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Core Concepts

Faith

Core Concepts: FaithIt would be hard, if not impossible, to overestimate the importance of faith. It is so central to the gospel, Paul could describe his righteousness as that “which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (Philippians 3:9).

Concerning God, the writer of Hebrews simply said, “Without faith it is impossible to please him” (11:6). And the entire chapter in which this statement is made provides a long list of examples that help us understand how faith works. Having defined faith as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (v.1), the writer pointed to numerous stories in the Old Testament where people did things because they trusted God’s promises concerning the future. Faith, then, is more than belief — it is trust in God, a willingness to depend on Him rather than on ourselves. It is a courageous quality, one that will do whatever God commands, no matter how dangerous, because it really believes that God will do what He has said about the future.

A breakdown in Adam and Eve’s trust concerning God’s character is what led them to disobey God. Had they never deviated from their trust in God’s love and wisdom, nor begun to doubt that His will was best for them, they never would have gone against His commandment. It was only when the devil had fractured their confidence in God that they were open to the idea of disobedience (Genesis 3:4,5). And today, our own sins come from the same source. As long as we trust God (not only His existence but also His benevolence), the devil can’t make much headway with us. But once he plants doubts about God in our minds, sin is not far away.

This being true, we should not be surprised that God’s remedy for sin — His “plan of salvation,” if you please — requires us to come back to a position of faith and trust in God. If it was a breakdown in trust that created the problem, the problem can’t be fixed without addressing that issue. To be sure, the trust that God wants us to have is a thing we’ll spend a lifetime learning, but even at the beginning of our obedience to the gospel, God requires that we believe Him enough to trust that Jesus is His Son. On one occasion in Jesus’ life, God spoke audibly from heaven and said to those present, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him” (Matthew 17:5). And Jesus Himself said to a certain group of people, “I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins” (John 8:24).

If we go back to Hebrews 11, that great chapter on faith, more space is devoted to Abraham than any other person. That is not an accident. Abraham is consistently pointed to in the New Testament as “Exhibit A” for how faith works. Abraham believed the truth about God, but more than that, he trusted God implicitly — even when God’s instructions to him were hard to understand and difficult to carry out. Go back and read Hebrews 11:8–19 again. Then read Galatians 3:6–18,26–29 where Paul presents Abraham as the spiritual forefather of all those today who, by faith, obey the gospel of Christ and begin to live on the basis of faith. “So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith” (v.9).

In the gospel of Christ, our life of faith begins by trusting God enough to accept the initial requirements of the gospel. We must believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God (John 3:18), repent of our sins (Acts 26:18), confess our faith in the presence of witnesses (Romans 10:9,10), and be baptized for the remission of our sins (Acts 2:38). Beginning at that point, we start to learn (perhaps we should say re-learn, since children naturally trust their Heavenly Father) to live on the basis of faith, trusting God with every step we take. We learn in the laboratory of life what the prophet meant when he said, “The just shall live by faith” (Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17). Living in this new way is what Paul meant when he talked about the “obedience of faith” (Romans 1:5; 16:26). In the obedience of faith, our faith shows up in obedience, and our obedience is motivated by faith — each is necessary to the other.

Jesus taught that a part of genuine faith is the willingness to confess it. We must be willing to let our faith be known publicly, rather than hiding it (as if we were ashamed of Christ or afraid to be persecuted for His sake). Jesus said, “I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God, but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God” (Luke 12:8,9). So faith may be easy to talk about within the privacy of our own lives, but out there in the rough-and-tumble of a secular world, it can be dangerous. So Jesus calls for us not only to believe in Him but have the courage of our convictions.

As Paul wrote to Timothy, a coworker of his who may have been a little timid, “Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Timothy 6:12–14).

Faith is so important in the gospel, both in the beginning of our obedience and every day thereafter, that our lives in Christ can be summed up as being produced by faith. We do what we do because we believe and trust the God who is our Father, when it is easy and when it is hard.

Gary Henry — WordPoints.com + AreYouaChristian.com

Flee! Don't Look Back! (December 8)

Flee! Don’t Look Back! (December 8)

Repentance is hard, especially when sinful habits are deeply ingrained in us. There is not much chance of getting away from the clutches of sin if we don’t flee from it — decisively rejecting it and pointing ourselves in a new direction.

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