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TEXT: Galatians 2:20
SUBJECT: Passion of Jesus Christ #35: Live by Faith in Him
Tonight we come to Chapter 34 in our study of John Piper's work, The Passion of Jesus Christ. The book is short in length but long in good theology and warm devotion. Unlike so many devotional books, this one has real content, and unlike so many doctrinal books, it's got a real heart for Christ.
The book seeks to explain why our Lord died on the cross, and, in particular, what His death back then and there does for us right here and now.
What does the cross do for us? Piper says,
It enable[s] us to live by faith in Him.
What does it mean to 'live by faith in Christ'? It means more than believing all the right things about our Lord. We ought to believe 'all the right things' about Him, but this kind of 'faith' is not enough. James compares it to the faith of demons, who believe in one God and tremble. He got his idea, it seems, from the Gospels. At Gadara, a legion of devils accosted Him, and owned both His humanity and His Divinity-Jesus, Son of the Most High God. In the synagogue of Capernaum, an unclean spirit confessed His character and authority-I know who you are, the Holy One of God.Have you come to destroy us? The demons, of course, saw Him die and later-much to their dismay-they saw Him rise from the dead and ascend to heaven. In way, they had 'faith' in Who He is and What He did. But it did them no good, for real faith is not merely 'believing all the right things about Him'.
If 'faith' is more than mere belief, it's also more than empty talk. James knew some who very firmly believed in Christ. But their 'faith' resided solely in their mouths. That kind of faith-he says-never saved anyone!
What, then, is the faith by which we live? The word we're looking for is trust. A person of faith trusts Jesus Christ-not only on the big things-like taking him to heaven when he dies-but on the small things too, on the details of everyday life. If I can make up a new word, a real believer is a 'truster'-a truster of Jesus Christ.
THE EASINESS OF TRUST
If you told Adam (before he fell into sin), You ought to trust Jesus Christ, he'd say, 'How could I not trust Him?' What is there to doubt in Christ? Has He ever told a lie? Has He ever gone back on His Word? Has He ever forgotten what He said? Can anything come between His promise and Him keeping it? For Adam-at the time-trusting Christ was like trusting the Golden Gate Bridge to not fall down under your weight! Just look at the bridge and you'll know it can be trusted. Just look at Christ and you'll know He can be trusted.
At one time, trusting Christ was extremely easy!
THE HARDNESS OF TRUST
But that time has passed. Adam and Eve fell into sin, and with their fall they lost, not only their innocence, but also their faith. Their knowledge of Christ was not wiped out, but the power to trust Him was. Instead of taking responsibility for what they had done and trusting the Lord's mercy to restore them, they blamed others, and finally, God Himself for their sin.
The mistrust they felt was transmitted (like a disease) to their children and to their children and to their children, all the way down to us.
Our unbelief is groundless because there is nothing in Christ-or in His Word-that is the least bit doubtful. Many point to 'the problem of evil' as proof that He cannot be trusted. How can we trust Him while innocent people suffer and wicked people don't? He seems unfair-at least-and maybe worse than unfair. This has real power with many people. But the objection is worthless because it ignores this key fact: The story is not over. On May 5, 1953, Josef Stalin died on his featherbed and a Russian pastor died in his labor camps. If this were the end of the story, we'd have reason to doubt the Lord's justice. But when the two men died, one went to heaven and the other went to hell. Now, what is unjust about that? But that doesn't answer the inequity of this life. True, but that too can be explained: the prison camp, though terrible, was the very thing the pastor needed to prove the character of Christ and to put his whole trust in Him. Stalin's luxuries, though nice, were the very things that kept his mind on himself and off Christ. When the whole story is revealed, even the worst blasphemer will have to say,
He has done all things well.
This is one solution to the problem of evil, and while it might help your unbelieving friend to understand the Lord better, but it will not enable him to trust Christ. Because it is more than hard for the unsaved to trust Him: it is impossible! Our Lord once said,
How can you believe who seek honor from one another and not the honor that comes from the only God?
By ourselves we cannot trust Christ or live by faith in Him. It has not been done and it cannot be done. With man, this is impossible.
Yet we have to trust Him! To not trust Him is to call His character into doubt, and how can He have us as long as we're this way? Or, to turn it around, why would we even want to have Him as long as we felt this way?
Without faith it is impossible to please God.
The just shall live by faith-or not at all!
This puts us in a box, a box nailed shut, from both the inside and the outside. If we wanted to, we couldn't get out-and even though it's awful in there, we don't really want to get out!
We are stuck.
This is where the cross comes in! How many people died on the cross that day, in the spring of 29 AD? Humans saw three men die that day. But God saw millions more as well. For when Christ died on that Middle Cross, our 'old selves' died with Him. This is what Paul means in our verse,
I am crucified with Christ.
Your 'old self' is the self that cannot trust Christ. It may have heard every argument in the book for Him, and it may find the arguments wonderfully satisfying-to the mind. But they don't touch the heart! They make you smart, but not trusting! You need more than a good argument for that, you need a Crucified Savior! And that's what God give you!
If your old, untrusting self died on the cross with our Lord, a new self emerged from the tomb with Him on the Third Day. This is what Paul means by,
Nevertheless I live.
This 'new self' knows the Lord-not just the arguments for Him, but the Lord Himself. And to know Him is to trust Him.
IMPERFECT BUT REAL
Our trust in Christ is always imperfect, but 'imperfect' does not mean 'unreal'. As inconsistent and half-hearted as we all are, we trust Jesus Christ.
We trust Him because He died for us. And, in dying for us, He bought for us the finest gift we ever got: faith.
For by grace are you saved, through faith-and that not of yourself-it is the gift of God.
GIFT LOVED AND KEPT
Because faith is the gift of God, we ought to be deeply thankful for it. Where would you be without faith? You'd be in unbelief and despair, and before long you'd be in eternal fire. But you're not and you won't be, because Christ died to secure the gift of faith. For you.
If you should be thankful for the gift of faith, you should also be careful with it. If a man gave me a Ferrari Enzo, I wouldn't park it in the bad parts of town; I wouldn't let the oil change slip by me, I wouldn't let my son climb on it, and who knows? Maybe I wouldn't even drink sodas in it! A Ferrari is a gift worth taking care of!
But what's a sports car compared to faith? Yet how little we care for our faith! We neglect the things that keep it strong and we indulge the things that weaken it. As though faith were an 1975 AMC Gremlin, on it's way to the junkyard! The care you give a thing is in proportion to its worth. But nothing on this earth is worth more than faith. Take care of it. You take care of it, much like you take care of your health. You nourish it with the Word of God and prayer; you exercise it by getting out of your comfort zone and doing hard or scary things because the Lord has told you to do them, and you stay away from the diseases that threaten it (like bad friends, bad movies, and bad books).
ONE LAST WORD
One last word. It probably belongs somewhere else in the sermon, but I couldn't think of where to put it. Piper says our Lord suffered and died to enable us to live by faith.
Mark the word, 'enable'-not help or assist us, but to 'enable' us. He didn't die to make our salvation a possibility, but to make it sure!
And He did it for us-not for people who deserved it or sought it or took immaculate care of it once we had it. But for fools and sinners.
Your faith in Christ ought to surprise you, and make you love Him with all your heart.
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