Pastor Edward Brouwer 5-27-18 “FAITHFULNESS” Galatians 5:13-25
In the Bible we read of many stories of people who were faithful to God—right up to the end, and even unto death. Hebrews 11 is the Martyrs (faithful Witnesses) Hall of Fame. The New Testament is full of stories of Christians, faithful to Jesus despite persecution. People like Stephen, and all of the Apostles except John. After John’s imprisonment on Patmos, Eusibius (the church historian) tells us that John settled in Ephesus for the remaining years of his life. There we are told, he discipled a young man named Polycarp. Polycarp eventually became a church leader in Smyrna, one of the 7 cities that John writes to in Revelation. In 160 AD when Polycarp was already a very old man, the Roman authorizes launched a fresh round of persecution against the Christians. Rome was threatened by these believers; people who would not worship the Caesar as a living god. So the proconsul decided to go after the chief pastor of Smyrna. They hunted him down, but even people in the posse were ashamed at arresting this old man who humbly asked to pray for an hour before being hauled away. When Polycarp was presented to the Proconsul, the Roman authority said “you are an old man, deny Christ and I will have you released”. To which Polycarp is said to have replied “86 years I have served Him and he has done be no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King and my Savior? “I will have you thrown to the lions then!” “Call them then. For it is unthinkable that I should repent of God’s goodness and turn to what is evil”. Proconsul: “If you despise my lions then I shall have you burned!” Polycarp: “you threaten with a fire that burns for an hour, but you do not know of the fire of coming judgment reserved for the ungodly”. Incensed, the proconsul has Polycarp bound at the stake and burned….who during this ordeal prays a beautiful prayer similar to Stephen’s in committing himself to the faithfulness of God. God is faithful and He calls us and enables us to faithfulness.
Read Galatians 5:13-25
Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures God is spoken of as the faithful covenant keeping God. An aspect of God’s character is faithfulness. Vine’s Dictionary describes this “He is trustworthy, reliable, doing what He says he will do—that He will fulfill His promises and follow through on His threats against sin”. Because of God’s complete integrity he is worthy of our full faith and confidence (Numbers 23:19 God is not a man that he should lie, nor the son of man that he should repent. Has he said and will he not do it? Has he not spoken and will it not come to pass?) The Old Testament is full of stories of God’s faithfulness. His covenant promises go like this: I love you. If you respond to my love with faith filled love, service and devotion, then I will pour out my blessings upon you. The OT is a chronicle of what is called the “deuteronomic cycle”. God shows his covenant love, his people respond by serving him, then a generation arises that seeks their own selfish ways, God sends judgment, his people cry out, he hears their cry and sends a deliverer (Gideon, Samson, Samuel, Saul, David). They turn to him and serve him. Hit repeat. Over and over again. And a remnant of the faithful always turned to God, and He was always faithful. So that the weeping prophet, Jeremiah (the one who got thrown in an abandoned well for preaching repentance and judgment) could sing in Lamentations 3:22-23 “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases (we are not consumed!) His mercies never come to an end. They are new ever morning, great is Thy faithfulness.”
And God, in the fullness of time, shows his ultimate faithfulness by coming in the flesh, being the ONE True Deliverer (that all the other’s actually pointed to).
The good news is that Christ died for us while we were still rebels! We were dead in our trespasses, but Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8) Indeed, God is being true to himself when he redeems us. Let me explain. In Genesis, God makes all of the creatures of the earth: each according to their kind (meaning inherent to their type). But not so with Adam and Eve. He created them in His image and breathed the breathe of His Spirit into them. Although our first parents sinned and grieved the heart of God, he did not ultimately abandon them. So Paul could write in Romans 8:29 for those he foreknew, he predestined to be conformed to the Image of His Son…and those whom he predestined he called, and those he called he justified and those he justified he also glorified. In another place Paul writing to Timothy (2 Tim 2:13)…if we are faithless he remains faithful for he cannot deny himself. God in Christ is utterly faithful, reliable, true to his word and loyal. When we doubt God’s faithfulness, that is more a reflection on our own brokenness than God’s true character.
But when you are experiencing trials (you may feel) it doesn’t seem like God is being very faithful. We all live in this world and are subject to its brokenness. Sin came into the world and death with it. These statistics don’t lie: we’re all going to die. God does not going to rescue us from this consequence of sin. But he promises to redeem us. So in the resurrection of Christ, death has been vanquished: “death where is your sting? O death where is your victory!?” Death has been swallowed up by life. That is God delivering us ultimately.
But we can also have hope in Christ that he will deliver us from our earthly trials. Paul, again writing to believers in the Greco Roman Empire, to people experiencing every type of trial and adversity, writes: “No temptation has overtaken you that is uncommon to man. God is faithful and with the temptation will also provide the way of escape so that you may be able to endure it”. (1 Cor. 10:13) God is testing you, to see what you are made of. He refines the silver seven times, removing its dross, making sterling silver, with which he crafts beautiful things. Are you undergoing a trial right now? God is refining you. He loves you and has a purpose for you. He promises to enable you to be faithful.
And this is the point where we hinge (like a door) from God’s faithfulness to the faithfulness that he is asking of us. For we are not merely beneficiaries of God’s faithfulness, we are also agents of His faithfulness. All of these qualities of the Spirit, the fruit of a Holy Spirit infused life, are the communicable attributes of God. [Some qualities of God are immutable, his all knowing all powerful all wise character. We don’t have that]. But the 9 fruit of the Spirit are all aspects of God’s character that he wants to grow in us.
God expects us to be loyal and true. He expects us to keep our promises. He expects us and enables us to be faithful. I guess I could quote the VBS song and end the sermon with these words “read your Bible pray every day”. But that may not be helpful. Faithfulness to Christ in our daily walk means obedience. Are there areas of your life where you are walking in willful disobedience? Are there areas of you life where you feel defeated and overwhelmed? Yes he expects us to be faithful but by His enabling Spirit he helps us to be faithful. From the Hymn “Come Ye Sinners Poor and Wretched” are the words: He is able, he is able, doubt no more. The gospel is that we don’t have to do this ourselves. He divinely enables us.
But on a practical level I want to suggest a few applications:
Let us pray with increasing boldness for faithfulness. “Lord I need your help, I’m drowning here. Lord give me your faithfulness”. This may require the mortification of the flesh, dying to self, walking in hard obedience (1 Cor 9:27 I pummel my body…)
Also faithfulness means, “being a faithful witness,” the Greek word martyr means witness. Are you willing to be that in your community? A dying world needs the refreshing waters of the gospel. Let’s ask for greater boldness to speak of Christ. I love the show ‘Finding your Roots” and people take a DNA test and see who they are related to. If you took a DNA test and discovered you had a long lost brother or sister in your county—wouldn’t you turn ever stone to find that person? There are people in our community who are estranged from God or from His people. They need to hear the good news. And we as a church are entering into a new season of opportunity, with this facility, to leverage all our resources, our time and talent and treasure for gospel witness. I’m not talking about a frantic door-to-door search for our lost brothers and sisters (but I won’t stop you)…. as though if it’s going to be, it’s because of me”….but of a faithful witness, in season and out of season, to share the hope of the gospel that you have in you with the people you come in contact with each day.