Living Your Faith Out Loud

Acts 4:13-20 

When my kids were little and we would be heading out to drive somewhere they would run ahead and get in the car and pretend – they would grab the steering wheel like they were driving, turn the knobs, flip the switches and make all the sounds.  Some of us have a faith like that – We play with all the parts, but the engine’s not running.  And for some of us, the tragedy is that we’re perfectly happy to flash the lights and honk the horn and never take the car out of the driveway... or our faith out of the sanctuary.

Jesus never intended for our faith to be a decorative knick-knack to sit around on a coffee table and be admired and dusted off once a week.  He intended it be taken with us every day, everywhere.  He intended it to affect our relationships and our recreation, our business dealings and our choice of careers, what we say to our neighbors and where we go on Saturday nights.  There is nothing, not a single moment of our lives that our faith should not touch and have an effect on.

James, the brother of Jesus had something to say about faith affecting life.  Listen to his words in James 2:14-20.  I love how Peterson’s The Message phrases this conversation:  Dear friends, do you think you’ll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, “Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!” and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup—where does that get you? Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?  I can already hear one of you agreeing by saying, “Sounds good. You take care of the faith department, I’ll handle the works department.” Not so fast. You can no more show me your works apart from your faith than I can show you my faith apart from my works. Faith and works, works and faith, fit together hand in glove.  Do I hear you professing to believe in the one and only God, but then observe you complacently sitting back as if you had done something wonderful? That’s just great. Demons do that, but what good does it do them? Use your heads! Do you suppose for a minute that you can cut faith and works in two and not end up with a corpse on your hands?

I want us to hear three powerful points that James makes about faith and life:

1.  Faith in God and serving people go hand in glove.  (In vs 25, Peterson calls it “the seamless unity of believing and doing.”)

2.  An intellectual faith (knowing what is right without doing what is right) puts you on the same team as the demons.

3.  Having a close relationship with God is the end result of practicing what you preach (doing what you say you believe). And that’s what we’ve been talking about for the last three weeks: faith-full living.

One of the things that we learn about faith as we grow in it is that it isn’t all about us. I am trying to walk by faith, but it’s not just my walk – I’m walking with others.

I’m not sure where our fierce modern-day individualism originated – maybe on the western frontier in the 1800’s, maybe in the narcissistic me-generation of the 1980’s where Burger King taught us we can have it our way. Regardless of its roots, it has done more to damage the church and our individual faith than anything since Satan deceived Eve in the Garden.

You and I are walking together in faith. We encourage each other and at times challenge each other. We strengthen each other and hold each other up when the journey becomes difficult. Nobody can walk in faith alone. We need each other.  The Hebrews writer said,

See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first. (Heb. 3:12-14)

I have a vested interest in your living by faith, because we need each other in this journey of faith. I need you to get my back and you need me to get your back. One of my favorite scenes in a movie is in Forrest Gump, where he and his buddy Bubba are out in in the jungle in Vietnam and it’s pouring rain.

Bubba: Hey, Forrest.
Forrest: Hey, Bubba.
Bubba: I'm gonna lean up against you, you just lean right back against me. This way we don't have to sleep with our heads in the mud. You know why we're a good partnership, Forrest? 'Cause we be watching out for one another, like brothers and stuff.

Isn’t that how God intended the church to be? You lean against me and I’ll lean back against you, so we don’t have our heads in the mud. We be watching out for one another, like brothers.

Faith may be personal, but it is not private. You need to live your faith out loud. I say that because what you believe and how you live that out affects, not just the other Christians here in this building, but everyone around you. Whether you do it intentionally or unintentionally, your faith is always present.

We sing a song: “Out of the ivory palaces…”  Jesus didn’t stay safely protected in heaven, but came to earth – “to a world of woe” – and touched the lives of people and got his hands dirty in the process. 

When we became followers of Jesus, God didn’t take us out of the world.  He sent us back into the world – not to hide our faith, but to be living object lessons of what he can do in the life of someone who is totally surrendered to Him.  Ask yourself some tough questions this morning:

How would your neighbors know that you are a Christian, other than seeing you drive off to church dressed up on Sunday morning?  What have you ever said, what have you done that would demonstrate God’s love for them through you?

There is a passage of scripture in Acts 4 in which Peter and John are on trial before the Sanhedrin because they healed a man in the name of Jesus. These religious leaders observe and listen to these two disciples, and Luke writes this: When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13)

What about you would cause others to note that you have been with Jesus?

