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Faith
What Iím going to be talking about today is Faith and what it is. †

It is the act of the intellect, when it is sensed to divine Truth under the influence of your will
that has been moved by the grace of God.

A will cannot turn to Christ without the Grace of God. There is nothing that you can do to
earn salvation in any way. There is no way. Only God can earn your salvation. Only He can
give you salvation. You can respond and you can reject. But you cannot earn it. The way I
hear faith anymore is that somehow people earn what they get. I do believe there is a reward
in how we live but you still donít earn it. Itís just a blessing that comes from God. And we
need to get it out of our heads that we earn what we get from God. Like I say, if you donít
walk Gods way, thereís going to be a different kind of reward come your way, but itís just a
result of the way you walk. And as you walk in the Lord, there is a blessing that comes with
it, but itís just God giving you that blessing. Itís from walking Godís way that you have that
blessing.

It says in Genesis 15:6, Abraham believed in Yahweh and He counted it as righteousness in
him. He believed in Yahweh. I believe thereís coming a time Ė Jesus says "Will I find faith
when I return?" Heís not talking about if you believe in healing or if you believe in this or if
you believe in that. Heís talking about if you believe in Him. He says thereís a time coming
that people will not believe in him. You wonít believe the Gospel. Heís talking about the
Gospel. And when the Lord talks about the Gospel heís talking about the whole New
Covenant and the Whole New Testament - what Paul writes about, what Timothy writes
about, what Peter writes about, itís not just the four gospels. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John;
itís not just that. Heís talking about the whole body of truth, the whole body of truth. Do you
believe in it?

Do we believe in it? And Iím going to tell you something people. I think there are things that
can cause us to quit believing. There is a study going on now, I guess, there was a
documentary put out Iím hearing through James Kennedy where scholars are believing that
"Was Jesus Really There? Did this really go on?" And itís a proven fact that it did. And
thereís another set of scholars who are battling this now. But I believe that there are a lot of
Christians falling away on account of that documentary. You have to be careful what you
hear. You have to be careful what you read. Because Iím going to tell you something; it has
an effect upon your mind. It has an effect upon your heart. If thereís anything against the
Word of God, donít read it and donít listen to it because it will cause you to doubt. And it
also says in the latter times that there will be a great falling away. You canít fall away unless
youíve been there. So it means falling away from believingÖ from believing who Jesus is,
because He is our salvation. Without Jesus there is no salvation outside of Him so thereís no
salvation under any other name. So I believe that this is a fake. And I looked it up. I have this
set of Anchor Bible Dictionaries which are excellent. And I looked it up and this is what it
says about Faith. And I want you to see this. It says that Abraham believed in Yahweh and He
counted it as righteousness in Abraham. Because when it says he believed, to believe means
there is a right standing in Abraham; not that he earned righteousness. It just means that
something has come to Abraham to where all of a sudden he looks at Yahweh and he looks at
what Heís done and he says "This is wonderful Ė this is good Ė this is great" and he turns
around and he starts to follow Yahweh. And what God calls that is right standing; in right
standing with Yahweh. And right standing has something to do with the heart of man.
Now weíll look at these different men, especially David and Abraham. Weíll look at David and
Abraham today. Because David and Abraham are the two that we need to look at as having
faith; as having faith in God; and also in their chosenness. God chose them. God chooses
you. You donít choose Him. He chooses you. And what Iíve found out is that Satan is going
to find a way, heís going to find your weak spot. You have one. You have a weak spot. You
may think the devil canít see it. But heís watched you for a while. Heís going to find your
weak point and heís going to start working on that. But what I see is that there are many
peopleÖyou just donít quit believing. Usually you get offended. You either get offended by
somebody, or you get offended by God. He doesnít do what you think he should do for you.
So all of a sudden that little crack in the armor where Satan can come in and he can turn you
away from God. What I see is, people, we do not realize Ö I was looking at it last night and I
thought when I became filled with the Spirit and walking with the Lord as an adult that
everything people asked me to do was a great privilege. It was a great privilege.

