Monday, March 1, 2010

Whose Faith is it Anyway?

Having fully explored the way of worship, I am moving on to the facets of faith. God says we are to enter worship boldly. We can only do this in holiness. If there is sin present in our lives, we must deal with that first. We can also do that boldly and presently. But how do we maintain the holy life? What are we responsible for, if anything? And what is God's part in all this?

The just shall live by faith. Let's pick Romans 1:16-17 as the text for this for it describes the beginning of our faith.

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith."

The question is, whose faith or what kind of faith shall we live by? God answers that in Galatians 2:20:

"I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me."

Notice that little word "of" next to "faith". Too often translators and Christians erroneously substitute "in" for "of" here. If it truly were "faith 'in' the Son of God" then it would be a works salvation. It puts the requirement of belief as a condition of salvation upon the sinner. But this is simply not possible. After all, before salvation, the sinner is dead already in God's sight (John 3:17-18). And upon salvation, the newborn Christian is now dead to sin in Christ. As I have said many times before in this blog, a dead man can do nothing. Absolutely nothing. Jesus affirms this in John 15:5.

Therefore it is the faith "of" the Son of God which saves. Only He is worthy and able to save us from our sin. It was His faith without measure as the Son of Man that is able to believe that His Atonement would satisfy His Father.

And yet there is another facet to the statement that the just shall live by faith. We alone are responsible to maintain the holy life by faith, our personal faith. This faith is "in" the Son of God, that His Atonement is sufficient for salvation, justification, righteousness, and holiness. This faith we must exercise when sin arises in our lives and we must take personal responsibility to do the following:

"He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy." - Proverbs 28:13

"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." - I John 1:9

"Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord." - Romans 6:11

"But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him." - Hebrews 11:6

"By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous. For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?" - I John 5:2-5

"Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God." - Hebrews 12:1-2

Finally, I want to share with you a beautiful exposition of the demonstration of personal faith. I heard this in a sermon last week while visiting a church in Japan. It is based on Hebrews 11:13, "These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth."

The things that God promises He will do require faith on our part to believe that He will indeed do them. Look at the action words in that verse which demonstrate that kind of faith - seen them, persuaded of them, and embraced them. It is that last phrase which God deeply impressed upon me as I was wavering about the desired salvation of a Japanese friend.

God wants us to embrace His promises. To embrace a promise in faith means (in the Greek) to literally hug it closely and tightly like a hug whether for dear life or a hug for a dear loved one. It is full of affection, emotion, desire, focused attention, and virtue. (Virtue is that very first thing we add to our faith - II Peter 1:5)

This is new to me but altogether precious. What great power flowed through that faith and prayer. I knew right then that my prayer for my friend was right from the throne of God, full of grace, and right from His heart, that none, even this one, should perish, but come to salvation. "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." - James 5:16 It was the most powerful hug I have ever felt. It is this kind of faith, I believe, which is represented by Hebrews 11:1, "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." That hug was God's tangible substance and evidence that He will do the thing purposed in His heart.

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