Faith Builders

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And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)

We all want to be people described as having great faith, right? Yet so often the rollercoasters of life have a way of taking us head-on into circumstances that rock our faith. I, like the disciples, after Jesus calmed the storm, have heard Him whisper to me more than once in my life, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

That incredible moment on the Sea of Galilee beautifully displays the great faith Jesus had in the Father’s care, and it is an invitation for us to see Him as the calm eye in the midst of any storm we may face.

What I love about Mark’s gospel account of this particular story is that it highlights the 5 Things God Uses to Grow Our Faith, which is the name of the new sermon series that just started at PAG. Over the next five weeks Pastor Aaron will unpack these five faith builders:

*Practical Teaching
*Providential Relationships
*Private Disciplines
*Personal Ministry
* Pivotal Circumstances

Mark 4:35-41

“That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.”  Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him.  A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.  Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.  He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

Practical Teaching: Jesus had just spent the entire day teaching a great multitude of people. He encouraged his audience by saying, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”  (Mark 4:9, 23) Jesus, the Word made flesh, had just revealed mysteries about the Kingdom of God to the masses. We also need to spend time in His presence, listening to the preaching of His Living Word and asking the Holy Spirit to sensitize us to hear His voice. Do you have ears to hear?

Providential Relationships: By his side were his chosen disciples. This community of new believers had become very close as they followed Jesus. They had witnessed Him heal the sick, cast out demons, and proclaim that the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand. He invited them… and He invites us… to partner with Him to do the same! After their long day, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” (verse 35) He wanted to be with them. And He wants to be with us! It is vitally important to be involved in community. We need each other!

Private Disciplines: Jesus was tired and planned to rest in the boat. By “leaving the crowds behind” (verse 36a), Jesus was emphasizing the value of entering into a time of solitude and rest. Remember His invitation to “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”  This private discipline, along with reading the Bible, hiding His word in our hearts, praying… talking and especially listening for His still, small voice, fasting, journaling, personal worship or however your private time with Jesus looks, must be a priority in order for your faith to grow.

Personal Ministry: Jesus was about His Father’s business… Kingdom ministry… Bringing Heaven to earth. As He lives His life out in and through us, we ought to be about the same things! “There were also other boats with him.”  (verse 36b) We don’t know any details about the other boats that only Mark mentions were on the sea that dreadful night, but we have to believe that Jesus was just as willing to minister to them as He was His disciples. And if the pending storm was not enough to stretch the faith of the experienced fisherman, the ministry Jesus had next for them certainly would. They were heading to the region of Gerasenes, and would immediately be approached by a demon possessed man who lived amongst the tombs! I can only imagine being one of Jesus’ disciples watching that encounter unfold! Yes, personal ministry, whether to the masses or to “the one”, can lead us straight out of our comfort zone and stretch us, but Jesus always goes before us and uses ministry opportunities to grow our faith.

Pivotal Circumstances: A furious squall came up…” (verse 37). And so often that’s how it happens… suddenly, unexpectedly, and without warning, a peaceful circumstance can turn into a catastrophe. We’ve all experienced storms and more often than not… a sudden storm equals sudden fear. The enemy would love nothing more than for the faithful to lose their faith in those times, to question the very character of Jesus (…don’t you care if we drown?), and let fear consume, but let me remind you that the Master of the Wind and the Waves is near!

Lord, open our eyes to see you in the midst of our storms. With a word you can quiet the tempest in our souls. You desire to grow our faith and strengthen us by your Spirit – not shipwreck us. The one statement you said more than any other was, “Don’t be afraid”, so deliver us from our fears and remind us that you accompany us every step of the way. Let faith arise in us, in Jesus name!

~Jenny Gallion

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From Lawlessness to Freedom  

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Many may define sin as a specific thing. If someone were to ask you “what is sin?”, how would you respond? Some may say “adultery, sexual immorality, murder”, while others may reply with a simple “getting angry, lying, stealing”. Yes, these are all sins, but they are not the true biblical definitions of “sin”. We may think that the first response is filled with the “bigger” sins, and the second response with the “bad, but not so bad” sins, but that doesn’t matter. Sin is sin, no matter what the crime.

In 1 John 3:4 it states that “sin is lawlessness”. So what is lawlessness? The Greek word for lawlessness is “anomia”, meaning “the condition of being without the law, because of ignorance of it, or because of violating it. Lawlessness means “not to submit to the authority of God”. This is the real meaning of “sin”. This definition of sin sets forth its essential character as the rejection of the law, or will of God, and the substitution of self. Simply said, sin is not submitting to the authority of God.

Romans 3:23 tells us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. We all fail to submit to the authority of God. Because of that, not one of us is righteous before God (Romans 3:10). But, there is a hope. There is a light to our sin. Romans 3:24 states that we are all justified through Christ Jesus. So, we all sin, but we are all justified too!

So what’s the problem? The problem is that we fail to accept a justification such as this. We think that we need to “pay back” our mistakes by doing good deeds. But, we don’t know the cost of such sin like we would the price of gas. To receive redemption through Christ Jesus, all we need to do is believe in Him.

We, however, of the flesh, tend to let little objections from the enemy fill our heads to make us think that it is much more complicated than this. Things like, “it’s too easy, too risky, too new, and too good to be true.” These are all lies the enemy wants us to believe so that we fail to recognize such a love from our savior that He justifies our unholy sins through faith alone. We don’t need to bend over backwards to make God forgive us. We don’t need to do 100 good deeds for every 10 sins. Because of Christ’s blood, if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). And then, we too, can have that credited righteousness before the throne of God.

If Christ was sent to save us, then why would He make it more complicated for our human minds to understand? That would only make it harder for us to receive the glorious riches being stored in heaven. We simply need to have faith. But not just any faith; faith in Jesus. We need to undividedly submit to the authority of God. No, we will never be perfect like Jesus was, but through faith in Christ, we can be rescued from our sinful nature and take on His righteousness. These objections are things holding us back from truly letting God guide our lives. For some of us it may just be accepting that we are sinners saved by grace, for others it may be accepting Christ into their lives. Pastor Aaron Taylor preaches more about “Faith & Credited Righteousness” on the Painesville Assembly of God podcast. To learn more about this righteousness we can receive and what believing in God means, check out the sermon!

http://painesvilleag.com/a-study-in-romans

Guest Blogger,
Jenny Bushnell