1) The unrighteous will live by self-interest.
2) The self-righteous will live by judgment and defensiveness.
3) The righteous will live by faith.
3) The righteous will live by faith
The righteous part makes sense. We are made righteous, not by what we do, salvation is not something that can be earned. Rather, we are saved by faith in Jesus and his work on the cross and his blood makes us righteous. That part is easy enough to understand.
And because of that fact that we are cleansed and made righteous because of the blood of Jesus, a direct result of this fact is a life of faith. The righteous WILL LIVE by faith.
What does living a life of faith in Christ look like? To answer that, I’d like us to turn to Rom 4.
18Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 19Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. 20Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. 22This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” ~Rom 4:18-22
Abraham is the father of faith. Abraham was saved by faith. It was nothing Abraham did but God came to him and initiated a relationship with him and Abraham responded by believing. Saved by faith.
Not only was Abraham saved by faith, we know from the OT account that he was also called by faith. He was called to be a father of many nations. He didn’t earn that right. He wasn’t a father of one nation so God said, this guy has aptitude to be a father of many nations. No, that’s not how it happened. God called him and that calling was tied to a promise — you will be a father of many nations. Not maybe you will be if you are good enough. Not if you are lucky and things fall into place. No, it says, YOU WILL BE a father of many nations.
It was God’s promise and Abraham trusted those words and we called that living a life of faith.
And he was able to live this life of faith in the most unlikely of circumstances. He was 100 years old and his wife was 90. Yet God had promised a child. Highly unlikely. That’s why it says, against all hope, Abraham in hope believed. We’ve heard plenty of messages about this. Abraham’s body was as good as dead. Sarah’s womb was as good as dead. Yet, Abraham lived by faith because he believed in the promises of God.
When we were unrighteous, when we were separated from God and on our own, all we could go by was our eyes, what we saw, our senses, our impulses. We were enslaved to visible things, my circumstances, how people treat me. This was our lens that we viewed ourselves and the world.
When Christ saved us by faith, he saved us and brought us into the realm of the righteous through the blood of Jesus. And as ones who have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus, we are called to live by faith in Christ and his promises.
Practically, this means we are given a new lens to view our lives. It’s not about me getting what I want, not me feeling jipped by life, or feeling disappointed or frustrated that things didn’t pan out the way I expected. When we are saved by faith, God gives us a new lens of faith.
That is why Abraham can look at his most pitiful, hopeless situation, a 100 year old grandfather still waiting for a son but his eyes were not fixed on his circumstances. Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed. His eyes were fixed on the promise giver, the covenant maker. And in our new testament or new covenant understanding, this means we live by faith in Jesus.
Another Reformer, John Calvin had this to say about the life of faith – “Let us also remember, that the condition of us all is the same with that of Abraham. All things around us are in opposition to the promises of God. He promises immortality; we are surrounded with mortality and corruption; he declares that he counts us just; we are covered with sins. He testifies that he is propitious and kind to us; outward judgments threaten his wrath. What then is to be done? We must with closed eyes pass by ourselves and all things connected with us, that nothing may hinder or prevent us from believing that God is true.”
We want eyes of faith but when we look at our present circumstances everything seems to shout the complete reverse. Everything in life seems to oppose the promises of God. And I found that last line very interesting — he advises that we close our eyes, our physical eyes, regarding ourselves and all things connected with us, that nothing may hinder or prevent us from believing that God is true.
It is no accident that later in this same chapter, Paul says in Rom 4:17.
17As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.”He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were. ~Rom 4:17
This is the kind of God we serve. The God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were. That verse really blessed me. We look at ourselves and we are as good as dead. We look around and there is so much brokenness even in our immediate sphere. This is an assessment of our condition through human eyes. But God looks at us through the blood of Jesus and God sees us not as broken sinners but as redeemed saints. He gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were. This is a life of faith according to Paul and John Calvin.
And to this statement, I want to add one thing, that while taking our eyes off of ourselves and our physical circumstances, we ought to fix our eyes on Jesus.
That’s why it says In Heb 12:2 —
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith…” ~Heb 12:2
We fix our eyes on him, not our circumstances, not in what is visible and tangible right in front of me, instead, we fix our eyes on him, meaning we place our faith in him, and insodoing, Jesus authors our faith — he is the one who makes it possible to even enter into a relationship with him, we are saved by faith, he is the doorkeeper to a life of faith. And he is also the perfecter of our faith — Jesus is the one who makes sure our faith is made perfect and complete to the very end.
For me, this is what is essential in Christian life. Having our eyes continually fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. Placing our faith in him when everything around us suggests that we are wasting our energy and people are mocking us for our naivete. Let the world call us fools, but in God’s eyes, those who have a lens of faith are the wise victors.