Everything that people asked me Ė cleaning the church became a great privilege. I mean I
loved going down to that church, cleaning that church. And then all of a sudden I got a little
upset because I looked around and thought, "Iím the only one cleaning this church." And you
know what happened. I didnít like cleaning that church anymore Ė soon as I looked around.
And thatís what we do. We look around and we see, well this oneís not doing that and that
oneís not doing that, and this oneís not doing that. Is that your business? Thatís Godís
business. Theyíve been chosen for that. If they want to treat their job that Godís given them
in their chosenness as if it doesnít mean anything, thatís between them and God. But what
about your chosenness? What are we doing with our choices?
What are we doing with the job that God has given us? Is it a privilege or a burden? Because
if we count it as a burden, God will take it away and He will give it to someone else who
counts it as a great privilege. Do you think that Peter liked being hung upside down? Do you
think that Paul liked going back into Rome and dying because of the baby Christians that
were there? Do you think that Jesus Christ liked dying on the cross? But He counted it a
privilege. And He didnít become offended because there were some people who didnít like
Him. He said, "Father forgive them." You know, I want to tell you something, people. Do we
want to walk Godís way or do we want to walk our way? Because, if we walk our way, we
miss God. Because somewhere in between is God. Somewhere in between is God. And thatís
what I want to show you today. We need to count what God has given us as a great
privilege. To get up and sing a song before people is a great privilege. To get up and preach
the Gospel is a great privilege. Does it take work? Yes. Does it take labor? Yes. Everything in
the Kingdom of God takes labor, it takes work, it takes commitment and it takes you saying,
"OK, Iím not going to let anything cause me to be offended with anybody or with God";
because if you get offended with people youíre offended with God. Iím going to show you
that. Iím going to show you that in just a minute.

Iíve heard different people like Karl Coke and Roy Blizzard say, you know, if you donít have
contact in the community, if youíre not in the community, if youíre not part of the community
then youíre not in right fellowship with God. So letís see how. This is what is says in the
Anchor Bible Dictionary. It says in Isaiah 7:9:.. If you do not believe you will not endure. You
wonít make it. You wonít make eternal life. Because what you do is you lose your hope, you
lose your expectation, you lose that connection to God and you begin to walk a different way.
Some people say, "Well, you canít lose your salvation". Well Iím going to tell you one thing
for sure. Donít count on it. Youíve got to keep close to God. Youíve got to keep your
connection. So weíre going to look at the Old Testament and see how they see faith. Then
weíre going to look at the New Testament.

The word Amen is Faith. It means to sustain Ė now listen to this Ė Faith means to sustain, to
support, carry, a sense of firmness, stability, confidence, to hold something to be true.

If you donít hold God and His ways to be true, and weíve got to admit that we donít know
everything. I sure know I donít know everything. Iíve come to that conclusion recently.
Havenít you? Maybe you havenít come to that conclusion recently but you will by the time
this sermonís over. OK. Communities of faith (are about) faith in God, not only faith in just
Truth, not only in just His Truth, but all His characteristics. And this is what God is doing in
us, as we believe. Heís developing in us His own characteristics. And people, Iím going to tell
you something. Youíre not just going to get His characteristics bang!Ö magic. Itís going to
be by testing. And weíre going to see how he tested these men. But all of His characteristics
and His attributes which are Truth, Consistency, Goodness Ė God stays the same all the
time. He doesnít change with how people treat him or do him or whatever. Like Dwight Pryor
says that God is the most tragic figure that has ever been. (People) have done Him so bad
that you would think he would just destroy all the people in the earth. And He doesnít.
Because God is not like that. He turns around and the very person that has been the
meanest to Him, He loves. And He turns them around. And He works with them until He turns
them around. Now thatís a characteristic of God.
Do we want to be like God or do we not?

