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Building a Strong Foundation of Faith

From the series Trusting Jesus No Matter What

Anxiety, hopelessness, and fear are on the rise all across the world. And that surge has led many to say, “God, how can I make it through this?” In this message, Chip begins his series, Trusting Jesus No Matter What, by helping us build an unshakeable faith. He’ll examine the biblical definition of faith and identify the biggest roadblock that keeps us from totally depending on Jesus. Discover how to deepen your relationship and dependency on God, no matter what comes your way.

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Message Transcript

When I step back, here’s what I can tell you, we have an immature Church. We have a Church that cares more about our consumer needs and our world and whether the Church is open or closed or whether the pastor does “x” or whether he does “y”. And now we post on things and we attack one another.

I have literally been in rooms where friends of twenty years don’t talk to each other now. Both believers. I have been in rooms where father and son or mother and daughter won’t talk and can’t agree because of how they voted or how they see the world.

Those things are so deeply disturbing when we think of who Jesus is and why He came and what our mission is.

And by contrast, I have had glimpses of seeing God work like never before.

Just before the pandemic, I think I had been to China for I think seven different times. I found myself seeing people risk their life for the gospel and have a faith that when I rubbed up against it it was like, Oh, God, could I get more of that?

I found myself with one of my colleagues on the island of Malta with, I mean, Arab believers from all around the world interviewing a man from Syria who shared the story of a seventeen-year-old as ISIS was coming into their village who told his mother, “I will not hide, I will not pretend that I am a Muslim so I won’t be killed. Remember the words of Jesus.” He’s seventeen years old. A fairly new Christian. “If I deny Him before men, He will deny me before His Father.” And ISIS came and he was killed in front of his mother and his sister.

We have this collision, a culture that is crushing the message of Jesus Christ. We have God raising up people and the Spirit moving. And then we have, I think, an issue in the Church that if not addressed, it’ll be tragic.

You see, as I have met with pastors all across the nation, and literally all across the world. What they realize is something is wrong. What do we do? And here’s what I want to tell you. The answer is not a spiritual band aid. The answer is not a couple new programs. The answer is not a political answer, a social answer, a cultural answer, a media answer. The root of the issue goes far deeper. We need faith. We need a robust, powerful, unwavering faith that the early Church had that turned the world upside down.

We need a faith like that seventeen-year-old who said, “I can’t deny Jesus.” We need a faith, we need a generation both old and new, people that have been in the pews and people that have just come to Christ who say, “I will trust Jesus,” are you ready? “no matter what. No matter what. No matter the cost.”

And what I would suggest is this is the Jesus that most Christians believe in, especially here in America, is not a Jesus that you can give your all to. The view of Jesus that we have, the way that we have repackaged Him, the plastic Jesus, that we have turned into how will He meet my needs? Will He make me happy? Can I have the right relationships? The Jesus that we put our hands on our hips and get mad at because my life isn’t working the way I want it to. And I prayed a prayer or I gave some money or I followed the formula like this pastor or teacher or someone said. The Jesus that we find celebrity pastors or whole denominations in sexual scandals.

It's time for us to get to know and to see more clearly than ever before a Jesus that we can trust, a Jesus that will build a faith in our lives and in our relationships where we say to Him, “No matter what, no matter what changes, no matter the cost, I will trust You. I will walk by faith.”

And that raises, I think, one of the most important issues of our day. How do you build an unshakable faith? How do you build a faith that, when no matter comes at you, you stand firm? What is it that people have had from the prophets to the apostles to all through Church history to today where God is moving where they trust Jesus? What do they understand? How do they see life? That’s what I want to talk about.

And so, I want to invite you on a journey to discover: What is biblical faith and what is not? Why it’s so important and how to develop that unshakable faith, faith in the resurrected Christ who has the power, who has given you His Spirit, that no matter what you face relationally, circumstance, the future He will give you all that you need to walk through it, to endure it, to be transformed by it, and then be changed in such a way that your life, with all your imperfections and all of mine, empowered by the Holy Spirit, is a faith that is contagious, that gives love and gives light. And nothing is above our relationship with Jesus. No political party, no ethnicity, no cultural perspective. Nothing is above the Lord Jesus Christ and following Him.

That’s the kind of faith that changes the world. That’s the kind of faith in the rearview mirror that changed the world. It’s the kind of faith that I have seen, that I have caught, and that I want to pass on to you.

Let me give you three reasons why there’s nothing more important than developing and building an unshakable faith - except love. If you would read all through Scripture from beginning to end and you just said, “Wait a second, what is the most important thing in Scripture?” Is it morality? Is it keeping rules? Is it being religious? Is it how often you go to church? I mean, just reading through the Scriptures, what matters most?

