Identifying Faith

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If there is a single theological concept, a single Christian principle that the majority of Christians think they understand, it would be faith. Ask any Christian, “Do you know what faith is?” Rarely will you find a Christian who says, “No.” We might not know the answers to many questions about faith, but we are confident that we understand faith.

Consider this conversation. An acquaintance knows that you are a Christian, so he approaches you with a religious question.

I need some religious help. I am trying to understand a basic Christian concept, and I am confused. Will you help me? Can you guide me get past this confusion?”

Well, that depends on your question. There are some things that I can explain, but there are some things that I can’t explain. With the things I can’t explain, either I know too little, or I don’t understand, or I don’t know how to explain what I know. What do you need help with?”

“I don’t understand faith. The concept of faith confuses me. I need someone to help me understand the concept.”

“Oh…faith…well, I think I can help you. I understand faith. How can I help you? What confuses you?”

“I hear Christians talk about ‘having faith.’ What do you have when you have faith? How do you know that you have it?”

“When you have faith, you believe. And you know that you believe because you obey God.”

“Where do you find this faith? Can you explain to me why a person has it?”

“You acquire faith by reading the Bible. You have it because you study.”

“That is one of the things that confuses me. Does that mean that a person who can’t read or reads very poorly can’t have faith? Can only educated persons have faith? If that is true, why do many uneducated people seem to have more faith? Can people who do not have Bibles have faith? If you don’t have a Bible or you cannot read the Bible, does that mean it will never be possible for you to have faith? And when you have faith, do you just have the amount of faith you have? Or can faith grow? Can a little bit of faith grow to a whole lot of faith? Will a little bit of faith always grow to a whole lot of faith? These are the things that confuse me.”

Will there be a moment in that conversation that you become so uncomfortable with the questions that you change the conversation?

