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Rescued From Misplaced Faith Part 1

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer
The Truth Network Radio
April 13, 2021 1:00 am

Rescued From Misplaced Faith Part 1

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer

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April 13, 2021 1:00 am

Faith can destroy you if it is not based on the truth. Faith in the wrong place is worse than no faith at all, because it creates false confidence in empty promises. And when it comes to salvation, the last thing we need is false confidence. Is your faith a true faith, based on the true Jesus, and founded on the true Word of God?

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Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.

You can believe that an idol is God, but that doesn't change the fact that the idol is made of stone. Faith in the wrong place is worse than no faith at all, because it creates false confidence. And when it comes to salvation, the last thing we need is false confidence.

Stay with us. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, many people cling to things that will not help them on the day of judgment. You know, Dave, just the other day I was meditating on the final judgment that is mentioned in Revelation chapter 20, where people will stand before the throne, the great white throne judgment. And I could visualize in my mind people from every country, every religion, every race, all standing there, the rich and the poor, the famous and the unknown. What do they have in common?

They have in common the fact that none of them has the kind of righteousness that God will accept, because the only righteousness that God accepts is that which is given to us through Jesus Christ our Lord. That's why I love to preach the gospel, and I want to remind you that these messages can be yours. For a gift of any amount, you can go to

That's R-T-W-Offer, O-F-F-E-R, R-T-W-Offer, all one word,.com. And when you're there, for a gift of any amount, these messages, as I've already mentioned, can be yours. You can go over them again and again.

It comes with a personal study guide. We hope that you'll take advantage of that because there is no issue as important as the gospel. You can be wrong about politics, you can be wrong about our future, but don't be wrong about what it means to trust Christ alone for salvation. And now let's open our Bibles again and go to the book of Romans where we will understand much better the clarity of the good news. Faith can destroy you.

Faith can destroy you. Some of you are too young to remember the Tylenol tampering episode that took place right here in our area back in 1982. An evil man, a criminal, went into our drug stores and took some Tylenol capsules and filled them with cyanide and then put them back on their shelf. People bought those bottles, or I should say jars of Tylenol, the capsules, and as a result, seven people died. Now one thing about them is that they had great faith.

I mean, after all, the labels said Tylenol. So they had faith that this was going to help them. They had no idea that it was going to kill them. There are two lessons that I think this teaches us about faith. The first lesson is simply this, that faith in itself has no power. Faith can't save anybody from time to time.

You hear, well, you know, he's a person of faith and it doesn't matter what he believes, but he believes. Oh, I want to know exactly what you believe, because faith itself, all the faith in the world cannot take cyanide and turn it back into Tylenol. But there's a second lesson and it is really even more frightening in some regards, and that is that sometimes a true faith, a true faith looks very much like a false one.

I don't know exactly what cyanide looks like, but I suppose it looks something like Tylenol. You look at the two and it's very difficult to tell the difference. And that's the way faith in Jesus Christ is. There are those, you know, who have a faith that saves and then there are others who don't, but outwardly they appear to be very much the same. In something that ought to give us some chills, Jesus said this back in Matthew chapter 7. You need not turn to it. I'll simply read it to you. He says, on that day many will say to me, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and cast out demons in your name and do many mighty deeds in your name? And then I will declare to them, I never knew you. Depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.

I want to say, wow, that's unbelievable. It's not that these people didn't have faith. They were not some lackadaisical people. I mean, they were in Christian ministry.

They were on television, perhaps casting out demons. And Jesus will say, I never knew you. And yet they were doing it in Jesus' name. Scary. Imagine the door to heaven closed in their faces. And they thought for sure that those pearly gates would swing open to welcome them. False faith that looks like the real thing.

What I'd like to do today is to give you some characteristics of the real thing. And I do that for a couple of reasons. First of all, because it's very important that you and I examine ourselves to see whether or not we are in the faith.

And then for another reason also, so we begin to understand the gospel better and have an answer for some people who may question why Christianity is so special. How relevant is this? I'll tell you how relevant it is in my life.

It's as relevant as Friday afternoon. I caught a cab to come home from somewhere. And on the way, I just casually asked the man to tell me about where he was in his spiritual journey. And we had a wonderful conversation. But now it's time for my suitcase to be taken out of the trunk. And it is there. And he says to me, well, you know what?

I figure that all the religions essentially say the same thing, namely be good. Now I've got 30 seconds. No time for a sermon and to say, well, let me give you a sermon as to why Christianity is special. No, no, no.

We're talking 30 seconds. You say, what did you say to him? I'm not going to tell you right now.

But I will in a few moments. The passage of scripture I want you to turn to is the fourth chapter of Romans. Romans chapter 4. And remember Paul's point in the first three chapters. And I preached two messages just essentially on verse 20 of chapter 3, where it says in Romans 3, 20, for by the works of the law, no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes the knowledge of sin. Could it be any clearer that nobody is saved because he's righteous, nobody is saved because he's moral, nobody is saved because he lives a good life?

