Should We Take Our Faith Seriously?
51 "I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world."
52 The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, "How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?"
53 Then Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.
54 "Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.
55 "For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed.
56 "He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.
57 "As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me.
58 "This is the bread which came down from heaven -- not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever."
There is a saying, "You can take the boy off the farm, but you can’t take the farm out of the boy." That’s what we say when we see someone who really loves farming and tries to stay involved in farming even when circumstances make it impossible for him to live on a farm. We would say "farming is just in his blood."
God has given all of us different interests, and all of us get involved in different aspects of life. People get involved in music, sports, politics, and all sorts of other things. Sometimes we even say they "believe" in these things. There is no doubt that God loves this diversity of interests among His children. But there is one particular interest that He desires to see in all people—that is the interest of faith—faith in Him. In this sermon I am going to explore the meaning of faith in the hope that you all will have more of it, that you would be saved, and that because of this God would be very pleased.
I. When is Faith "Saving" Faith?
In our catechism classes we have just finished learning about the First Commandment, "You shall have no other gods before Me." This commandment forbids idolatry—that is looking to any creature, thing, or false idea about God to be saved. We shouldn’t worship or trust in the things God has made such as the sun, a river, or an animal. We shouldn’t worship false ideas or images of God such as Islam’s Allah or Buddhism’s Supreme Being. These are the gods of those who seek rewards for their good lives-- not salvation from sin. In this case the object of faith is wrong. No matter how strong a person’s faith might be, faith in something that is not God cannot save.
But there is another kind of faith that we need to talk about today. This is faith in the true God, faith in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit described in the Bible. But it might not necessarily be saving faith if it is only knowledge about God. An old sermon illustration points out that some people miss heaven by just 12 inches—the distance from their head to their heart. Jesus was aware that there were many people who were following Him, listening to Him, but not all had saving faith in Him. To keep this from happening Jesus talked about faith in a most unusual way.
II. Faith is Having Jesus in Our Hearts
In the synagogue in Capernaum Jesus said, "I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world." The day before He had performed the miracle of the Feeding of the Five Thousand. People were thinking about food, and so Jesus used the imagery of eating to teach about faith. As He continued to speak He became even more direct and pointed: "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you," and "He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him."
Now it is very tempting for us to jump ahead and assume that Jesus is talking about Holy Communion. But we know that He is not talking about Communion. We know this because there are people who participate in Holy Communion but are not saved. If they don’t believe in Jesus, it doesn’t matter how much they eat and drink the Body and Blood of Holy Communion, they actually eat it to their judgment.1 What Jesus is talking about here is faith. He is saying that being interested in Me, and listening to some of the things that I say is not the same as having saving faith. If I see food, touch it, smell it, even taste it; it won’t keep me alive. The only way I can be nourished by food is to digest it. Just as the physical digestion process causes food to be transformed into bone, muscle and skin; so the spiritual digestion of faith causes the righteousness of Christ to transform my life. The spiritual reality of Jesus literally comes into my life and changes everything. That’s complicated way of simply saying that faith is having Jesus in our hearts.
In the last book of the Bible Jesus says, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him…"2 In his letter to the Colossians, the Apostle Paul describes the great mystery of faith by simply saying that it is "Christ in you."3 In each case Jesus comes into our life through His word. The word is heard, the word is digested, the word changes our lives. Let’s talk about that change. When I am only a "Jesus taste tester," I will remain indifferent to sin. I will only be concerned about what I can get away with. I will blame others for problems. Everything I do will ultimately be for myself. When I am a "Jesus digester," I will become very sensitive to sin. There will always be a battle within me between the spirit of the sinful flesh and the Spirit of Christ. 4 I will hate sin and want to be rid of it. I will confess it to Him and believe that He forgives it. I will begin to ask, "what can I do with my life to please God?"
III. Who Is This Jesus in Our Hearts?
Throughout this little section of John Jesus keeps talking about "My flesh" and "My blood." Some translations actually capitalize the word "My." This is is very helpful. It signifies that this isn’t just anyone’s flesh and blood. This is the most important flesh and blood of all. This is God’s flesh and blood. Jesus is God’s Son. He came into this world, into the flesh for one reason—to die on the cross to take away the guilt of our sins. In John 14.23 we read these beautiful words: "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him." What an incredible miracle. The God who created this universe and who rules over all things visible and invisible is with us—in us!
Sometimes we get discouraged with the thought that sin is winning. When we look at the world, we see things getting worse and worse. Try as we might our own family and our congregation can be ravaged by the power of sin. The most discouraging thing of all is the fact of sin in my own heart. Satan would like us to think that it is a lost cause. Nothing will get better. Hope is gone. We might as well give in to the evil.
But when these discouraging thoughts plague us, we can swallow hard—that is we can think about the flesh and blood of Jesus. When Jesus’ flesh was ripped and pinned to the cross, when His blood poured out in the presence of all His enemies, did sin prevail? No, in that moment sin was undone and destroyed. God’s love in Christ prevailed. We swallow hard on that truth as we believe that the same Jesus Christ prevails in our hearts and in our lives. The righteousness of Christ is alive and well in us. Sin is forgiven by God’s grace. It’s power is taken away. We no longer need to be its hapless slave.
Dear God, give us always this food—our Savior Jesus Christ for the nourishment of eternal life. "Jesus Savior come to me, let me always be with Thee. Come and nevermore depart, Thou who reignest in My heart."5
(1) 1 Corinthians 11.29 (2) Revelation 3.20 (3) Colossians 1.27 (4) Galatians 5.17 ( 5) "Jesus, Savior, Come to Me" Johann Scheffler (1657) translated by Matthias Loy (1861) The Lutheran Hymnal 356.
Pastor Michael P. Walther
Michael P. Walther, Copyright, 2003
|HOME||BACK TO SERMON INDEX PAGE|