Faith Resurrected

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Sunday, April 21, 2019 0 comments

by Logan Ames

What does this Easter Sunday mean to you? You could probably give some theological answer regarding your knowledge of what God did through Jesus in raising Him from the grave, but that’s not what I’m talking about. Hopefully, you are going or have already gone to church today and you’ll get whatever theology you need there. What I’m talking about is personal impact. How has the resurrection of Jesus, our Messiah, changed your life? Are there any noticeable differences between your life now and the one you led BEFORE you came to believe in Jesus as both Savior and Lord? If not, why not? We’re talking about the biggest miracle and event that ever took place in this world, yet some believers still have a hard time seeing what difference it actually makes in their lives. If Jesus’ resurrection didn’t make a difference to anyone, then there would be no reason to celebrate it.

When I read about the apostles in the Book of Acts and hear stories of other persecuted believers throughout history and those who are enduring difficult trials around the world even now, I’m reminded of the clear distinction between mere lip service and living faith that matters. James, the younger brother of Jesus, writes about this in his letter to the first-century Jewish believers and we’ve been looking at his take on true faith for the past several weeks. The entire section of James 2:14-26 is about living faith versus dead faith. Those who claim to have faith but don’t back it up with action beyond their words have “dead faith” that is no different than what demons have. But those whose faith leads them to doing good works have faith that others can see. It’s a living faith that produces more faith in the lives of others.

Today, I’m specifically looking at James 2:20-24, where James writes to remind his audience about the best historical example of living faith with whom they would’ve been familiar - Abraham. It seems calculated that he discusses Abraham’s example for two reasons: 1) the best and most obvious example of faith would be Jesus of Nazareth, but it’s probably too new to the believers for James to get his point across that God has always been seeking those with a living faith, and 2) he later discusses a well-known Gentile in Rahab, who couldn’t have been more opposite of Abraham in lifestyle and upbringing but still showed true faith in action (we’ll get to her next week).

James brings up the story of their father Abraham as “evidence that faith without deeds is useless” (v. 20). He then explains that Abraham’s righteousness was revealed by what he DID in offering his son Isaac on the altar. For those who don’t know, James is referencing the story we find in Genesis 22. James makes it clear that Abraham already had faith before that and that he had already been considered righteous by God, as shown in Genesis 15:6. But “his faith and actions were working together and his faith was made complete by what he did” (James 2:22). We can truthfully say we have faith the moment we trust in Jesus for the first time, but our actions that flow out from our faith are what make it complete and alive. The example of Abraham is a perfect one because the same God who “credited” his believing as righteousness in Genesis 15:6 also decided it was time to test him, according to Genesis 22:1. God knew that Abraham had faith, but the test of having to sacrifice his son, his heir, and the one in whom his hope to be made a “father of many nations” was found, would be his opportunity to reveal that faith and make it complete. It was where the rubber of his faith would meet the road of life. Likewise, our tests and trials that we face in life are the opportunities to show our faith and separate ourselves from those who have the faith of demons.

If you know that story of Abraham and Isaac, then you know that Abraham didn’t end up having to sacrifice his son. He bound his son and laid him on top of the wood on the altar he had built, but just as he was about to slay Isaac with a knife, an angel of the Lord stopped him (Genesis 22:9-12). The angel, speaking for the Lord, then said, “Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son” (v. 12). As James makes his point to his readers, they would’ve all been aware of that story. They could think back to those words from the angel, especially the “now I know” part of it. Abraham had been on a long journey of faith at that point and had certainly not always put his full faith and trust in the Lord. The harsh test turned out to be proof of his faith to himself, to Isaac, and even to God.

What made Abraham willing to sacrifice his own son? He certainly had no clue that God was going to stop him from doing it. Some argue that he did have that inkling because he told Isaac, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son” (Genesis 22:8). But the fact that he was seconds away from killing Isaac after binding him on the altar shows that he had every intention of doing it. He didn’t stop and look around and say, “Okay God, just kidding. I know you were just testing me, so where is the lamb?” It was a settled matter in his heart that no matter how ludicrous it seemed, he had to obey God. Hebrews 11:17 tells us that Abraham “was about to sacrifice his one and only son” even though he “had embraced the promises." I intentionally mentioned above that Abraham’s hope for the fulfillment of those promises was found in Isaac, because that’s what it would’ve seemed to him and to us had we been there. But in truth, by the time of that test, Abraham’s hope was in God alone. He knew that if God promised to bless his name through Isaac but also commanded that he sacrifice Isaac, God had to know what He was up to. Hebrews 11:19 says, “Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead." As we celebrate the resurrection of Christ today, we’re thinking, “Well, duh, of course he can!” But Abraham had no evidence or historical reports that it could happen or had happened because it NEVER HAD! Yet, he reasoned that God could do whatever is necessary to make sure His commands do not contradict or break His promises.

There is an amazing juxtaposition between what Abraham reasoned and what God actually did with Abraham’s own faith, and He can do the same with yours. It’s not like the command to sacrifice Isaac was Abraham’s first and only test. Thankfully, we serve a God of not just second chances, but often as many chances as it takes. Abraham had majorly failed on multiple occasions, and those are just the ones we know about. In Genesis 16, he sleeps with Hagar, the servant of his wife Sarah, because he and his wife are tired of waiting for the promise from God to be fulfilled. In Genesis 20, he deceives a foreign king, Abimelek, and says that Sarah is his sister because he fears Abimelek will kill him so he can take Sarah as his wife. These are just two of the examples of Abraham showing dead faith. He believed in God, but the circumstances and trials led him to walk not in faith, but in fear.

When Abraham witnessed the birth of his son Isaac even though he was a hundred years old (Genesis 21:5) and his wife was ninety, it gave him a renewed understanding of the unlimited power of God to accomplish His will. Both Abraham and Sarah had originally laughed at the idea that God could give them a child in their late years. I find it stunning that God got laughed at and still had enough patience to keep His promises to them. Sarah was asked by an angel in Genesis 18:14, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” As she gave birth and Abraham witnessed it, they could answer with a resounding NO. It’s safe to say their dead faith was RESURRECTED. When the ultimate test came later for Abraham, he was ready.

I pray that the resurrection of Jesus from the grave makes a difference in your life today. If God could raise the dead, on top of countless other miracles He’s been providing since the beginning of time, is there anything too hard for Him in your life? Maybe you’ve had opportunities to live out your faith with good works and you’ve failed miserably. That’s in the past now. God is giving you new opportunities to let Him resurrect your dead faith and make it alive again. Will you trust in Him and obey His will from now on?

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