Is Your Religion Real? Part three

13 Sep

What does saving faith look like?

We are looking at what Peter says in verse 1 Peter 1:8 and 9 to answer this question because as we have seen, Peter’s looking at these Christians, and he’s saying “You have got the kind of faith, I am convinced is genuine. It’s come through trials. And you’ve got a faith that is so beautiful that it is going to result in glory, honor and praise when Jesus returns. And really, you have got the kind of faith, that’s been refined by fire. I think the trials you have gone through, have really taken a lot of the impurities out of your faith, which means, in my mind, basically, you have got, a beautiful saving faith in its pretty much its purest form.”

The quintessential faith.

Which is what makes this perfect for us, because this is the whole question, we are asking, which is, what exactly does that kind of faith look like?

That’s our question, and this is Peter’s response.

“Though you have not seen him, you love him.

Though you do not see him now, you believe in him, and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory.”

It’s kind of hard actually by itself to explain what it means to have faith.

But, obviously, it starts with trust.

The word believe that Peter uses, is kind of at the core here, it is what this revolves around, and it has to do with a firm persuasion, that’s believing, it’s a confidence, a conviction, that someone can be counted as reliable.

And not just anyone, clearly.

This whole verse, revolves around one person in particular, it’s talking about a confidence in Christ.

You love Him.

You believe in Him.

But what exactly does it look like to trust someone like that in real life?

Maybe it kind of helps to see it lived out.

Because, we’re actually towards the end of it here in verse 8, after this trust has been proven, but if we go up to verse 3, we can see where it begins. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”As Peter looks at how these believers have gotten to where they are, you can see, he starts by using an impossible illustration to describe them.

“He has caused us to be born again.”

That’s a supernatural work.

Of God.

It, is impossible, physically, of course, you are only born once and if you try to get born again, you are going to be disappointed, you can’t do it physically, and yet, this is the illustration Peter uses to describe what happens to a person when they truly become a Christian, because it captures, the miracle of it.

It wasn’t just that they went to church.

You don’t use a miracle to describe that.

And obviously, just agreeing with a certain set of facts, doesn’t require a miracle to explain it.

But with, saving faith you do.

1 John 5:1,

“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God.”

And though you don’t have to use an illustration like birth or new birth to explain someone who just agrees that Jesus came to earth and died, you do have to use this illustration to describe real Christians, because the reason they have saving faith is because God has done a work in their life, He has acted on them, causing them to become someone new, someone they did not used to be.

He has given them something they didn’t have before, which here Peter says is a hope that is based on the work of Jesus Christ on their behalf.

This how real faith happens.

Here they had heard certain truths about Christ and what Christ had done and the promises God had made through Christ. And God had done a work in their lives enabling them to trust in Christ and those promises and to make a personal commitment to Christ which was all part of this miracle call the new birth and resulted in them being given a glorious future salvation that God’s protecting them for and bringing for them through Christ, in which they were clearly now banking all their hopes.

That’s how they were making it through.

They were being protected by God for that salvation, Peter says through faith.

Which means, this is what their life, ultimately became about, they were convinced, that, Jesus was good, and reliable, and that’s obvious, that they were trusting him, and convinced He would keep His promises to them, because, they were not really getting anything now, for following Him, except persecution, and what’s even more striking, is that all of this was happening in spite of the fact, as Peter keeps saying in verse 8, that they had never seen Him, and they were not currently seeing Him, at least with their physical eyes, and yet, they still were loving him, and rejoicing in Him.

In spite of that.

And really, I think those are the two qualities here, that Peter’s saying, ahh, are the proof of trust, maybe you could say, pinpointing as the essence, of faith, that sets apart from its counterfeit.

Faith is trust, first, we know that, it’s a trust in the goodness and reliability and sufficiency of Christ specifically, as He’s revealed in the gospel, that results in a,

Love for Christ.

And

A joy in Him.

That’s not based on one’s earthly circumstances, or even what we can get from Jesus for now, but instead that can only be explained as a supernatural work of God in an individual as he responds to the truth being proclaimed about Jesus as He’s revealed in His Word.

This is what faith looks like, in real life.