Itís going to cost you. But what itís going to cost you is yourself. And sometimes self is the
hardest thing there is to give up. So here it is. His attributes are Truth, Consistency,
Goodness, Love, Justice, Holiness; His claims on humanity - in a word everything that makes
God, God. Thatís His characteristicsÖsteadfastness, reliability; truth is founded upon divine
faithfulness and the covenant relationship, which sets it up. Steadfastness, reliability, truth,
founded upon divine faithfulness and the covenant relationship is how you receive itÖ. to
make covenant with God; with this beautiful being; this beautiful being thatís not like us. We
are in a fallen state. God is so much higher and thinks so differently than we do.

Faith is described, not defined in the Hebrew Bible. The description of faith is used in two
different ways in the whole Hebrew Bible.

The first one is the relationship of Israel to Yahweh. Listen to this. The relationship of Israel
to Yahweh is described. Thatís number one. Number two is the relationship of certain key
figures to Yahweh. So God is going to begin to show me by pictures and words and
revelation, the relationship that Abraham and David had with Yahweh. What kind of
relationship did they have? And also the other key figures of the Bible, the Old Testament,
are Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Ruth, Deborah - these are the ideal figures. Yet as we study their
lives, we will begin to see the relationship that Yahweh had with these people - called Faith.
The first one is Israel to Yahweh. What kind of relationship did Israel have to Yahweh? Itís
called Faith. Itís called the Faith Covenant. The common characteristics between the two,
Israel and Yahweh, between Abraham, David and Yahweh are these. The common
characteristics of the two are their unswerving, unswerving, unswerving, unswerving, loyalty
to Yahweh. Even in the face of what appears to be insurmountable obstacles, they went on.
They did not deter from their relationship with God. They did not turn aside. And second is
the purely free character of their chosenness. They were tending some sheep out in the field.
The prophet could not pick anyÖ well actually he picked some of His older brothers first...
God said "No. See that boy out there? See that young one out there? Thatís the man I want."
Did David know that God was going to pick him? No. Was he overly religious? Probably not.

He had a lifestyle of believing in Yahweh.

How did God pick Abraham? God called him out of an idolatrous situation. And what
Abraham did, though Ė what God does with someone is he reveals a part of himself and you
canít get over that. You canít get over that Ė that revelation that you see of God. Abraham
saw something that there wasnít anything heíd ever seen before that even compared to that.
And he said, "I know thereís a God. Iím going after God." And he did not turn aside. There
were times that Abraham lied. There were times that Abraham kind of messed up a little bit.
When he and Sarah tried to work out the promise of God. Sometimes we get into trouble
when we try to work out the things of God, too. But you know what? God didnít set him
aside because of that. God led him along. And God is working, even with our mistakes. God
is working with them.

So. It says in Deuteronomy 26:5. This is the oldest statement in the whole Bible,
Deuteronomy 26:5. It is believed, that is. Deuteronomy 26, verse 5. Iím going to tell you
people, youíve got to set your eyes on the Lord. The way I do with God I say, "God, you
arenít turning me loose because Iím not turning you loose. Iím going to get my hands around
You and IĎm going to hold on to you and I donít care what I have to go through Iím going to
hold on to you." God loves that. He just loves it! Because he doesnít want to let loose of you
either. And he might not like your ways at times, but heís not going to let loose of you. And
youíre going to be so miserable, so stinking miserable, that youíll finally turn around and do
it His way. But youíre going to do it His way. No matter who you are, youíre going to do it
His way. Believe me, youíre going to do it His way. You may do it kicking, but youíre going to
do it. Godís going to see to it. And heíll drag you in kicking if he has to. But heís going to get
you, unless you absolutely set your face against Him and decide you donít believe in Him
anymore. In Deuteronomy 26:5. He says "And thou shall speak and say before the Lord thy
God 'A Syrian ready to perish was my father, and he went down into Egypt; and sojourned
there with a few, and became there a nation, great, mighty, and populous.' " This translation
says the oldest statement of faith is the Wandering Aramain Story. If one examines the life of
Abraham, Chapters 12-15, (you need to read that) the whole emphasis is on the notion of
Testing. This is where we fail greatly.

