Tag Archives: true faith

John MacArthur – Sacrificial Faith on Display

 

“In the same way was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works, when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? Just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead” (James 2:25-26).

True faith willingly makes whatever sacrifices God requires.

It’s understandable that James would use Abraham as an illustration of living faith—especially to his predominately Jewish readers. Rahab, however, is a different story. She was a Gentile, a prostitute, a liar, and lived in the pagan city of Jericho. How could such a person illustrate true faith?

Rahab knew very little about the true God but what she knew, she believed, and what she believed, she acted on. She believed that God had led His people out of Egypt and defeated the Amorite kings (Josh. 2:9-10). She openly confessed that the Lord “is God in heaven above and on earth beneath” (v. 11). Her faith was vindicated when she aided the Hebrew spies who entered Jericho just prior to Joshua’s invasion.

Both Abraham and Rahab valued their faith in God above all else. Both were willing to sacrifice what mattered most to them: for Abraham it was Isaac; for Rahab it was her own life. Their obedience in the face of such great sacrifice proved the genuineness of their faith.

James calls each of us to examine ourselves to be sure we have a living faith. The acid test is whether your faith produces obedience. No matter what you claim, if righteousness doesn’t characterize your life, your faith is dead, not living. James likened that kind of faith to hypocrites who offer pious words to the needy but refuse to meet their needs; to demons, who believe the truth about God but are eternally lost; and to a lifeless, useless corpse. Those are strong analogies, but God does not want you to be deceived about the quality of your own faith.

I pray that you are rejoicing in the confidence that your faith is genuine. God bless you as you live each day in His wonderful grace.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God for the grace and courage to face any sacrifice necessary as you live out your faith.

For Further Study

Read Joshua 2:1-24; 6:1-27; and Matthew 1:1-5.

  • How did Rahab protect the spies?
  • How did God bless Rahab?

John MacArthur – Dead Faith Versus Demonic Faith

 

“Someone may well say, ‘You have faith, and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.’ You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?” (James 2:18-20).

Even demonic faith is better than dead faith!

In recent years there has been an alarming rise in the number of professing Christians who believe that there’s no necessary relationship between what they believe and what they do. They say you can’t judge a person’s spiritual condition by what he or she does because salvation is a matter of faith alone—as if requiring works violates the principle of faith.

It was that kind of reasoning that prompted James to issue this challenge: “You have faith, and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works” (James 2:18). The Greek word translated “show” means “to exhibit,” “demonstrate,” or “put on display.” His point is simple: it’s impossible to verify true faith apart from holy living because doctrine and deed are inseparable.

Can you know if someone is a Christian by watching his behavior? According to James, that’s the only way to know! In verse 19 he says, “You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.” In other words, affirming orthodox doctrine isn’t necessarily proof of saving faith. Demons believe in the oneness of God, and its implications fill them with fear, but they aren’t saved. The phrase “you do well” is intentionally sarcastic. The implication is that demonic faith is better than non-responsive faith because at least the demons shudder, which is better than no response at all.

You can’t be a Christian in creed only—you must be one in conduct as well! James makes that very clear. Don’t be confused or deceived by those who teach otherwise. Continually aim your life at bringing glory to God through obedient application of biblical truth.

Suggestions for Prayer

Reaffirm to the Lord your commitment to abide by His Word.

For Further Study

Read John 8:12-47. Make a list of doctrines and deeds that characterize dead faith and a corresponding list of those that characterize true faith.

John MacArthur –Examining Your Faith

 

“Prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves” (James 1:22).

God wants you to know whether your faith is genuine or not.

Our studies this month center on James 1:19-2:26, which deals with the issue of true faith—a most important consideration indeed. Knowing your faith is genuine is a wonderful assurance, but thinking you’re saved when you’re not is the most frightening deception imaginable. In Matthew 7:21-23 Jesus speaks of those who call Him Lord and even do miracles in His name, but aren’t redeemed. Second Timothy 3:5 speaks of those who have a form of godliness but deny its power. They’re religious but lost. Sadly, many people today are victims of the same deception. They think they’re Christians, but they’re heading for eternal damnation unless they recognize their true condition and repent.