Because by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified in his sight. Now Paul is speaking here as he writes this letter to the Roman Christians to a diverse group. There are those who are Gentiles, but then there are also Jewish people. And they have a tendency to say to themselves, we're special because we're called of God, which is true. They were called of God.

But they began to depend upon their calling. They began to think to themselves, we have circumcision. And as they said to Jesus, we have Abraham for our father. And Jesus admonished them. You may say that you have Abraham to your father, but God is able of these stones to raise up children onto Abraham, God said.

What's going on now in the text? What Paul is going to do is to go back to Abraham and show whether or not Abraham was also justified by works or whether he was indeed also justified by faith. And that's why the fourth chapter opens. Because Paul is knowing that if he convinces the reader that Abraham, the great father of the nation, was declared righteous by God by faith, then who are we to argue with salvation by faith alone, through grace alone. So Paul begins, and this is what he says here in the book of Romans, chapter 4, verse 1. What shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather, according to the flesh? For if Abraham were justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.

For what does the scripture say? Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness. Now, I told you I was going to give you the characteristics of some true faith. So first of all, true faith believes specific promises.

It believes specific promises. Now, this passage is really quoted from the 15th chapter of Genesis. In Genesis chapter 15, God takes Abraham outside and says, look at the stars. Can you count them?

No. So shall your seed be. In fact, you personally will have a son, and from his seed there is going to be a multitude. Are you kidding me? Abraham was 99 years old and Sarah was 90.

As we'll see in a moment, way beyond obviously childbearing age. Abraham, the Bible says in the fourth chapter here, he looked at his body and he saw it as good as dead, sexually dead, and the barrenness of Sarah's womb who never had a child. Are you kidding? But Abraham believed God, and God says, I'm going to count it to you for righteousness. You're going to be saved not because you're moral, though it's good to be moral.

You're going to be saved not because you're special, but you are special. But that's not it. You believed my specific promise. Now, that's not a promise that I believe. God has never said to me that my seed is going to be as great as the stars in the sky, innumerable. That's for sure. Sometimes as children, we used to sing every promise in the book is mine.

That's not true. There were some given to Abraham and others that don't apply to us. But what you and I need to do is to believe our promises, promises for us when it comes to salvation. And the New Testament is filled with those kinds of promises. He who believes on me said Jesus has everlasting life and he who believes not the sun shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him. Now there's a promise you can take all the way to the bank.

Yesterday, I was reading the 22nd chapter of Revelation, the last chapter in the Bible. And the Spirit and the Bride say come and let him who is a thirst come and whoever wills, let him come and take of the water of life freely. Now there's something that you can depend upon, namely the free offer of the gospel to whoever is willing to believe. You have to know the promise. You have to know the gospel in order to believe it.

Step number one, you need a specific promise. Step number two, it's very important is that faith, saving faith, understands both law and grace, or we could say it understands the matter of sin and grace. And this is where many people get tripped up, but let's look at the text. Paul again says, and I'm quoting here verse two, for if Abraham were justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. In other words, you can boast and I've met people and you have two who continually boast. They boast about I'm better than so and so and I'm as good as those hypocrites in the church and on and on they boast. And they may have a right to boast, but they can't boast before God because God doesn't accept their righteousness.

That's the problem. And so the person who believes in Jesus needs to understand that it's not a matter of me contributing to my salvation, it's a matter of receiving what God has done for me. It's something like a farmer that I read about who was collecting a lot of money and keeping it at home, keeping it in his sock as the saying goes, not knowing that in his country that money had been totally canceled and there was new money printed. And yet he kept on with the same money and then he brought it to purchase some oxen and lo and behold, it was worthless.

He wrote a letter to one of the leaders in the country explained his dilemma and the leader says your money is worthless, it cannot be accepted, but I will give you the money to purchase those oxen because I think you're an honest man. That's what God says. You know all those good things that you hear about people doing? It's wonderful they do them, but when it gets to heaven, it's all canceled. God has to do it.

And this, by the way, leads me to that taxi driver. What I said to him in the 30 seconds that I had is this, take all the religions of the world and you will find that every one of them is based on works righteousness, works righteousness. You do this, you follow this, you follow that, but there can never be any assurance that you have done enough. Christianity says that Jesus did it all for us, so it's not what I'm doing for God, it's what God did for me in Jesus. That's the gospel.

