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Lesson 2: The Faith-Rest Life

Written by: Biblical Studies Foundation    Posted on: 04/09/2003

Category: Sermons

Source: CCN

                                            Lesson 2:                                       The Faith-Rest Life

                                          Introduction

      The Scripture emphatically declares: ôFor the righteous man shall live by faithö (Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11);       ôWithout faith, it is impossible to please Himö (Heb. 11:6); and ôWe walk by faith and not by sightö (2 Cor.       5:8). It is so important that we do not underestimate the importance of faith in the life of the believer that to       overemphasize it is almost impossible. Some might respond that works are also important and quote James       2:15f for support. But the emphasis of Scripture is that bonafide works must be the product of faith in the       person and plan of God which sets God free to work in the heart and life of the individual.

      Faith brings the power of God into the life of the believer. We become the children of God and justified by       faith, but we are also to live and experience the Christ-exchanged life by faith. The Christian life from start to       finish is of necessity a life of faithùa life of dependence on God and His grace provision for us in Christ. It is a       supernatural life to be accomplished by God through faith in the Spirit who, as a gift from God, indwells every       believer from the moment of salvation. As GodÆs gift, the indwelling Spirit accomplishes a variety of ministries       each of which are vital to the believerÆs spiritual life. We can no more live the Christian life by self effort than       we can manufacture a resurrected body by our own effort.

      The Apostle Paul rebuked the believers at Galatia for their failure to recognize this very important principle.       They began by faith in Christ, but because of the pressure of legalists they had moved into the realm of human       achievement through religious works for spirituality. In fact, he viewed their failure to understand this as the       result of being bewitched. Such is undoubtedly the product of SatanÆs deception.

                Galatians 3:1-5 You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes                 Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? 2 This is the only thing I want to                 find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing                 with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being                 perfected by the flesh? 4 Did you suffer so many things in vainùif indeed it was in                 vain? 5 Does He then, who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among                 you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?

      Faith in the power and plan of God is absolutely necessary:

      (1) Because of the nature of man.

                Ephesians 2:1-3 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you                 formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of                 the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3                 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires                 of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.

      (2) Because of manÆs inherent weakness.

                Romans 6:19 I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh.                 For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness,                 resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to                 righteousness, resulting in sanctification.

                Romans 8:3-4 For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh,                 God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for                 sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the requirement of the Law might                 be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.

                Matthew 26:41 Keep watching and praying, that you may not enter into temptation;                 the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

      (3) Because of the blindness and deceptive nature of the world in which we live.

                John 12:46 I have come as light into the world, that everyone who believes in Me                 may not remain in darkness.

                John 14:17 that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it                 does not behold Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with                 you, and will be in you.

                1 Corinthians 1:20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the                 debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?

                Ephesians 2:2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world,                 according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in                 the sons of disobedience.

                Ephesians 4:19 and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to                 sensuality, for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.

      (4) Because of the activity of Satan and his forces.

                Ephesians 6:10-18 Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might.                 11 Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the                 schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against                 the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the                 spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore, take up the full                 armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done                 everything, to stand firm. 14 Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with                 truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your                 feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 in addition to all, taking up the                 shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the                 evil one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is                 the word of God. 18 With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and                 with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints,

      (5) Because we are totally inadequate and God alone is adequate, it is vital that we learn to walk by       faith with every step.

                2 Corinthians 2:16 to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma                 from life to life. And who is adequate for these things?

                2 Corinthians 3:5 Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as                 coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God,

      As we have received Christ by faith in the message of the gospel (GodÆs witness concerning His Son or       justification through faith) so we are to walk step by step by faith in the BibleÆs message of sanctification.

                Romans 1:17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is                 written, ôBut the righteous man shall live by faith.ö

                Colossians 2:6-8 As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in                 Him, 7 having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in                 your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude. 8 See to it                 that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according                 to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather                 than according to Christ.

      Faith is such an inherent part of the message of Bible that a study on faith is fundamental and essential to the       transformed life. As we think in terms of spiritual growth and the transformed life, IÆd like to begin with an       emphasis on faith because we need to guard against four serious problems that work against faith and spiritual       transformation.