“Now, abide faith, hope, and love, these three. But the greatest of these is love.”

The apostle Paul would tell us that the only way to access that kind of supernatural love is by faith.

Here’s what I want you to get. Just lean back for just a minute and follow with me. I want you to grasp how important faith is. It’s why the most important question that you can ask any day of any situation or any relationship is this: What does it look like to trust God in this relationship? Or what does it look like to trust God in this circumstance? What does it look like to trust God in this opportunity?

Because here’s the deal. [1] Theologically, faith is how we enter into the new life, right? God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever would believe,” believe, faith, right? “believe in Him would have eternal life.”

We have learned that we are saved by grace through faith in Ephesians chapter 2. The apostle Paul would tell us – what? “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God,” Romans chapter 5.

Or later in the same book, if you believe, “If you trust in your heart and profess with your mouth, you will be saved.” You see, faith is so critical. It’s at the absolute core of how we come into a relationship with Jesus.

But it’s beyond that. [2] It’s also how you grow. The apostle would say in Colossians 2:7, “Just as you received the Lord,” right? “by faith, now so walk in Him.” In fact, in 2 Peter chapter 1, he tells us something that our faith does. Follow along with me. It says, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness,” how? “through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us His very great and precious promises so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption that is in the world by lust.”

You see what I’m saying? You enter the relationship with God through Christ by faith. You grow in your relationship with Christ and are transformed as you appropriate promises where you get to know who He is. And as we get glimpses of who Jesus really is, we are transformed from the inside out.

1 John would tell us we don’t know what we will be like, but this is what we know. When we see Him, we will be like Him. And that process is happening now, but it happens by faith.

And here’s my burden. I just want you to think of this. I don’t think this has become the source and the goal and the focus of many Christians’ lives. I think somehow morality took over, right? You’re a parent and, you know, “I don’t want my child or my daughter or my son to get into drugs or get hooked on alcohol or become sexually active or get in with the wrong crowd. And so, I want them to go to the youth group and I want them to be a good person.”

And I think we have watered down the revolutionary, the God who came and took on human flesh to start a revolution and to fulfill a mission. And we have watered it down to a self-help Jesus who will make my life work out. And let’s just be a little bit nicer than other people and go to our little religious activities once or twice a month, tip our hat that we believe these things, and try to be just a little bit more moral.

And that kind of Christianity has about seven out of ten of our young people leaving the faith, because it’s not compelling. It’s not supernatural. It’s really consumeristic. We need a new faith, we need the kind of faith that transforms us, that leads to us transforming our world, because people see Jesus in us. In our fallenness, in our brokenness – yes, without perfection, for sure.

But I want you to know that theologically, faith is at the core of coming to know Christ. Faith is the means and way by which we become more and more like Christ and grow.

And then, finally, faith goes beyond that. [3] It’s a means by which Jesus actually works in our life to reveal Himself to us. The intimacy of our relationship isn’t about a list of activities or duties or trying hard.

The access by which your connection with Jesus, it’s won by faith. It’s when you trust Him, it’s when you believe in what He says.

So, theologically, faith is the most important thing, apart from love.

And practically, you can’t experience Christ apart from exercising biblical faith.

I have a number of verses that I have memorized over the years and as I was reviewing for this and praying about what to share with you, I realized that at the most practical level, it was Jesus who said, “This is the work of God: that people believe.” And so, practically, what He wants more than anything else is for you and me to trust Him, to have biblical faith.

I was thinking back that, you know, that passage I memorized as a young Christian, you know, where it talks about, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not in your own understandings. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct,” or, “give guidance to your path.” See, it’s by trusting Christ that we get direction.

In Isaiah 26, there’s a little passage that talks about: God will keep that person in perfect peace whose mind is staid on Him, because He trusts in Him. What I want you to know is your experience, your Christian experience of God the Father manifesting His life in you through the Holy Spirit, Jesus’ personality and power, the conduit is faith. It’s trusting Him.

And just a word to some of us that are a little bit older, if you’re a parent, if you’re a grandparent, if you’re a serious Christian, it’s not just theologically or practically that faith is so vital and crucial, important, and at the center of the bullseye of what we need to understand and live out.

You are leaving a legacy – all of us are – for our children, our grandchildren, our neighbors, our friends, the people we go to church with. You see, at the end of the day, far more than your morality, although that’s what comes out of a vital faith, it’s they’ll catch your faith. Do you believe God? Do you take risk? Do they see God working in your life? Are there things happening in your life and my life that aren’t explainable by: You’re a nice person. Right? You read the Bible now and then. You’re trying to be good.

