Works of Faith

Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have also obtained access through him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:1–5, CSB)

“Joy, peace, love for God and all people…assurance, steadfastness, confidence, courage, and hope in sorrow and suffering. All of these follow where faith is genuine, because of the overflowing good will that God has shown in Christ.” – Martin Luther, preface to Romans

Peace with God

I used to think that peace with God was about me. I needed to have peace in my restless heart and that could only be given to me by Jesus. But Paul tells us that we were rebellious enemies. Our betrayal grieved God. His designs were ever against us. It would have been better for the world if we were removed from it. Even in that state, Jesus came to rescue us. Now, not only has all hostility ceased, but we are welcomed in as part of the family.

W.H. “Dub” Jackson flew bombers and fighters over Japan in WWII. He knew who his enemy was. He had seen their acts of aggression first hand. Only days after General MacArthur sign the Japanese surrender, Dub and others were thinking about how he could get back to Japan as a minister of the gospel. They started to work with churches in the US to send volunteers as missionaries to the people who were called enemies.

Access to God

Adam and Eve were immediately sent away from paradise and the way back was guarded. Standing before a holy God would now mean their death. In the Old Testament, people didn’t pursue God — He came to them.  The tabernacle and the temple showed the clear separation between God and man. But through Jesus’ death, the veil was torn. Access was granted. Now we are promised that we will stand before him forever. Like Mary at the feet of Jesus sitting and listening, we will have eternal access to pure wisdom and attention.

Glory of God

Our old selves would have run for our lives from God’s presence and glory. We were like those who will hide in caves and ask the mountains to fall on them on the Day of the Lord. But now, we look forward to it. It motivates us. Even though we will stand before the Ancient of Days in judgment, we have full assurance and we hope to see his glory. This is the same glory that Moses asked to see on Mount Sinai and was denied because “no man can see God’s face and live.” Our affliction, endurance, proven character–they all affirm our new identity. This life is lived with confidence knowing that we will see his face forever.

If faith produces endurance in spite of afflictions and if we are exhibiting proven character, then it is undeniable that true faith produces true works of faith. These works were never able to bring peace with God, give us access to God, or make us holy in the presence of God. In the church, there have always been ingrown traditions, actions, and rules of living that are said to prove your Christianity. But that’s not what Paul says. Only Jesus gives us a new identity through faith. That faith produces genuine works of faith.

“They invent for themselves their own works in which are neither peace nor joy nor assurance nor love nor hope nor steadfastness nor any kind of genuine Christian works or faith.” – Martin Luther, preface to Romans

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Why grace?

I just began studying Romans again, and I was struck by Paul’s train of thought regarding grace.

Through [Jesus] we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the Gentiles, including you who are also called by Jesus Christ. (1:5-6)

We have received grace to bring about the obedience of faith

Paul spends a great deal of time in this letter defining the vocabulary of our belief. In Romans, grace brings us completely into God’s favor through the mediating work of Jesus. When God says, “What about sinful John Smith?” Jesus replies, “Don’t look at him look at me. His identity is forever wrapped up in who I am.”

Faith is a work of God in us, which changes us and brings us to birth anew from God…Faith is a living, unshakeable confidence in God’s grace; it is so certain, that someone would die a thousand times for it. This kind of trust in and knowledge of God’s grace makes a person joyful, confident, and happy with regard to God and all creatures. – Martin Luther, Preface to Romans

We are saved from sin for a purpose. Our salvation by grace is evident through actionable obedience to God calling us out of our old life.

…for the sake of his name…

Individuality is sacred today. Everyone must be free to express themselves and pursue their own interests. But salvation is not about us. It’s not for our joy and success. It is for the glory and honor of God. It’s so that he would be the focus of all respect, recognition, and honor. Paul, wants us to see from the very beginning that the purpose of our salvation and our call to evangelize is rooted in God’s glory and fame.

…among the Gentiles…

God’s interest in us doesn’t stop with our conversion. He wants our changed lives to be contagious and multiplying. When Paul talks about Gentiles here, he means those who haven’t heard about YHWH, the God of the Bible. Many of Paul’s fellow workers were still struggling with the idea of crossing the cultural divide between Jew and Gentile. But the gospel is for all, especially those who have never heard and few are working to reach.

…including you who are also called by Christ Jesus.

The message of Romans is not just for the lost. It’s been used as an effective evangelism tool for years because of its foundational truths on the human condition and the process of salvation. But our contagious grace and our life of faith must be seen by those in the church. The building up of the church and the strengthening of believers is God’s plan for evangelism. We must understand these words like law, gospel, grace, and faith. They must be a source of joy and strength in our church people.

Your personal salvation is not the conclusion of grace. The impact of grace in your life ripples out into your church and community. It has lasting, eternal impact for the glory of God.

7 Qualities of a Faithful Father

I’ve been thinking a lot about fatherhood lately and my responsibilities as a father. My boys are growing up fast, and with every new stage I am stunned by the simple truth that they will grow up and be adults one day. Will they be ready? What principles of God-centered manhood do I emphasize? Are these even evident in my own life? I’ve also been a foster dad for the last 3 years. Have these kids seen God reflected in my words and actions? On this Father’s Day, I’ve been reflecting on a passage that has gained new meaning for me since becoming a father – the sacrifice of Isaac in Genesis 22. I want to point out 7 Qualities of a Faithful Father from this text.

22:1-2 | Faithful fathers will be tested

After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham! ” “Here I am,” he answered. “Take your son,” he said, “your only son Isaac, whom you love, go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.”

