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59915: Safely HomeSafely Home
By Randy Alcorn

"This book has been recommended to me by more people than any other book. An incredible story." - Steve H.

"Is this the day I die?" wonders Li Quan as he endures persecution for his faith. Half a world away his college buddy, businessman Ben Fielding, steps on the plane to China. Reunited after 20 years, both men face decisions that will determine their destinies---and the fates of their nations and the world. 400 pages, softcover from Tyndale.

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Christianity In America

Faith - A Christian Fundamental

(Preached at Boones Ferry Community Church - April 30, 2006)
(M3 Available)

The following is a transcript of this message:

Some of you may remember that I've been investigating the question, what pleases God? As I've investigated this question I've been totally blown away, totally overwhelmed, and totally blessed by the answers I'm finding in scripture.

The answer I've come up with is: "God is pleased when those who completely trust Him to completely take care of them after they die, out of their love for God, freely do those things that God has asked that they do."

One thing I've learned, though, is that we need to go back to the basics on a regular basis.

In sports, a key to success is doing the fundamentals well. No matter how experienced the professional baseball, basketball or football player, they still need to spend time each year working on the fundamentals. This is a lesson we tend to forget, in particular as Christians.

Yes, as Christians, we need to regularly get back to the fundamentals. So today we're going to talk about faith.

What is faith?

When I say the word "ocean" you have an immediate vision of what it is. When I say the word "star" we think of a heavenly body. But, when we use words such as "belief", "faith", "heaven" and "God", there may not be an image of reality that immediately comes to mind.

What is faith? And what does faith look like?

The Bible gives us a definition of faith. Hebrews 11:1 says: "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."

So what does that mean? Hebrerws 11:1 is giving you a picture of faith, but are you seeing that picture? How can we be sure? What are we being sure about?

Let's start by looking around to see what we can find. Christians don't have exclusive rights to faith.

Non-Christians have faith. Mormons have faith. Muslims have faith. Buddhists have faith--even though they do not have any type of god. Nominal Christians have faith--these are people who call themselves Christian, but whom don't act like a Christian. Even atheists have faith--they are trusting that there is nothing.

So let's start painting a picture of Christian faith by examining what is different about Christian faith.

I've read in many, many books that the difference between Christian faith and all other faith is that Christian faith is not a blind faith. In other words, we have hard facts that prove our faith is real… for example, we have the risen Christ.

Read Romans 5:8,9

Christ went ahead of us--he demonstrated what we can expect, that there is life after death. Did Muhammed come back to prove to his followers that what he said was true? NO. Did Buddha come back and report that, yes it was true, I have become one with the universe? NO. Only Jesus demonstrated that what he taught was true.

This is very rational and reasonable. I like things that are rational and reasonable. But, this is only the beginning.

Let's use 1 John 5:14 to help us understand faith better, and how faith interacts with reason:

1 John 5:14 says:

"This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, he hears us. And if we know that He hears us--whatever we ask--we know that we have what we asked of Him."

That's quite a promise! How do we know it is true?

This verse tells we can have confidence in this promise. Does this mean we can base our faith on the promises of God? After all we have the various covenants God has made. Those are all promises. There are many who say we can have faith because we can claim the promises of God.

He has promised us that Christ died for our sins, and promised us that if we believe this we will have eternal life with God.

Can we put faith in this promise? Yes. But is the promise the source of our faith?

Okay, let's find the answer to this question by looking at it rationally and logically. We said that Christianity is not a blind faith, so if we take 1 John 5:14 and pray this prayer:

"Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz" (Janis Joplin), but we don't get it. What can we conclude? We've done a rational, scientific experiment and the result is that it appears God doesn't answer prayers. That's the rational approach--the scientific method. Try something. If it doesn't work, then our original hypothesis is not correct.

But wait… it says we have to ask according to his will. Could it be that it is not His will that I have a Mercedes Benz?

There is a woman in Carmen Oaks rest home we'll call Betty. That's not her real name, by the way. Betty wants to die.

I don't know why Betty wants to die. I talked with her for a while and I don't think she knows Christ. So I'm praying that God will give His grace to Betty. That He will save her. That He will comfort her and give her peace. And that He will heal her.