Deception of that magnitude is a tragedy beyond description, but you need never fall prey to it because James gives a series of tests for true faith. This month we’ll be applying one of those tests: your attitude toward God’s Word. That’s an especially crucial test because the Word is the agency of both your salvation and sanctification. The Holy Spirit empowered it to save you, and He continually works through it to conform you to the image of Christ. That’s why Peter said, “You have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and abiding word of God. . . . [Therefore] like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation” (1 Pet. 1:2-2:2).

Jesus Himself characterized believers as those who abide in His Word and obey His commandments. They receive the Word with an attitude of submission and humility. However, unbelievers resist and disobey the Word (John 8:31, 43-45). Psalm 119:155 says, “Salvation is far from the wicked, for they do not seek Thy statutes.”

As you study this test of true faith, ask yourself, Do I pass the test? I pray that your answer will echo the words of the psalmist: “I have inclined mine heart to perform thy statutes always, even unto the end” (Ps. 119:112).

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God for clarity and confidence about your faith in Christ.

For Further Study

Read the book of James, noting the instructions he gives regarding Christian living.

John MacArthur – Praying for Believers

 

“For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you, and your love for all the saints, do not cease giving thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers” (Eph. 1:15-16).

Your love for other Christians is as much a mark of true faith as your love for God.

The Ephesian Christians demonstrated two important characteristics of genuine Christian faith: faith in the Lord Jesus and love for fellow believers.

“Faith in the Lord Jesus” implies both an affirmation of Christ’s deity and submission to His sovereignty. Because He is God, He is the Sovereign Lord, so we must obey what He commands (John 14:15; 1 John 2:3-6).

Your “love for all the saints” is as much a mark of true faith as your love for God. John said, “The one who says he is in the light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now” (1 John 2:9). In that passage “light” is a metaphor for righteousness and truth, and “darkness” is a metaphor for sin and error. It is sinful and erroneous to claim you love God if you have no love for other believers. Those who love God will love fellow believers as well.

If you love others, you will pray for them and praise God for their spiritual progress—as Paul did for the Ephesians—and they will do the same for you. That’s a wonderful dynamic within the Body of Christ, and one that you must diligently pursue.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • If you haven’t done so already, start a prayer list of individuals for whom you will pray each day. List their names and some specific requests. Record answers to your prayers as you see God moving in their lives.
  • Remember to thank God for their spiritual progress as well as praying for their needs. Let them know you are praying for them. That could be a source of great encouragement for them.
  • If you are at odds with another believer, seek to reconcile immediately (Matt. 5:23-24) so your witness will be strong and the Lord’s name won’t suffer reproach.

For Further Study; Read Philippians 1:9-11 and Colossians 1:9-14.

  • What requests and concerns did Paul express in his prayers?
  • Do your prayers reflect Paul’s priorities? If not, what adjustments must you make to have a more biblical pattern of prayer?

 

Charles Spurgeon – Faith

 

“Without faith it is impossible to please God.” Hebrews 11:6

Suggested Further Reading: Hebrews 3:12-4: 2

I may know a thing, and yet not believe it. Therefore assent must go with faith: that is to say, what we know we must also agree with, as being most certainly the will of God. Now, with faith, it is necessary that I should not only read the Scriptures and understand them, but that I should receive them in my soul as being the very truth of the living God, and should devoutly, with my whole heart, receive the whole of Scripture as being inspired of the most High, and the whole of the doctrine which he requires me to believe for my salvation. You are not allowed to divide the Scriptures, and to believe what you please; you are not allowed to believe the Scriptures with a half-heartedness, for if you do this wilfully, you have not the faith which looks alone to Christ. True faith gives its full assent to the Scriptures; it takes a page and says, “No matter what is in the page, I believe it;” it turns over the next chapter and says, “Here are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable do ignore, as they do also the other Scriptures, to their destruction; but hard though it be, I believe it.” It sees the Trinity; it cannot understand the Trinity in Unity, but it believes it. It sees an atoning sacrifice; there is something difficult in the thought, but it believes it; and whatever it be which it sees in revelation, it devoutly puts its lips to the book, and says, “I love it all; I give my full, free and hearty assent to every word of it, whether it be the threatening or the promise, the proverb, the precept, or the blessing. I believe that since it is all the word of God it is all most assuredly true.”

For meditation: Faith enables us to accept much which we cannot explain—“Through faith we understand” (Hebrews 11:3): “Believing is seeing”. Nothing else can fill the gap left by a lack of faith.

Sermon no. 107

14 December (1856)

John MacArthur – Leaving a Righteous Legacy

John MacArthur

“By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks” (Heb 11:4).

