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What Does Faith Look Like?

Date: 11 Sep 2022

Speaker: Ps Luwin Wong

Sermon Text: Luke 17:1-19

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Today’s sermon is about faith. Early on, there is a plea from the apostles for Jesus to “Increase our faith!”(17:5), and it concludes with a declaration that a foreigner’s faith has made him well (17:19).

So we’ll be looking at the text with a view to understanding a bit more about what the Christian faith is about

Now, we know what faith feels like. It feels like confidence, it feels like assurance; it feels safe. That’s the experience of faith. You know you have faith in something or someone when you are confident that he or she is trustworthy and will not let you down, so you rely on the words of the person, you trust in the promises of that person, and that means faith makes a difference. It makes a difference not merely in how safe and confident you feel about someone or something, it makes a difference to how you behave because of the trust that you have.

For example, if you have faith in the weatherman who tells you that the forecast for the rest of today will be dark clouds and thunderstorms, then you’ll tell the kids, sorry we can’t go to the beach this afternoon like we wanted to, we’ll have to find another activity to do. Your family plans for the day is altered because of your faith in the weatherman.

If your prof says that only chapters 3-9 of the textbook will appear on the final exam, and if you have faith in the words of your prof, then you will focus on those chapters, and not worry about the rest. So your faith will affect how you spend your study week.

And if you have faith that Man U will win the EPL this season, I don’t know what to say to you. Your faith will make you pretty miserable in the coming months.

In a nutshell, faith is something you experience, yes; it’s something you feel, yes, but it doesn’t end there, it also affects and alters the way you behave and the things you do.

In other words, faith is tangible, faith is visible. And our passage today reveals 3 ways in which Christian faith shapes the heart and moves the hands of Jesus’ disciples.

First, faith graciously forgives.

17 And he said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! 2 It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin. 3 Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, 4 and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”

Now you may say, “I can see how forgiveness is related to love, but what has it got to do with faith? How is it a faith issue?” Well, it’s not immediately obvious, but the disciples at the time, who heard these words, connected it to faith. Because their response to the command that if you brother sins against you seven times, saying, “I repent you” must forgive him.”, was to exclaim “Increase our faith!”.

So, how does it relate? Forgiveness is related to faith in two ways.

First, because faith in the good news of Jesus means believing that we are sinners in need of forgiveness. And it is far more natural for a forgiven sinner to forgive another sinner, than for the self-righteous to forgive those who sinned against them. Because the entire worldview is different. One worldview is based on transactional justice, the other, the kingdom mindset, is based on radical grace. So your readiness, your willingness to forgive really reveals your grasp and faith in the gospel of grace.

Second, faith in the coming kingdom of Jesus frees us from the need to take justice into our own hands, and liberates us to forgive our offences.

Batman is known as the dark knight, the vigilante hero. Roaming around the streets at night, apprehending criminals and meting out on them his personal brand of justice. The hero Gotham city deserves.

Do you know why Batman became Batman? Because Gotham city was corrupt from top to bottom. The politicians and police are in the pocket of criminals, vice was rampant and evil flooded the streets. In a city like that, if you want justice to be done, you have to do it yourself, your way, be a vigilante, because you cannot trust the system to do it for you. You cannot put any faith in the powers that be to enact justice on your behalf, to settle the scores, and to ultimately balance the scales.

But the kingdom of God is not the city of Gotham. Whereas evil flooded the streets of Gotham, justice rolls down like waters, in the kingdom of Jesus and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. In Jesus, we have a king who will not turn a blind eye to injustice, but will balance the scales perfectly.

Faith in king Jesus and his coming kingdom, therefore, frees us to forgive our offender, because we don’t have to worry about justice, we can focus on loving and forgiving, we can freely show mercy and extend grace, because justice will be taken care of by all-knowing, all-sovereign, all-righteous king in his everlasting kingdom.

So faith leads to forgiving. That’s the positive motivation for the disciple’s heart of forgiveness. The negative motivation is found in our opening verses.

And he said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! 2 It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.”

The reason why forgiveness is important is because unforgiveness might turn the “little ones” – not to be taken to mean a small kid, but a lesser person, the less deserving sinner, away from the kingdom of Christ, away from the gospel of grace.

Temptations are sure to come, temptations to sinfully ignore the good news of the kingdom are everywhere, but disciples of Christ, pay attention to yourselves! Make sure that you are not the reason why a sinner turns away from the kingdom, because of your unwillingness to forgive.

The world is replete with stories of people who left the church because they were hurt. They didn’t feel safe in it. They felt judged by it. Their experience of church, is that rather than being a sanctuary for broken sinners, it was holy ground reserved for the righteous. Rather than being extended forgiveness and grace, they endured harsh judgementalism. And so they gave up on the church, they lost faith in the gospel, because the church sung about grace, and preached about grace, but in practice, related to each other on the basis of moral competence and merit.