I mean, just think for a minute about these believers, to whom Peter’s writing.

Specifically.

Because everyone had to be looking at them and wondering, what in the world would cause them to give up the things they did, and to suffer the way they had, people would look at them, and say, it’s like you are making your life more difficult, it’s like you hate yourself, because there was absolutely nothing they could see, with their eyes that would motivate them to make the kinds of choices they did.

It was, love, instead, that did it.

It was “this supernatural principle of love, for someone they had not seen,” they loved Jesus Christ, and because, they loved Jesus Christ, they wanted to do what He wanted them to do, even if it cost.

Which is what happens in the hearts of anyone with truly saving faith.

That’s the point.

The gospel is preached about Jesus.

And you don’t just hear the information, it doesn’t just sit here, and you don’t just nod your head at the information, but the Holy Spirit actually enables you to see the beauty of Jesus in a way that you hadn’t before and it’s like He creates a spark of love in your heart for Jesus that is greater than your love for anything else.

In fact, just listen to the way Paul puts it in 2 Corinthians 4.

Because, it’s like he gives us a behind the scenes look at where this love comes from.

In that, he’s talking about the preaching of the gospel, verse, 4, and he says, “even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing.”

In other words, the unbelievers aren’t getting this, it’s like I say it, and they hear it, and they can’t see it.

Why?

“In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

The devil is at working, keeping people from seeing the light.

That’s Paul’s explanation of unbelief.

A failure to see the light.

The gospel is like a light of what, the glory or beauty of Christ, and what it means to be an unbeliever, is to hear that, and not be able to see the beauty of Jesus in it. Obviously, they can understand the words that are being used. It’s not like someone talks and the words become nonsense in their minds. They can maybe understand the point, but they don’t see the glory of it, the beauty of it, the excellency in it. Where on the other hand, basically, what it means to be a believer, verse 6, is to have had God “shine in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

It’s like the lights get turned on in your heart.

You are not just reciting facts you heard about Jesus anymore, God gives you the ability spiritually to see Him.

And I am not talking about an actual vision or something, you didn’t literally see Jesus in your heart, that’s not what I am talking about, it’s instead that you are convinced He’s excellent, that He’s a beautiful Savior, that what the Bible says about Him is true and good and you want Him as your Savior, your sure He’s better and more important than everything else, He’s the perfect Savior for you, and you choose Christ, with your mind, your judgment, and you begin as a result to prefer Christ, even more than you do anything else, you start loving Him more than any other, you slowly but surely begin to desire Him more than anything the world has to offer.

As Jonathan Edwards once put it,

You choose “Christ as the best of all and the way of salvation by Christ as the best and most desirable way and your heart is freely and without force willing to have Christ and it seems delightful to have Christ for a Saviour and to be saved in that way, that’s” believing in Christ.

“This is the foundation of the faith of Christ’s elect. This gives the mind a saving belief of the truth of divine things. It’s a view of the excellency of things on display in the gospel, a sense of the divine beauty, that savingly convinces the mind, that it is all of God, and that Christ is truly the all sufficient, only Savior.”

I am just trying to describe the way faith loves Jesus.

Which is the life, of being a Christian.

As someone has said,

“The life of Christianity consists very much in our love to Christ.

Without love to Christ, we are as much without spiritual life—as a carcass when the soul is fled from it is without natural life. Faith without love to Christ is a dead faith, and a professor without love to Christ is a dead professor, dead in sins and trespasses.

Without love to Christ we may have the name of Christians—but we are wholly without the nature of Christians.”

I mean, it’s one thing “to be instructed and understand who God is and understand who Christ is and how God saves people and to know about heaven and all of that, and it is another thing to have the eye of your heart opened, to see the excellency of the things which the Bible teaches about God and Christ, to taste the sweetness of them, and to have those things sink down into the heart,” which is clearly, what Peter is saying, happened with these believers, and it’s why even though they were suffering, and it did grieve them, of course, it was painful, they still were able to rejoice, because they had Christ, they had what mattered most to them, and nothing could take that away from them.

And I guess, I just, what I am wanting you to see is that saving faith is a really big thing.

