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Monday, January 31, 2011

What is Christian Faith?


Faith is trusting God. It is living in a relationship with God that is motivated and sustained by one’s conviction that God does keep his word. Faith is believing that God keeps his promises and then accepting his grace from Jesus, his Son. Faith is living in this relationship of trust moment by moment in accord with God’s will. Both God’s grace and faith are his gifts to those who believe.

An example of faith

There is a common and familiar story about a group of spectators who watched a high-wire aerialist push a wheelbarrow full of bricks back and forth on a cable above Niagara Falls. When the aerialist asked if anyone in the crowd believed that he could do this with someone in the wheelbarrow, a man said, “yes, I believe that you could do that.” The aerialist then invited the man to, “Get in.” Faith is accepting the invitation to get into the wheelbarrow. Please note and remember that there is a special quality about the aerialist and his invitation that enables the invited individual to get into the wheelbarrow.

Faith is trusting in the goodness of God


After God created the universe with all of its various coordinated systems and the earth with living creatures (including Adam and Eve) with all of the food and resources that they all would need, he “saw all that he had made, and it was very good” (Genesis 1:31).
He gave man, these human beings that he had created (Adam and Eve), dominion over all of the living creatures that he had made and told them to “take care” of his garden (Genesis 2:15).
He also gave Adam and Eve the freedom to eat from and to enjoy the trees of the garden that he placed there; but there was one tree whose fruit was forbidden to them, the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:17). If they ate of it, they would “surely die” (Genesis 2:17).
So God apparently had given Adam and Eve everything that they needed only requiring from them that they trust him with the exclusive authority and power to determine in their existence what would be good and what would be evil. And so Adam and Eve resided in God’s garden in a personal relationship with God, the creator of everything, and it was good!

Sin breaks the relationship of faithful trust

When Eve and Adam desired this forbidden fruit and decided to eat of it, with the Devil’s lying and seductive encouragement, their relationship of faith and trusting submission with God was broken. They didn’t die immediately, but they were expelled from God’s garden and forced to endure pain and hard work to produce their children and their provisions.
Because of this rebellious act of distrust, sin became the inheritance of the entire human race and the relationship of faith that God desired and enjoyed with his human creatures was replaced by separation, struggle, pain, and death. The 3rd chapter of Genesis in the Old Testament contains this report of man’s fall, his rebellion against God’s good will and providential care.

But God in his love didn’t leave humanity alone

The Bible is the record of God’s ongoing efforts to restore this relationship that he intended with his human creatures. It relates over and over again his calls, his invitations, to human beings to trust him, to have faith in his word, and to accept his good gift of grace and his good will.
The record includes the stories of Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the nation of Israel, Moses, Samuel, David, Isaiah, Daniel, John the Baptist, Mary and Joseph, Jesus, and a group of disciples that included Peter, James, John, Matthew, Mark, Paul, Barnabas, Luke, Timothy and others (see Hebrews chapter 11 for some details regarding this record).
Throughout this record God demonstrates time and time again his loving desire to bless and to care for those who will trust him, who will live in a relationship of faithful submission to his good will and care.

Faith in Jesus brings one back into a good relationship with God

The summary of the gospel, God’s good news is contained in Jesus’ words of instruction and appeal to Nicodemus: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
This relationship is restored when a person believes that God offers him/her, even though he/she is a rebellious sinner, the gift of a blessed relationship with him if he/she will have faith in his word and trust him by acknowledging that his Son, Jesus, is Lord, God in human flesh, and in repentance from his/her sinful rebellion accept Jesus’ atoning sacrifice when he was crucified on a cross.
As Jesus began his ministry, he said, “Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15). When Peter concluded his powerful sermon on the day of Pentecost with a proclamation of the Lordship of Jesus, in response to their question, “what shall we do?”, he replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:36–38). Paul covers this topic of the connection between faith and repentance, belief and obedience, sin and righteousness in Romans chapters 4–8.
God is saying to his sinful human creatures, if you want to live in a good relationship with me, have faith in me, trust me that I can and will bring you back into a joyous and providential relationship with me as you believe upon my Son, Jesus, and accept his sacrifice for your sins.
Like the aerialist on the cable above the chaos of Niagara Falls, God offers his challenging invitation for an amazing personal experience of his loving and good; care, by saying in effect, “If you really believe me and trust me or have faith in me, get into my wheelbarrow, and let me transport you above the chaos, and I’ll even give you the faith”. But there is a challenging rule that comes into play here. It is this: if you do not trust me enough to accept my invitation, then you will not be able to experence the benefits that you claim to believe that I am offering you. Belief has to be expressed in active faithful obedience or it will not bring you the experience.

The goodness of such faith

Accepting God’s invitation in faith is extremely good. Not only will it deliver you from being separated from God by your sin and death, but it will enable you to live as a forgiven sinner who has been cleansed by the righteousness of Jesus, God’s Son, and who is able to live above the sinful chaos of this world protected from its harmful effects, ultimately empowered to resist the Devil’s lying and seductive words for eternity (see Romans 8:28–39).
Sharing such faith with others in daily demonstrations of trusting God, testifying to the goodness of his will and the dependability of his promises, can have extensive and everlasting blessings to you and to those with whom you share your faith. The ride of “faith” in God’s “wheelbarrow” should not be a passive experience in which one just enjoys God’s thrilling blessings. Jesus has work that he wants to accomplish through you as he transports you above and through the “chaos” that you encounter in life. There are hungry men, women, and children that need to be fed and clothed. There are the sick and broken that need to be healed and visited. There are those who are “lost”, perhaps members of your family and friends, engulfed by the chaos around them, that need to hear and to see your “witness” regarding what God and Jesus can do when one has “faith” in God's goodness and his victorious power. There are your “enemies” that need to be forgiven. God and Jesus need to be glorified by what others see happening in your life as Jesus transports you through the chaos of this “battlefield” in which we all live. And they will be glorified as you resist the temptation to be constantly “turning around” trying to tell “the aerialist” (the Lord) how to do what only he can do, or the more serious action of taking over the “handles” yourself.
This is what the Christian faith is all about. This is the fundamental Christian ministry, sharing the good news of Jesus’ redemption of sinful humanity. This is why Christianity is not a religion of rules and rituals but rather a life of personal faith in God and a daily walk of surrender and trust in union with him and Jesus.

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