I had a chance to visit Berkeley this past week, and for me, it’s always bittersweet. My first reaction is why am I still not living there? I love Cal, I love the Bay Area, I love Top Dog, I took my kids to top dog and they now love top dog, I love the grunginess of Telegraph, there are many people I loved there, why are we separated? So for me, the saying is true, I left my heart in San Francisco.
And in my previous visits, I had some hesitation going to campus because there are so many mixed emotions. But for me, this trip was different. Maybe I had been more prayerful the past couple of months, but I had a distinctly different outlook during this trip compared with other trips.
I thought about the past and there are so many memories. Good, bad, neutral. I certainly don’t miss nearly flunking out of Prof. Tim White’s anthro class or that dreadful Chem 1A final in my freshman year.
But I felt like God was clearing up my vision from the past. I saw how I tended to dwell on so many non-essential memories. And because we are sinners, we tend to remember the bad stuff more than the good. That is who we are.
This time was different. God reminded me of my salvation. That I was a lost freshman. I had no direction. I had no interest in God or the church. I was in fact running away from God because I had grown up in the church. And I suddenly stopped going to church my freshman year so that I could hone my dancing skills while wearing a leather jacket and a silk shirt and a red bandana. I was cool, I was in the party scene, I was pledging a fraternity. God was the furthest thing from my mind.
But God pursued me through the faithful, concrete love and obedience of some campus ministers. And I was saved in 1993. A year after I had been saved, God came to me through a dream. It’s the only spiritual dream that I have ever had. I don’t talk about it much but looking back, I think it was the first time God called me into the ministry and specifically to be an evangelist. And that calling has been reaffirmed every few years over the last 17 years.
And God convicted me during this past trip — the fact that I am saved, that I know Jesus and that I have been called to help others to know Jesus is the most essential thing in life. Nothing else matters. Everything else is non-essential when you think about it. My grade in chemistry, my gpa, my job, my earning potential, the twists and turns of life — there are so many non-essential things that I can be fix my eyes upon and be imprisoned by.
But God says, let me make it easy on you. Fix your eyes on me. Place your faith in me. I am the author of your faith, I am the sole reason you have faith to begin with. I am the perfecter of your faith, I am the one holding onto you, I won’t let go, I will make sure I lead you to eternal life.
A lens of faith gives us the ability to sift through all the junk from our past and what stands out is the essential thing — a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
A lens of faith also gives us the ability to rightly look into the future. While everyone else is worried about finances and retirement and savings account and college tuition, the housing market crash and the growing threat of terrorism, we fix our eyes on Jesus. We don’t need to worry because God knows our concerns. In prayer, we cast all our cares on him. He is the faithful one, He is the strong one, He is the one holding onto us and not the other way around.
And a proper perspective on the past and the future frees us to live a life of faith in the present. The present is a convergence of the past and the future. The present is a culmination of our past, all of our past events leading to the present moment. And the present is the edge of the future. One minute from this present moment is already the future.
So our view of the past and the future greatly influences how we live in the present. If the essential thing from our past is our personal knowledge of Christ. He is the Alpha. The beginning. He is the Author. The starting point of our faith journey. And if we know the future. He is the Alpha. The end. The perfecter of our faith, the one who sustains and helps us to complete our faith journeys. The one who puts us on his back when we are too tired to take another step.
Having this lens of faith regarding our past and our future frees us to focus on what is essential today, namely Christ. This is the radical gospel message. And if we believe Christ is the most essential thing, then like Abraham, this messy middle, this living out of our faith is possible because we are freed from all that we see through human eyes, all that binds and enslaves and imprisons us from the past and the future and we are free to live by faith today.
Without the proper view of the past and the future, our present will simply be dictated by practical concerns and meaningless distractions.
I want to end by returning to the verses that I began with.
16I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 17For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” ~Rom 1:16-17
Salvation is available to everyone who believes. In other words, salvation is freely given to those with faith, who believe Jesus is who he said he is, the Son of God who died on the cross for my sins and paid the full penalty of sin so that we might be spared.
For in the gospel a righteousness FROM God is revealed. It is not from ourselves. The gospel is God sending his Son to us, Jesus moving toward us and revealing to us a righteousness that we could never merit or earn or figure out on our own.
How do attain this righteousness? It is by faith. Faith in Christ, that’s the beginning.
But is it just the beginning? No, a righteousness that is by faith FROM FIRST TO LAST. Christian life begins with faith in Jesus Christ, it ends with being stripped of everything else when we die except our relationship with Jesus Christ. And everything in between, it is also all about faith, a life of faith. Fixing our eyes on what is essential and not being bogged down with so many non-essentials that life throws at us.
That is my prayer and my prayer for this church.