The kind of faith we are talking about is transformational. And your kids will see it. It’s real, it’s authentic, it’s powerful. When you rub up against people that have a robust, vital, living faith, you catch it. It inspires you. And those that will come behind you, it’s the legacy of faith.

In fact, the Scripture says that we should imitate the faith of those who have come before us. And the apostle Paul would say to a group of people who began to lose their way, he told them, “You know, you came to know Jesus and you trusted Him by faith,” Galatians chapter 5. He said then some false teachers came and pretty soon you went back to following Jewish rules and circumcision and all the rest.

And then he makes this absolutely amazing comment in verse 6 of Galatians 5. He says, “Circumcision is nothing and lack of circumcision is nothing. The only thing,” think of this, the apostle [said], “the only thing that really counts is faith being demonstrated,” or, “working itself out in love.

And so, I think it is time now to talk about: So, what is biblical faith? I mean, what does it really look like?

And before we do, I’d like to suggest we talk about what it’s not. See, I think when I meet with Christians and I talk with people, we think it’s trying harder and doing more. That’s faith. Or, it’s a feeling. You know? God, I think He wants me to take this step of faith, but I’ve got to get this feeling somehow inside of me and when I get this feeling. Or it’s an emotion. You know, I just, when I have this powerful experience, when I “feel close to God,” or have this emotional connection.

Or maybe it’s biblical faith is those special people. They have these experiences with God and, you know, in some special event, maybe it’s a second or third or fourth or fifteenth work of the Holy Spirit and it’s sort of a secret of how to get it, but there are certain people that have it or faith is this, you know, like, the few, the proud, the Marines. God doesn’t expect all of us to be that way, but there’s just this special group of people that they have this extra faith and they kind of live out these New Testament kind of lives.

And I would suggest that none of those things are true. And faith isn’t talking yourself into something or positive thinking about faith. And faith is not, as one recent sort of cult book came out, it’s not a secret that if you just say it or believe it and keep speaking it out loud you can speak things into existence.

No, biblical faith is believing in the character and the promises of God to the point of acting on them, whereby your obedience is the evidence that you actually believe, that you actually trust Him.

Biblical faith is focused on the person of Jesus, the promises that He has made. And biblical faith is: This is what You have said and because of who You are and because of this specific promise that I am holding on to, I am willing to step out and take a risk. I am willing to do what I cannot see, I am willing to obey You even though I am very, very much afraid.
Biblical faith is believing in the character and the promises of God to the point of acting on them, whereby your obedience is the evidence that you actually believe, that you actually trust Him.

Biblical faith is focused on the person of Jesus, the promises that He has made. And biblical faith is: This is what You have said and because of who You are and because of this specific promise that I am holding on to, I am willing to step out and take a risk. I am willing to do what I cannot see, I am willing to obey You even though I am very, very much afraid.

Can I suggest that the number one enemy of biblical faith is fear? Fear of missing out, fear of being rejected, fear that God won’t show up, fear that He is going to – if He asked you to take a step with your finances, that you won’t have enough for you. Fear that if you confront someone that God has spoken to you about, about dealing with an issue, of lovingly, kindly speaking the truth in love, it’ll blow up the relationship. And so, how that person views you is more important than what God has said to you.

See, biblical faith requires courage. But Jesus said, “I am always with you.” Jesus said, “My strength will give you whatever you need in every situation.” Jesus said, “As you trust Me and walk with Me, I am your resource. I’ll never leave you, I will never forsake you. The same power that raised Me from the dead,” Jesus would say, “it lives in you.” But the means of accessing the power and the grace of God to live in a way that makes a difference in your life and others is biblical faith. The biggest misconception is that you need more faith. That’s what I always believed early in my life. I guess I just need more faith. I’ve got to get more faith. But listen, Jesus said if you have the faith the size of a mustard seed – it was very, very, very tiny – you can say to that mountain, “Be moved and be cast into the sea.”

So, here’s what I want you to get. There may be nothing more important that I’m going to say than what I’m going to say right now. Growing in your faith is not about getting more faith. Growing in your faith is about getting a clear view of the object of your faith.
It’s when you see Jesus clearly, that Jesus is all-knowing, all-powerful, just, kind, patient, understanding. When you grasp that Jesus is available, the power and the grace will come and will flood in your life the moment you turn to Him and take that step of faith.

When you can begin to grasp who Jesus is much more accurately, not the Jesus of the narratives, right? It’s very important that we learned about Jesus and that He was born and the Christmas stories and the miracles that He did. The gospels give us a picture and a story and a life of Jesus who died and rose again and lived a perfect life. The narratives and the Jesus of the gospels are absolutely critical.

