Sunday, April 16, 2006

Tools Of The Faith

Tools of the Faith



I love the fact that we are not left by ourselves in our Christian faith. We have the blessed Holy Spirit, the church and the gifts that are given to the body of Christ.(( 1 Cor 12>>). In all of this we have also been given tools for a living, working and active faith. Just as an electrician has a screwdriver, wire cutters, voltmeters and the carpenter has a hammer, tape measure and saw so God has given the Christian certain tools of the faith. These tools are:.


The Word of God – The Bible

The Sacraments – Lord’s Supper and Baptism
Prayer



.Years ago I really learned the necessity of using these tools when I heard my son counseling a Christian brother. The first thing my son pointed out was simply that the tools of the faith were not being used. There fore as a house could not be built nor maintained properly without tools so a person of faith cannot grow and live properly without the use of proper tools of the faith. Now let‘s look at these tools of the faith briefly so that we may remember to use them in our faith.

.A. The Word of God – The Main Tool

.It is through the hearing and reading of God’s word that our souls are strengthened and our lives sanctified. Paul committed the elders in Ephesus to the word of grace: Acts 20:32 And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified. Jesus prayed John 17:17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. Peter called for Christians 1 Peter 2:2 As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby. The word of God is to become effective in the life of the believer for growth in living so that they will die more and more to sin and live more and more as Christ would have them live; that is live righteously. Let’s then see how we are to approach the reading and teaching of the Bible.

.Believers are to use the Bible diligently and carefully reading and applying it to their life. This tool of the faith is to be studied, memorized it, and meditated upon. Lay it up in your mind so you can recall it often. It does no good just to read it but it is useful as we not only listen to it, and talk about how wonderful it is but do what this perfectly law of liberty says to do. (Jas. 1:22)

.The Bible is a tool of the faith to be used on a regular basis. Therefore create a plan for reading the Bible and follow it. For example read the Gospels, Old Testament history , Paul’s letters, O.T. Poetry, N.T. General Epistles, O.T. Minor Prophets, Acts, O.T. Major Prophets, Revelation). There is a lot there and a lot that will be difficult to understand due to the historical time, culture and geographical differences. Therefore I suggest having a good Bible dictionary, concordance and a good commentary from solid biblical scholars in your home to help you through some of the more difficult aspects of the Bible. Read always with prayer asking the Holy Spirit to give you understanding (illumination) so that you can understand and apply the passage being read to your life (1 Cor.2).

.When reading and hearing the word of God pay attention to it approaching it with “ diligence, preparation, and prayer. Take note of what you hear in the scriptures and “receive the truth with faith, love, meekness, and readiness of mind, as the Word of God”. “Meditate” upon it and hide it in your heart in order to bring forth a life glorifying to God. You will find this to be the main tool of the Christian in gaining understanding of the faith and in how to live a life glorifying God.

.B. The Sacraments – Baptism and Lord’s Supper Declaring and Sealing Grace and Salvation

.I have met many Christians that have had great doubt about their salvation. Each person brings their own state and difficulties such as some have been in a depressed state, a few have gone to very weak churches. Weak in the sense tat they have not had good doctrinal training. But all of them, without fail, have not had a clear understanding of the sacraments and their use. Therefore they had not been able to utilize and incorporate the sacraments into their lives.

.Some churches teach against the idea of sacraments in the church. So you may be asking, “What is a sacrament? I have never heard of them.” Or perhaps you may feel that you cannot believe in them since your church has touched that there is no such thing. Either way, since they are biblical, the fact that they are not taught to you causes the Christian to miss out on using the tool of the sacraments.

.Even though the word Trinity is not in the Bible does not mean there is not such thing. So goes the term sacrament. The doctrine of the trinity is defined within the scripture so is the doctrine of the sacraments. So then what is a sacrament? A sacrament is a sign and seal used by God in order to give a clear message of what he does for us and His church and to place His stamp on us to mark us out as his people.

.Sacraments are a sign and a seal. Signs are used by God throughout the Bible. A classic example in the Old Testament is circumcision So you see God giving a sign and a seal of the reality of the covenant of grace is not new to God’s people. The sign of the sacrament tells us “what is”. For example the sign of Moses rod turning to a snake let Pharaho and his entourage told that God had spoken to him (ex. 4:1-5). Also when Jerusalem was destroyed it was made know that the mediatory reign of Christ in heaven would begin (Mat. 24:29-34). Abraham received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. Remember he believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness ( Rom 4:11, 9). The in the New Testament there are the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper which God uses to communicate to us a full and complete salvation by grace through the redeeming blood of Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.

