Thursday, April 15, 2010

Tangible Faith

Our Tuesday night discipleship group is currently studying the book of Ephesians. Last night we were looking at the following passage:

Ephesians 1: 15-19 - 15For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 17I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19and his incomparably great power for us who believe.

A question came up that got me thinking. The question came after looking at vs 15: For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints. The question was this: "What does this faith that Paul heard about and wrote about look like?" What was the church at Ephesus doing that caused Paul to take notice? This church is not the only one that has a faith worth mentioning. Take a look at the church at Rome:
Romans 1: 8 - 8First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world.
Also the Church at Colossae:
Colossians 1: 4 - because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints
Was this simply a colloquialism made by Paul similar to how we always seem to say fine when someone asks how we are doing. All hell could be breaking loose in our lives but if someone says "How are you doing?" we seem to always say "Fine!", or "Good, and you?" and we too respond "Fine!" it is really just a saying, we rarely say "How are you doing?" and hear "Well, to be honest with you, me and my wife are really struggling right now...." or "Well, my child is failing in school, we found some drug paraphernalia in his room..." But I digress. This is not simply a colloquialism made by Paul because he does not say this to every church. Take a look at what he says to the church at Galatia:

Galatians 1:6, 7 - 6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.
Galatians 3: 1-3 - 1You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. 2I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? 3Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?

Wow, how would you like to be sitting in church Sunday and hear the pastor say that! How much would be collected if they passed the offering plate right after those statements were made?

Back to my original thought which was what does a faith that is worth of Paul mentioning it look like and if Paul were here today would which statement would he make to our church, and not only our local but churches across the country? Right off the top you your head can you think of a church that may be living out their faith in such a way that Paul would take notice? I am sorry to say that compared to what the early church was doing I cannot. Not locally and not across the country. I can think of some really big churches, I can think of some really beautiful churches, I can think of some churches that have been in the news for some very negative things, but not for their faith. I am sure there are a few but rarely do we hear of them. It seems as though we have to go way back in history to see this being lived out, once again we have to look at the early church in Acts:

Acts 2: 45-47- 45Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Acts 4: 32-35 - 32All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. 33With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. 34There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.

This is the type of faith I believe Paul was writing about. A faith that made non-Believers take notice. A faith that would cause a wealthy Believer to sell his beach home to give the money to the poor, not a wealthy Believer buying another vacation home because he needs another tax write-off. A faith that would cause someone to trade in their luxury automobile for a used car so they can lower their payments and give more to the needy. Imagine if visitors drove into a church parking lot anywhere in America and it was filled with old junker cars. Junker cars that were paid for and the money that was saved was given to those who were in need. What if, as a result of this,  the church had more money than they could give away because so many Believers were giving. Imagine if the staff at churches across America had to call various organizations and ask if they needed anything instead of the organizations asking for help.

I believe there is a lost world looking for this type of faith. Looking for something that is so different from what they expect church to be. I believe the charge from Paul to the Galatians is still relevant for today's church. Paul said in Galatians 3: 1 - You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? I think we can easily update that phrase with You foolish Americans! Who has bewitched you? You foolish Church Goers! Who has bewitched you? You foolish pursuers of material things! Who has bewitched you? You foolish ____________ (feel free to fill in the blank)! Who has bewitched you?

If Paul were to write about your faith today how would he describe it?

1 comment:

  1. Dead on, man. That's a very piercing question. But the world needs just such a faith.