Living by faith – Practical Guide to Holiness #3

A lot of people talk about having faith – but does it make any difference to their lives? In this session we look at what the Bible says about faith. It’s not enough simply to say that we have faith – it has to make a difference as well. But what kind of difference? And how?

Find out more about this course by watching the Introduction.

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Sharing the faith of Abraham – Romans 4:1-25 Sermon

Over the last few weeks we’ve come across the two different ways – “faith” vs “works”, as Paul puts it. But what does it mean to live by faith? In this passage, Paul turns to the example of Abraham to see how he lived by faith, and how he is the example for us to follow. What does that mean?

** APOLOGIES FOR THE FOCUS ISSUE: As you will see, I am out of focus all the way through. I’m very sorry about this – totally my fault – I will try to get it right next week! **

Sermons are also available on the podcast.

Church with UTB: This is part of Church with UTB. Please do have a look at that page for more information.

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Doubting Thomas: choosing faith over doubt

I’m sure you are familiar with the phrase “seeing is believing”. We often say that we need to see something with our own eyes before we can believe it.

That’s the subject of our Bible reading for the first week after Easter. It’s from John 20, the famous story of doubting Thomas. On the eve of that first Easter Day, Jesus appeared to his disciples while they were together – but Thomas was not present. When the other disciples told him what had happened, he said: “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

Thomas refused to believe the testimony of his friends, those he knew to be trustworthy and reliable. Instead, he chose to say that he would not believe unless he had seen Jesus with his own eyes.

Perhaps this is an attitude that we can sympathise with: as human beings we can find it hard to believe without the evidence of our own eyes. “Seeing is believing”, we say, and if we don’t see we don’t believe. Even if not believing means we have to distrust people we know well. Perhaps there is something of the “doubting Thomas” in each one of us.

So, how did things work out for our friend Thomas? Let’s look at what happens next in the story:

26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Jesus did not commend Thomas for his doubts. Thomas should have believed the other disciples, his closest friends. He should have listened to what Jesus had taught them before about how he was to be killed and then raised on the third day. Instead, Thomas made the conscious choice not to believe. I think this reflects a battle that we all face day by day.

We all face the choice every day to respond to our circumstances with faith or with doubt. We can choose which eyes to see with – eyes of faith, or eyes of doubt. We can choose to see the risen Lord Jesus at work in our lives and trust in his promises, or we can choose to deny him.

Jesus finishes by saying, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” It is a blessing to trust in the Lord, even though we do not see him. By faith we trust that our sins are forgiven. By faith we trust that he is able to care for us and provide for us. By faith we trust that he is able to direct our lives in the way that is best. By faith we believe that he is willing and able to answer prayer.

We cannot see the Lord Jesus with our eyes, yet with eyes of faith we believe and trust that he is there. And as we trust in him day by day, as we choose to see with eyes of faith, we come to experience that he is faithful, and that he is able to keep his promises to us.

I will leave the last word to the apostle Paul, from 2 Corinthians 4:

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

This was originally written as a ‘Thought for the Week’ for a local publication.

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We can’t derail God’s promises – Genesis 12:10-20 Sermon

As we saw in the last episode, Abraham is rightly seen as a pillar of faith and an example for us. And yet, even Abraham had moments of weakness, such as this passage today. Yet somehow, his weakness didn’t derail God’s promises…

Enjoyed this sermon? See more on the sermons page.

If you’d prefer the audio-only podcast, see here.

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Mark 5:21-43 – Learn to read the Bible #19

I’ve just published the next part of the Learn to read the Bible series on Mark’s Gospel. This week we are looking at Mark 5:21-43, where Jesus heals a sick woman and raises a dead girl.

For those who are coming to this new, the idea behind this series is not for me to simply explain everything to you, but rather to give you things to think about yourself. This is about training you to read the Bible for yourself, rather than just giving you all the answers!

See this page if you’d like a few pointers for how to use these videos. Don’t forget to pray!

You can read the passage online here (although I’d suggest it’s better in a physical Bible). You may also want to have a pen and paper handy to jot down notes and things you want to look into more.

Key points from Mark 5:21-43

  • This passage is unusual because it has two healings. Are the two events related? I think Mark intends for us to see that they are – e.g. the girl is 12 years old, and the woman has been suffering for 12 years.
  • One of the things we need to look out for when we read the Bible is repetition – often things which are repeated are significant.
  • Something repeated in this passage is touching – significant given all the social distancing we’ve been having to do over the last 12 months! Might be worth spending some time thinking about how touch can be used to bring help and healing.
  • The woman who had been subject to bleeding for 12 years would have been “unclean” – you might like to look up some background about what made someone clean or unclean. She would have been isolated from the community and from God.
  • Lots of people were pressing around Jesus – it wasn’t the physical touch which healed the woman, but her faith. Maybe we could think about our own faith – what would we have done in that situation? Would we have had that kind of faith in Jesus?
  • The second thing which comes up again is faith – Jesus says “don’t be afraid, just believe”. It speaks to how confident Jesus was in God and his power!
  • Jesus takes the child’s hands. Touching a dead body is something else that would make you unclean – but cleanness flows from Jesus to the one he touches. Jesus is not made unclean, instead the girl is made clean.
  • Think about our faith and trust in Jesus: do we have the kind of faith that we need to come to Jesus and ask? Can we bring to him the things that we can’t do ourselves?

Explore Further: You might be interested in this post I wrote a few years ago on this passage.

Take a few moments to re-read the passage, think, and pray.

Looking for more?

You can see the rest of the videos in this series on the this page. If you’d like a more focussed series teaching the Christian faith, check out the teaching programme.

You might also want to see the previous episode in the series on Mark 5:1-20.

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Faith Alone (Heidelberg 23)

In this session we are looking at one of the most fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith – that we are right with God (or “justified”) by faith alone. Not through the good works that we do or by earning in any way.

This is really taking the things we’ve looked at over the past few weeks (the Apostle’s Creed) and asking, “Why is it important to believe all of this? And how do we benefit from it?”

There are three questions in this Lord’s Day:

  • Q59 “But what does it help you now that you believe all this?”
  • Q60 “How are you righteous before God?”
  • Q61 “Why do you say that you are righteous only by faith?”

“Faith alone” is one of the most important topics that Christians can think about – it makes a huge difference to the Christian life. It’s hard to overstate how important it is.

Want more?

If you enjoy this, you can do the whole series right here on the website, or on the app (see links on the right hand side of the page). Alternatively, I am uploading them regularly to YouTube and Facebook. All sessions on YouTube are available on this playlist.

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Can we please God without faith? | Hebrews 11:1-6 | Justification #5

Many people have the view that, on the day of judgement, God will tot up our good deeds and – if we’ve done enough – will let us into heaven. Many people think it doesn’t matter whether you have faith, just that you’ve done enough good deeds. But what does the Bible say?

The podcast episode is available here.

To support Understand the Bible, see the support page.

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