Sermon 100



Keep Faith Biblical


September 1, 2019


Grace and peace to you, in the name of God the Father, Son (+) and Holy Spirit. Amen.

     Faith is at the heart of our life with God. “We hold that man is justified by faith” (Romans 3:28). And today we have before us the classic definition of that faith in Hebrews 11:1 – “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” In our worship today, let us then earnestly dwell on that definition.


The Rashly Risked Venture

And it’s a startling definition, isn’t it? For it is certainty without justification – be assured, it says, in what you don’t have but only hope to have one day; and be convicted, it says, even though you can’t see what you’re sure is there. This isn’t ordinary, pedestrian faith – where we look around and come up with the best idea. I bought a Ford, we say, because all that I read about cars led me to believe that it was a good idea. No, faith in Jesus isn’t like that.

     No, it’s more of a risk and a venture. Søren Kierkegaard (1813–1855), that “Danish Luther” (R. F. Marshall, Kierkegaard in the Pulpit, 2016, p. 286), said “Christianity… leans toward foolhardiness, the rashly risked venture” (Journals, ed. Hongs, §1438). And that’s because he knew Saint Paul wrote that we’re “fools for Christ” (1 Corinthians 4:10). That’s because we believe in Jesus without any non-controvertible support for it. It’s similar to believing there’s an apple tree in your backyard when your neighbors all tell you they don’t see one there. Because of that risk we’re afraid to believe – as was the man in Matthew 25:25 about investing his gift (Journals §§4929, 4939). We also need many to believe before we will, or else we’d feel stupid believing – as did the crippled man in John 5:7 sitting before the pool of healing waters, letting others go in ahead of him (Journals §4941).


Being Pushed Off the Cliff

How shall we then believe if faith is so risky – and we’re so risk-averse? To the rescue comes another Bible verse which goes along with Hebrews 11:1, namely, John 15:16 – “You did not choose me, I chose you.” Well what’s that like? It’s like being pushed off one of those high cliffs that people dive off from into a river below. But who wants that? Precisely no one – because “nobody seeks for God” (Romans 3:11).  So if anyone is to believe, God must push you – must choose you. Do we never believe then? Is it always God believing in us? No, it’s just that our belief comes after God’s election of us – only then can we struggled to make him our own, after he already has made us his own (Philippians 3:12). Convoluted? I should say so! It’s even a battle (1 Timothy 6:12).

       Martin Luther (1483–1546) believed this. Only Christ “can give faith,” he preached (Luther’s Works 77:287). We surely can’t (LW 26:215). It’s “exceedingly arduous” (LW 29:149). It may “appear easy,” but it isn’t (LW 23:179). That’s because faith is so powerful that it can tear “heaven and earth apart” and open “all graves in the twinkling of an eye” (LW 28:73). But we surely can’t. Our faith “always [has] something… lacking” (LW 29:253).

       So we go to Jesus and cry: “Increase our faith” (Luke 17:5) – for no one else can do it. And we pray to him for faith’s “gift” – for all those who don’t now believe in him at all (Ephesians 2:8). And you who do believe in Christ, receive him at the Altar today, in and under the bread and the wine of the Lord’s Supper – so that faithful life may grow up in you (John 6:53, 1 Peter 2:2).


Going to Heaven

And what comes of this gift of faith? There’s value in it not only to strengthen this life in goodness and love, but also “for the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:8). It ushers you into “a better country – a heavenly one,” which is a “lasting city” (Hebrews 11:16, 13:14). After you die, this new world awaits you. In it life is finally fulfilled, which never can happen here – death and sin are over, and all is fully understood (Revelation 21:3–4; 1 Corinthians 13:12).

     So Kierkegaard concludes: “In eternity… there is no winter cold or summer heat, no violent storms, or the numberless mosquito bites of the thousand plagues; neither is there that which tortures just as much – human envy and pettiness and chatter and wretchedness. Nor that which probably tortures even more – well-intended misunderstanding. There, what you did out of love does not appear as cruelty – no, there it is clearly understood that it was love – blessed peace!... I ask no greater” (Journals §828). Amen.


 (printed as preached but with some changes)