Useless Faith

Faith by itself is not enough. Specifically, faith in general – faith in something – will not do. Having faith in faith, faith in yourself, or faith in “religion” will fail you. In this case, faith is useless.

FAITH + TRUTH = ENOUGH

Right faith – faith in the only One who is worthy of all of your trust and devotion – is enough. Do you have right faith?

If you are not trusting in the One who never fails, your faith is not enough. I have had a lot of faith in my favorite NFL team – the Minnesota Vikings, for example, more times than I can remember in my 40 years of life. There have been numerous times that I really believed they were the best team in the league and thought they were serious contenders to win the Super Bowl. Yet, they are 0-40 in even getting to the Super Bowl since I have been alive, and they were 0-4 in the Super Bowl before that.

Needless to say, my faith in the Vikings is a useless faith. Please do not get me wrong – I will continue to be a fan and cheer for the Vikings. I will continue to be optimistic because this “just might be the year.” But, no matter how much faith I have, only the object of my faith will prove whether or not my faith is rightly placed.

Football might be a silly example, so let us think about something much more serious and important: life… Life now and life eternal. Where do you place your faith?

OBJECT > AMOUNT

In 1 John 5:1-12, John keeps reminding His readers that it is the object of our faith that matters. He does not try to persuade us to have more faith but rather to focus on the object of Christian faith: Jesus Christ our Lord.

You might be tempted to take part of one Bible verse and apply it to your life because it can make you feel good. For example, “This is the victory that has conquered the world: our faith” (1 John 5:4b). But, to understand the meaning of that statement and apply it correctly, you must understand the context of such faith. “And who is the one who conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:5).

The object of your faith is more important than the amount of your faith because it is the one in whom you place your faith that will determine how useful or useless your faith truly is.

JESUS = THE ANSWER

Faith in and of itself is fleeting. It is temporary. It is useless. It is not victorious. But, faith in Jesus Christ is the answer we all need.

This is the victory that has conquered the world: our faith. And who is the one who conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4-5).

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching on the “Proof of Faith” (1 John 5:1-12). I hope to communicate three results of genuine Christian faith, and that message will be available Sunday afternoon HERE, along with other messages in the series.

In the meantime, though, I pray you will sincerely seek God for truth. Trust in Him and in what He has done for you in and through the Lord Jesus. Do not settle for faith in anything or anyone else. The resulting disappointment will be devastating, not just in this life but more importantly for eternity.

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Guatemala Highlights

Noah and Levi had the great privilege of going on a mission trip to Guatemala earlier this month with Marsha’s parents and eleven other members of our church family. Below are some of their highlights.

NOAH’S TESTIMONY OF FAITH

You can also listen to Noah’s quick testimony about the trip that he shared with our church family by clicking HERE.

LEVI’S TESTIMONY OF FAITH

PICTURE MEMORIES

NOTE: Some of the pictures are cropped below but can be seen fully by clicking on the image.

THANK YOU

A huge thank you to our church family and others who supported Noah and Levi through prayer, encouragement and financial assistance! This mission trip was obviously a life-changing experience of which they are beyond grateful to have been a part. Thanks be to God!

Change Required

It is that time of year when we are trying to keep up with all the flowers around our house – watering them, pruning, deadheading, keeping the weeds away, yelling at the rabbits who keep eating the flowers, etc. Zoe (above), for example, is pretty proud of her potted flower on our back deck and has been very diligent about making sure it is well-watered and growing.

If a plant has life, the plant will grow. Yes, flowers need pruning and deadheading at times, but they prove they have ongoing life by their petals and their color and their beauty. A dying plant, on the other hand, withers and wastes away.

CHRISTIANS ARE CHANGED

The Christian life is relatable to plant life, as Jesus explained very clearly in John 15:1-8. Plants are dependent on good soil, sunshine and water to survive. Christians are dependent on God and one another.

And, when someone comes to know Jesus Christ, God gives that person new life. That life is never the same again but rather is in a constant state of change. The ongoing change is what proves God has saved that person from sin and death.

When a flower blooms, it proves it has life. When a tree grows beautiful green leaves, it proves it is getting the nutrients it needs. When a bush grows and needs to be trimmed, it proves it is healthy.

When a Christian continues to change – drawing closer to God with an increasing desire to live for Him and serve others, the Christian proves He belongs to God. Rather, God proves through the changing life of that individual the legitimacy of that person’s faith.