Every religion of the world overestimates human goodness and underestimates divine holiness, and we must understand that. Now in the rest of this section, Paul goes on and this is his argument and I'm going to summarize five or six verses here very quickly for you. Here's the fundamental issue that people in his day asked the Jewish community. Well, we're circumcised. Circumcision is a sign of the covenant and therefore this is proof that we belong to God because we have circumcision and the Gentiles don't. Here's Paul's argument for the next five or six verses here in Romans chapter four. What Paul says is this, that Abraham was justified by faith and then it was 14 years later that God gave him circumcision. So the whole point is this, that he really is the father of us all as the text says when it comes to faith, and the reason is because he was justified before God, justified before God, long before he was circumcised. So if circumcision comes as a result, circumcision comes as a result or brings about salvation, that just doesn't wash. He says circumcision is a sign of faith, but it is not an indication of faith. It's not the way salvation comes. So Paul here is arguing for a message that you and I need to hear, that rituals never save. And yet I meet people who say, well, I was baptized a Christian.

I have a certificate that says I was baptized a Christian. I meet people who say that I participated in the sacraments or in one way or another I did this ritual, I did this prayer, and Paul is saying none of that is the means of salvation. These may be expressions of salvation. In a little bit we're all going to be able to participate in what we call the Lord's Supper. As we participate, we are saying do this as Jesus said, in remembrance of me.

It does not save, but it is an act of worship because we have been saved through faith. You know, my friend, this is Pastor Luther. I think that one of our big mistakes is to think that God is something like us, except bigger. And so we say to ourselves, well, surely he'll accept my good works. Surely he will accept this ritual. After all it is done in his name. And we forget ultimately that the only person that God really accepts is Jesus. And as a result of that, when we trust Jesus, we are accepted in him.

Share that with your friends. Let them know about the gospel of Jesus Christ. If you know anything about the ministry of Running to Win, you know that we are committed to get the gospel to as many people as possible.

And I'm so glad to be able to say that Running to Win is now heard in more than 20 different countries. And let me tell you, it is because of your faithfulness that we are able to do that. I'm speaking to some of you who are blessed by this ministry, but you've never thought of contributing or you've never thought of becoming what we call an endurance partner. Endurance partners are people who stand with us regularly with their prayers and their gifts. They become, in effect, yes, partners. They stand with us and together we are making a difference.

Now here's what you do. You can go to and then click on the endurance partner button and there you'll find all the information that you need. or if you prefer, you can call us at 1-888-218-9337. I'm going to be giving you that contact information again because we believe that your participation in our ministry is so vitally important. When you give to the ministry of Running to Win, you are investing in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Faith in him alone, because of him alone, to the glory of God alone. Here's what you do. Go to, click on the endurance partner button and that's where you get all the info you need. or if you prefer, call us at 1-888-218-9337.

That's 1-888-218-9337. It's time now for another chance for you to ask Pastor Lutzer a question about the Bible or the Christian life. For most of us, there's a gap between what we believe and what we practice.

This troubles Teresa, who wrote to ask this. In 1 John chapter 3, we read, No one who abides in him keeps on sinning. No one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. Why do so many Christians say we sin every day when these verses refute this? Teresa, thank you so much for connecting with us and if there's anything that can be said about the Bible is that it does have some confusing statements, doesn't it?

I say confusing not because they are unclear necessarily, but sometimes it's difficult to reconcile them with other passages and yet we know that all of it comes from God. The verses that you mentioned in 1 John are often interpreted this way, if we continue to sin that means that we have never been redeemed. You still however have this problem, it goes on to say that if we abide in him we sin not and obviously you and I do sin.

Now this necessitates a larger discussion but I want you to read those same verses with this in mind. I think that John is referring to the new nature that we have within us because he says whoever is born of God doesn't sin. What he means is that if you look at us through a narrow lens as just those who have been born of God, of course that new nature does not sin because his seed remains in him he says elsewhere. And so I look at it as more or less John is talking about our new natures and of course if we abide in Christ for John because Christ is sinless his point is that therefore we do not sin. So John sees things in black and white, either you are righteous or you are unrighteous. Now maybe what I'm saying is confusing to you except to say that I think it relates more to the natures within us but I need to add a comment.

I don't think it is possible for us to live sinlessly, always simply living out the new nature. You know my sister everything that we do is tainted. We help someone, we do a good deed and hidden in our hearts may be a motive for self aggrandizement.

We want people to know what we've done. So the good news is this, I believe that God takes our works even those that may be tainted because of motive etc. He makes them acceptable to himself through Jesus Christ our Lord. So in that sense we are seen by God as continuing to live out the new nature even though you and I have to admit we still continue to sin. Luther put it this way, we are simultaneously saint and sinner. Saints before God living in the perfection of Jesus still struggling with sin.

Well I hope that this has helped you perhaps it will stimulate you to even do more study on these verses and others so that we might properly grasp the teaching of God's word. Thank you Teresa and thank you Dr. Lutzer. If you'd like to hear your question answered you can just go to our website at and click on Ask Pastor Lutzer or call us at 1-888-218-9337. That's 1-888-218-9337. You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, Illinois 60614. Many people go through rituals they believe makes them Christians. Next time, why believing in rites and rituals is to have misplaced faith. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-12-02 16:47:02 / 2023-12-02 16:55:35 / 9

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