.The sacraments are not only signs used by God to communicate to His people but they are seals gioven by God to benefit the persons receiving the seal. Think of a college student that has completed class work for their bachelors degree. The seal or stamp on the certification of diploma does not make him / her educated. The seal is from the collegiate board authorities officially declaring the person educated. The person could be educated without the seal. The seal is useful to the recipient in that it convinces others when they see it being hung from the office wall the person is educated.

.There are two sacraments given to the people of God in the New Testament: Baptism and The Lord’s Supper. In these sacraments God uses common elements such as water, bread and wine to communicate grace to His people. In these sacraments God gives the church a nonverbal proclamation of the gospel. This is the same gospel as the one we hear proclaimed by the preaching of the Word and which we share with people as we witness and evangelize. In other words the sacraments nonverbally proclaim full salvation and that by God’s grace to the recipients and members of the church.

Sacrament # 1 Baptism – Salvation is of God the Author and Finisher of Our Faith

.Baptism is a sacrament which signifies (tells us what is) the full salvation we have in Christ Jesus. It is an outward sign of an inward work of grace by God through Christ’s redemption by the work of the Holy Spirit. Being united in Christ we are buried, planted, and crucified (Rom.6). But notice: we do not bury ourselves, nor do we plant ourselves, nor do we crucify ourselves but it is God that does the work of uniting us to Christ. Baptism therefore is a sign of our full salvation:

.
Our effectual calling,
Our being regenerated by the Holy Spirit,
Our conversion including repentance and faith,
Our justification and
Our adoption into son ship


.Baptism signifies that we are united to Christ.. The sinner is dead, but being one of Christ’s own, there is regeneration which makes the sinner alive. Once made alive in Christ there is an action and expression of repentance from sin and faith placed in the work of the Lord Jesus Christ. This expression comes from God to those redeemed, given new life and united to Christ (Matt 1:21; Acts 11:18; Eph 2:8-10). Baptism, therefore, declares by sign and authorized by a seal that we are in union with Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit.

.The seal of baptism authenticates God’s covenant promise that He will be our God and we will be His people (Gen. 15-17; Mark 10:14; Acts 2:28-39;1 Cor. 7:14 ). This seal grants to us blessings in that we are placed into the body of Christ, the Church. In this we have all the blessings of the church: the Bible to guide us, the Holy Spirit to give us power and energy to will and do the Father’s’ pleasure, and the confirmed promise that God will continue to work in us progressively to die to sin and live in newness of life.

.Sacrament # 2. The Lord’s Supper – Christ Died For His Church

.The Lord’s Supper is the second sacrament established by God in the New Testament for His church. This sacramental meal communicates to the Church that Christ body was broken and that His blood was shed to redeem His people. The bread signifies the broken body Christ and the wine represents the shed blood of Christ. It is this meal that signifies God’s covenant of grace upon the lives of those that believe. (Matt. 26:28) Here is what the Apostle Paul said of the Lord’s Supper:

.1 Corinthians 11:23-33 For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come. Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body.For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world. Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another.

The Lord’s Supper signifies or speaks to us concerning:


Christ broken body and shed blood

Our need to remember the Lord that bought us and that we are His and we partake of the sacrament “in remembrance of me”

The Gospel evangelistic message in the meal since by partaking “ye do proclaim”

The need for self examination and self judgment for growth in sanctification: “let a man examine himself, and so let him eat”

Declares that the church is a community: “ tarry for one another”

A meal of condemnation to those that partake of it unworthy “drink this cup of the Lord, unworthy, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord”


Baptism and the Lord’s supper are visible tools given by God to help the Christian community grow in grace and knowledge of Christ. They are not to be used apart from the Word of God but with the word of God. The Word of God and the Sacraments are both equally to be used. They both are given by God and therefore are part of the fait, the church and worship. In the use of the sacramental tools the Lord imparts blessings for spiritual nourishment and growth in grace bring spiritual growth, life and peace. The blessing come because they are a visible sign that declares the salvation we have by the shed blood of Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit, a sign of being set apart from the world of non-believers by having the seal of God upon us, being placed into the family of God, the church and a visible reminder given to us often to judge ourselves regarding the faith and our love of the brethren, etc.

