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FALL 2022 PREACHING SERIES 4: Disciples make faith a way of life

Today we continue our Fall preaching series on DISCIPLESHIP, the fourth part entitled: DISCIPLES make faith a way of life.

Discipleship is the knowledge of faith becoming a way of life. It is not enough to know the content of the Scriptures or to simply understand the richness of Christian beliefs. Disciples need to actively participate in faith as a way of life – living into faith that is simultaneously centered in God yet genuinely our own, balancing tradition and experience, as well as text and context, embracing both our dreams and our current realities. A living faith happens today, and every day, facing whatever joys or sorrows are now on our daily agenda ...

Making faith a way of life begs the more basic question, what is your/my way of life? Perhaps a better way to ask it may be: What is our current life philosophy? While there are many different answers to this question, here are a few … does any of them sound like you?

1. Nihilism

The most well-known form of nihilism is focused on the assertion that life has no inherent purpose, goal, or intrinsic value. Simplified, it’s the belief that life is utterly pointless.

2. Hedonism

Hedonism is centered around the belief that pleasure is the only thing that has intrinsic value. Basically, a hedonist makes pleasure the ultimate goal of any and all of his/her actions and choices in life.

3. Stoicism

Stoicism is a philosophy that focuses on training yourself to improve through training and conditioning.

And there are many, many more…

When we think about making the Christian faith into a way of life it can seem almost impossible, not only because there will be so many different models and variations, but more so because we are surrounded by so many who espouse these and other philosophies that seem to run contrary to our belief system as Christians.

But what would the life of a disciple look like who was working to make Christianity a way of life? While it’s surely not an easy answer, nor is there a specific checklist that captures all the aspects, the Bible teaches that the Christian life is one of constant growth. Baptism welcomes us into God’s family as the first step. By that sacrament, we underline that it is God’s purpose that we will grow into full stature and become mature in Christ. That growth implies steady development, constant enlargement, and increasing wisdom, but it doesn’t happen automatically … we have to take the lead …

Billy Graham, the famous evangelist included these as his hallmarks of one who was striving to make Christianity a way of life. One who:

1. Reads the Bible daily and hides the Word of God in one’s heart because all we need is there.

2. Learns the secret of prayer because prayer is communicating.

3. Relies constantly on the Holy Spirit.

4. Attends church regularly, not out of obligation but because the visible church is Christ’s organization upon earth. And more so because Christians need one another, to gather together to worship God.

5. Is a witnessing Christian, by life and by word – and the two should go hand in hand.

6. Lets love be the ruling principle of one’s life. The greatest demonstration of the fact that we are Christians is that we love one another.

7. Is obedient, letting Christ have first place in all the choices of our life.

8. Learns how to meet temptation. Temptation is not sin. It is yielding that is sin. He says that we should let Christ through the Holy Spirit do the fighting for us.

9. Is a wholesome Christian. Our lives and appearance should commend the Gospel and make it attractive to others.

10.Lives above our circumstances. Graham says we should learn to live graciously within them, realizing the Lord Himself is always with us.

The Old Testament passage today is from the book of Habakkuk. Habakkuk is one of the most poignant and painful books in the Bible.

Judah has evidently been faced first with corruption and then with invasion, and for each the prophet goes to God in prayer, searching for help or explanations for the crimes.

For Habakkuk, the issue is theodicy, how can we justify the goodness of God and the powerfulness of God, with the presence of evil. The heart of the book consists of a prayer dialogue between Habakkuk (about whom we know nothing) and God (Yahweh), concerning the theological meaning behind the atrocities that have befallen his country. It seems that he wrote when Babylonian armies were ravaging Judah, before the fall of Jerusalem in 587 BC, but the problem is really universal.

One could easily envision someone from Ukraine today making the same cries, or any one of a number of other countries that are going through political or economic or military ravages. For that matter, anyone we know whose body is being ravaged by MS or MD or cancer or Leukemia or any grindingly debilitating terminal disease, can identify with the tears of Habakkuk when he saw the end coming and looked to God for an explanation. His pain is a universal, physical, emotional, and “theodical” pain that many of us can surely identify with.

Perhaps many have hesitated to make Christianity a way of life because in light of all the suffering in the world and even in some hearts, we share the penetrating question:

“Aren’t you God? Why do you allow this misery to happen to your people? And then we ask one another, “Does God really care?”

The Gospel may give us some consolation because throughout Luke’s Gospel, we hear that even the closest followers of Jesus had a “mixed” level of faith. On one hand, they have left homes and jobs and families in order to follow Jesus, but it has not been easy. They encountered hostility from many who opposed Jesus but still they stuck around, even for this final journey toward Jerusalem, and even when they have received a warning of what is to come.

At the same time, in our own world’s days of turmoil and fear, we can empathize with the disciples when faith wavers. When the wind roars and the waves batter their boat as they cross the Sea of Galilee, even as Jesus sleeps beside them, they are overwhelmed by terror. “Where is your faith?” Jesus asks, after calming the storm. Later, he chides their limited trust in God. “If God clothes the grass … how much more will [God] clothe you — you of little faith!.

It’s a bit of a consolation to me to know that proximity to Jesus does not guarantee unwavering faith. Faith is not defined primarily by cognitive certainty, nor acceptance of proper theological constructs, nor even necessarily by people who consider themselves to be closest to Jesus. Living faith manifests itself in many ways, by a variety of people.

· Living faith is persistence in reaching out to Jesus and trusting in Jesus’ power and authority;

· Living faith is responding with love to forgiveness received, and not letting fear get the upper hand;

· Living faith is being willing to take risks that challenge the status quo;

· Living faith is giving praise to God and having confidence in God’s desire for justice.

· Living faith is being willing to ask Jesus for what we need.

Disciples know Jesus. Disciples know the Bible. Disciples know the Christian faith. Disciples try, despite all the challenges to make faith a way of life, living faithfully each day while we are being transformed by it. As we try, let’s be patient without ourselves, because it’s the work of a lifetime!

RSM


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