GOD AND CHURCH

When a plant is thirsty, it begins to wither, but when it gets the water and sunshine it needs, it begins to flourish again. Similarly, when a Christian is failing to walk in complete dependence on God and failing to remain in fellowship with God’s church, he begins to wither. He needs God. He needs the church.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I plan to preach through 1 John 4:7-21 on the “Proof of God” in the life of a Christian. What are the life-evident proofs that someone “has been born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7). “This is how we know…” is a phrase that is all over 1 John, and so there are constant reminders of the proof seen in and through the life of those who know Jesus.

You can listen to that message (Sunday afternoon) and previous messages from this sermon series HERE. More importantly, though, I want to encourage you to consider and examine your life. Is there ongoing spiritual fruit growing and proving your faith in God to be legitimate? If not, what needs to change?

Genuine followers of Jesus love God and love others, longing to walk closely with the Lord, serve the church and make disciples.

EVIDENCE OF CHANGE

With Richland Baptist Church, we say, “Our passion is the gospel. Our church is our family. Our world is our mission.” And, we try to remind one another often that all three of those go together. They are not mutually exclusive. Either all three are evident in the life of a Christ-follower, or none is evident.

When God changes a life for eternity, evidence of that change is a passion for the gospel of Jesus Christ, a longing to be actively involved with a church family, and a growing commitment to live a life on mission. Someone who knows and embraces the gospel loves the church and wants others to know and embrace the gospel, too. Period.

Gospel. Family. Mission. Are any of those evidences of change missing in your life? If so, very likely all three are missing, and if that is the case, God can change your life forever and give you the evidence of change if you will simply surrender everything to Him.

Photo by Hoang Le on Pexels.com

The Impact of Knowledge on Trust

No, Pack, No

If you were to walk up to my house one day and find one of my children outside wearing a cheesehead and an Aaron Rodgers jersey and chanting “Go, Pack, Go!,” you would be extremely surprised, if not shocked. Why? Well, because you know the Drake family better than that, right?

What if, though, said child proceeded to tell you, “My dad told me to do this. I’m cheering for the Packers because my dad said I had to.”? Surely, you would not believe what you just heard. You know I am a Minnesota Vikings fan and would never cheer for the Packers (unless a Packers’ victory somehow helped the Vikings), let alone ask or require my children to cheer for the Packers (or Bears or Lions).

You see, your knowledge of me would lead you to believe something just is not right with this scenario. Because you know about my unfortunate loyalty to the Vikings, you trust that I would not allow my children to chant and cheer for the Packers (or Bears or Lions) while still under my authority. Such horrendous things are forbidden in my house.

Understanding Required

Knowledge impacts trust. The more you know someone, the more you are able to trust him (or, the less you trust him if he proves unworthy of your trust). In fact, there are obviously many situations in which wisdom requires knowledge before trust. For example, you would never trust people to care for your children without knowing who they are. Trusting a random person with your children would not be wise.

While there are exceptions, many a fool has been made because of “blind faith.” Would you trust just any person with your money and investments? Of course not. “I don’t know you and realize that you don’t work for a bank or investment company, but here’s my life savings. Would you please do what you think is best with it?” said no one ever.

Understanding is required for proper trust. You cannot possibly trust with sincerity what you do not know in truth.

Knowing God

God is no exception, as He does not ask us to trust Him without understanding who He is. No, we cannot possibly understand Him fully, but we must understand Him some. He gave us His Word, so that we can gain a better understanding of who He is and who He created us to be.

He sent us His Son to reveal Himself to the world, so that we could truly know Him and have a right relationship with Him.

He gives His Spirit to all who know Him, so that we can experience His presence and continue to grow in our knowledge of Him.

Trusting God

And, the more we understand who He is, the more we naturally trust in Him. If you do not know who He is, though, according to the Truth of His Word, then your trust in Him will fail you. Your trust will be without a foundation. Your trust will prove to be illegitimate.

This is how you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit who confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God. But every spirit who does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist; you have heard that he is coming, and he is already in the world now” (1 John 4:2-3).

Do you know and believe the right things about Jesus Christ? Only then can you sincerely trust and follow Him.

Victory

And, only those who sincerely trust and follow Jesus have eternal victory, and that victory begins the moment you turn away from your sins and surrender your life to Him.

You are from God, little children, and you have conquered them, because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

Are you seeking to grow in the knowledge of Him while sincerely surrendering to Him every day? Only then will your faith continue to grow.

Photo by Wendy van Zyl from Pexels
Photo by Wendy van Zyl from Pexels

Keep up with my Sunday morning sermon series through 1 John, including this coming Sunday’s message, by clicking HERE.