The character of your life will determine the legacy you leave to others.

Bible scholar James Moffatt wrote, “Death is never the last word in the life of a . . . man. When a man leaves this world, be he righteous or unrighteous, he leaves something in the world. He may leave something that will grow and spread like a cancer or a poison, or he may leave something like the fragrance of perfume or a blossom of beauty that permeates the atmosphere with blessing.”

That’s illustrated in the lives of Adam and Eve’s first sons: Cain and Abel. Cain was an unrighteous man who sought to please God by his own efforts. God rejected him (Gen. 4:5). Abel was a righteous man who worshiped God in true faith. God accepted Him (v. 4).

In a jealous rage, Cain murdered Abel, becoming the first human being to take the life of another. He forever stands as a testimony to the utter tragedy of attempting to please God apart from true faith. For “without faith,” Hebrews 11:6 says, “it is impossible to please Him.” Cain tried and failed—as have millions who have followed in his footsteps.

Abel, on the other hand, was the first man of faith. Prior to the Fall, Adam and Eve had no need of faith in the same way as their descendants. They lived in the paradise of Eden and had direct contact with God. Their children were the first to have need of faith in its fullest sense.

Cain’s legacy is rebellion, heartache, and judgment. Abel’s is righteousness, justice, and saving faith. His life proclaims the central message of redemption: righteousness is by faith alone.

What legacy will you leave to those who follow? I pray they will see in you a pattern of righteousness and faithfulness that inspires them to follow suit.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Praise God for righteous Abel and all who have followed his example.
  • Ask Him to guard you from ever rebelling against His Word.

For Further Study

Read Genesis 4:1-16 and 1 John 3:11-12.

  • What was God’s counsel to Cain after rejecting his offering?
  • Why did Cain kill Abel?
  • How did God punish Cain?

John MacArthur – Gaining God’s Approval

John MacArthur

“By [faith] the men of old gained approval” (Heb. 11:2).

God makes His approval known to those who trust in Him.

The book Catch-22 tells of a squadron of World War II fliers stationed on the fictitious island of Pianos in the Mediterranean. Before a flier could transfer off the island, he had to complete 25 extremely dangerous missions over southern Europe.

One flier, Yosarian, was especially anxious to leave. After completing his twenty-fifth mission, his commanding officer began raising the number of qualifying missions. Insanity became the only justification for a transfer. But the commander decided that whomever feigned insanity to obtain a transfer simply proved his sanity by that sane act!

Realizing it was all a cruel game with no way out, Yosarian devised a plan to build a raft and float to Sweden. Even though there was a whole continent between him and Sweden and the ocean currents would take him in the opposite direction, he couldn’t be dissuaded. He took a leap into the absurd with a hopeless and impossible plan to escape a hopeless and impossible situation.

In their relentless quest for meaning in life, many people become spiritual Yosarians. Rejecting God, who is the only sure and rational answer to life, they jump headlong into alcohol, drugs, witchcraft, astrology, reincarnation, or countless other absurdities.

Many acknowledge God, but try to gain His approval through self-righteous deeds apart from true faith. In either case the results are the same: no faith, no salvation, no hope, no peace, and no assurance.

But those who take God at His word and approach Him in true faith receive His approval and enjoy His blessings. Theirs isn’t a blind leap into the absurd, but a living hope in the God who made man and who alone can fulfill man’s deepest longings. They know the joy and satisfaction of a life spent in service to Christ, and the peace and assurance that all is well—both now and for eternity.

Suggestions for Prayer; Pray for those you know who have rejected God or are trying to gain His approval on their own. Explain to them the meaning and purpose Christ alone can bring to their lives.

For Further Study; According to 2 Timothy 2:24-26, what is the spiritual state of those who oppose the gospel, and how are we to approach them?

John MacArthur – Having a Faith That Responds

John MacArthur

“Faith is . . . the conviction of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1).

True faith goes beyond assurance to action.

When the writer said, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen”, he used two parallel and almost identical phrases to define faith.

We’ve seen that faith is the assurance that all God’s promises will come to pass in His time. “The conviction of things not seen” takes the same truth a step further by implying a response to what we believe and are assured of.

James addressed the issue this way: “Someone may well say, ‘You have faith, and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.’. . . But are you willing to recognize . . . that faith without works is useless? . . . For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead” (James 2:18, 26). In other words, a non-responsive faith is no faith at all.

