Authentic Faith: The Essentials

Just what is essential? It certainly depends on what you’re talking about but the consequences for not having the essentials in any given situation can range from humorous to deadly. What is essential for sky diving aren’t the same essentials for knitting.

One of the things I enjoy most is the outdoors. Heather and I once did a hike that was supposed to be two miles that turned into 5. Thankfully, we had enough to survive only because as I say, “Even a blind squirrel finds a nut now and then.” The squirrel being me. Since then, I always carry what are call the 10 Essentials, whether the hike is ½ a mile, hunting or a 30 mile backpacking trip.

I was reading that states like New Hampshire and Colorado are now placing fines or revoking driver's liscenses of hikers who go unprepared into the backcountry. At the end of December to guys hiked up to a cabin planning to light the woodstove…only to discover they didn’t pack any matches! But they did have a cell phone.

A recent Zogby poll determined that the future of the U.S. is growing spirituality. The poll suggested that for more people, “the test is how fulfilled we are spiritually. Their quest isn't for bigger houses and more cars; it's an inner search, a quest for spiritual meaning."

For many, it seems like religion is a buffet and the tendency becomes to simply grasp at pieces of religion and spirituality that tend to fit. But treating religions that way is like shooting in the dark. ALL religions have essentials. What is often not realized is the need of the essentials. Contrary to many, Christianity is not = to Spirituality. There are essentials. 1 Corinthians 13:13 tells us Faith is as much an essential element in the Christian life as a pocket knife is in the outdoors.

Hebrews 11:6 tells us that without faith it is impossible to please God and in Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church he says faith is necessary to salvation (Ephesians 2:8). And as a person lives life following Jesus Christ, it is a life that must be lived by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7).

In James’ version of “Authentic Faith for Dummies,” he writes,
If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16) and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17) So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 18) But someone will say, "You have faith and I have works." Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19) You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe--and shudder! 20) Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21) Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22) You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23) and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness"--and he was called a friend of God. 24) You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25) And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26) For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. (James 2:15-26 ESV)

James points out two types of counterfeit faiths, faiths which aren’t anything like what Jesus lived and taught.
One is a dead faith in verses 14-17. It is a faith focused on pontificating religious words and doctrine. It is a faith that loves to quote Bible verses or talk about all their church does but the life doesn’t match all the talk.

The second counterfeit faith is one that is identified with demons. Now, if that doesn’t concern you I don’t know what would! This faith recognize the truth and connects it to the emotions. For demons, it is a terror of the truth, but for the almost Christian, it often leaves us just feeling good about ourselves and the day. But how does it make us different?

Instead, the Authentic and Tenacious faith of Jesus’ followers is connected to our mind, our emotions and our actions. It is a dynamic faith that draws people to Jesus one loving act at a time. An authentic faith makes us whole people because it connects our intellect and emotions with what is often forgotten in religion: our head and heart leading to our hands and thus our actions.

For examples, James picks two characters who, honestly, are really less than stellar examples. Abraham, though the Father of the Jewish faith, was selfish and a liar and Rahab was a prostitute. Yet both got credit for faith. Why? Their actions.

James says that it is up to us to act on what we’ve learned and felt for faith to grow. Like all things, if faith isn’t growing and becoming authentic and tenacious, then it is dying. Will you trust Jesus with your life and let your faith grow? Are you ready to stop sampling from the buffet and live following after Jesus’ example? "Who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:6-8 ESV)"

As long as you and I act on the example of faith, then faith is indeed alive: in you, in Crossroads and in our community.

Click here for the mp3 of the sermon. Please note, my posted sermon is a draft. I never preach from a manuscript so these will differ at points.


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