Faithful: Persuasive Faith

Faithful: Persuasive Faith

Sermon Podcast Audio 

Jury Duty

Several years ago in Arkansas, I received the dreaded letter in the mail from the county courthouse informing me that I had been given a very special honor. I had been selected for jury duty. What I loved about the letter was that it didn’t really ask if I wanted to be on jury duty; it just said I was. Congratulations.

During my “sentence,” I was fortunate enough to serve not on one, but on TWO different juries. I say fortunate because it depresses me to think that I wasn’t smart enough to figure a way out of it! I’m only kidding. Jury duty is an important part of our judicial system. I hope everyone of you has the same privilege!

Serving on two different civil cases, both involving car accidents, I learned a couple of very important things. First, there is no amount of money too great to pay to get a good attorney to represent you when going through something like this. Both times, the defense paid to have good, experienced lawyers to defend them in their case. The plaintiffs did not. Fresh out of law school, spending time down at the local ER, these ambulance chasing newbies were looking to find work and their inexperience showed. From making sure their witnesses wouldn’t lie on the stand, to knowing how to build sympathy for their client, the inexperienced attorneys really did a poor job of persuading the jury that their clients had a real claim.

The second thing I learned was the myth of being tried by “a jury of my peers.” If you’re ever tried, take the deal. Juries cannot be trusted. They are fickle and to be honest, just crazy.  The things they talk about in the jury room would make your head spin. Take the deal no matter what it is. Do not trust “a jury of your peers!”

Sitting through these trials, watching these attorneys work, I realized that their entire job was a job of persuasion. The plaintiffs needed to convince us, the jury, why their client deserved a monetary settlement and the defendants needed to convince us why their client wasn’t negligent and deserved to pay nothing.

Persuasion

Everyday we are bombarded with people, ads, politicians, even our own children trying to persuade us in some fashion. Even this week, one of my kids wanted a new backpack for school and boy did those powers of persuasion come out. “Dad, I used my last one for several years. I can use this new one for three years. Even though it is $60, if I use it for three years, that’s only $20 a year.”

I do give him credit; he did appeal to my thrifty side in making it a multi-year deal. Yes, he did get the backpack, and yes, he will use it for three years!

Paul’s Letter

In the final letter we have that the Apostle Paul wrote to his protege and friend Timothy, we find Paul mentioning something that if we weren’t careful we would overlook about Timothy and his faith. In fact, I have read this letter many times, but only recently did this part jump out at me.

Look at Second Timothy 1:1-5.
The opening of this letter reveals what Paul was convinced of in Timothy and its significance in our lives.

2 Timothy 1:1-2

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, according to the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus,

To Timothy, my dear son:

Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

This letter has a standard opening for one of Paul’s letters. It identifies the sender (Paul), the recipient (Timothy), and includes a greeting. Even though this is a standard opening, Paul’s reference to Timothy reveals a little about their relationship and that Paul views Timothy, not as an employee or a servant, but as a son.

2 Timothy 1:3-5

I thank God, whom I serve, as my forefathers did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers.  Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy.  I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.
 

Paul remembers Timothy’s tears as they separated.  Paul left Timothy behind to help a church. You very seldom cry when people you don’t like leave, but just ask all the parents who are dropping their kids off at college right now about tears when leaving someone you love and the anticipation of joy when they are to be reunited with you.

Pay close attention to verse 5. Paul says, “I am
persuaded, convinced.” He is convinced of Timothy’s real, genuine, sincere
faith. As Paul looks at Timothy’s life, he sees something within him, something
in how he lives, that leaves no room for doubt in his mind that his faith
is the real thing. 

As I
read this passage a few weeks ago, I immediately asked myself the questions: Do
I have a faith that is persuasive? Is my faith lived out in a way that others
looking at me would say as Paul has said, “I am convinced of your faith.”

And what about you? What does your faith say about you? Because I think what Paul is saying here is that a real and genuine faith
is a visible and persuasive faith.

How We
React to Faith

We all think about our faith in different ways.
Some think faith should be completely private, that we should live our
faith almost incognito, undercover. We believe that if we were to
truly live out our faith it might upset someone. 
Our
neighbors might not like us anymore. It might prevent us from a job promotion.
So, we avoid talking about it and we avoid living it, except on the occasional Sunday
morning.  There is very little difference between us and those without
faith. 

There
is an opposite extreme as well. That is the “in-your-face” faith. These are the
people who speak out about everything, honestly, just looking for
disagreement so they can argue. They yell and scream, they find their way
onto news programs, and they post all over social media. 
As “in-your-face” believers, we
don’t care who likes us because we are standing on truth. We spout verses like
“Jesus said Christians would suffer…” as our battle cry. We alienate
everyone and anyone who might ever get close to us, except those
Christians who do what we are doing. 

The problem with both of these extremes is that neither of them are persuasive.
No
one looks at the person hiding their faith and says, “You know, I love the way
you hide your faith. It seems to have so little impact on your life. Tell
me more about THAT faith.” 

And with the
forceful faith, there’s not anyone left to be able to talk about faith with, because everyone has been alienated. No one says, “I would
love to know how to have a faith that is so offensive that it repels
everyone. Tell me more about THAT faith.”

I give both extremes, but more often what I see and experience is the first
example of the suppressed faith. With either type, we need to learn something
different. We need to figure out how we can develop a faith that is real
and genuine AND visible and persuasive.

Developing
Sincere Faith

So, what
is this type of faith I am talking about? What did Timothy have that we need to
pay attention to? What is a sincere faith that is persuasive?
It
begins with the source of faith…Jesus Christ.