On your job, if an impartial observer would interview your employer or employees, your co-workers or customers, would they be surprised to learn that you are a Christian?  Or you’re a student at school – what would your fellow students say about your Christianity?  Would they say that you know a lot of Bible and win a lot of arguments?  Or would they say you conduct yourself with such integrity and treat others with such kindness and compassion that your Christianity is above reproach?

Let’s go home to your family – to your wife or husband, your children, your parents, your close friends.  You might pull the wool over everyone else’s eyes, but they see you day in and day out.  Are you the same in private as you are in public?  Do you reserve your best for strangers and mistreat those who are closest to you?  What would they say about your faith and life – do they go hand in glove?  Do your parents see your faith growing and alive?  Do your kids see your faith affecting how you live?

Let me get really plain for a minute – If you go to your job and wear a cross around your neck and keep a Bible on your desk, but treat people with disrespect and cut ethical corners because that’s just business, you are irreparably hurting the name of Christ.

And if you’re in the youth group and you come to church every Sunday morning, and you’re at every youth group activity, but on Saturday nights you’re at the parties drinking, and you and your boy/girl friend are way past hand holding in the intimacy department and you think that’s just fine – God doesn’t think it’s fine.

Are you staying up late at night surfing the internet and spending time looking at things you shouldn’t and hoping nobody finds out?  Are you flirting with a co-worker and telling yourself nobody is getting hurt?  When you’re traveling on business away from home, do you order the x-rated movies on pay-per-view because no one will ever know?

Here’s the point – your faith needs to walk hand in hand with your life.  Everything you do is God’s concern.  If Jesus is going to be the lord of your life, he gets to open all the doors, look in every closet, peek under the bed, look through your computer files, sit with you while you watch movies, go on your dates, go with you to the office.

A closer walk with God doesn’t just mean you spend a little more time in Bible reading and prayer, it means you actually let God walk with you, wherever you go, whatever you do.

You’ve seen the scenario in countless movies – an infectious disease gets loose and the epidemic begins – as person touches person touches person, the disease spreads quickly, contagiously.  The progress of the disease escalates rapidly with each touch because it isn’t just one person they infect, but several who infect several.  The very thought of a plague that infects and kills with such rapid and devastating force is terrifying.

In the opening chapters of the book of Acts, Christianity seemed to travel with the same kind of virulence as a contagious epidemic.  It was in fact, spreading, not only because of the gospel being preached, but because people saw the gospel being lived.

Acts 2:41 - Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

4:4 - But many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to about five thousand.

4:32 - All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had.

5:12-14 - The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade. No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number.

6:7 - So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.

Back to our passage in Acts 4 where Peter and John are on trial before the Sanhedrin. Here we see some of the inside working of the power of this message that cannot be held in check by the authorities: “What are we going to do with these men?” they asked. “Everybody living in Jerusalem knows they have done an outstanding miracle, and we cannot deny it. But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn these men to speak no longer to anyone in this name.” Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”  (Acts 4:16-20)

It is said that faith is more easily caught than taught. 

We can teach and teach, and our words never have an impact.  It’s not until people see the gospel lived powerfully and intentionally that lives are affected. There is an old says, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” What we say must be preceded by what we do if it is to have any impact. There are times when what we teach seems to get lost in that enormous gulf between the head and the heart.  But when it bridges that gap – when our words connect with our lives – WOW!! – what power!

We see it there in John 4, when Jesus connects with that woman at the well in Samaria. She goes running back into town and exclaims, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” They came out of the town and made their way toward him….  Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers. They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”  (John 4:28-30, 39-42)

I especially love the story of the Gerasene demoniac – This man had been possessed by demons who had destroyed his life and made him an outcast from his family and friends and he lived out in the graveyard among the tombs. Jesus comes and casts out the demons and gives him his life back, and of course the man wants to go with him and begs him to let him come, but Jesus tells him: “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him. (Luke 8:39)

It is a message that spreads like wildfire in dry grass – it cannot be contained in one life – it must be shared. 

How dangerous are you to the people around you?  If your faith were a deadly, infectious disease would they be in danger of catching it from you?  Or have you just been inoculated with a benign strain that keeps you from getting the real thing, and no one else has to worry about you because you never pose a danger to anyone?

Let me tell you what God intends:  He has infected you with a message that can’t be stopped – you are a carrier – every person you touch is infected because you are so contagious.  Nobody is safe around you because your case is so infectious that you could cause an epidemic from all the people who are touched by your life and your faith.

When you walk by faith, your faith has the potential to change the life of every person you meet. Don’t ever forget that or treat it lightly.