Noah had a responsive faith. He had never seen rain because rain didn’t exist prior to the Flood. Perhaps he knew nothing about building a ship. Still, he followed God’s instructions and endured 120 years of hard work and ridicule because he believed God was telling the truth. His work was a testimony to that belief.

Moses considered “the reproach of Christ [Messiah] greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward” (Heb. 11:26). Messiah wouldn’t come to earth for another 1,400 years, but Moses forsook the wealth and benefits of Egypt to pursue the messianic hope.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, when faced with a life- threatening choice, chose to act on their faith in God, whom they couldn’t see, rather than bow to Nebuchadnezzar, whom they could see all too well (Dan. 3). Even if it meant physical death, they wouldn’t compromise their beliefs.

I pray that the choices you make today will show you are a person of strong faith and convictions.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Ask God to increase and strengthen your faith through the events of this day.
  • Look for specific opportunities to trust Him more fully.

For Further Study

Read Daniel 3:1-20. How was the faith of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego tested?

 

John MacArthur – Dead Faith Versus Demonic Faith

John MacArthur

“Someone may well say, ‘You have faith, and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.’ You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?” (James 2:18- 20).

In recent years there has been an alarming rise in the number of professing Christians who believe that there’s no necessary relationship between what they believe and what they do. They say you can’t judge a person’s spiritual condition by what he or she does because salvation is a matter of faith alone—as if requiring works violates the principle of faith.

It was that kind of reasoning that prompted James to issue this challenge: “You have faith, and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works” (James 2:18). The Greek word translated “show” means “to exhibit,” “demonstrate,” or “put on display.” His point is simple: it’s impossible to verify true faith apart from holy living because doctrine and deed are inseparable.

Can you know if someone is a Christian by watching his behavior? According to James, that’s the only way to know! In verse 19 he says, “You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.” In other words, affirming orthodox doctrine isn’t necessarily proof of saving faith. Demons believe in the oneness of God, and its implications fill them with fear, but they aren’t saved. The phrase “you do well” is intentionally sarcastic. The implication is that demonic faith is better than non-responsive faith because at least the demons shudder, which is better than no response at all.

You can’t be a Christian in creed only—you must be one in conduct as well! James makes that very clear. Don’t be confused or deceived by those who teach otherwise. Continually aim your life at bringing glory to God through obedient application of biblical truth.

Suggestions for Prayer:  Reaffirm to the Lord your commitment to abide by His Word.

For Further Study: Read John 8:12-47. Make a list of doctrines and deeds that characterize dead faith and a corresponding list of those that characterize true faith.

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Faith in the Past, Present, and Future

Ravi Z

What is the nature of faith? Is faith simply assenting to rational content? Or is faith an irrational leap into the dark? So often our understanding of the nature of faith swings widely between these two extremes; either faith is solely an assent to certain beliefs or it is ultimately devoid of intellectual content and consists exclusively of feelings of total dependence.

The author of Hebrews grounds faith in the “assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen.”(1) The early Christians who received this letter were undergoing tremendous suffering and persecution, and the author reminds them that faith is assurance even in the midst of trouble.

The “assurance of things hoped for” is not merely wishful thinking about a yet to be determined future. Rather, it is a description of what true faith already has: the possession in the present of what God has promised for the future. In other words, faith is the response to the trustworthiness of God for what God has already promised and has brought to pass. So faith is confidence in God’s saving work done in the past, and hence a hopeful assurance that God will act in the future. To illustrate this point, the author recounts those who by faith believed God in the past in order to encourage the beleaguered recipients of this letter. Just like those who walked in faith before, we too may not see every promise fulfilled. The content of faith is in remembering God’s faithfulness in the past, so that we might trust in God’s goodness for our present, and in a future that is yet to come.

The writer of Hebrews even chose a particular word to illustrate this point. The Greek word that is used for “assurance” is hypostasis. This is the same word that is used to describe how Christ is the hypostasis, “the very being” of God. In the same way, faith is the “very being” of things hoped for; it is the reality that God’s promises will be fulfilled ultimately, and they are being fulfilled already, in the present time! While we often focus on the bad things that are happening around us, faith directs our gaze to see God’s work going forward in the midst of crisis and chaos.