We say this over and over,
but real faith has nothing to do with church attendance or following a bunch of
rules, or even doing a lot of good deeds in the community for those less
fortunate than us. 
Genuine
faith begins with knowing Jesus.

Why do we keep saying this at Ashworth Road?
Because it is so easy to look everywhere else. Man-made faith comes from
everywhere else, but genuine faith can only be found in Jesus. 
Man-made
faith says, “trust in yourself, believe in your career, your success, your
family.” Man-made faith is all about religion, asking, “How do I get to God? How do I do
enough of the right things to tip the scales in my favor?”

Genuine
faith recognizes that what needs to be done has already been done by Jesus
Christ on the cross. His death covered our sin. His death paid the debt we
could not. His resurrection gives us life. 
But it
doesn’t end there.
Genuine faith also involves obedience. Too often we recoil
when we hear that word. We talk about how Christ gives us freedom, which is
true. We talk about how Christ didn’t come to increase the laws but to
fulfill them, which is also true. 
But a
genuine faith is a faith that is visible, lived out before others.

James, the
brother of Jesus, in his letter in the New Testament addresses this very idea.
James wrote:

“ What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims
to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?  Suppose a brother or
a sister is without clothes and daily food.  If one of you says to them,
“Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical
needs, what good is it?  In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not
accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith; I
have deeds. Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by
my deeds.”   – James 2:14-18

This means obedience to Jesus
and his teachings. It is obedience to the things he spoke about, the things he himself modeled for
us.  It is doing
the difficult things the world might not understand, forgiving those who have
wronged us, loving our enemies, giving us the American dream to minister to the
poor and needy. It is living generously to a point people think you’re a
little nuts, living with margin, raising your kids to have genuine faith over
athletic ability, working diligently even when we are not loving our job. It
is acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God. That’s genuine
faith. That’s persuasive faith. 

Yes, we
need to be aware that swinging too far to the obedience side can lead to
legalism, or scorekeeping, but genuine faith produces obedience that is not
motivated by obligation or duty.  Rather, it is motivated by love…love for
Jesus, love for his Kingdom, love for those he loves, love for those who don’t
know him. 

Jesus
himself calls us to live in such a way that others stand up and take notice.
When he calls each of us to

“let your light shine before others, that they may see your
good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”  – Matthew 5:16

How We
are Perceived 

As we
think about how we can live this type of faith out, I think it is important for
us to realize that in our culture there may be some damage control that needs
to be done. When many think faith, they think: fussy, exclusive,
judgmental, mean, ungenerous, and in no way compelling to be a part of
something like that.
We have
to realize that the way we’ve been living, even the way we’ve been doing church
isn’t palatable to those around us.

Recently,
I posted a quote on Facebook from the book called “The Tangible Kingdom” that I
thought was compelling. It said, “We have to be honest with ourselves and
realize that if the message isn’t attractive and the people of God aren’t
attractive, then we must not be telling the story right, or we aren’t living
the story correctly.” (The Tangible Kingdom, 86)

Paul is
talking about a faith in Timothy that persuades him that it is real. It is a faith
that compels and draws others. It doesn’t repel. Keep in mind, the message of Jesus really repelled
the religious folks, not the others. 
I am
not saying we water down the message to make it taste better. In fact, I am
advocating for just the opposite. Live out your faith in real and tangible ways
and see what happens.
 

“The ancient church influenced the world not by lightening
up their values or by veiling them, but by living them out in plain view of the
culture around them.” (The Tangible Kingdom, 51)

Living
Persuasive Faith

Ask
yourself: “Do those around me know about my faith?” Do they know not by the trinkets on your
desk, not the Jesus fish on your car, not the Christian radio station you
listen to, but do those around you notice your faith by how you work, how you interact
with them, how you live, and how you set your priorities?

Notice
I didn’t say, “Do they know you go to church or do they think you are religious?”
Can those around you tell that Jesus is important in your life and that
your relationship with him shapes how you live?
Maybe
this is difficult for you to answer. After all, how do you know what people
think about you?

Well, would you be willing this week to ask someone around you
if they can perceive that your faith is important to you? Would you be
willing to ask someone if they see something different in your life because of
your faith? 

You can
even blame me. Tell them that the crazy pastor at your church challenged you this week
to find out if those around you could see you living out your faith. Now, if they
look at you and say, “You go to church?” you might have your answer!

After
you think about this and then hopefully ask someone, if you find the
answer is disappointing, and you see that your faith isn’t persuasive, begin to
ask yourself, “why not?”

Conclusion

Do we
have a persuasive faith? I hope you’ve noticed some words not used when talking
about genuine faith, such as “perfect” or “blind.” Genuine faith can leave room
for doubt and questions. What is important about persuasive faith is how
it is lived out when it becomes more than words on a page or just theory.

This is a critical issue for us to wrestle with, because too
often those who follow Jesus find very little difference in how we live and
how others without faith live.  That is sad.

Recently, I heard about
someone I used to work with in a church in Arkansas and how their life had just
fallen apart. Instead of turning to faith, they turned to self-help books and
Buddhism. 
How can we expect our faith to impact anyone else if it doesn’t
even impact us? How can we tell the world that Jesus is the answer, when he
isn’t even our answer?

We must
determine to develop a real and genuine faith that is visible, because when we
have a genuine, visible faith, we will have a persuasive faith.
Paul
saw this in Timothy. It wasn’t a role he was playing, but who he was. May the
same be written about us and our genuine faith that persuades others to faith
in Christ.

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