No softballs here. Your life as a father is not marked by ease and peace. And if everything is going well like it was for Abraham, you better expect some testing. The milestones in your life will be the tests of faith that come your way. God wants to use these to show your God mirroring character to the world around you. Testing keeps us humble and it tempers and refines us for greater responsibility in the kingdom of God. God promises that we can bear it if we maintain strength in our love for him as our heavenly father.

Dt 8:2 | Remember that the Lord your God led you on the entire journey these 40 years in the wilderness, so that he might humble you and test you to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.

1 Cor 10:13 | No temptation has come upon you except what is common to humanity. But God is faithful; he will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation he will also provide a way out so that you may be able to bear it.

Js 1:12 | Blessed is the one who endures trials, because when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

1 Pt 1:6-7 | You rejoice in this, even though now for a short time, if necessary, you suffer grief in various trials so that the proven character of your faith – more valuable than gold which, though perishable, is refined by fire – may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

22:3-6 | Faithful fathers are quick to obey

So Abraham got up early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took with him two of his young men and his son Isaac. He split wood for a burnt offering and set out to go to the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey. The boy and I will go over there to worship; then we’ll come back to you.” Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac. In his hand he took the fire and the knife, and the two of them walked on together.

Abraham did not take a few days to think about it. He didn’t consult his circle of friends. He might not have even talked to his wife! The Lord’s command was clear and he did not hesitate to obey. There are so many spectators and commentators in the church today. People like to comment on the quality of the work being done, the kind of work that needs to be done, the number of people working, where we should be working, why it isn’t working here or there. But we need more people to get up and get on the field. If God calls your number, you get in the game. If God is calling out an area of disobedience in your life, shut it down and cut it off. Cast aside every weight to run the race with endurance.

22:7-8 | Faithful fathers listen and answer tough questions

Then Isaac spoke to his father Abraham and said, “My father.” And he replied, “Here I am, my son.” Isaac said, “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” Then the two of them walked on together.

Fathers, pay attention to your kids! Get the screens out of your face and give your kids full attention. The way you spend your time teaches them what’s important. From about age 2-6 my father was going back to school to get his college degree and after that my mom did as well. This instilled a love of books and learning. We had several bookcases full of textbooks on biology, astronomy, and history. I couldn’t wait until I was old enough to read the big books like dad.

Use any opportunity they give you to answer the questions that they have. Shepherd their hearts with the truth of God and his word. Abraham’s declaration that the Lord would provide the offering was the answer to Isaac’s question, but when the Lord really did provide, it must have grown little Isaac’s trust in God.

22:9-10 | Faithful fathers believe in God even unto death

When they arrived at the place that God had told him about, Abraham built the altar there and arranged the wood. He bound his son Isaac and placed him on the altar on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out and took the knife to slaughter his son.

Here we come to the heart of the story. The deep faith of Abraham. Faith that challenges me. The methodical nature of the narrative comes to a climax here. What was Abraham thinking in this moment? Thankfully we have scripture to illuminate the situation…

Js 2:20-24 | Senseless person! Are you willing to learn that faith without works is useless? Wasn’t Abraham our father justified by works in offering Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith was active together with his works, and by works, faith was made complete, and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness, and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.

Hb 11:17-19 | By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac. He received the promises and yet he was offering his one and only son, the one to whom it had been said, Your offspring will be called through Isaac. He considered God to be able even to raise someone from the dead; therefore, he received him back, figuratively speaking.

22:11-12 | Faithful fathers listen to the Lord

But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” He replied, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Do not lay a hand on the boy or do anything to him. For now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your only son from me.”

This is the second time that Abraham was quick to listen to the Lord. He was listening for his name to be called, and he recognizes the voice of the Lord. His response of “Here I am” is not just a “What do you want?” response. His words show the posture of his heart. He is ready and waiting to hear the commands of the Lord. This is the heart of a man in relationship with God. Put this in contrast with Genesis 3:8-9 when God comes to call on Adam and he is hiding.

22:13-14 | Faithful fathers gratefully worship

Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught in the thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram and offered it as a burnt offering in place of his son. And Abraham named that place The Lord Will Provide, so today it is said: “It will be provided on the Lord’s mountain.”

Fathers, picture your child as Isaac on that altar. Feel the relief and emotions that must have flooded Abraham when another sacrifice was provided in place of his son. That is the gospel message. Jesus has taken our place as the atoning sacrifice. Every day we now live in worship of this once and for all sacrifice given on our behalf. The gratitude and love from our redemption must be visible to our children. Model grateful worship in your life.

22:15-19 | Faithful fathers impact the nations

Then the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven and said, “By myself I have sworn,” this is the Lord’s declaration: “Because you have done this thing and have not withheld your only son, I will indeed bless you and make your offspring as numerous as the stars of the sky and the sand on the seashore. Your offspring will possess the city gates of their enemies. And all the nations of the earth will be blessed by your offspring because you have obeyed my command.” Abraham went back to his young men, and they got up and went together to Beer-sheba. And Abraham settled in Beer-sheba.

When we walk in willing obedience with the Lord, he will give us significance in our fatherhood. God used Abraham’s faith to bless the nations. Follow God’s lead in faithful fatherhood and let him use you to bless the nations.

Now go back through the passage and look at the ways that God is Abraham and Jesus is Isaac.  Think about the steps you need to take to be a faithful father like Abraham. How can we better parent in light of our faithful Heavenly Father?