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               "GROWING IN THE KNOWLEDGE OF JESUS CHRIST"

                           Building On Faith

INTRODUCTION

1. In the introductory lesson, we noted that growing in the knowledge of
   Jesus Christ...
   a. Involves the development of eight Christ-like graces
   b. Developed in conjunction with each other
   c. Requiring all diligence
   -- Thereby creating an octave of spiritual harmony best exemplified
      in the person of Jesus Christ

2. We observed five reasons why we ought to grow in the knowledge of
   Jesus Christ...
   a. Grace and peace are multiplied
   b. All things pertaining to spiritual life and godliness are provided
   c. Spiritual myopia and amnesia are avoided
   d. We will never stumble
   e. An abundant entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord
   -- Certainly sufficient reasons to spur development of a Christ-like
      character in ourselves!

3. In this study, we shall take a closer look at the first of these
   eight graces:  faith...
   a. The foundation of our spiritual development
   b. Upon which all other graces are to be "added"

[Developing a Christ-like character is therefore built upon faith.  But
one might ask:  "What is faith?"...]

I. THE DEFINITION OF FAITH

   A. THE GREEK WORD IS PISTIS...
      1. The definition given by Greek scholars:
         a. "a firm persuasion, a conviction based upon hearing" (Vine)
         b. "conviction of the truth of anything, belief" (Thayer)
      2. Used primarily in two ways in the NT:
         a. Subjectively (the faith we have)
            1) Such as our faith in God
               a) "the conviction that God exists and is the creator and
                  ruler of all things, the provider and bestower of
                  eternal salvation through Christ" (Thayer)
               b) Used this way in He 11:6
            2) Such as our faith in Christ
               a) "the conviction that Jesus is the Messiah, through
                  whom we obtain eternal salvation in the kingdom of
                  God" (Thayer)
               b) Used this way in Ga 2:16
         b. Objectively (the object of our faith)
            1) "the substance of Christian faith or what is believed by
               Christians" (Thayer)
            2) Used this way in Jude 3
      -- We are focusing on subjective faith (the faith we have) in this
         study

   B. AS DESCRIBED IN THE BOOK OF HEBREWS...
      1. Faith is "the substance of things hoped for" - He 11:1a
         a. The NASB reads "the assurance of things hoped for"
         b. The NIV reads "being sure of what we hope for"
         c. Faith is being confident that God will give us what is
            promised, and for which we hope - cf. Abraham's faith, 
            He 11:8
      2. Faith is "the evidence of things not seen" - He 11:1b
         a. The NASB reads "the conviction of things not seen"
         b. The NIV reads "certain of what we do not see"
         c. Faith is having trust or confidence in things unseen by the
            human eye - again cf. Abraham's faith - He 11:9-10
      -- Faith is therefore that confidence or trust in God and Christ,
         regarding things promised or things not seen

   C. FAITH IS NOT CREDULITY...
      1. Credulity in the sense of "blind faith", trusting for no good
         reason
      2. Many have this misconception of faith
         a. That faith is believing in something without evidence
         b. As one person said, "You just have to have faith", rather
            than provide reasons for such faith
      3. Yet we shall see later that faith...
         a. ...while trusting in things not seen, with a conviction
            regarding things hoped for
         b. ...is a trust and confidence based upon strong evidence!

[With this understanding of faith, one might also ask:  "Is faith really
that important?"  Yes!  Consider how faith is demanded of us...]
   
II. THE DEMAND OF FAITH

   A. IT IS THE FOUNDATION FOR A RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD...
      1. Without faith, it is impossible to please God
         a. We must believe that He is - He 11:6
         b. God has no pleasure in those lacking in faith - He 10:35-39
      2. Faith is the underlying element in our salvation and service to
         God
         a. The key that unlocks the way to salvation - Jn 1:12
         b. The motivating force behind our life of service - Ga 2:20
      -- Without faith, we can't even get started in our relationship
         with God!