  1. Faith is an essential in Christianity.
    1. Literally, Christianity cannot exist without faith, and, literally, a person cannot be a Christian without faith.
      1. To me, the clearest statement of this truth is declared with simplicity and clarity in Hebrews 11:6.
        Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.
      2. Carefully note what this statement affirms.
        1. #1: A person cannot please God without faith.
          1. Christians too frequently fall victim to the deceitful notion that God can be pleased in many ways.
          2. You can please God with generosity, or sacrifice, or unusual forms of obedience, or unusual commitment in service.
          3. It is true that when those things are done because of faith, God is pleased.
          4. He is pleased because those things express faith.
          5. However, if those things are done for their own merit, and on their merit the person seeks to please God, God finds no pleasure in them.
          6. No matter what a person does, if he does it meritoriously, not to express faith, it gives God no pleasure.
        2. #2: To come to God, a person must place confidence in that fact that God exists.
          1. To be certain, there are different levels of confidence.
          2. No person is in position to pass judgment on another person’s level of confidence in God’s existence.
          3. But a person cannot come to God without a measure of confidence in the fact that God is there.
        3. #3: To come to God, a person must place confidence in the fact that God rewards seekers.
          1. God will not reject the person who seeks Him in the confidence that He exists and that He rewards the seeker.
          2. God is interactive in the process of the seeker coming to God.
          3. God will respond to the seeker–He will not ignore the seeker; He will not spurn the seeker.
          4. God, the promise keeper, will honor His promises.
        4. The critical element that the individual supplies in the process of seeking and coming to God is faith–it cannot happen without faith.
    2. Faith is the basis on which God chooses to interact with people.
      1. Incredible blessings exist right this moment; these blessings are “right now” realities.
      2. These blessing have been “right now” realities since the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
      3. These incredible blessing are:
        1. Propitiation (1 John 2:2)–God accepts Jesus’ death in place of our eternal death as payment for the evil that we have done.
        2. Redemption (1 Corinthians 1:30)–God frees us from our slavery under Satan by buying us back from evil, by paying the price in full through Jesus’ sacrifice.
        3. Atonement (Romans 3:24,25)–God uses the Jesus’ blood offered in his death to satisfy justice in paying for the evil we commit.
        4. Forgiveness (Ephesians 1:7)–God actually destroys the sin, the evil we have committed and thereby removes and destroys our guilt.
        5. Sanctification (1 Corinthians 1:30)–God enables us to stand before Him as holy individuals because we are the forgiven.
        6. Purification (Titus 2:13,14)–God enables us to stand before Him as the pure through the cleansing of the blood of Jesus.
      4. All of these blessings exist this very moment as “right now” blessings available to me, to you, and to every person on earth.
      5. However, none of these blessings can exist in my life, or your life, or anyone’s life without faith.
      6. Though these blessings exist, they cannot exist in a person’s life who does not have faith.
    3. God’s mercy and compassion exist; they are reality; they have always existed.
      1. God’s mercy and compassion are free to express themselves perfectly, and they have been free to do so since the resurrection of Jesus.
      2. God’s mercy and compassion can respond perfectly to every person, to every evil situation, to every evil circumstance–without restriction, they can address every evil that exists.
      3. But God’s mercy and compassion can express themselves without restriction only when the person has faith.
      4. Even though mercy and compassion exist, they can be received and function only if the person has faith.
    4. Faith in whom or what? That is not only a good question, it is an essential question.
      1. We must be very careful when we answer that question.
        1. It is very easy for Christians to answer that question by affirming what they consider to be important.
        2. It is very easy to affirm what we our decision about what is important and fail to affirm what the Bible stresses.
      2. In my understanding, the Bible stresses four essentials in which we must have faith.
        1. There are many other things in which we place conviction and confidence as we spiritually grow and mature.
        2. But without these four, we cannot even begin spiritual existence–these four are the absolute basics.
      3. In my understanding, these are the four.
        1. I must place faith in God.
          1. I place confidence in His existence.
          2. I place confidence in the fact that He sent Jesus to enable seekers to come to God and receive God’s rewards.
          3. I place confidence in the fact that He will keep every promise He has made–and that He will do that through Jesus Christ.
        2. I must place faith in Jesus.
          1. I place confidence in the fact that He is God’s Son.
          2. I place confidence in His ministry and His teaching.
          3. I place confidence in the fact and the meaning of His sacrificial death.
          4. I place confidence in the fact and the meaning of His resurrection.
        3. I place faith in the Jesus’ crucifixion.
          1. I place confidence in the fact that his crucifixion is my propitiation, and I place confidence in the benefits of that propitiation.
          2. I place confidence in the fact that his crucifixion created my atonement, and confidence in the benefits of that atonement.
          3. I place confidence in the in the fact that his crucifixion is the price of my redemption, and confidence in the benefits of that redemption.
          4. I place confidence in the fact that his crucifixion produced my forgiveness, and confidence in the benefits of that forgiveness.
        4. I place faith in the resurrection of Jesus.
          1. I place confidence in the power of the resurrection, understanding that God has the power to keep every promise through the same power that raised Jesus from the dead.
          2. I place confidence in the power of the resurrection to continually forgive me of my mistakes and failures.
          3. I place confidence in the power of the resurrection to sanctify me.
          4. I place confidence in the power of the resurrection to purify me.
          5. I place confidence in the power of the resurrection to keep me alive in Jesus Christ.
          6. I place confidence in the power of the resurrection to resurrect me to eternal life with God.
        5. I must have faith in God, Jesus, the crucifixion, and the resurrection to begin spiritual existence.
        6. Faith in those four things will increase and mature as I spiritually grow and mature.
  2. One of the key concepts of the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, is this: the righteous shall live by faith.
    1. Simply for the purpose of focusing you, of challenging you to develop a deeper understanding, I want to contrast what that statement does not say with what it does say.
      1. What it does not say is obvious–and I am not trying to insult your intelligence by pointing it out.
      2. I just want you to think about it.
    2. “The righteous shall live by faith” does not say:
      1. The righteous shall live by obedience.
      2. The righteous shall live by worship.
      3. The righteous shall live by sacrificial generosity.
      4. The righteous shall live by commitment.
    3. The statement does say that the righteous shall live by faith.
      1. The righteous person is obedient, but he lives by faith–faith in God, not faith in his obedience.
      2. The righteous person does worship, but he lives by faith–faith in God, not faith in the fact that he worships.
      3. The righteous person is sacrificial in his generosity, but he lives by faith–faith in God, not faith in his acts of generosity.
      4. The righteous person is committed, but he lives by faith–faith in God, not faith in his commitment.

When I, as a Christian, place my confidence, my sense of security, my sense of salvation in my obedience, or in my worship, or in my sacrificial generosity, or in my commitment, at that very moment I place my faith in me, not in God. My confidence is in the what I am or what I am doing; it is not in the God who gave me Jesus.

Next week we will carefully examine the scriptures that declare, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

David Chadwell

Author: Greg

Welcome to Gods Message on the web. My name is Greg and I want to welcome you. I started doing these Podcasts, MP3, and Audio Books back in 2007. Stay awhile and make yourself at home. The Christian Podcasts here are free and for everyone to enjoy. I’m doing a complete series on David Chadwell who is a retired minister from Fort Smith, Arkansas. I’ve also done an Audio Book for Wayne Jacobsen’s the Naked Church. Plus a series of MP3s for Pastor Billy Crone and his The Final Countdown series.

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