                                  Problems We Must Guard Against

      A Spirit of Legalism

      Legalism is a disposition in which man seeks to establish his own righteousness with God. It is man doing good       deeds or religious works to impress God, to merit GodÆs blessing, or even to impress people. Legalism relies       on human resources rather than on GodÆs resources of grace, on human abilities rather than on divine       enablement. Legalism brings glory to man rather than to God. In summary, we may define legalism as ômy       effort using my resources to obtain GodÆs blessing to my glory.ö

                Romans 4:1-2 What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to                 the flesh, has found? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to                 boast about; but not before God.

                Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of                 yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, that no one should                 boast.

      In a number of passages, the Apostle Paul strongly warns against legalism in any form. The author of Hebrews       also warns against what he calls ôdead works,ö a reference to all that men do (any kind of religious works or       human good) to meritoriously acquire either salvation or spirituality.

                Romans 10:1-4 Brethren, my heartÆs desire and my prayer to God for them is for                 their salvation. 2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not in                 accordance with knowledge. 3 For not knowing about GodÆs righteousness, and                 seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness                 of God. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who                 believes.

                Galatians 3:1-5 You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes                 Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? 2 This is the only thing I want to                 find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing                 with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being                 perfected by the flesh? 4 Did you suffer so many things in vainùif indeed it was in                 vain? 5 Does He then, who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among                 you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?

                Galatians 5:1-5 It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing                 firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. 2 Behold I, Paul, say to you                 that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. 3 And I testify                 again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep                 the whole Law. 4 You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be                 justified by law; you have fallen from grace. 5 For we through the Spirit, by faith,                 are waiting for the hope of righteousness.

                Hebrews 6:1 Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us                 press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works                 and of faith toward God,

                Hebrews 9:14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal                 Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead                 works to serve the living God?

      In the life of the Christian, good works, Christian labor, and endurance, etc., are to be the result of       spiritualityùbeing rightly adjusted to the Spirit of God through faith. The details of this will be discussed later in       the lesson on The Spirit-Filled Life.

      Compare the NIVÆs grammatically accurate translation of 1 Thessalonians 1:3: ôWe continually remember       before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your       endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christö (emphasis mine).

      Working in the Energy of the Flesh

      This means working in the energy of our own strengthùour own abilities, talents, or resources. One of the       strongest evidences of mankindÆs fall into sin and his alienation from God is his proneness, indeed, his       commitment to operate independently of God. As in the beginning with Eve, this is where Satan still seeks to       deceive and tempt us the most. True, salvation through faith in Christ means the believer is a new creation with       a new nature or new capacity for knowing, loving, and choosing for God. But the old nature, the self-life, or       the flesh as it is also called, still struggles to control. The most prominent characteristic of the flesh is that of       self-dependenceùseeking to handle life apart from GodÆs plan and resources.

      A few words are needed regarding the sinful nature or the flesh. The ôflesh,ö as used metaphorically by the       Apostle Paul, may be defined as that indwelling spiritual principle or force, that strong disposition in all of us to       operate out of our own resources independent of God to meet our needs and wants, the things we perceive       we must have for security and significance, etc. The ôfleshö is the opposite of trust in God. It is a spirit of       independence and faith in self. As faith in self, it is a commitment to do our own thing, in our own way, and       from our own resources. The flesh is evil, sinful, and anti-God. That ôfleshö is often used of this propensity       within man is clear from JeremiahÆs warning in Jeremiah 17:5.

                Thus says the LORD, ôCursed is the man who trusts in mankind And makes flesh                 his strength, And whose heart turns away from the LORD.ö

      This passage points out four key concepts about the flesh: (a) the act of depending on human resources, (b)       the act of depending on human resources rather than on GodÆs resources, (c) such an act is in essence, a       turning away from God, and (d) such an act brings a curse, it is detrimental.

      As a force in manÆs life, the flesh is manÆs natural means of protection. As manÆs natural means of protecting       himself, it is a way that seems right to man, it feels natural, but its end is the way of death.

                Proverbs 14:12 There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of                 death.

      The Mentality of Our Culture

      As never before in human history, the very nature of our modern society undercuts true dependence on God.       With all the advances in modern science and technology in health, convenience, comfort, speed, power,       amusement, information, etc., manÆs natural spirit of independence and self-sufficiency has become even more       acute. In spite of the gigantic social and moral problems facing society, mankind generally thinks in terms of       ôwe are sufficient.ö The Scripture, however, declares we are not and cannot even direct our lives. Jeremiah       wrote, ôI know, O LORD, that a manÆs way is not in himself; Nor is it in a man who walks to direct his stepsö       (Jer. 10:23).