We know God loves everyone. He wants us all to be saved. Certainly I am praying in God's will when I'm asking that she be saved. I can never really know if God does not answer my prayer, what work He has done in her heart. But what if God does not answer that prayer? Or maybe He answers it in a way that I don't see as an answer. If the next time I visit Carmon Oaks and speak with Betty, it appears vshe is not saved, shouldn't I--based on rational thought--then conclude that I can not have confidence in God answering prayers? Should I trust 1st John 5:14?

The answer is YES, I should still trust 1 John 5:14!! The problem is that we are going about understanding faith in the wrong way.

Our faith is not based in the promise itself. Our faith is not based on a rational, logical proof. But, it's still not a blind faith. Our faith is based in our confidence in the character of God Himself. Promises are empty without character.

For example, let's say that I am having my will made up and my wife and children are going to inherit everything I own. So they start reading my will and it says:

After I die you three, my wife, my son and my daughter, must go to England and make a serious attempt to swim across the English Channel. You then will inherit:

To Zachary I leave my 80 foot yacht hat is moored in the Gulf of Mexico.

To Amanda I leave my 10,000 acre horse ranch in Wyoming.

To my wife Eileen I leave my vault in Virginia that contains 10,000 bars of gold.

What would they say? Dad is crazy!! We can't trust these promises because it's obvious we can't trust him. He doesn't have any of this stuff.

Here are three important questions: Do my children believe in me? Yes, they know I exist. They believe I am real. Do my children love me? Yes, they do. Do my children believe me? No. They are not going to believe me and they are not going to obey me and attempt to swim across the English Channel based on my promises of riches. They have no faith in my promises because there is no character backing those promises.

Many people believe in God; they love God; but they don't believe God. Their faith is very small or nonexistent. Why? Has God lied to us like I did to my family? No… But someone's lying and destroying people's faith. We'll find out who in a moment.

There is a big difference between believing in God and trusting (having faith) in God. We can know God exists, but that doesn't mean we have faith. People keep looking for a rational proof on which to base their faith, and they find human disaster. How could God allow all those people to die in the tsunami?

Instead of believing that the things of God can be proven and grasped by human reason, the person of faith knows God's character. That's what underlies the promise of 1st John 5:14--knowing God's character.

For example, based on reason we can say the Bible is true because of certain facts. When someone asks me why I know the Bible is true I could say:

…it is the most historically accurate record we have. No other ancient document compares with it. It has never been contradicted by archeology.

…there are over 1,500 prophecies that have come true, some of them very specific in naming places, times and specific people. And there has never been a prophecy that has been proven not to be true.

…the Bible was written by over 40 authors over a period of 2000 years, and it is completely consistent and accurate.

…the Bible changes people's lives like no other book. There have been a lot of books that people claim have changed their lives. Let's just go back 25 years. Can any one here name a self-help book from the 1980's that is still "changing people's lives". How about self help book's from about 100 years ago? The Bible's been changing people's lives for 3,500 years!

We try to rationalize our faith this way--using our reason to build our faith. We want to have everything proved and explained. What we are trying to do is pull the Almighty God down to the low level of human reason. That's not going to work. Isaiah 55:8 says: "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord."

Faith is not based on reason, it is based on God's character.

I'm not saying we should turn our back on reason. That we should abandon reason. Human reason and faith in God are not contrary to each other. I am saying that one is above the other. Human reason is lower than faith.

Here's an illustration to help us understand this:

If we base our faith on the arguments I just gave for the truth of the Bible, we run into trouble if there is just one counter argument or apparent contradiction we don't understand. For example, the Bible tells us that God created everything in six days and that He did it about 6,000 years ago.

But our culture and science says that radiographic dating of fossils shows the earth is billions of years old. They say we have solid proof this is true.

This is where people of faith and people of reason separate.


Because based on the character of God--He does not lie. He knows everything. He is the creator of the universe who can hold the entire universe in the palm of His hand… based on His character--as Hebrews 11:1 says… we are certain of what we do not see.

[[[ When I became a Christian I believed in billions of years. I've since learned that's false. Your salvation is not based on believing this. ]]]

Faith does not contradict reason--but faith does at times ignore reason and rises above it. If God plainly says something is true--such as he does say everything was created in six 24 hour days--then our faith tells us this is the truth.