It’s a miracle.

It’s not just growing up in church and just not leaving church.

It’s not just going to church and having an emotional experience one time, either.

It’s this trust in Christ that is based on the promises of Christ and that produces a deep love for someone you haven’t seen and a deep down joy in Him as well.

And, you can see if you look down at verse 8, that this is a really big joy, Peter is talking about.

In fact, he mentions two characteristics specifically that stand out about the way faith rejoices.

First, it didn’t come from something they had seen, though you do not see him now.

It was not a joy that could be explained by someone’s circumstances.

It could only be explained by faith.

It was the fact they believed in him, that caused them to rejoice.

And then, second, there’s how they rejoiced, it’s with joy inexpressible and filled with glory, which means, he’s talking about a joy that is bigger than words. It’s literally too good, too profound to explain to someone else. And that’s because it was a joy that was stuffed with glory, a glorified joy, a joy that was beautiful, and heavy and weighty and significant, and filled with everything excellent.

Probably, because that is what Jesus is like and, because that’s what the salvation he was bringing for them was like as well.

I guess, if you just look back, and think about everything Peter’s said, of these believers so far. I mean, all the way back, to verse 1.

They have been chosen.

They have been known before the creation of the world by God the Father, set apart by the Spirit, brought into a relationship with Jesus Christ, purified by His blood, completely transformed, on the basis of His mercy, given a hope that is alive, that’s based on the work of Jesus Christ on their behalf, a possession that belongs to them that is better than anything on earth, that God has got a plan to deliver them, and give this salvation to them.

And you ask, what would it look like if a person really believed that?

You’d have to say, it would look like love and joy.

This is what’s right there at the essence of saving faith.

If you are wondering, what does saving faith even look like?

It looks like loving Jesus.

Seeing Him as beautiful and caring about Him more than anything else, even though you have never seen Him, and even though you are suffering for Him.

And, it looks like trusting Jesus.

Being convinced that He is good and dependable and true, on the basis of His Word.

And it looks like rejoicing in Jesus.

Experiencing delight deep down, because of who He is and what He’s promised.

And really, all these things, are inextricably connected.

It doesn’t make sense to say you believe in Jesus, if you don’t rely on Him and you won’t rely on Him if you don’t see Him as worthy of your trust and if you have seen Him as worthy of your trust you will value Him as precious and if you really believe Jesus is more precious than anything in this world and that you can count on Him, that His promises are reliable, and that you have all this, good, that He’s planning on doing for you, as He returns, if you are convinced of that, it’s going to produce some sort of deep down good feeling, in your heart of hearts.
It has to.

And I guess the question, I want us to be asking ourselves, is has it?

Are you actually relying on Christ?

Do you actually love Him? More than anything else?

And could you say, that your relationship with Christ brings you delight?

If you take a moment and look at your faith, and you wonder, can I encourage, you to look to Christ?

In fact, even if you don’t.

Because, this ultimately, is how faith grows.

It’s good, every once in a while to ask yourself, is my faith the real thing, but I would encourage you, having done that, don’t stop with looking at your faith, because it’s too discouraging, look to Christ. Sometimes when we talk about faith, we think we are saved by how much faith we have, and so we keep looking at our faith and think, oh there is not enough, and we get all worked up, but that’s not so much the question I am asking, I am not asking how much faith you have, but what kind of faith do you have?

Do you have a faith that is just knowing the right words and coming to church and trying to be good? Or do you have a faith that has some marks of a supernatural work of God, like hope, love, and joy?

And, really, the way you steps you can take to grow that faith is not just working on having more faith, but instead, by looking to Christ, if you don’t feel like you love him the way you should, ask Him to help you, and if you don’t feel like you trust Him the way you should, plead with Him to teach you, and if you don’t feel like you enjoy Him the way you want, ask Him to delight you.

Because, He’s good.

And He loves to help to those who come to Him humbly, knowing they don’t deserve it, and who give themselves completely into His hands, to do in their lives, what they can’t, and that is produce a faith that is not just words or going to church or saying the right thing, but it is actually authentic, the kind of faith, that will produce results that outlast even the universe.

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