Part III: Distinguishing Between Faith and Control

All of us have a deep yearning. We yearn for people to accept God and receive His approval. Everyone who is in a saved relationship with God wants someone who is not in a saved relationship with God to be saved.

That presents the saved person with a genuine problem. What is a saved person to do if he or she is convinced that someone he or she cares about is not saved? Sometimes it a large group of people. Sometimes it is much of the world. Sometimes it is a family member. Sometimes it is a cherished friend. Regardless of whom it is, the genuine problem remains: what is the saved person to do about unsaved people?

For the Christian, there is conversion. The unsaved person is taught to believe and respond to the same things the saved person believes and responds to. That is wonderful when it happens! However, there are lots of people we love who we are unable to convert. They do not want to be taught. Or they think our convictions are silly. Or they have no desire to become what we are. They love us as a person, but they reject us religiously.

When that is the case, what are we to do? In the past, saved people have adopted numerous responses to this problem. (1) We can declare that no matter what a person believes, he or she is saved because of what God had done. (2) We can broaden our definitions of the saved to include the unsaved people we love. (3) We can convince the person to submit to a "magical act" that will make him or her a saved person even without his or her knowledge.

Whatever our solutions are, somewhere in the foundation of the solution is the conviction that a person can enter a saved relationship with God without having faith in what God did in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

This evening I challenge you to understand that faith in God's actions are essential to a salvation relationship with God. We cannot "fence someone into a saved relationship with God" by finding some subtle means of exercising control over that man or woman. The protection that is a part of the forgiveness of sins is not found in control. It is found in faith.

