Three days ago Pastor John got us into our second installment in finding out what genuine faith is by reading from the Gospel of John chapter 2 verses 3 through 6 (NIV) We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.
Pretty good way to start a discussion about what genuine faith is, don't you think?
Then: do you remember that video clip that Pastor John used? The old guy (Teacher Rand's age at least!) had an obviously old model of Rolex watch. I think that you fellows all know that a Rolex watch is by definition an expensive luxury item. He thought that since his watch was quite old that it might be worth about $1500 to a collector. Well, the experts with him on the television program examined his watch carefully, checking out its serial number and so on, and all of the old paperwork that came with the watch, and figured out that altogether it was really worth about $70,000. It was a genuine old Rolex with a complete pedigree, not some fake look-alike product. So, “wow!”
Well, even Rolex watches, like our bodies or anything else of this world, no matter how nice and how wanted and cherished, are ultimately corruptible and perishable. In the context of eternity they mean...nothing! But your faith is quite another matter in ultimate importance. Yet like the Rolex watch, it could be (let's be honest) just fake or it could be genuine, the real thing. The difference is so important. Pastor John read to us 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 (NIV) Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
Alright then, how much more will you cherish genuine, authenticated faith. How can you tell?
Pastor John remembered the authentication checklist the Rolex watch authenticators used on the television program. So by analogy he gave us a kind of faith authentication “checklist”:
One - faith must come with ACTION. If you have real faith it will show itself in ACTION.
Two - those whose faith is genuine will keep God's commandments. Genuine faith is not burdensome obedience but it bursts beyond that to a truly joyful pursuit. Pastor John illustrated this point by reading from the First Letter of John, chapter 5 verses 2-5 This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.
The joy in obedience is not passive joy but active joy. You go beyond day-to-day obedience to find true joy. Finding true rest in the Christ is through joyful obedience. The destination makes the journey all worthwhile. Don't hide the pain that comes with the effort but look beyond the inevitable pain and suffering to God's purpose and discover the truly liberating joy in that.
Pastor John said that our lives are 100 percent about relationships. A Christian feels most alive when he is close to the Father. If we love God then we must love our “brothers and sisters” (to use the broadest meaning of the phrase). That is a marker of genuine faith.
Jesus is the life. Now, if you are okay with how the world is and you like the way it works then you know that your faith is not genuine. Read Colossians 1:13. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, If your faith is genuine, you reject the worldly dominion of darkness and behave as a citizen of God's kingdom.
Pastor John told us how faith all began with the invitation from Jesus Christ to be a part of his family. If that faith is genuinely our focus then our actions – what we do day-in and day-out - will automatically follow. Jesus said from the start that having such faith is not easy; it is guaranteed to produce suffering. But then so is physical training when you are preparing to compete in an athletic contest.
At the end of our brief terms of temporal existence we want our God, our Lord and master to say to us “well done good and faithful servant!” Jesus showed us the way when he stuck it out in obedience to the Father's will even to abysmal separation from the Father when he died on the cross. In that separation from the Father Jesus was closest to the Father in obedience.
So, genuine faith, the authentic article, means that we are obedient to God in all situations or circumstances no matter how difficult or painful because in such obedience...
...we are closest to God!