This is not to say we do not have moral standards as the church, because if someone sins, we are called to rebuke him. We do uphold the call to holiness. But the emphasis is not the rebuke, but on the forgiveness we are called to extend each time the sinner repents. If he sins 7 times in the same day, and he repents all 7 times, we must forgive all 7 times. 7 being the number of completeness. In other words, we must be ready to forgive the repentant sinner all the time, every time, even if it is an absurd amount of times! You must forgive him.

A radical, gracious forgiveness. That is how the church is called to express her faith in the gospel which reveals a radical and gracious forgiveness of sinners like you and I, and in so doing, will receive, rather than repel, sinners like you and I, to the kingdom of Christ.

That’s our first expression of faith – a gracious forgiveness.

The second expression of faith is humble service. Faith humbly serves.

7 “Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? 8 Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? 9 Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? 10 So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’”

Believing in the gospel of king Jesus is a humbling enterprise. For two main reasons.

The first, which we have covered earlier, is because the gospel forces us to come to terms with our sinfulness, our unworthiness, our undeservedness. The gospel is that we deserve hell, all of us, condemned to hell, by nature children of wrath, destined for perdition. And justly so. There can be no trace of sin in the kingdom of God, and sinful, full of sin, is what we are.

I was coming back from Melbourne yesterday morning, and on the to the airport, there was a billboard on the side of the highway which read, “Book the holiday you deserve!” It was a Jet Air advertisement. “Book the holiday you deserve for working so hard”.

The Christian faith precludes such a perspective. The Christian does not talk about deserving anything. We deserve nothing. Actually, as we mentioned, we deserve an eternal death in hell. Anything other than that cursed fate is all of grace, it’s an undeserved blessing, it’s good news for the sinner.

So faith humbles the disciple because he entertains no notion of deserving any good thing.

The reason faith is humbling is because the gospel we believe in is the gospel of the kingdom. There is a king in the Christian worldview, and he is Jesus. It‘ s humbling because we recognise that the world does not revolve around us. It revolves around God. He is king, and we are not. And if he is our king, then owe to him our loyal service.

So genuine faith expresses itself in humble service to our king, a service that entertains no thought of deserving gratitude, for whatever we do, however we expend ourselves entirely in the service of God, however much we give of our time and talent and treasure to his kingdom’s cause, we are doing God no favours, he is never in our debt, we are ever in his.

Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were an offering far too small, love so amazing, so divine , demands my life, my soul, my all.

So at the end of the day, when we have done all that we were commanded, we nonetheless say, “We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.”

But there’s a twist to this tale of the unworthy servants. It starts off like this:

7 “Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? 8 Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’?

That’s the standard culture of the time between servant and master. It’s a rhetorical question. Of course the master will not say to the servant, “come at once and recline at the table”. He will continue to make him serve at the table. That’s the duty of a servant.

But the good news of Christianity is that the king we believe in, and whom we humbly serve, is a humble, servant king.

Just 5 chapters ago, Luke recorded Jesus telling his disciples this:

“Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks.

Listen to this: “Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them.”

Is that anything more upside-down than that? A master who serves his servants. So yes, when all is said and done, all we can say is “We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty”.

But the twist in the tale is that the question at the start in v7, as far as the gospel is concerned, is not a rhetorical one.

7 “Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’?

Yes, there is one who will. Jesus will. That’s the nature of his rule, that’s the culture of the kingdom. The good news is that the king we humbly serve, is a humble servant king.

That’s the second expression of faith in Jesus – Humble service.

The third is this: grateful worship. Faith expresses itself in grateful worship.

11 On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. 12 And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance 13 and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” 14 When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; 16 and he fell on his face at Jesus' feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”

On first reading, this story has a strange conclusion. Ten lepers were cured, nine went away, one turned back to thank Jesus. Jesus subtly rebukes the nine and commends the lone Samaritan who returned. And the story concludes with Jesus saying “Rise and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”

What did he mean “your faith has made you well?” Were the other nine not cured of their leprosy? They were! Jesus says as much in v17 “Were not ten cleansed?”

If they were all cleansed, did they then all possess the faith that made them well? And if they did, then what are to learn about faith from this story? If both gratitude and ingratitude towards God appear to be legitimate expressions faith? Why single out the grateful Samaritan and commend him for his faith?

The solution to this puzzle is in rightly understanding the phrase “made well”. It does not denote a physical healing (of leprosy), but a spiritual saving of the soul.

The phrase rendered “made well” in v19 is from the Greek word “Sodezo”.

It’s used in the gospel of Luke in the follow contexts:

Luke 9:24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.

Luke 13:23 And someone said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?”

Luke 19:10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

In all of the instances that I mentioned, the phrase translated “made well” refers to spiritual salvation, rather than physical healing.