   B. IT IS THE CATALYST FOR POWER FROM GOD...
      1. There is power available to those who believe - Ep 1:18-20
      2. It is power beyond our imagination - Ep 3:20-21
         a. Power that enables us to overcome - 1Jn 5:4-5
         b. Power that we should be careful about limiting - 2Ti 3:1-5
      -- Growth requires power from God, and faith is required for such
         power!

[Can we appreciate why Peter starts with "faith" in defining it what it
means to grow in the knowledge of Jesus Christ?  It is the very
foundation upon which to build a close relationship with God and Christ!
But here is another question:  "How can we have faith?"...]

III. THE DEVELOPMENT OF FAITH

   A. DEVELOPING OUR FAITH...
      1. Remember, faith is not credulity (blind faith with no evidence)
         a. Instead, faith is based upon the Word of God - Ro 10:17
         b. The Word of God provides evidence to produce faith - cf. Jn
            20:30-31
         c. Besides the testimony regarding the miracles of Jesus, other
            evidences include:
            1) Fulfilled prophecy concerning nations and the Messiah
            2) The scientific foreknowledge of the Bible
            3) The high moral standard it contains
            4) The continuity of the Bible despite it various sources
      -- While we may "walk by faith, and not by sight" (2Co 5:7), it
        is not truly a "blind faith"
      2. Since faith (i.e., trust, confidence) comes through the Word of
         God...
         a. We must be diligent in reading the Bible
         b. Only then will our faith become stronger
      -- Do we appreciate the value of the Word of God in producing the
         faith that pleases Him?

   B. MAINTAINING OUR FAITH...
      1. We must guard against the sin of unbelief - cf. He 3:12-14
         a. Many people lose their faith, especially when young
         b. Faith is maintained through constant reading or hearing of
            the Word
      2. We can also maintain faith through Paul's threefold directive 
         - 1Ti 6:9-12
         a. Flee materialism - undue concern for things of this world
            undermine our faith
         b. Pursue faith - this we can do by feeding on God's word
         c. Fight the good fight of faith - the best defense is a good
            offense; be active in propagating the faith - cf. Jude 3
      -- The nation of Israel lost it's faith in the wilderness, are we
         in danger of losing our faith during our sojourn?

[Finally, a thought or two about how faith in God manifests itself
today...]

IV. THE DISPLAY OF FAITH

   A. THROUGH OBEDIENCE TO THE GOSPEL...
      1. The gospel of Christ requires obedience
         a. Jesus is the author of eternal salvation to those who obey
            Him - He 5:9
         b. The gospel Paul preached leads to obedience - Ro 1:5; 16:
            25-26
         c. Fearful consequences come to those who do not obey it - 2 Th
            1:7-9
      2. How does one obey the gospel?  By obeying the commands of the
         gospel:
         a. The command to believe in Jesus - Mk 16:15-16
         b. The command to repent of sins - Ac 2:38; 17:30
         c. The command to confess Jesus - Mt 10:32; Ro 10:9,10
         d. The command to be baptized for the remission of sins - Ac
            2:38; 22:16
         -- Have you displayed faith by "obeying from the heart" the
            doctrine presented in the gospel of Christ? - cf. Ro 6:17

   B. THROUGH LIVING FOR JESUS...
      1. Trusting in His words
         a. Seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness - Mt
            6:33
         b. Doing what He says - Lk 6:46
         c. Observing all that He commanded - Mt 28:20
      2. Trusting in His promises
         a. That He is preparing a place for us - Jn 14:1-2
         b. That He will return one day for us - Jn 14:3
      -- Are you setting an example of one who walks by faith in Jesus,
         and not just by what they can see with their eyes, or 
         accomplish on their own strength?

CONCLUSION

1. Faith is a simple concept, but a crucial one...
   a. It is simply trusting in God and Jesus
   b. Regarding things not seen yet hoped for

2. Without faith, it is impossible to...
   a. Please God, for we must believe He exists, rewarding those who
      diligently seek Him
   b. Grow in the knowledge of Jesus Christ, for it is the basis upon
      which growth is built
       
May we allow the evidences of God's Word to produce a faith that trusts
and obeys a wonderful Savior, who in turn provides "exceedingly great
and precious promises" as we grow in our knowledge of Him!
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