Ultimately, the “assurance of things hoped for” is an assurance that comes in Jesus Christ. For Jesus is the promise fulfilled and the very substance of faith. It is to Jesus Christ and to him alone that the writer of Hebrews directs us as we look for the content of faith. We have faith because we look to Jesus “the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.” We look to Jesus, who endured in faith on our behalf, so that we might not grow fainthearted.

Assurance doesn’t come in well-ordered circumstances or trouble-free living. Nor is assurance found in having a rational answer for every question. Assurance comes in relationship with a trustworthy God who fulfilled promises in the past and who will fulfill them in the future. Faith is grounded on God’s faithfulness demonstrated in Jesus Christ.

Margaret Manning is a member of the speaking and writing team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Seattle, Washington.

(1) Hebrews 11:1.

John MacArthur – Examining Your Faith

John MacArthur

“Prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves” (James 1:22).

Our studies this month center on James 1:19-2:26, which deals with the issue of true faith–a most important consideration indeed. Knowing your faith is genuine is a wonderful assurance, but thinking you’re saved when you’re not is the most frightening deception imaginable. In Matthew 7:21-23 Jesus speaks of those who call Him Lord and even do miracles in His name, but aren’t redeemed. Second Timothy 3:5 speaks of those who have a form of godliness but deny its power. They’re religious but lost. Sadly, many people today are victims of the same deception. They think they’re Christians, but they’re heading for eternal damnation unless they recognize their true condition and repent.

Deception of that magnitude is a tragedy beyond description, but you need never fall prey to it because James gives a series of tests for true faith. This month we’ll be applying one of those tests: your attitude toward God’s Word. That’s an especially crucial test because the Word is the agency of both your salvation and sanctification. The Holy Spirit empowered it to save you, and He continually works through it to conform you to the image of Christ. That’s why Peter said, “You have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and abiding word of God. . . . [Therefore] like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation” (1 Pet. 1:2-2:2).

Jesus Himself characterized believers as those who abide in His Word and obey His commandments. They receive the Word with an attitude of submission and humility. However, unbelievers resist and disobey the Word (John 8:31, 43-45). Psalm 119:155 says, “Salvation is far from the wicked, for they do not seek Thy statutes.”

As you study this test of true faith, ask yourself, Do I pass the test? I pray that your answer will echo the words of the psalmist: “I have inclined mine heart to perform thy statutes always, even unto the end” (Ps. 119:112).

Suggestions for Prayer:  Ask God for clarity and confidence about your faith in Christ.

For Further Study: Read the book of James, noting the instructions he gives regarding Christian living.

Alistair Begg – Heart-rending

Alistair Begg

Rend your hearts and not your garments.

Joel 2:13

The tearing of garments and other outward signs of religious emotion are easily displayed and are frequently hypocritical; but to feel true repentance is far more difficult, and consequently far less common. Men will pay attention to the most minute ceremonial regulations-for those things are pleasing to the flesh. But true faith is too humbling, too heart-searching, too thorough for the tastes of people of the flesh; they prefer something more ostentatious, flimsy, and worldly.

Outward observances are temporarily comfortable; eye and ear are pleased; self-conceit is fed, and self-righteousness is puffed up: But they are ultimately delusive, for in the face of death, and at the day of judgment, the soul needs something more substantial than ceremonies and rituals to lean upon. Apart from vital godliness all religion is utterly vain; offered without a sincere heart, every form of worship is a solemn sham and an impudent mockery of the majesty of heaven.

Heart-rending is divinely worked and solemnly felt. It is a secret grief that is personally experienced, not in mere form, but as a deep, soul-moving work of the Holy Spirit upon the inmost heart of each believer. It is not a matter to be merely talked about and believed in, but keenly and sensitively felt in every living child of the living God. It is powerfully humiliating and completely sin-purging, but it is also sweet preparation for the gracious consolations that proud, unhumbled spirits are unable to receive; and it is distinctly discriminating, for it belongs to the elect of God, and to them alone.

The text commands us to rend our hearts, but they are naturally as hard as marble: How, then, can this be done? We must take them to Calvary: A dying Savior’s voice rent the rocks once, and it is as powerful now. O blessed Spirit, let us hear the death-cries of Jesus, and our hearts shall be rent even as men tear their garments in the day of lamentation.