Love doesn’t always feel good.

If you love someone, showing that love is easy, right? Not necessarily. If you love someone, showing that love feels good, right? Not necessarily. Love is all about how you feel, right? Not really.

As the One who created us and as the One who is the ultimate example of love, God defines love. His Word has a lot to say about love, and He does not say much about love being easy or feeling good.

When you come to know and follow God, you automatically learn more about love. When you experience His love, you are clearly changed and then desire to show that love to others.

Thankfully, we are seeing this at work in our two oldest sons, Noah and Levi. Recently, Noah had an opportunity to help with disaster relief cleanup in Jefferson City, Missouri. Then, he and Levi were blessed to head to Guatemala with a team from our church to minister to orphans and others in a needy community.

Do these mission tasks feel good? Perhaps at times they do, as there is obviously a great sense of encouragement and satisfaction when we get to serve others. But, there are certainly plenty of times when we just do not feel those things. Love – the love of God – still compels us, though.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching about the “Proof of Love” in the life of a Christian, looking specifically at 1 John 3:10-24. Later that day, you should be able to listen to the message HERE. In the meantime, though, I want to challenge you to consider three reasons love does not always feel good.

1) Love is unconditional.

If you read 1 John 3:10-15, you will not see any conditions on the love we are commanded and expected to have for one another. We are not told to love others if they deserve our love. We are not told to love others if they love us in return. We are not told to love others for what they can do for us. The Bible tells us to love one another. Period.

In fact, this love proves something very important: “We know that we have passed from death to life because we love our brothers. The one who does not love remains in death” (1 John 3:14).

You either have eternal life, or you are headed for eternal death. Unconditional love for others is a defining characteristic for those who have experienced this new life in and through a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Is your life marked by unconditional love for others?

2) Love is costly.

This is how we have come to know love: He laid down His life for us. We should also lay down our lives for our brothers” (1 John 3:16).

Did it “feel good” when Jesus was brutally beaten and crucified? Of course not. Love compelled Him, though. It was His love for sinners like you and me that led Him to the cross, and there was nothing more costly than the cross.

No, this does not imply that in order for you to truly love others, you must die for them, but it certainly does mean you are willing to die. And, it clearly means love is not confined to that which is easy and feels good. Love is costly.

Is your love for others costing you anything?

3) Love is exhausting.

To say, “I love you,” is really not very difficult. To show “I love you” is often exhausting. If love is unconditional and costly, then it is certainly exhausting.

Little children, we must not love with word or speech, but with truth and action. This is how we will know we belong to the truth and will convince our conscience in His presence” (1 John 3:18-19).

Loving a person who has frustrated you is not easy. It is exhausting. Loving those who are hurting and unable to do anything for you in return is not easy. It is exhausting. Loving those who do not reciprocate that love is not easy. It is exhausting.

Yes, I do believe that when our hearts are set on the Lord, we can still experience a great sense of joy and contentment in the midst of this unconditional care, cost and exhaustion. Does that mean it will always feel good and be easy, though? No. Otherwise, the Bible would not have so much to say about the command to love one another and our need to love one another. Doing so takes intentional effort, regardless of how we feel at the time. Love is exhausting.

Do you ever find yourself exhausted because of your unconditional, costly love for others?

Love is transformational.

If you experience God’s love by surrendering your life to Jesus Christ, then you will not only experience this kind of transformational love; you will be transformed by this love and show this love to others. This love, after all, is an essential proof for those who have a genuine relationship with God.

Have you been transformed?

Noah and Levi are currently on a mission trip with our church to serve the children of Casa De Mi Padre orphanage in Santa Cruz del Quiche, Guatemala, as well as others in the community. To God be the glory!

What’s your birth certificate?

Look at how great a love the Father has given us, that we should be called God’s children. And we are!” (1 John 3:1) Wow! What great news of hope and assurance, huh?!

But, for whom?

Well, the answer to that question is given in the previous verse. “Everyone who does what is right has been born of Him” (1 John 2:29). A lifestyle of righteousness does not earn right standing with God but rather proves that right standing exists. What is your birth certificate, the proof of your birth? Your lifestyle is.

“What” from “Where”

The what of your birth certificate – your lifestyle proving whether or not you are “born of God” – comes from the where of your birth certificate – the standing of your relationship with God. That where then, is based on the whom of your faith? In whom or what is your faith?