In other words, ten were healed, but only one was saved. He was saved by faith. And his faith is expressed in grateful worship to Jesus.

“Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus' feet, giving him thanks.”

Falling prostrate at the feet of Jesus is the posture of worship. He is praising God and thanking Jesus in an act of worship. But why is this regarded as an expression of faith, rather than gratitude, plain and simple?

Because while the other nine rushed to the temple to be certified as clean by the priests in the temple, so that they can once again return to the worshipping community of God, this Samaritan chose to go to Jesus over the priests, he chose to turn to Jesus rather than the temple to give praise and worship God. His faith lead him to seek true cleansing and worship In the person of Jesus Christ. He no longer needed the temple. The instruction at the end was no longer, “carry on, catch up with the other nine, go and show yourself to the priests.” No, it was to “Rise and go on your way”. Why? Why not the temple? Because his faith has already saved him. He is already clean. He has already worshipped at right location – at the feet of Jesus.

Now, this Samaritan offered up grateful worship to Jesus for what? For his cleansing from leprosy. Friends, how much greater a salvation have we received, this side of the cross, from Jesus Christ our Saviour?

He has healed us from a mortal wound that goes far deeper than the surface of our skin. He has saved us from our sins. How much more reason have we to gratefully worship our Lord Jesus Christ?

As Matt Redman says, 10,000 reasons for our hearts to find.

If we truly believe the good news of salvation, then naturally, inevitably, that faith would issue in grateful, heartfelt, praise and worship. Which we have the blessed opportunity of doing each Sunday as we gather in unity here in Henderson and sing with one voice praises to the Lord our God. Thanks be to God.

The final point of our sermon today is this: Faith is incredible.

5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 6 And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.

The assumption here is this: the reason for the disciple’s lack of obedience owes to a lack of faith. So the request is to “Increase our faith!”

The idea is that if Jesus miraculously increases their faith, then they can do the things that Jesus has commanded them to do. What they need is greater faith.

Jesus dispels that idea by saying, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, the smallest of all seeds, then you can even uproot a mulberry tree, which has very deep roots, and plant it in the sea.

Now it’s not meant to be taken literally. Jesus does not intend for any of us to transplant a mulberry tree into the sea. It’s a redundant use of faith. The point is that faith is incredible. Faith is remarkable. Faith can do the seemingly impossible.

DA Carson has an illustration of two Jewish men on the night of the first Passover in Egypt, the night of the tenth plague.

The illustration goes like this: Picture two Jewish men, Ezekiel and Asher on the night of the first Passover, having a little discussion in the land of Goshen.

Asher says to Ezekiel, “Man, are you a little nervous about what’s going to happen tonight?” Ezekiel says, “Well, God told us what to do through his servant Moses. You don’t have to be nervous. Haven’t you slaughtered the lamb and put its blood on your two doorposts and on the lintel? You all ready and packed to go? You prepared the Passover meal to eat with your family tonight? You done all that?”

“Of course I’ve done all of that, I’m not stupid. But it’s still pretty scary, I mean, the events that have happened in the past few weeks, files and river turning to blood and all that awful stuff. And now there’s the threat of the firstborn being killed? I mean, it’s alright for you, you have three sons, I’ve only got my Samuel. He’s all I’ve got. And the angel of death is passing through our tonight. Yeah, I put the blood there, but man, I don’t think I’ll be able to sleep all night, I’ll be glad when morning comes and my Samuel’s all right. Then I can relax.”

Ezekiel responds, “I’m not worried, I trust in the promises of God. I’ll sleep easy tonight.”

That night the angel of death swept through the land. Which one lost his son? Neither. The answer is neither. Because we do not obtain the promises of God on the ground of the intensity of our faith, but through our obedience in faith. You see, what accomplished the miracle of the Angel of Death passing over Asher’s household is not the amount of faith that Asher had, but his willingness to obey God’s commands, in spite of what little faith he had.

The point is this. you don’t need a whole lot of faith to forgive radically, to serve humbly or to worship gratefully. You can do all these things just fine with just a pinch of faith and a whole lot of obedience.

Do not assume the reason someone is living more obediently to the will of God is because he or she simply “has more faith”. To focus on the amount of faith is missing the point. Your faith right now is enough to move mulberry tree into the see, you just have to act on whatever faith you have rather than waiting for faith to act on you.

That is why we see sometimes see new Christians, young Christians, living so much more radically. Faith, pure and simple, small as a mustard seed, is incredible.

The challenge that Jesus poses to his disciples, and to you and I is this: So long as we have faith, we have enough faith, the real question becomes, do we have enough obedience to live out radical and incredible expressions of our faith.

Friends, we can, right now, empowered by the Holy Spirit that indwells us, we can graciously forgive, we can humbly serve, we can gratefully worship, we can do so to an incredible degree. By faith, we can move mountains, so let’s just do shall we?

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