Wednesday, July 27, 2011

What Would I Do to Have the Kind of Faith That it Takes?

There is a popular Contemporary Christian song that depicts a scene in Peter’s life. It is the moment when Peter saw Jesus walking on water and he said Lord if it is you command me to come out to you and Peter gets out of the boat and begins to walk towards Jesus. The opening lines of the song the voice of truth say.
Oh, what I would do to have the kind of faith it takes to climb out of this boat I'm in onto the crashing waves. To step out of my comfort zone Into the realm of the unknown where Jesus is, And he's holding out his hand.

The song is pretty popular so I am guessing that a lot of people really want to have a faith that is deeper than what they are already experiencing. It seems as if there is something within the human heart that longs for something more than the mundane. We were created for something great and to be a part of a greater story than our own individual stories can provided. The song writer says, “oh, what would I do to have the kind of faith that it takes”? That brings up two questions in my mind. What does it take? And. What would we do? Seriously think about that. What does it take and what would you do to have the kind of faith it takes to step out to where God wants you?

What did it take for Peter to have the kind of faith and the courage that many of us say we long for. Before we do that, let me suggest that Acts chapter 4 is a much greater moment of courage and more like the lasting faith we seek.

Let me summarize the story. Peter and John, in the name of Jesus, healed a man who has been unable to walk since birth. They then preach about Jesus who has been resurrected and now offers salvation to all who believe in Him. Their reward for this is they are thrown in jail and have to stand before the Sanhedrin.

When we compare the two events we see a dramatic change in Peter. In the story about Peter getting out of the boat we find Peter as we have come to know him. It is not surprising that he got out of the boat. Peter has these moments of faith and courage that do not last very long. One minute he decides to step out in faith next minute he is pleading for help. It is the same Peter that impulsively cuts off a man's ear when Jesus is arrested and moments later denies he even knows Jesus to a slave girl.

Something is much different with Peter as we find him in Acts chapter 4. Here he is calm and poised. There is such a change that his accusers are baffled. William Barclay, writes the following concerning what Peter had to say in Acts: ". . . when we read the speech of Peter, we must remember to whom it was spoken, and when we do remember that it becomes one of the world's great demonstrations of courage. It was spoken to an audience of the wealthiest, the most intellectual and the most powerful in the land, and yet Peter, the Galilean fisherman, stands before them rather as their judge than as their victim. But further, this was the very court which had condemned Jesus to death. Peter knew it, and he knew that at this moment he was taking his life in his hands."

The faith that Peter showed before the Sanhedrin characterizes the rest of his life. So what happened and what does it take? There are at least 3 things that emerge from Acts chapter 4. Verse 2 tells us "they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead." The greatest change in Peter's thinking is that he has investigated the resurrection of Jesus Christ and now has an unshakable faith in the resurrection. I should add that this faith did not come easy. He, along with the other disciples, thought that Christ resurrection from the dead was nonsense until they saw Christ themselves (Luke 24:11). The threats and fear of death mean little to a man that has seen his Lord resurrected.

Now as great as it to believe that Jesus rose from the grave, that in and of itself is not enough to explain both the consistency and the power demonstrated in the early church. There is something more. Verse 8 tells us, "Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them."
Noticed Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy is the 3rd person in the Trinity who comes into our lives when we place our faith in Christ. When the Bible says Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit we should think of the Spirit controlling or empowering Peter. Not only do we need a faith that is grounded in the belief that Jesus Christ was resurrected from the dead. We need lives that are Empowered by the Holy Spirit.

There is one other essential element that helps us understand the change in Peter. Acts 4:23-24 "On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. "Sovereign Lord," they said, "you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them.
They didn't march or protest. They didn't start a political action group. They didn't fret and complain. They joined together as God’s people and prayed.
Their faith was sustained through fellowship and prayer. This combination of seeking God and fellowshipping together should not be overlooked. If we look at Peter before Acts we find him saying things like: "Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away." (Matthew 26:33); "Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water." (Matthew 14:28) Notice the contrast in his words in Acts "Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard." (Acts 4:20) "But Peter and the apostles answered, "We must obey God rather than men." (Acts 5:29) This is no longer the impulsive, "I can make on my own" Peter. This is a man that has a faith grounded in the belief that Jesus Christ was resurrected from the dead, Empowered by the Holy Spirit, and Sustained through fellowship and prayer.

What does it take to have the kind of faith it takes to step out to where God wants you?
We need a faith that is grounded in the belief that Jesus Christ was resurrected from the dead, Empowered by the Holy Spirit, and Sustained through fellowship and prayer.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Book Review: Every Man's Battle

"We aren't victims of some vast conspiracy to ensnare us sexually; we've simply chosen to mix in our own standards of sexual conduct with God's standard. Since we found God's standard too difficult, we created a mixture -- something new,something comfortable, something mediocre." The authors' quote from page 42 summarizes the heart of the problem. I was reminded of how easy it is for us in any area of our lives to settle for something less than God's standards -- something mediocre. God has something better for you and I.

Stoecker and Yorkey remind us in straight forward terms that not only does God expect us to live, think, and act differently than the world around us. They remind us that as Christians we have the ability to experience victory over the sins that destroy our lives and the lives of those around us. Sexual purity is possible for the man who gives his heart to God. This much needed book is a must read for the Christian man that truly wishes to follow God in obedience.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Book Review: A Conversation with God

A Conversation with God by Alton Gansky is a good read for someone wanting to have a basic overview of theology in easy to understand laymen terms. The book consist of questions in which the author speaks on behalf of God to answer. In general it was not as awkward as I had expected. It some ways I believe this did limit the author. The depth of discussion could have been deeper by allowing the reader to wrestle with varying theological positions within Christendom. The format of the book does not allow for that level of thought. I do recommend it to those that want a basic theological overview. For this reason, I plan to add this book to our church library.

I was disappointed that there was not a chapter on the church. I was hoping that "God" would have a higher view of the church. On page 50 the highest compliment given toward the church was, "Church is a resource that shouldn't be overlooked." Really? The living organism founded by Jesus is treated as an add-on. Unfortunately, this is true for the God most Americans worship. In spite of this I liked the book over-all

I received this book free from the publisher through the book review bloggers program.