 

Charles Spurgeon – Faith

CharlesSpurgeon

“Without faith it is impossible to please God.” Hebrews 11:6

Suggested Further Reading: Hebrews 3:12-4: 2

I may know a thing, and yet not believe it. Therefore assent must go with faith: that is to say, what we know we must also agree with, as being most certainly the will of God. Now, with faith, it is necessary that I should not only read the Scriptures and understand them, but that I should receive them in my soul as being the very truth of the living God, and should devoutly, with my whole heart, receive the whole of Scripture as being inspired of the most High, and the whole of the doctrine which he requires me to believe for my salvation. You are not allowed to divide the Scriptures, and to believe what you please; you are not allowed to believe the Scriptures with a half-heartedness, for if you do this wilfully, you have not the faith which looks alone to Christ. True faith gives its full assent to the Scriptures; it takes a page and says, “No matter what is in the page, I believe it;” it turns over the next chapter and says, “Here are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable do ignore, as they do also the other Scriptures, to their destruction; but hard though it be, I believe it.” It sees the Trinity; it cannot understand the Trinity in Unity, but it believes it. It sees an atoning sacrifice; there is something difficult in the thought, but it believes it; and whatever it be which it sees in revelation, it devoutly puts its lips to the book, and says, “I love it all; I give my full, free and hearty assent to every word of it, whether it be the threatening or the promise, the proverb, the precept, or the blessing. I believe that since it is all the word of God it is all most assuredly true.”

For meditation: Faith enables us to accept much which we cannot explain—“Through faith we understand” (Hebrews 11:3): “Believing is seeing”. Nothing else can fill the gap left by a lack of faith.

Sermon no. 107

14 December (1856)

 

John MacArthur – Obeying Faith

 

“By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith” (Heb. 11:7).” (1 Cor. 16:14).

When James said, “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:26), he stated a principle that’s consistent throughout Scripture: True faith always produces righteous works.

The people described in Hebrews 11 made their genuine faith known in the things they did. The same applies to us today. Paul said, “The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:11-12).

Perhaps better than anyone else in history, Noah illustrates the obedience of faith. Scripture characterizes him as “a righteous man, blameless in his time . . . [who] walked with God” (Gen. 6:9).

I remember a sportscaster interviewing a professional football player and asking him what he thought of his team’s chances of winning the Super Bowl. The player replied, “We believe that if we just do what the coach says, we’ll win.” The team had absolute confidence in their coach, but they realized they had to do their part as well.

That illustrates the quality of faith Noah had in God, whom he trusted absolutely as he pursued a task that seemed utterly foolish and useless from a human perspective. Imagine instantly surrendering all your time and effort to devote 120 years to building something you’d never seen (a vessel the size of a ocean liner or battleship) to protect you from something you’d never experienced (rain and flooding). Yet Noah did it without question.

Noah’s faith is unique in the sheer magnitude and time span of the task God gave him to do. He didn’t argue with God or deviate from his assignment. Is that true of you? Are you pursuing your ministry as faithfully and persistently as Noah did his? Is your faith a faith that works?

Suggestions for Prayer:

Thank God for the ministry He’s called you to. If you sense there’s more you could be doing, ask Him for guidance. Pray for added faithfulness and tenacity in serving Him.

For Further Study:

Read the account of Noah in Genesis 6:1–9:17.

Alistair Begg – The Benefit of Trials

Alistair Begg

The tested genuineness of your faith.

1 Peter 1:7

Untested faith may be true faith, but it is sure to be small faith, and it is likely to remain little as long as it is without trials. Faith never prospers so well as when all things are against her: Tempests are her trainers, and bolts of lightning are her illuminators.

When a calm reigns on the sea, spread the sails as you will, the ship does not move to its harbor; for on a slumbering ocean the keel sleeps too.

Let the winds rush and howl, and let the waters lift themselves, though the vessel may rock and her deck may be washed with waves and her mast may creak under the pressure of the full and swelling sail, it is then that she makes headway toward her desired haven.

No flowers are as lovely a blue as those that grow at the foot of the frozen glacier; no stars gleam as brightly as those that glisten in the midnight sky; no water tastes as sweet as that which springs up in the desert sand; and no faith is so precious as that which lives and triumphs in adversity.

Tested faith brings experience. You could not have believed your own weakness if you had not been compelled to pass through the rivers; and you would never have known God’s strength if you had not been supported in the flood.

Faith increases in quality, assurance, and intensity the more it is exercised with tribulation. Faith is precious, and its trial is precious too.