  1. I want to call your attention to a number of incidents in Jesus' ministry.
    1. I would like to begin with some affirmations.
      1. I believe that Jesus cares about people, both saved and unsaved.
      2. I believe that the compassion seen in Jesus is a reflection of God the Father's mercy for people.
      3. I believe the death and resurrection of Jesus reflect both the genuineness and the depth of divine mercy and compassion for people.
      4. I believe what we see in Jesus' ministry is a declaration of God's concern for people.
    2. The first incident I call you attention to is that of the woman who had been suffering from a hemorrhage for twelve years (Matthew 9:20-22).
      1. With incredible courage and in violation of both religious and social rules, this woman decided secretly to turn to Jesus.
      2. She decided if she could just work herself through the crowd close enough to Jesus and touch the bottom part of his clothing (Numbers 15:38), his power could end her medical problem without Jesus knowing what she did.
      3. She did, and she was healed, but Jesus knew what she did.
      4. To me, the amazing thing is what Jesus said to her:
        Matthew 9:22 But Jesus turning and seeing her said, "Daughter, take courage; your faith has made you well." At once the woman was made well.
    3. The second incident involves two blind men in Matthew 9:27-31.
      1. Two blind men begged Jesus for mercy when Jesus passed them.
      2. They even recognized Jesus as a descendant of King David.
      3. Jesus asked them if they believed he was able to heal them.
      4. They said yes.
      5. Listen to Jesus' response to them.
        Matthew 9:29 Then He touched their eyes, saying, "It shall be done to you according to your faith."
    4. The third incident had to do with a woman who is not even a Jew (Matthew 15:21-28).
      1. Remember, Jesus worked only with Jewish people in his ministry (Matthew 10:5, 6).
      2. This was one of the few occasions that he was in a gentile area.
      3. While he was traveling through the area of Tyre and Sidon a Canaanite woman tried to approach Jesus and ask for his help.
      4. Her daughter was demon possessed and she was asking for mercy on her daughter's behalf.
      5. The woman recognized Jesus as being Lord, and she recognized him as a descendant of King David.
      6. Jesus did not even acknowledge her presence.
      7. Yet, the woman was so persistent that eventually Jesus' disciples interceded on her behalf requesting Jesus to send her away because she would not quit following them and shouting.
      8. Jesus told the disciples that they knew he was sent only to lost Jewish people (the lost sheep of the house of Israel).
      9. The woman got in front of Jesus, bowed before him, and begged him for help.
      10. For the first time Jesus spoke directly to her and told her it was not appropriate to give her what was intended only for the Jewish people.
      11. With enormous humility and faith, she still plead and said even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master's table.
      12. Listen to Jesus astounding response:
        Matthew 15:28 Then Jesus said to her, "O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish." And her daughter was healed at once.
    5. The fourth incident is found in Mark 10:46-52 concerning Bartimaeus, a blind beggar sitting on the road side of one of the roads leaving Jericho.
      1. When he heard that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by, he began to cry out to Jesus.
        1. He asked for Jesus' mercy.
        2. He recognized Jesus as a descendant of King David.
      2. A number of people sternly tried to quiet him down, but he just continued to cry out to Jesus for mercy.
      3. Jesus stopped and told people to bring him to Jesus.
      4. When he was told that Jesus was calling for him, he threw off his cloak, jumped up, and came to Jesus.
      5. Jesus asked him, "What do you want me to do for you?"
      6. He replied, "I want to regain my sight.
      7. Listen to what Jesus said to the man:
        Mark 10:52 And Jesus said to him, "Go; your faith has made you well." Immediately he regained his sight and began following Him on the road.
    6. The fifth incident concerns the Jewish woman, possibly one of the town's known prostitutes, spoken of in Luke 7:36-50.
      1. Jesus was invited to a meal in the home of a curious Pharisee.
      2. While Jesus ate, a woman who was known as a sinner in the community came in the home uninvited.
      3. She did a number of unacceptable things including washing Jesus' feet with her tears, drying his feet with her hair, and anointing his feet with perfume.
      4. The Pharisee, the host, found the whole situation entertaining.
      5. He thought to himself, "If this man is a prophet as he claims, he would know what kind of woman she is and he would not allow her to touch him."
      6. Jesus knew what the Pharisee was thinking and told him that he had something to say to him.
        1. He told the Pharisee the parable about the two debtors who were forgiven their debt.
        2. Jesus asked which debtor loved the lender the most.
        3. The Pharisee answered, "The debtor forgiven the largest amount."
      7. Jesus then declared why this woman loved him more than the Pharisee loved him--she was forgiven the most.
        1. Jesus dismissed the woman with the statement, "Your sins have been forgiven."
        2. The other guests began to grumble because Jesus forgave sins.
        3. Then Jesus made this statement:
          Luke 7:50 And He said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."
    7. The sixth example concerns some men with leprosy in Luke 17:11-19.
      1. There were ten, and all but one were Jews.
      2. Jesus told them to go to the priests to show the priests their bodies (as the law required), and the men were healed on the way to the priests.
      3. Only one turned back to thank Jesus and glorify God, and it was the person who was not a Jew.
      4. Jesus asked why the others did not turn back to glorify God?
      5. Then he made this statement to the man...
        Luke 17:19 And He said to him, "Stand up and go; your faith has made you well."

  2. There are other examples, but this is more than enough to make the point.
    1. There was an obvious, powerful correlation between believing Jesus could do something and it happening.
      1. Sometimes Jesus said, "Let what you believe can happen occur."
      2. That is quite a statement!
      3. We (and most people in every age) rather the responsibility be on Jesus ability to perform than on our faith.
      4. We want Jesus to forgive us even if we doubt his ability to forgive us.
    2. The point I wish to make is quite simple: we cannot fool a person into forgiveness and salvation.
      1. If there is to be salvation, there must be confidence in Jesus.
        1. If a person trusts Jesus, he or she will do other things.
        2. However, he or she must trust Jesus or the other things have no meaning.
      2. Just consider Acts 16:31.
        They said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household."
      3. This man had a lot to learn and understand!
      4. When he asked what he needed to do to be saved he knew nothing.
      5. The first thing he needed to know if he was to be saved was Jesus Christ, and he had to believe in Jesus' power to forgive and God's power to resurrect.
      6. Did he repent? His actions surely showed repentance!
      7. Was he baptized? Yes!
      8. Why was his repentance and baptism effective? Because he believed!
    3. For there to be salvation there must be faith!

External controls will not provide a person salvation! Internal surrender that begins with belief enters a saved relationship with God.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 10 July 2005

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