This is where we fail. If you are in a testing God is showing you something. Itís a privilege to
be tested. Do you realize that? Iíll tell you what, I donít like to be tested and at the moment
Iím going through it I donít count it as a privilege. But I notice years up the road, twenty
years ago, the testings that I went through, that I am a different person because of those
testings and that I would never be the person that I am today. The good part of me would
never be there if it hadnít been for the testing because God was bringing something up to me
and he was showing something to me about myself that needed to die. All right. So if we
examine the story of Abraham the whole emphasis is on the notion of testing. Leaving aside
the three characters of the trinity, what is uppermost in these stories is that this is a test
almost like Job. You will go through the test of Job your own way. Abraham is given divine
instructions and was expected to fulfill these instructions without questioning. Iím going to
tell you something, if you met God as Abraham met God you wouldnít have a question.
Because we look at God as someone around us and God is a being that when we stand in His
presence that there is nothing left of you. There is no protest, there is no, well people say
that when I stand before God Iím going to ask him everything that didnít get done here on
Earth. No youíre not. You donít know whom youíre talking about when you talk about God
that way. Because what youíre going to do is youíre going to feel like a tiny little being, a tiny
little person. And here is the great wonderful beautiful God that is unbelievable to you
because youíre nothing like Him. And it puts your perspective of yourself in a different way.
We see ourselves as too important, we see ourselves as too big. So hereís what he says, he
says here that this is a test almost like Job. Abraham is given divine instruction without
explanation and is expected to fulfill these instructions and not question God. This he does
over and over despite the pressure that he receives from his wife. Weíre talking about Sara
and how she put pressure on Abraham. In commanding Abraham to offer up Isaac, listen to
what happens here. . . Abraham had waited 20 years for this boy. His wife could not have a
child. And all of a sudden God promises him, "I will give you out of your own bowels, out of
your own self; I will give you an heir." I will give you an heir. So, when it didnít happen they
tried to work it out their self but God said, "No, this is not the way, this is not the way," so
God gave him his son, finally, in His very old age. Think of how proud he must have been of
that. Think of how he had waited and prayed and asked God for that child. And God is asking
him to give His child up. Has God lost His mind? Who is this God that would do such a
thing? How cruel this seems to be! But listen to what happens here. In commanding Abraham
to offer up Isaac, God is apparently destroying, to Abraham, heís destroying His promise.
Thereís nothing left of the promise if he offers up Isaac. Itís the same with Jesus. If God
offers up Jesus, where does the promise go? But you canít see ahead. You cannot see
beyond what you can see. Listen to this. All the blessings that God had promised to bring
about were bound up in Isaac. Every promise that God had made to Abraham rested on that
son. And yet he was told to offer him up to God, to kill him. This trial goes beyond any
previous trial that Abraham had gone through. God himself rises up as His enemy. And I want
each of you to look at your lives. Look at your lives because youíve gone through a
tremendous testing, some more than others. But something is happening; beyond what you
can see. And this is where Faith is the relationship that God is building within you. He is
doing something within you.

If you had everything your way all your life, youíd be nothing but spoiled brats. Thinking that
you were very, very strong and very, very mighty and very, very capable. But God wants you
in a place where you donít feel so capable. That is when he can do something with you.
Listen to this. This trial went beyond previous trials that Abraham had. And he had a lot of
them. He waited 20 years.

God himself rises up as the enemy of His own work with men and he does it with you. Listen
to what Iím saying. God himself rises up as the enemy of His own works with men and hides
himself so deeply for the receiver of the promise, which was Abraham. Only the way of utter
forsakenness by God seems to stand out in this account. Abraham thinks heís forsaken by
God. God has forsaken Abraham. The promise he had made to Abraham is going down the
drain. And here he stands a forsaken man. Abraham is tested. Now listen to this. What better
testing. Abraham, are you going to fire me? Are you going to still follow me now?

Abraham, can you be the father of this nation?

Can you lead these people into Faith? Abraham, is your faith going to go down the drain now
with this test Iím placing upon you? Abraham felt forsaken for a moment, but yet, do you
know what he did?