But our culture tells us the evidence so overwhelming supporting the "fact" that the earth is billions of years old that we have no choice but to believe it. To teach anything else in school would be destroying the ability of our children to think rationally.

What can we learn about this from history? What has our experience been? Science has been wrong thousands and thousands of times. The Bible… it has never been wrong. For example, the rational evidence supported the fact that the earth was flat. You could see it with your eyes. So everyone had to believe the earth was flat, although Isaiah 40:40 describes the earth exactly like it looks from space--as being round.

By the way, there is no rational evidence supporting an earth that is billions of years old. When all the facts are known, it takes more faith to believe in billions of years than it does to believe in the Bible.

The person of faith, on the other hand, does not rest on human reason. They go beyond that. They do not reject human reason, but they know there are things human reason can not do. Everything was created with a purpose. Human reason has its purpose--such as in building a house. But reason can not prove that Jesus died to pay the penalty we owe for our sins.

Where does our faith come from? Not from us. God gives it to us, or you could say He gives us a bit of starter faith that grows, or does not grow, depending on what we do with our faith. So when does this happen?

When God gives you His saving grace. Before then you have no faith. After that you have some faith. Let me tell you about it.

By the way I have some very bad news for you and some very good news.

The bad news is something about you. The good news is something about God.

Here's the first part of the bad news. It's something that totally keeps you from having faith because it totally separates you from God. You are a sinner. Romans 3:23 says, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."

What does it mean to say we are sinners? What it means is that we have missed the mark. When we lie, hate, lust or gossip, we have missed the standard God has set for us.

Suppose you and I were to both throw a rock and try to hit the North Pole.

Neither of us are going to hit the North Pole. That's what the Bible means when it says "All have sinned and fall short" It means we have come short of God's standards of perfect… in our thoughts, words and deed we have not been perfect.


The penalty for sin is death. Romans 6:23 says, "For the wages of sin is death."

Suppose you worked for me and I paid you $50. That $50 was your wages. You earned it.

The Bible says that by sinning we have earned death. The means we deserve to die and be separated from God forever.

BUT… since there is no way you could come to God, the Bible says that God decided to come to you! Here's the Good news!

Christ died for you. What does that mean? Romans 5:8 tells us: "But God demonstrates His own love for us in this, that while we were still sinners Christ died for us."

Suppose you are in a hospital dying of cancer. I come to you and say, "Let's take the cancer cells from your body and put them in my body." If that were possible, what would happen to me? What would happen to you?

I would die in your place.

I would die instead of you. You would live.

The Bible says that Christ took the penalty that we deserved for sin, that we earned, and He placed it upon Himself, and died in our place.

Three days later Christ came back to life to prove that sin and death had been conquered and that His claims to be God were true.

Just as the bad news got worse, the good news gets better!

You can be saved through faith in Christ

Ephesians 2:8,9 says: "For it is by grace [by a free gift] you have been saved [delivered from the penalty of sin], through faith--and this is not from yourselves, it is a gift of God."

Faith means trust…

What must you trust Christ for?

You must depend on Him alone to forgive you and give you eternal life. Just as you trust a chair to hold you through no effort of your own, so you must also trust Jesus Christ to get you to heaven through no effort of your own. When I sit on this chair, I do it without looking, without thinking. I have faith it will hold me.

Trust Jesus… have faith in Jesus. It is that initial gift of faith, that God gives us as a free gift, that brings our salvation

Then it is up to us to grow our faith. How do we do that? By learning more about character of God and by using our faith. The more we learn about God, the more we will know about His character, and the greater our faith will be. How do we learn about God? read the Bible. The more you read the Bible, the more you faith will grow.

But, just like your muscles, which if you don't use them grow flabby and weak, so you must also use your faith for it to grow and become strong. How do you use your faith? Let's read all of Hebrews chapter 11.

Faith then results in obedience to God, and through obedience you use your faith and it will grown and become stronger.


Let's summarize. Faith does not come from reason. Faith does not rest on promises. Faith starts as a gift of God and is built as our understanding of God's character grows and as we use our faith. That's one reason why we should read the Bible daily. It is through God's word that we learn about the character of God… and as a result of reading God's word, and obeying God's word, our faith grows.

So go out today, this afternoon, and get deeper into God's word.


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