You are probably discouraged today. The reason you are discouraged is that we are surrounded by bad news. Bad news about our State president probably not paying back the money. Bad news about FIFA corruption. Bad news about unemployment stats. Bad news about the increase in the petrol price. Bad news about crime. Maybe even bad news about close friends or family. It’s easy to become discouraged. What we need is some good news.
The good news is that the gospel is momentously-big good news. The gospel is that God does not count our sins against us, but declares all those who put their faith in Christ righteous and worthy. In a world of bad news, we need to be reminded to keep believing the good news.
The question we must ask is: what is faith? According to the Bible, faith is taking God at his word. Abraham is the great example of faith.
V1 After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” 2 But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring….”
5 And [the Lord] brought [Abram] outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6 And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15:1-6)
Abram (later Abraham) believed God’s promise of children and was counted “right with God”. Faith is believing God’s promises, taking God at his Word. Faith is not believing that God can do the impossible – that’s pure commonsense.
We are not Abraham or Israelites. What promise has God given us to believe?
John 3:16 is a good example of the promise:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
This is the radical good news of the Bible: we are counted right with God by simple trust in God’s promise. When we believe the gospel, God forgives our sin (all of it), God puts his Spirit in us, God works all things for our good, and God keeps us for heaven. The scandal of the gospel is that by simple faith in God’s promises the unworthy are declared worthy. The glory of God is that he loves the unworthy. By faith, sinners are adopted into God’s family forever.
Thomas Cranmer’s “Homily (sermon) on Salvation” put it like this:
Justification (being declared right with God) is not the office of man, but of God. For man cannot justify himself by his own works neither in part nor in the whole…But justification is the office of God only, and is not a thing which we render unto him, but which we receive of him; not which we give to him, but which we take of him; by his free mercy, and by only the merits of his most dearly beloved Son.
The way that Jesus achieved this victory for our eternal forgiveness is through his death and resurrection.
At the moment in South Africa, if you live by sight, you may become somewhat discouraged. But we don’t live by sight, we live by faith. When you chat to your colleagues at the office and everyone is down and discouraged, what will you say? Will you say, “Though governments and presidents and sports organisations may let us down, Jesus will never let us down. Therefore my faith is in Jesus, not in governments or presidents or sports organisations.”