He took Isaac, he took him up that mountain, he walked through there to get to that
mountain and he got up on that mountain and he had Isaac tied up and Isaac let him do it
because he was a man of about 35 years old. He wasnít a kid. Abraham was tested and the
testing it would seem was not just something out here. Not just something out here
somewhere where somebody is kind of shooting darts at you. But it was the foundation for
the relationship. Let me tell you something people. There is going to be a foundation for your
relationship with God and you know what itís going to be. Testing. Testing. Testing. Testing.
And when you get through that test and you believe God and you hang onto the Faith of God
something inside of you is going to be the image of God. Something inside of you died that
needed to die - that needed to leave. So the foundation for the relationship that God has
chosen for each one of us has to go through a test. The foundation. In Genesis 16:6 this
word is only used twice in the Hebrew scripture. Faith.

The most astonishing aspect (now weíre going to look at David, of Davidís story) is the free
gift of this relationship that God chose him. Just as astonishing that God chose me. I canít
get over it. I was in my study last night - almost scared me because I felt the presence of God
come in and it scared me because it was so strong. And I said, you know, "Lord!". Bill was
here Friday night and the presence of God came over. Bill had never felt the presence of God
like that before and it moved His heart.

It got ahold of him. It moved his heart and he said, "Iíve never felt anything like that before."
Iím going to tell you something, people. After being in the presence of that great being called
God (and Iím going to tell you something Iíve never felt anything like it - - nothing) it
absolutely lets you know that thereís nothing here on earth worth keeping. All of it is to be
given up for God. Iím talking about selfishness. Iím talking about falling away from God. All of
this should be given up. We should make our dedication so strong and set our face like flint
just like Jesus did and head to the Lord.

But we will be tested.

You will be tested, and re-tested. And sometimes I wonder if it wouldnít be easier if we were
being fed to the lions. And we were being killed. And our heads taken off and burned in fires
than it would be to work in a church. Think about it. Because what you have to do is work
out your relationship with one another. Whether you like each other or whether you like what
the other person is doing or whatever is going on. Because when youíre being fed to the
lions itís forever. But you know, it takes a courageous person to renew a relationship after
youíve been offended. Thatís pretty rough. But itís a trial. Itís all a trial to test our faith and
cause us to be changed into the image of God. Itís all a trial.

Itís a test. Look what Job went through. He lost His whole family. And Iíve thought of this
time and time again. Yes God, even His children. But you think about that. Lord, how can that
be? How can that be right? How can it be right, he watched His children die. The other kids
wouldnít have replaced the ones that died. God didnít say they would.
And you know what Job says? All of His friends said, "Oh yeah, Job, youíve sinned against
God. This wouldnít have happened to you had you not sinned." People always do that
because they havenít been through those trials. But when they go through the trials itís a
different story. And you know what? God didnít tell him, "Iíll give you your other children
back again." (He said,) "Iíll give you new children." Job said, in the midst of all this, "I will
serve you."

Thatís where we should be. Weíve got to make that statement, weíve got to make that
dedication to God or weíre not going to last. Youíre going to fall away. OK. now.

So the most astonishing aspect of Davidís story is the feature of relationship. And the way of
his chosenness supplements testing as the central piece of Godís work. So chosenness and
testing go together. If you are chosen by God you will be tested. Is it terrible? Itís terrible
when youíre going through it. But after you get through it you see the reason for it. And
people, we need to be more personal with ourselves than we are with anybody. We need to
look at what God is trying to show us.

Not the other thing or the other person or the other situation that is going on Ė but what
about us.

God is working with you. There are two distinct covenants in Israel. The Sinai covenant is a
relationship based on mutual relationships and promises. "You shall be my people and I shall
be your God": Exodus 19:5. "You only have I known of all the families of the earth", God said.
"Therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities." Amos 3:2. The second covenant is an
unconditional covenant or a covenant of a grant. This is the covenant that was made with
David.