But what I want you to know that when we get to the epistles, and the Church has been growing for about thirty, thirty-five years. And then one case, about sixty years. And then the Spirit of God is going to speak to say to us through the apostles: He has risen, He is ascended into heaven, He’s at the right hand of the Father. This is the Jesus that you need in the midst of conflict. This is the Jesus you need as your high priest and what He does and where and when and why. This is how Jesus accomplished His perfect life in dependence on the Father and by the power of the Holy Spirit. And this is how you can. And this is why Jesus came, what He is doing right now, and what you can expect in the future.

Those are the things that we are going to learn. But here’s what you must understand. Your concept of what it means to have faith or to trust God if you’re anything like me or the people that I have had the privilege to pastor about the last thirty-five years, goes something like this. Are you ready? Okay.

This is how we think of faith. It’s sort of like the people that really have faith are like a spiritual Indiana Jones. And, you know, there’s, I’m on this side, right? And I could go all the way over. I need to get to this side over here. But, you know, it’s a bridge, it’s a rickety, rickety bridge. And, you know, of course when someone takes a step, some of them are going to fall out and you don’t know if you can make it. And you look down and there’s crocodiles or piranha and it’s very, very dangerous. But there are some people with great faith.

And whoever it is that has that kind of faith, that’s not me. That’s not me. And so, I’ll just do the best I can.

Let me give you the picture of biblical faith. So, there was a youth pastor and he was up in the Michigan area and was taking his youth group on a retreat. And they were going to ice skate and have a lot of fun and play a little hockey, just have a good time. And he wanted to make sure that it was a lake and he wanted to make sure it’s frozen.

And so, you know, he says, “Okay, students, stay back,” and he takes a stick, right? He pounds it and pretty good here. And in his heart he is thinking, like we all do when we are taking steps of faith, “You know, the worst thing that could happen in the world: youth pastor leads youth out on ice, ice breaks, kids die. I mean, he’s just thinking…

And then he just knocks it again, knocks it again. And then as he does that, he hears this funny sound. Brrrrrr. It’s a rumbling. It’s a rumbling. And pretty soon he turns around and he looks and there’s a huge truck, I mean, one of those big, big trucks, you know, like an eighteen-wheeler level on the back and it’s open, and it’s filled with logs. This truck is going across the frozen lake. How much faith would it require for him to say, “Okay, youth group, let’s go!”

About the size of a mustard seed. Do you get the picture? You see, it’s not how much faith you have. It’s the object of your faith.

And what I believe has happened over time is in our consumer context of Christianity, Jesus has gotten smaller and smaller and smaller.

And I am sure glad that I, you know, got to read Bible stories and Jesus with the little children coming and getting on His lap and, some of those Bible stories about, you know, Jesus is so kind and so loving and here’s the disciples. And it’s sort of like this nice, pleasant, He sure wants to help me. And make no mistake, He does.

The narratives and the Jesus of the gospels are absolutely critical. And Jesus hasn’t changed, but what I want you to know that when we get to the epistles, when you get to Colossians 1, we will study a Jesus who spoke the world into existence and holds it currently, right now. And if He can hold all of that, He can hold whatever you are facing in your life.

We’ll go to Philippians 2 and we’ll find a Jesus literally who descends into greatness and becomes this servant and high priest that is going before the Father for you and says, “Follow Me the way I followed Him, because as I humbled Myself, the Father exalted Me and He wants to do that to you and in you.”

We are going to meet a Jesus that when we get to Hebrews chapter 1, we learn: How did all this happen?

He not only spoke the world into existence, but He speaks now and this precious, precious tool He has given us of the written Word and the living Word and how to use it and how to believe it is in such a way that we become instruments of God like He was God’s instrument in ways that change us and change the world.

And then finally we will get to Revelation chapter 1 and we will have a picture of this righteous, all-powerful judge who is going to make all things right, who is going to solve all the problems; way beyond social justice, it’ll be biblical justice, it’ll be a justice of someone who sees all things accurately, knows the hearts and the motives of all people, knows all things actual and possible, and is absolutely committed to bringing about what is good and what is right and restoring all things.

I want to introduce you to this Jesus. It’s not that He’s different from any Jesus that we have studied in the gospels, but it’s a picture and a snapshot that allows the object or the view that we have of Him to get enlarged. It allows us to see Him for who He is, not for how we remember Him to be from all the stories that we have heard.

