The Faith Journey

This evening I want to emphasize that living by faith in God is a journey, not a destination. Faith is a walk with God, not a place that we arrive. Someone sees that we have faith in God by how we act on an everyday basis. They do not see that we have faith because we declare we have arrived at faith.

How you refer to having this faith in God basically does not matter. You can call this faith journey salvation. You can call this faith journey being a part of Christ's church. You can call this faith journey forgiveness of sins. You can call this faith journey being in Christ. However you refer to it, you basically are talking about a journey, not a destination.

There is a specific reason that I want you to consider these thoughts. Too often among Christians we encounter the attitude, "If I understand X fact, then I have spiritually arrived at having faith," or "If I believe Y, then I am a person of faith." Stated in the negative, "All people who do not understand X fact have not spiritually arrived at having faith," or, "All Christians who do not believe Y are not people of faith."

I do not want any of us to be that kind of person. I do not want any of us to think of faith in terms of being a destination we achieve in this life, but as a journey that takes us to God in the life to come.

I do not want you to accept my word for the nature of faith as a journey. I want you to think about and struggle with the revelation of scripture.

  1. I would like to begin our thoughts with a familiar statement Paul made to the Philippian Christians:
    Philippians 2:12 So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling.
    1. Context:
      1. To whom is Paul writing these words?
        1. To Christians at Phillippi: 1:1 says he is writing "to all the saints in Christ Jesus in Philippi" including their leaders.
        2. The statement itself refers to these people as Paul's beloved.
      2. There were things they needed to learn about how to be a Christian.
        1. They especially needed to learn those things in their daily lives and actions.
        2. Believing in Jesus Christ is more than accepting a fact.
        3. It involves accepting a life altering fact.
        4. If there is no alteration in the way the person lives and acts, accepting the fact has no significance.
      3. The work of salvation is not complete because one accepts as fact that Jesus is the Christ or accepts as fact that God raised Jesus from death.
        1. That is merely the beginning of the journey, not the conclusion of the journey.
        2. Forgiveness of sins is the beginning of the journey.
        3. Redemption is the beginning of the journey.
        4. Being placed by God into Christ is the beginning of the journey.
        5. Being cleansed by God through Jesus' blood is the beginning of the journey.
        6. True, faith lets us come to God, but also true we come to God in order to walk with God.
      4. Had these people to whom Paul wrote received forgiveness of sins? Certainly!
        1. Were they in Christ? Without doubt!
        2. Were they under God's rule rather than Satan's rule? Absolutely!
        3. Were they in Christ? Without question!
        4. Were they cleansed by the blood of Jesus? Definitely!
    2. Now they needed to accept full responsibility for those things!
      1. It is a major responsibility to live and to act like a person who belongs to God through Jesus Christ.
      2. That responsibility is not to be taken lightly!
      3. Paul said accept that responsibility whether I am there or not.
      4. "Because you in faith and repentance have been baptized into Christ does not mean salvation matters have concluded!"
      5. "The salvation journey merely has begun!"

    (Transition: now I want you to consider a contrast. The contrast is between a person who was not a Christian but became a Christian and a person who was an apostle but learned something he had never known.)

  2. First, I want you to consider the person who was not a Christian but became a Christian: the man, Paul.
    1. Before he became a Christian, he believed two things with TOTAL conviction: (1) he believed he was doing exactly what God wanted him to do; (2) he believed that Jesus was NOT the Christ, but a dangerous impostor who was a threat to God's purposes.
      1. He was so totally convinced Jesus was a fraud, a threat to God's purposes that he guarded the clothing of those who executed the Christian Stephen (Acts 7:58; 8:1).
      2. He was so totally convinced Jesus was a grave threat to God's purposes in Israel that he did his best to destroy Jewish believers in Jerusalem (Acts 8:1).
      3. He was so totally convinced that Jesus was a major threat to God's purposes that he was willing to go to other nations, arrest Jewish Christians, and bring them for trial to Jerusalem.
      4. Listen to Paul's own words in Acts 26:9-11:
        So then, I thought to myself that I had to do many things hostile to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And this is just what I did in Jerusalem; not only did I lock up many of the saints in prisons, having received authority from the chief priests, but also when they were being put to death I cast my vote against them. And as I punished them often in all the synagogues, I tried to force them to blaspheme; and being furiously enraged at them, I kept pursuing them even to foreign cities.
    2. The driving force behind Paul's conviction was his total confidence that Jesus was not the Messiah, not God's son.
      1. When he learned in a powerful, immediate, undeniable way that Jesus was the Christ, was God's son (Acts 9:1-19), he was in complete crisis.
      2. If Jesus was the Christ, then everything he did in faith in God was the wrong thing to do.
      3. This committed man remained a committed man, but was truly a changed person.
        1. Whereas he had been hard and uncaring about people, he became gentle and sensitive (1 Thessalonians 2:10-12).
        2. Whereas he had been inflexible, he became highly adaptable (1 Corinthians 9:19-23).
    3. The Paul most Christians know and respect as the most recorded writer in the New Testament existed because a new understanding made him a totally different person on his faith journey.
      1. He was a man of faith when he killed people who believed Jesus is the Messiah.
      2. He was a man of faith when he understood that Jesus is the Messiah.
      3. Obviously, for him faith was a journey.

  3. The second man I call your attention to is the man Peter.
    1. Remind yourself of who Peter was.
      1. He was personally called by Jesus to be his disciple.
      2. He was one of the twelve.
      3. He was one of the three people who were closest to Jesus.
      4. He was the first disciple who knew Jesus was the Messiah.
      5. He was willing to die fighting to try to protect Jesus.
      6. He preached the first sermon when Jesus was raised from the dead.
      7. For a while, he was the most popular Christian in Jerusalem.
      8. From our perspective, this man was a truly important man.
    2. Yet, there was a truth as old as Abraham that Peter did not understand: God wanted both Jews and gentiles to have salvation in Christ.
      1. Acts 10 records the incident that revealed God's full purposes to Peter.
        1. Three times he had a vision that confused and bewildered him.
        2. He received specific instructions from the Holy Spirit.
        3. He traveled to Cornelius' home even though he did not understand why he was going to a gentile's house (Acts 10:29).
      2. Peter literally went to Cornelius' house not knowing why he was going.
        1. All he understood was God wanted him to go.
        2. He heard but did not fully understand that what God had cleansed he should not call unclean.
      3. Listen to the moment when Peter finally understood, realized something he never known before:
        Acts 10:34,35 Opening his mouth, Peter said: "I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him."
      4. The apostle Peter had never known this before!
      5. You and I as gentiles directly are blessed by Peter's faith journey!

  4. If you are a person of faith, you are never too old or too knowledgeable to stop learning!
    1. None of us ever arrive at a point that we know it all!
      1. Be a student, not a judge!
      2. Beware of placing your confidence in your knowledge!
    2. None of us ever arrive at a point that there is nothing new and significant to understand!
      1. If a new understanding turns your life around, so be it if the driving force is faith in God and His purposes!
      2. If a new understanding means you have to rethink something you thought could not possibly be correct, so be it if the driving force is faith in God and His purposes.
      3. If a new understanding means old friends think you are spiritually nuts, so be it if the driving force is faith in God and His purposes.
    3. Faith in God does not mean that we exist to protect God--God does not need protecting.
      1. God wants us to use Jesus Christ to share Him!
      2. God cares about people, and if we have faith in God, so do we!

Is this easy? NO! It is as demanding on us as it was the Philippian Christians, or on Paul, or on Peter. It begins with the awareness that faith is a journey that lasts a life time. Faith is not a place to settle in.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 24 July 2005

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