the time in the winter. His works are GOOD, and he doesn’t know Jesus.
I recently relayed the story of the rich young ruler to him. This guy obeyed all the commands, and seemed genuinely concerned about being right in God’s eyes. Jesus poked into his heart, and asked Him to sell all and follow Him. We all know he walked away sad. He didn’t value an invitation from Jesus as worth more than his goods. He didn’t have faith in what was unseen…the Treasure from heaven being a rewarder of those who ‘do good’ AND who earnestly seek Him. This rich dude missed the greatest opportunity the universe has to offer. He was pursuing a relationship with God through his works, but when the invitation came to go deeper in that relationship, he didn’t like the way it looked. He didn’t have faith at that moment to accept the impossible. “What? God wants me to do what? That doesn’t seem right…that can’t be right! Sell everything?!!! I can use this stuff to benefit so many people! ect, ect.”
It’s good to have works, but the True Treasure is found in Christ. God won’t be as much concerned about what we did on Judgement Day, as He is about whether we knew His Son. (many will say Lord, Lord; but He’ll respond “be gone…I never knew you.”) My neighbor didn’t respond to my little story in any way, but it got me wondering about my own ‘life of faith’. Am I that much different from the Rich Young Ruler? or my neighbor? to be honest, my neighbors a better person than me.
Where’s my faith? If my faith can move mountains, is the greatest evidence of my faith that I live ‘righteously’, or know how to ask God in prayer for a new car or dishwasher if mine breaks? If Christ came into my home right now, what evidence of faith would He see? I have a Bible. I read it. and I do my best to live by it. So…what’s the problem?
To be honest, I’ve been more concerned about living rightly and being justified in His sight than I am about gaining His eyesight to see the world around me through His eyes. I know that’s a run-on sentence, but I don’t care. I’m just like the Rich Young Ruler. I love God. I really, really do. I want to please Him. The best way I know how to do that is through ‘works’. So I’m careful to do ‘right’ to the best of my ability and knowledge. I tithe. I ‘serve’. I’m try to be a good dad, and a loving husband, and a good neighbor. I pray. I fast. But in all this, there is something so simple that I constantly miss: His heart.
The Bible says Jesus looked at this man (the rich young ruler) and LOVED HIM. His command to sell everything wasn’t a test of do’s or not-to-do’s. I simply believe it was a request. In my mind, it goes like this: “Man, I love you so much! I see that you’re trying to please me. How about this: let’s spend more time together. I see that your business keeps you pretty occupied. You can’t really keep doing that and get to know me better at the same time. How about you sell all that stuff and walk around with me for a bit? Then we can get to know each other intimately. Wouldn’t that be awesome? I am so in love with you, I really want you to come with me!”
This was a faith test. A “Do you believe I’m worth it?” test. “Do you really love me more than all of these?” test.
Here’s where it starts to get dirty for me. Not long after His encounter with Rich Dude, he meets some other folks (teachers) who are doing their best to serve Him too. They are obeying lots and lots of rules, but it has morphed into pride and away from love. They’ve begun teaching people about rules, not relationship.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices–mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law–justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.”
You are careful to give your tithes, but you ignore what’s really important. Justice. Mercy. Being Loyal.
Ouch! So, where am I missing the point of the Gospel?:
Who in my life do I need to show justice towards?
What am I doing to stop human trafficking? Abortion? these are huge social ills that break God’s heart. these are the innocent. Where’s the churches/my help on this? Our ‘help’ thus far has included many judgements and berating of a ‘liberal agenda’. We picket and shout, point fingers and blame. We spend our energy in courts and ignore those are desperate. I don’t really have God’s heart for justice.
I am guilty.
Who around me needs my mercy? Homosexuals. Those caught in sin without a way out. Again, we throw our judgements and disgust at our culture, break up churches, and berate in elections and courts. What are we actually doing to show mercy to those stuck in this sin? How would we react if a member of our church stated he was having homosexual thoughts? In Minnesota, what I witnessed of the Church was picketing, anger, and a lot of bemoaning ‘the end of the world’ at the passing of gay marriage. And we’re the voice of mercy?
[note: homosexuality is sin. the bible is clear. in the same lines as drunkenness, thieves, greedy people I Cor 6. Those who live this way will not inherit God’s kingdom [Gal 5].
- we are called to not judge those who are living in sin if they don’t know Jesus
- we are called to judge those who are living in sin, but who claim to know the truth. 1 cor 5.
Years ago, I was on a mission trip to Mardis Gras. I met many transvestites, homosexuals and others who ‘loved Jesus’. They couldn’t see that Loving Jesus requires obeying what He says. No different than the Rich Young Ruler, no different from you or me. Those who love Him, obey Him. If we esteem anything above His Word, we’re living in sin. If I try to please God in my own way, my faith is useless and dead. If I don’t agree with what He says, I’m dead.
I could quickly point to Gal 5 or 1 Cor 6, feel justified that I don’t ‘practice’ these things, and then leave these people thinking my work was done. I frankly don’t want to take it any further than that. in fact: “what fellowship does light have with darkness”? What would I have in common with these people? and, it’s uncomfortable for me to be around them. However, “it’s not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick”.
Father, forgive me. There’s a trans-gender student of mine that God has given me a heart for. I want to have faith that God can restore her to Himself.
I am guilty of choosing judgement over mercy.
What loyalties am I ignoring?
my Church. in our culture, our church relationships are shallow and are based on the same template as choosing a restaurant. If I don’t like the service at church A, maybe church B’s service will be better. I don’t put down roots and don’t support my pastor in anything real.
In all of this, I believe we are the guilty ones. Will I really have faith? If God tells me to sell all, will I discredit it because it’s uncomfortable? If he asks me to adopt a baby from a teenage mom or a mom whose had 7 kids with 7 dads, will I step up? Will my faith and works be aligned? Will Christ find faith in me when He returns? Will I remember justice, mercy, and loyalty? Will I carry God’s heart for the lost?
It’s easy to turn this into condemnation and ‘works’. My motivation in this discovery has not been about putting myself down (which is actually just pride). My goal is to know God’s heart rightly. I believe the closer we get to God’s heart, the better we see society. Our anger and judgement turns to sorrow and grief over the lost; then action. I don’t do things because I’m supposed to. That is religion: just like Jesus condemned the Pharisees for their observance of the law, but ignoring the actual people around them. Faith without works is dead. Works without faith is dumb.
Those who love me, obey me
I want God’s heart for the world around me. I don’t get His heart by reciting Credos, manipulation, or signing my name on a petition. I get His heart by seeking after it. “My heart says, ‘seek His face’. Your face, Oh Lord, I will seek”. When He shows me where I’m being judgmental, I repent [which means I make it right with Him and the person (if at all possible): if you have a gift on the altar, leave it, go be reconciled] When He tells me to reach out, I must reach out. Faith without works is dead. If I want to know Him more, I must obey. I must surrender my rights.
These are all ‘Christian’ terms we throw around a lot. I’ve been understanding these terms in a more ‘weighty’ context lately. Maybe everyone else always knew the depths of sacrifice, but I’m beginning to have a deeper revelation of it. It began when I started asking for His heart. His heart is changing mine. Not by force and not over night. Slowly. Mercifully. Wonderfully.
Jesus, thank you for your patience. thank you that it is your kindness that brought me to repentance, not your judgement. Thank you that you did not come into the world to condemn the world, but to save it. Forgive me for living contrary to Your Word and Your Heart. Forgive me for judging and condemning my neighbor. Grant me your heart for your people. I want to know you rightly. I want to know your mercy more fully. Give us your heart, Oh God.