“The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” Galatians 5:6

Dear Friends,

Kristen and I were recently blessed and challenged in our faith in seeing a
Christian video on the life and ministry of Peter and Paul. The movie showed
how Saul, the zealous Pharisee who was so proud of his Jewish heritage and his
own righteousness in keeping the law, was radically changed into the fearless
proponent of salvation (and sanctification – Galatians 3:3) by faith in Jesus
and in the power of the Holy Spirit and became Paul, the great apostle to the
Gentiles. He fought the church leaders and Judaizers who tried to put the yoke
of the law on the Gentile converts who trusted Christ alone for salvation. He
was resolute in his calling from Jesus to “carry My name before the Gentiles
and their kings and before the people of Israel and to suffer greatly for My
name” and “was not disobedient to the heavenly vision.” (Acts
9:15-16; 26:19) As he was awaiting his execution he said words that echoed Jesus’
triumphant words on the cross, “It is finished.” "I have fought
the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the
righteous Judge, will award to me on that day–and not only to me, but also
to all who have longed for his appearing." (2 Timothy 4:7-8)

I have been meditating on the theme of faith and living by faith and was struck
by a verse in Hebrews 11, the great chapter on faith. "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) It is also clear from the context of this chapter on faith that
the rewards are primarily “heavenly” rewards as exemplified by those
who were living for future hopes and unseen realities. "Now faith is being
sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the
ancients were commended for." (Hebrews 11:1-2) "By faith Moses, when
he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose
to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures
of sin for a short time. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater
value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward."
(Hebrews 11:24-26) What struck me was that only those things I do by faith please
my Lord and will be rewarded by Him. The next obvious question is how much of
my time and activity is done in faith? The Scriptures make it clear that our
business can be done in faith and even our eating and drinking can glorify the
Lord. (Colossians 3:22-24; 1 Corinthians 10:31) So the issue is not the activity
but the motive of the heart. (See Hebrews 4:12-13) As someone put it: “The
secular becomes sacred when the focus of the heart is on the eternal.”
Likewise, the contrary is true and ministers can do their work to please men
and lose God’s blessing. But in all cases only faith pleases the Lord.
Thus it is wise to regularly ask the Holy Spirit to examine our hearts and convict
us and redirect us to live by faith in the eternal and not for this world that
is passing away. (Psalm 139:23-24)

Two of the greatest rivals to living by faith as seen throughout the Scriptures
are seeking the honor of people and money. Jesus said: "I receive not honor
from men. How can ye believe, which receive honor one of another, and seek not
the honor that cometh from God only?" (John 5:41,44) A.W. Tozer said in
commenting on these verses that Jesus taught that the desire for honor among
men made belief (faith) impossible. It was not so much the intellectual difficulties
of the religious leaders that caused their unbelief but their desire for honor
from men. This is reiterated by what Jesus says in Luke 16:13-15. "No servant
can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he
will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God
and Money." The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering
at Jesus. He said to them, "You are the ones who justify yourselves in
the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among
men is detestable in God’s sight.

We must beware of whom we listen to and whom we try to please. Jesus did not
seek honor from people but from God only. He didn’t listen to what they
said was important, valuable, reasonable or wise. He only listened to what His
Father said was important, valuable, and wise and that was to glorify God, to
sacrificially love and serve people, to witness to the truth that would lead
them to eternal life, and finish the work God gave Him to do. If we value what
the world tells us to value it will atrophy our faith and we can miss the very
purpose of our brief life here on earth and the eternal rewards God has in store
for us. (Luke 8:14)

"Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is
heard through the word of Christ." (Romans 10:17) Our faith is strengthened
by hearing, studying, meditating on and obeying the Word of God. Noah heard
and obeyed God’s Word to build an ark some hundred years before the flood
and his family was saved. Abraham left home and family not knowing where he
was going and lived a pilgrim’s life in tents because of God’s Word
to him. Many believers who obeyed God were tortured and martyred for their faith
"and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection."
(i.e., greater rewards in heaven. Hebrews 11:35) "All these people were
still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised;
they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that
they were aliens and strangers on earth. Instead, they were longing for a better
country–a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God,
for he has prepared a city for them." (Hebrews 11:13, 16) God is pleased
with and proud of those who live by faith in His Word because it shows they
trust Him. Why would we trust God to raise us from the dead and take us to heaven
for simply believing in Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins and yet
not trust Him for our day to day needs and desires that He promises to meet
if we simply trust and obey Him? (Matthew 6:33; Psalm 37:4) It seems the obvious
answer is lack of faith for the reasons already mentioned.

Years ago I memorized and regularly meditated on Paul’s great statement
of living by faith and it helped me so many times to correct my thinking and
renew my trust in the Lord. Maybe this would be a good faith-building exercise
for you as well.

"But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.
What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness
of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider
them rubbish (dung), that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having
a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through
faith in Christ–the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want
to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing
in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain
to the resurrection (“a better resurrection”) from the dead. Not
that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but
I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers,
I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting
what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal
to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All
of us who are mature should take such a view of things.” (Philippians

Until He comes,
Len and Kristen

There has been a delay in getting my newsletters on our web site but they should
be available in June or July at the latest. (reflectionsministries.org)

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