You know that [Jesus] was revealed so that He might take away sins, and there is no sin in Him. Everyone who remains in Him does not sin; everyone who sins has not seen Him or known Him” (1 John 3:5-6).

Have you placed your faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and eternal life? If so, the “location,” the where of your eternal birth certificate is in Him. As a result, then, the what of your birth certificate (the proof of a born-again Christian relationship) is your daily life of growing faithfulness.

No, this does not mean you are perfect; not yet. What this means is that you are not living in habitual sin. Rather, there is a daily turning away from sin. There is a hatred of sin. There is a conviction that sin is evil. There is a desire to live in purity and righteousness.

Clear Difference

Little children, let no one deceive you! The one who does what is right is righteous, just as He is righteous. The one who commits sin is of the Devil, for the Devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God was revealed for this purpose: to destroy the Devil’s works. Everyone who has been born of God does not sin, because His seed remains in him; he is not able to sin, because he has been born of God. 10 This is how God’s children—and the Devil’s children—are made evident” (1 John 3:7-10).

Do you see the clear difference between children of God and children of the Devil? Children of God desire righteousness and thus are unable to continuously live in sin. Children of the Devil, though, are content to continue in sin.

Is there a clear difference in your life? Is the change Jesus has made and continues to make in your life evident? If you know Him, the answer can only be “Yes!”

Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching on the “Proof of Birth” (1 John 2:28 – 3:10). If you are interested in listening to that message, it should be available Sunday afternoon HERE. More importantly, seek God through His Word and examine your daily life for proof of birth.


Unrelated to the above post, except that there is certainly some physical proof of birth amongst our extended family members, below are some pictures from our Memorial Day gathering with Marsha’s family in Windsor Valley. It was a beautiful day with great people, delicious food, and plenty of play.

When Honesty Requires Courage

If you believe something to be true and important, courage might be necessary for you to speak honestly. Sure, there are plenty of times when honesty is simple. Basic questions like, “What’s your name?”, “Where do you live?”, “Where are you from?”, etc. do not require much courage to answer with honesty.

What about when honesty is overwhelming, intimidating, or even dangerous, though?

The Example of Micaiah

When evil, ruthless Ahab was king of Israel nearly 2,900 years ago, he sent a messenger to get Micaiah, a prophet of God. The messenger demanded of Micaiah, “Look, the words of the prophets are unanimously favorable for the king. So let your words be like theirs, and speak favorably” (1 Kings 22:13).

But Micaiah said, “As the Lord lives, I will say whatever the Lord says to me” (1 Kings 22:14).

While Micaiah did actually struggle initially to be truthful to the king, he quickly corrected his counsel, sharing the truth of Israel’s coming disaster, according to the word of the Lord. The result? King Ahab’s wrath and judgment: “Put this guy in prison and feed him only bread and water until I come back safely” (1 Kings 22:27).

But Micaiah said, “If you ever return safely, the Lord has not spoken through me.” Then he said, “Listen, all you people!” (1 Kings 22:28)

Talk about courageous honesty! All the other prophets were saying what the king wanted to hear – what was favorable and pleasing to him. Micaiah spoke the truth and did not waver, though, even when being sent to prison as a result.

Oh, and for the record, things did indeed happen as Micaiah said they would, or more specifically, as God promised they would.

The Call of God

Lying lips are detestable to the Lord, but faithful people are His delight” (Proverbs 12:22). The Bible never says something like, “Be honest unless it is dangerous, difficult or uncomfortable.”

Like every other call of God on our lives, there are no conditions for obedience based on our preferences, comfort levels or safety. You are either for God, or you are against Him. You are either walking in obedience, or you are living in disobedience. You either submit to Him, or you submit to the evil one.

How can you make sure you are on the right side, then?

The Source of Courageous Truth

No matter how hard we try, we can never muster up enough strength, courage and integrity to honor God on our own. There is absolutely nothing we can do to fix our problems – our problems like weakness, fear, and dishonesty, and our eternal problem of sin against our perfect Creator.

But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!” (Romans 5:8)

The amazing news, then, is that if we repent of our sins and trust in what Jesus Christ did for our salvation, we not only experience eternal life; we experience His provision and power in a way that enables us to live the life He has called us to live. Only then does the courageous honesty come.

For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment” (2 Timothy 1:7). This statement of power and promise, though, is only for those who know and follow Jesus Christ. Do you? How can you be sure?

Perhaps better than any book in the Bible, 1 John tells us how we can be sure we have come to know and follow God. To listen to recent messages from 1 John in our church’s PROVE IT sermon series, click HERE.