And I would say this as humbly and kindly as I can. The Jesus that has been taught in many of our churches for many of the last three to four decades has been a Jesus that has not been worthy of worshipping. He’s a Jesus that condescends, it’s a Jesus that we have been told our agenda and our happiness and our fulfillment is what matters.

And it’s in a Jesus that we know what we believe by either what we experience or by what we feel and that we have become the sovereign self and the center of the universe. And the Jesus that we have invited into our life is a conditional Jesus: If You make my life work out, if You make me happy, well, that will work. And if it works, great. And if not, I’ll try something or someone else.

And that Jesus is not the Jesus of the New Testament. That’s a Jesus that the young people of our world don’t want to embrace. That’s not a Jesus that is in the Bible. That’s a Jesus that is unworthy of your full devotion.

But I’ll tell you this: When you get some glimpses, the Jesus of the epistles, who fills out the story of the gospels, who allows us to see things and to grasp who He is, you will see a Jesus who is asking you to step out with your relationships and your finances and your gifts and your mission and your purpose and your family and your priorities and your singleness and your purity and to walk with Him in holiness. And the One who is asking it will be like, you know, fifty feet of ice and a truck rolling behind you. It won’t take a lot of faith, because He is faithful, He is true, He is just, He is currently the One and only sovereign King and Lord of the universe. And when you get that snapshot, when you get that view, and when it goes from your head into your heart, I am telling you, transformation happens.

In fact, I’ll close with a picture, very personal and very close to me. Just because you’re a pastor doesn’t mean you don’t have problems. And one of the biggest challenges that my wife and I ever had was a time when one of our sons went through a pretty predictable time of rebellion. And it was, he didn’t want to believe in God and his dad was a pastor and looking back, there were a lot of pressures on him that I don’t think I was very aware of.

I also think, you know, if he and I were sitting here he would say, “You know, Dad, you didn’t help a whole lot with some of your attitudes.” And he would be exactly right.

But I remember coming to a point where this just isn’t working. And it wasn’t that he got off into some big terrible things. It was an attitude of rebellion that was destroying our family. And I remember having a really tough conversation with him about: “You know, if you can’t live in our house with very minimal rules, you don’t have to, you could, I can’t tell you to believe in God or convince you. But then maybe it’s time for you to move out and go your own way. And you get all the authority to do whatever you want but you get all the responsibility.”

And I said, “But why don’t you think about it for about forty-eight hours and before you make a decision.” And tears streaming down my face. I’ll never forget that moment in front of our house in the car with my son.

And, you know, he decided to stay, God did an amazing thing, his life was so transformed. And interestingly now he’s a songwriter and produces music for the Church. But I remember, you know, after making sure that it was really real, saying, “Son, what was it? What turned the corner for you?”

Listen very carefully. You know, I wanted to hear, “Dad, your sermons were amazing.” I didn’t hear that. Or, “You know, I just realized it was all my fault and I had a rebellious heart and I needed to get with the program.” I didn’t hear that.

He said, “Dad,” and tears coming down his eyes, he said, “you know, I have watched you and mom and I have caught mom early in the morning on her knees out there in front of the couch or with a little light on reading and, you know, you’re basically the same guy at church as you are here at home. You certainly don’t have it all together.” But he said, “Dad, Jesus is so real to you and mom and I went in my bedroom for the last forty eight hours and I said, ‘Jesus, if You’re really real, would You reveal Yourself to me the way you have to my mom and dad?’” And he said, “He did.” And I want you to know that that wasn’t our morality, that wasn’t our spiritual activity, he caught, he saw biblical faith. Imperfect, of course.

So, I’m going to invite you to join me on a journey. Where we are going to build an unshakable faith as we look at four specific snapshots. We’ll go to Colossians 1, Philippians 2, Hebrews chapter 1, and Revelation chapter 1.

And here is my invitation. When you see the Jesus of the epistles and you allow that to fill in what you have learned from the Jesus of the gospels, and you watch it filter out some of the Jesus that we have made up in our mind or that we hear in our culture, it will give you a solid rock faith to believe in and you will be the kind of person that trusts Jesus no matter what. And you will build an unshakable faith and you’ll do what the apostle Paul did.

It says he fought the good fight; he ran the race. And what did he do? He kept the faith. That’s my prayer for you, my prayer for me, and here’s the deal. The world is very, very challenging right now and God is doing miraculous things. It’s people of faith that will be the ones that He will use, because without faith it’s impossible to please Him, but they who come to Him must believe two things. That He actually exists, He’s active and working and who He is. And that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

I want you to see Him accurately, to see what He is really like, and to experience the kind of reward that no amount of money or fame or popularity could ever give you. So, join me.