Do not let this, however, discourage those who are young in faith. You will have trials enough without seeking them: The full portion will be measured out to you in due course.

Meanwhile, if you cannot yet claim the result of long experience, thank God for what grace you have; praise Him for that degree of holy confidence you have now attained: Walk according to that rule, and you will still have more and more of the blessing of God, until your faith will remove mountains and conquer impossibilities.

 

John MacArthur – Gaining God’s Approval

John MacArthur

“By [faith] the men of old gained approval” (Heb. 11:2).

The book Catch-22 tells of a squadron of World War II fliers stationed on the fictitious island of Pianos in the Mediterranean. Before a flier could transfer off the island, he had to complete 25 extremely dangerous missions over southern Europe.

One flier, Yosarian, was especially anxious to leave. After completing his twenty-fifth mission, his commanding officer began raising the number of qualifying missions. Insanity became the only justification for a transfer. But the commander decided that whomever feigned insanity to obtain a transfer simply proved his sanity by that sane act!

Realizing it was all a cruel game with no way out, Yosarian devised a plan to build a raft and float to Sweden. Even though there was a whole continent between him and Sweden and the ocean currents would take him in the opposite direction, he couldn’t be dissuaded. He took a leap into the absurd with a hopeless and impossible plan to escape a hopeless and impossible situation.

In their relentless quest for meaning in life, many people become spiritual Yosarians. Rejecting God, who is the only sure and rational answer to life, they jump headlong into alcohol, drugs, witchcraft, astrology, reincarnation, or countless other absurdities.

Many acknowledge God, but try to gain His approval through self-righteous deeds apart from true faith. In either case the results are the same: no faith, no salvation, no hope, no peace, and no assurance.

But those who take God at His word and approach Him in true faith receive His approval and enjoy His blessings. Theirs isn’t a blind leap into the absurd, but a living hope in the God who made man and who alone can fulfill man’s deepest longings. They know the joy and satisfaction of a life spent in service to Christ, and the peace and assurance that all is well–both now and for eternity.

Suggestions for Prayer:

Pray for those you know who have rejected God or are trying to gain His approval on their own. Explain to them the meaning and purpose Christ alone can bring to their lives.

For Further Study:

According to 2 Timothy 2:24-26, what is the spiritual state of those who oppose the gospel, and how are we to approach them?

John MacArthur – Christian faith produces righteous deeds.

John MacArthur

“Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old gained approval” (Heb. 11:1-2).

Hebrews 11 has been called “The Heroes of Faith,” “The Faith Chapter,” “The Saints’ Hall of Fame,” “The Honor Roll of the Old Testament Saints,” and “The Westminster Abbey of Scripture.” Those are appropriate titles because this chapter highlights the virtues of faith as demonstrated in the lives of great Old Testament saints. It also reminds us that without faith, it is impossible to please God.

Such a reminder was necessary for the first-century Hebrew people because Judaism had abandoned true faith in God for a legalistic system of works righteousness. Its message is valid today since our devotion to Christ can easily degenerate into a religion of rules and regulations.

While affirming the primacy of faith, the writer of Hebrews doesn’t undermine the importance of righteous works. Quite the contrary. He exhorts us “to stimulate one another to love and good deeds” (10:24) and to pursue holiness so others will see Christ in us and be drawn to Him (12:14).

Yet righteous works are the by-product of true salvation, not its means. As the apostle Paul wrote, “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). Apart from faith, all attempts to please God through good works alone are as useless and offensive to Him as filthy rags (Isa. 64:6). That’s why Paul gladly set all his Jewish legalistic practices aside, counting them as rubbish. He wanted only “the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith” (Phil. 3:9).

This month we’ll study the heroes of faith listed in Hebrews 11. As we do, remember they weren’t perfect people. But their faith was exemplary and by it they gained God’s approval. I pray that’s true of you as well.

Suggestions for Prayer:

Thank God for the gift of faith.

Undoubtedly you know people who are trying to please God by their own efforts. Pray for them and take every opportunity to tell them of true salvation through faith in Christ

For Further Study:

Select one of the individuals mentioned in Hebrews 11 and read the Old Testament account of his or her life.

 

 

Charles Stanley – Holding Fast to the Faithful Word

Charles Stanley

Titus 1:5-9

In today’s passage, Paul gives Titus guidelines for selecting church elders. At the end of a list of desirable conduct and character traits is an essential qualification that applies to every believer: holding fast to Scripture. It is necessary that we, like the first-century elders, demonstrate an unwavering commitment to God’s Word in order to nurture and guard the church.

