Authentic Faith For Dummies: It Starts Somewhere

Have you ever been made to feel stupid? You know, a dummy? Maybe it was intentional or maybe not but it happens to all of us. It might have been in a class or at work. It may have been on a date or with a friend. I’m certain it was not from anything like these folks who certainly must have felt a little dumb:

The thing I like about the “For Dummies” books is that they try to deal with the problem at hand. I’ve learned about computers and freeware, about car buying and house buying and they’ve all served me well. James is the “Authentic Faith for Dummies” book of the Bible.

See James 1:1-12

Faith has been lost in religion, government, science and relationships and with good reason. Scandals in the church, lying under oath, Space shuttle disasters and the collapse of marriages have all caused us to question and lose faith in these things. No one wants to lose faith in God and it is one of the reasons at the heart of why people still seek out a local church…to find faith.

I heard it said that, “One doesn't discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.” For faith to be authentic, it has to be yours and it can only be lived when you cast off from shore.

John G. Paton knew what it meant to cast off from shore. He went out as a missionary to the new Hebrides Islands in the south Pacific, he found that the natives among whom he began to work had no way of writing their language. He began to learn it and in time began to work on a translation of the Bible for them. He discovered they had no word for "faith." This was serious, of course, for a person can hardly translate the Bible without it.

One day he went on a hunt with one of the natives. They shot a large deer in the course of the hunt, and tying its legs together and supporting it on a pole, walked back down the mountain path to Paton's home near the seashore. As they reached the deck both men threw the deer down, and the native immediately flopped into one of the deck chairs that stood on the porch exclaiming, "My, it is good to stretch yourself out here and rest." Paton immediately jumped to his feet and recorded the phrase. In his final translation of the New Testament this was the word used to convey the idea of trust, faith, and belief. "Stretch yourself out on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved" (Act_16:31).

That is in fact what authentic faith is, it is when you stretch yourself out on Jesus Christ. You. Not me, not your spouse. Not mom or dad. Not grandma. You.

The question answered here at the very beginning of James is whether or not your faith or my faith is authentic. Just so you know, I’m of the opinion, that some Bible translators don’t get that the Bible was mean for real life. They choose words that don’t really fit. Patience really doesn’t describe what we need from faith. Endurance is a better word but I think another is better. You see, the testing of authentic faith will cause it to become TENACIOUS (Expositor's Bible Commentary). What do you think of when you hear the word TENACIOUS? Bulldog? Pit Bull? Defense? Tenacious D? Do you want just a patient faith or a tenacious one?

Our church consultant said, (betcha didn’t know we had one of those did you?) to a group of us going through church planters boot camp a couple of years ago, that new churches can be a great place for kids to grow in their faith. Why? For the same reason, I think, new churches are a great place for grown ups to grow up in their faith…faith is lived out in obedience. Obedience to God develops a Tenacious faith.

There is no person whose faith, isn’t tested. The idolatrous are tested to see if they (we) will give up their Idol worship for loving their neighbor and so loving God. The poor our tested in their afflictions and not complain. This isn’t a fairness issue, it is a faith issue. Not that you don’t have faith, but is that faith authentic, is it tenacious – can you lay out on Jesus Christ?

How did Jesus put it: “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be.” That is what James was talking about between the rich and the poor. Faith and Riches are connected. One has us stretched out on Jesus Christ. The other, well, it could be riches, or it could be an addiction or just good old narccisim. At the end of the day it becomes idolatry and idolatry leaves us, as Kansas once sang, “dust in the wind.”

Jesus faced just this situation in dealing with this father:
Mark 9:19-24 NASB 19) And [Jesus] answered them and said, "O Generation of Dummies! {Ken’s Translation}, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him to Me!" 20) They brought the boy to Him. When he saw Him, immediately the spirit threw him into a convulsion, and falling to the ground, he began rolling around and foaming at the mouth. 21) And He asked his father, "How long has this been happening to him?" And he said, "From childhood. 22) "It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!" 23) And Jesus said to him, " 'If You can?' All things are possible to him who believes." 24) Immediately the boy's father cried out and said, "I do believe; help my unbelief."

God doesn’t go out of the way to make testing of faith happen. It happens in real everyday life. A tenacious, authentic faith is available to anyone who asks and is willing to stretch yourself out on Jesus.

I believe that Crossroads UMC is here to be a place where faith can be found and where faith is going to be tested. As I’ve been reflecting on the previous months and years that have gotten us to 2009, it has been a test of my faith. For some of you it has been a testing of your faith and it may still be happening. What I know is that the faith that brought me here isn’t going to be the same faith, that is going to help Crossroads become the church it needs to become. It isn’t the same faith that is going to double our attendance. It isn’t the same faith that is going to help us build Paulding County’s first habitat house. It isn’t the same faith that is going to find the land to build a church that will help our community to connect, follow and become disciples.

What I know is that Authentic Faith lays out on Jesus Christ, not once but over and over again till it becomes a Tenacious Faith.

“You have to learn to go out of convictions, out of creeds, out of experiences, until so far as your faith is concerned, there is nothing between yourself and God”. Oswald Chambers

In 2009, would you lay out on Jesus Christ? The more important question is how will you? Will you start by praying for 10 hours for the month of January? If one person will join me, I will pray for 60 hours. (Thanks to all who made this commitment! Ya'll are awesome!)

What I know is that the same faith that took me through cancer and depression, became tenacious enough to step out and start a church, but I want my faith to stay authentic and tenacious. That is the kind of faith that will allow Crossroads to be the church God desires it to become. It has to start somewhere.

Click here for the mp3 of the sermon.


Art said...

Very good, sir! Thanks and Happy new Year!

JediPastorKen said...

Thanks Art. I can't begin to tell you how much this series is totally kicking my tail! My prayers are with you for a new year as well.

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