                Jeremiah 9:23-24 Thus says the LORD, ôLet not a wise man boast of his wisdom,                 and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches;                 24 but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I                 am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness on earth; for                 I delight in these things,ö declares the LORD.

      The Imbalance of Passivity

      This is the ôlet go and let Godö mentality which teaches believers are to sit back and let God do it all. Ryrie       warns about this as an imbalance of what the Scripture teaches. He writes:

                à there is the view which emphasizes the idea that God does all that needs to be                 done for us in the spiritual life. We not only can do nothing; we must do nothing;                 otherwise we will hinder the work of God in our lives.26

      So that we do not misunderstand this emphasis and RyrieÆs comment about it, let me quote what he says just       prior to the above quote.

                Let it be said, too, à I am not suggesting that the entire teaching is wrong; it                 contains, in my judgment, an imbalance because some aspect of the spiritual life                 has been emphasized in a manner disproportionate to the place given to it in                 the Scripture.27 (Emphasis mine)

      This is basically the issue of personal responsibility to appropriate GodÆs resources. The hundreds of       commands in the New Testament make this clear. Certainly, we are to do these things in dependence on       GodÆs resources, but we are nevertheless responsible to do them. God is not going to do them for us.

                Dependence on the power of God and effort on the part of the believer are not                 mutually exclusive. Self-discipline and Spirit-dependence can and must be practiced                 at the same time in a balanced spiritual life. Dependence itself is an attitude, but that                 attitude does not come automatically; it usually requires cultivation. How many                 genuine Christians there are who live day after day without even sensing their need                 of dependence on Him. Experience, routine, pride, self-confidence all tend to drag                 all of us away from that conscious dependence on God which we must have in                 order to live and act righteously.28

      In all obedience there must be the balance of disciplined dependence. A number of New Testament       passages teach this truth and if we fail to see this balance, we will become imbalanced, and end up in a very       unbiblical position. For instance, note the element of personal responsibility in the following passages:

                Romans 8:13 for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the                 Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

                Galatians 5:16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of                 the flesh.

                2 Peter 1:5-8 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith                 supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge; 6 and in your                 knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your                 perseverance, godliness; 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your                 brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they                 render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus                 Christ.

                1 Timothy 4:7-10 But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women.                 On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; 8 for bodily                 discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds                 promise for the present life and also for the life to come. 9 It is a trustworthy                 statement deserving full acceptance. 10 For it is for this we labor and strive,                 because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men,                 especially of believers.

      To be sure, each of the above commands are to be done in the Spirit by faith in GodÆs strength, but still we       have a vital partùwe are responsible. God does not walk in the Spirit for us. We see the blending of these       two concepts, responsibility and dependence, in the following two passages:

                Colossians 1:29 And for this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power,                 which mightily works within me.

                1 Corinthians 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward                 me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the                 grace of God with me.

      Understanding the balance between dependence on GodÆs resources and expending human energy while       depending on GodÆs enablement protects a believer from two serious errors. It protects him from:

                à (1) the error that there is some sort of a switch which he can touch in order to                 turn off the current of temptation and keep it from coursing through his being; (2) the                 Christian life is a passive one in which all the believer does is æyield.Æ If yielding                 means I decide to be what I truly am in Christ through the SpiritÆs power no matter                 how great the struggle then it is clear that there will be much battle even as Paul                 stated when he wrote that æthe flesh sets its desire against the Spirit and the Spirit                 against the flesh, for these are in opposition to one another, àÆ (Gal. 5:17). The                 spiritual life is neither automatic or passive.29

      We might add, the spiritual life is not only not automatic, or passive, but it is also not painless. Bill Lawrence       has a good summary of the issues under a section called, ôWe are responsible to obey by faith.ö

                In a sense, the believerÆs responsibility in the spiritual life can be summarized in one                 word: Obedience.

                The bottom line of the believerÆs responsibility in the spiritual life is obedience.                 Believers are to do what God has told them to do and they can do what God has                 told them to do because the Holy Spirit makes this possible, though not without the                 exercise of discipline.

                Discipline is not a matter of obeying God in our own strength even as we obeyed                 our parents or our employers in our pre-Christ days. Discipline is a matter of faith,                 because, ôwhatever is not from faith is sinö (Rom. 14:23). Discipline must be an act                 of trus

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