The promise made to David did not depend upon Davidís future responses or those of His
descendants. The oath, which Yahweh takes on behalf of David, is the result of Davidís
previous activities. It is the ancestor who is the human partner in the covenant and that
ancestor was Abraham. Davidís actions are clear enough. He is called. Are you called? Have
you been called?

God said many are called but few are chosen. Youíre called. IĎm telling you, everybody sitting
in this room that I know of is called. Youíve been called to covenant. Youíve been called to
Faith.

It says here, that Davidís actions are clear enough. He is called and he responds. He serves
Yahwehís purpose. He is the agent of a historical change in Israel. And if David hadnít been
the one; if God couldnít have gotten David to do what He wanted him to do, God would have
chosen someone else. Look at Saul. Tragic figure; Davidís intense loyalty; his unswerving
devotion to the cause of extending the land which God had promised to Abraham. He
listened. He obeyed without question. Did David sin once in awhile? Did David make mistakes
once in awhile? You bet he did.

He never got over them. He never got over them. He lived with those all of His life. He
achieved goals and the goals that David achieved made real God's divine promises. He
promised them a land. They received the land through David. Of course he didnít conquer the
whole land, but those promises were made real through David. As in the binding of Isaac,
David, too, was tested. Not so much in specific acts but in the whole thrust of His life. His
lifeís actions are a response to the call that heíd received. Our actions are many times a
response to the call that weíve received. As the result of His faithfulness to the call of
Yahweh, he is made the bearer of unconditional promises from God. He brought forth Jesus
Christ.

There are two poles of the life of faith, and itís not obstacles, but it is one side and then the
other of the same truth thatís going to be shown to us about faith. There are two poles to the
life of faith in the Hebrew Bible which is the Old Covenant: Abraham which was obedience
and faithfulness. Abraham obeyed God and he was very faithful to God. In David it was
chosenness and a reward. He was rewarded. This illumines or makes it come to light now
one side, and then the other. The one side is obedience and faithfulness, and the other is
chosen, freely chosen and rewarded. Do you see it. This is Faith. The Faith of Israel was seen
primarily in the context of community.

Now listen to this. This is very important. This is what Iím telling you. If anything gets out of
order with our relationship with one another as a community of people, believers, it needs to
be straightened out; because this is what happens. To Israel the faith of Israel was seen
primarily as a relationship between the faithful community and Yahweh. The faithful
community and Yahweh. It was not a conversion experience in the Old Covenant that brought
individuals to Faith. It was their involvement in the community of Yahweh, the people of the
Lord, that brought them to faith. The core of Israelís faith was and is in, listen to this: The
core of Israelís faith was and is in - Can anybody tell me what it would be in? Their faith.
What is it in? Does anybody know what Israelís faith is founded on?

The Seder Meal.

The Meal of the Covenant that Jesus Christ said, "you must drink my blood and you must eat
my body." But with the Jewish people it was being brought up out of Egypt - the Passover
Meal, which is Christ himself, the Lamb of God. So it says here, it was their involvement in
the community of Yahweh, the People of the Lord. The core of Israelís Faith was and is in the
Seder Meal and the celebration of the Passover. The focus of their faith was in remembering;
remembering what God had done. Sometimes I think we forget what God has done. I really
do.
The History of Israel is not past; you donít look to the past all the time, but you look to the
future. And I thought about that a lot. And it says that Israel believe that they live on through
their ancestors eternally. I believe that there is a resurrection. And some Jewish people do
and some Jewish people believe that they just live on in the memories of their children, which
I do not. I just donít believe that at all. I believe we do live on in the memories of our children.
It says, for the focus of their faith was in remembrance.

God is not predictable except in one way. You cannot predict God except in one way. Hesed
-Mercy. God is Merciful. This freedom that God gives in this relationship that heís founded on
a relationship with God: Faith, itís called Faith. This freedom is founded on a relationship.
And this relationship is described in a significant way through the analogy of a covenant that
God made with man. I love that. Prophets reveal the eternal in the temporal. They proclaim
the future against what is going on now, and make their remembrance of God real now. God
canít be real in the past. God has to be real now.