We can’t use the Bible to defend our faith and assist others unless we study. And knowing its truths isn’t enough; for them to be effective, we must apply them.

Christians appreciate Scripture’s power to encourage, comfort, and heal, but too often we keep our knowledge to ourselves. We may feel uncertain about sharing, but God provides courage and brings to mind pertinent verses when we’re willing to speak. As we practice His ways, our wisdom will increase. We’ll begin to recognize hurting people and will learn how to exhort them in sound doctrine, as Paul suggests. The apostle also bids believers to confront those who contradict true faith—this requires courage and discernment. When we study and live out sound biblical principles, we will quickly recognize false doctrine. And the better we know God’s Word, the more readily we will be able to find passages that challenge counterfeit teachings and support our own beliefs.

We can’t all be elders in the local congregation. But each Christian is a member of God’s church and responsible to gain biblical knowledge. In that way, we can discern correct doctrine, defend our faith, and encourage the downhearted.

John MacArthur – Exposing Dead Faith

John MacArthur

“What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,’ and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself” (James 2:14- 17).

Jesus said, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). Your righteous deeds illuminate the path to God by reflecting His power and grace to others. That brings Him glory and proves your faith is genuine.

Your deeds also serve as the basis of divine judgment. If you practice righteousness, you will receive eternal life; if you practice unrighteousness, you will receive “wrath and indignation” (Rom. 2:6-8). God will judge you on the basis of your deeds because what you do reveals who you really are and what you really believe. That’s why any so- called faith that doesn’t produce good works is dead and utterly useless!

James illustrates that point in a practical way. If someone lacks the basic necessities of life and comes to you for help, what good does it do if you simply wish him well and send him away without meeting any of his needs? It does no good at all! Your pious words are hypocritical and without substance. If you really wished him well, you would do what you can to give him what he needs! Your unwillingness to do so betrays your true feelings. Similarly, dead faith is hypocritical, shallow, and useless because it doesn’t put its claims into action–indeed, it has no divine capacity to do so.

I pray that your life will always manifest true faith and that others will glorify God because of your good works.

Suggestions for Prayer:

Perhaps you know someone whose claim to Christianity is doubtful because his or her life doesn’t evidence the fruit of righteousness. If so, pray for that person regularly and set an example by your own good works. For Further Study:

Read John 15:1-8.

What illustration did Jesus use for spiritual fruitfulness?

What is the prerequisite for fruitfulness?

John MacArthur – Fulfilling the Royal Law

John MacArthur

“If . . . you are fulfilling the royal law, according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing well” (James 2:8).

In Matthew 22:36 a lawyer asked Jesus which commandment was the greatest. Jesus answered, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets” (vv. 37-40). Love for God and one’s fellow man summarizes the intent of God’s law, and is the measure of true faith.

Jesus wasn’t calling for the shallow, emotional, self- oriented love that is so prevalent in our society, but for a sacrificial quality of love that places the needs of others on par with your own. That kind of love is utterly incompatible with partiality, which seeks only to further its own selfish goals.

Showing partiality breaks God’s law because it violates God’s attributes, misrepresents the Christian faith, ignores God’s choice of the poor, and condones the blasphemous behavior of the rich (James 2:1-7). But when you treat others impartially, you fulfill the royal law. “Royal” in James 2:8 translates a Greek word that speaks of sovereignty. The law was given by God, who is the supreme authority in the universe, so it is authoritative and binding. Love fulfills God’s law because if you love someone, you won’t sin against him.

Apparently not all of James’s readers were showing partiality, so he commended them, saying they were “doing well.” The Greek word translated “well” speaks of that which is excellent. They were doing an excellent thing because they were acting in a manner consistent with God’s impartial, loving nature. That’s God’s call to every believer: for “the one who says he abides in [Christ] ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked” (1 John 2:6). As you do, you fulfill God’s law and thereby prove that your faith and love are genuine.

Suggestions for Prayer:

God’s love is the only antidote for partiality, so pray each day that He will teach you how better to express His love to those around you.

For Further Study:

Read the following verses, noting the characteristics of godly love: John 3:16, Ephesians 5:25-29, Philippians 1:9- 11, and 1 John 5:1-3.