There is as much blessing received in them as there is in the hearing and reading of God’s word. The sacraments are in essence God’s word to us and also to others (see Lord’s Supper). When we understand them and their meaning then we can in faith appropriate the grace that promised in them. The blessing is no greater than that of the hearing of the Word. The blessing that comes from them s based upon the word which gives understanding to their meaning so that the believer can rest upon and obey the promises and duties required in each symbol. There is no reason to ever neglect the means of grace in the sacraments. To do so robs believers and the church of great blessings.

C. Prayer – A Tool Used To Talk To God

Prayer is another one of the tools that God gives to His people for growth in the Christian life. Jesus is our example and as He was given to much prayer so should all believers. Prayer is the means of communication to God. It is the drawing near to God with the result that He will draw near to you (Jas. 4:8). It is the tool we use as believers in crying out to “Abba Father’ in their times of distress and grief. In prayer we also cry out asking forgiveness for the sins committed, as well as crying to Him for comfort in this pilgrimage we are on toward the celestial city.

What is prayer ? Prayer is asking the Father for the things that are promised in His word. It is the coming to God with our desires, confessing our sin and acknowledging his mercies. Christ said “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer”. The writer to the Hebrews said that Jesus is passed into the heavens and we can come to Him boldly in our time of need. Hebrews 4:14-16 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. Hebrews 4:15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

The tool of prayer is to be used so as not to be overtaken by besetting sins. “Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak.”( Mark 14:38). Also when there is a need for wisdom the tool of prayer should be used since there is a promise that the omnipotent God will give that wisdom when needed. James 1:5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

The believer should be disciplined to use this great tool. We are to always to pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17). Luke 18:1 And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; (Luke 18:1). So lets be faithful in our prayer life consistently coming “unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, (Ephesians 3:20).


Conclusion


.The three main tools given to God’s people in the walk of faith are the Word of God, Sacraments and Prayer. Each tool has its own use and strength that it brings to each Christian. All however point to the salvation we have in the blessed work of the Savior by the power of the Holy Spirit for the purpose of spiritual growth and stability of of the believer. Therefore use the Word of God for specific direction, the Sacraments as a visible confirmation of your salvation and Prayer in communicating to God, interceding for others, giving thanks, and asking for wisdom and help in time of need.


..To the non- Believer you do not have these tools to use. But perhaps God is working in your heart showing you that you have sinned against God. I then ask that you believe the gospel. The gospel is that Jesus died for sinners on the cross, was buried, and rose from the dead (1 Cor. 15:1-4). His death was a sacrifice that turns away the wrath of God (1 John 2:2). This is the only way to be saved.Jesus is the one who died for the sins of the world (1 John 2:2). He is the only way to the God the Father (John 14;6). He alone reveals God (Matt. 11:27). He has all authority in heaven and earth (Matt. 28:18). It is only through Him that you can be saved from God's wrath (Eph. 2:3). He can forgive you of your sin (Luke 5:20; Matt. 9:2). He can remove the guilt that is upon your soul. Jesus can set you free from the bondage of sin that blinds your eyes, weakens your soul, and brings you to despair. He can do this because He bore sin in His body on the cross (1 Peter. 2:24) that those who trust in Him would be saved.


.If you are not a Christian, and want to be delivered from the righteous judgment of God which is coming upon you due to your sin against Him, then come to the One who died for the sins of the world. Come to the One who died for sinners (Matt. 11:28). Turn from your sins. Believe and trust in Jesus. Receive Jesus, who is God in flesh, who died and rose from the dead (1 Cor. 15:1-4) as your Lord and Savior. Ask Jesus to forgive you of your sins. Receive Christ (John 1:12). Only He can wash you clean from your sins and only Jesus can deliver you from the righteous judgment of a holy and infinite God. Pray to Jesus. Seek Him. Ask Him to save you - He will.


.If you pray and ask Jesus to deliver you from your sins and save you from God's wrath then you now have these tools to be used. If you prayed and asked Jesus to deliver you from your sins and save you from God's wrath, then please let me know and lets celebrate and praise God together for your spiritual resurrection and new life in Christ. Lets work together so that I can direct you to a Bible beleiving Church in your area to get started in this new life of faith in Christ.

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