Classic Christianity – A Closer Look at Faith, Hope & Love P9 (05-06-20)
Now, let us delve into what faith is. Let us explain with illustrations, of what it is and what it is not. Let us look at the example of Abraham’s faith and Mary’s faith. Faith is like the engine of a train and we being the caboose. Faith is what directs our path and the caboose follows. The caboose never pulls the train. It has no power to do so. Neither do we muster up faith to tell God what to do. No, we simply let faith lead us and we follow in complete trust.
There are other illustrations but one thing for sure is that faith is not a feeling. Feelings do not pull us. Faith does. It is the substance of things not seen. Feeling is not a substance. It is stupid. It only responds predictably to what is put in the mind. So when Jesus tells us not to worry, He is really telling us to guard what we put in our mind and to guard what we hear. Is what we hear based on truth, on what God has said, or is it the voice of the enemy, of Satan, who deceives you by saying, “Did God really say?”
Faith is what pleases God. You walk by faith, and not by sight. When God told Abraham to go to a place he knew not where, Abraham trusted God and immediately set out, believing that God was able to deliver what He promised. Mary was told by an angel that what will be born in you will be placed in you by the Spirit of God. Mary believed what the angel told her, and simply said, “Let it be so”. These are examples of faith.
Now faith is not a feeling. Faith is a person. The object of your faith is Christ. You came to believe that God exists, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. You seek Him when you recognize that first of all He exists. Nature itself testifies that He created all there is. So you seek to know this God who has provided for your daily needs, the apple that grows from a tree. So you seek to know this God. God promised to lead you to Christ, for Christ is who makes God known to us. We become aware of our sinfulness in light of His righteousness. We know He will reward us when we trust Him. And we come to know His provision of life for us through the resurrection of Christ from the dead. We come to know His provision for us when we just trust Him by faith, and walk day by day by that faith.
Yet many times, a preacher can preach, appealing to emotion, with organ music in the background and all kinds of carrying on. A person is asked if he remembers what he said. He says, “no, but I sure feel good. And what an experience I had!” That has accomplished nothing. There was no truth received if any was even told. The person grabbed a hold of an experience but not truth that could set him free. When you come to understand faith, faith is what comes by hearing and hearing from the words about Christ.
Now the substance of our faith is Christ, and Christ Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. When the word of life is proclaimed, then those words are trusted and we believe what He said. We continue to walk in that same faith, that says “Lord, I need you. Lord Jesus, come into my heart and be my Savior.” The same trust we had for Christ to come live in us is the same faith we walk in day by day, to make ourselves available to Him to live His life in and through us. We learn to boast in our weaknesses of our flesh so that the life of Christ, the power of His resurrection, may rest on us in our day to day choices, saying “no” to the flesh and “yes” to the things of God, the righteousness and godliness that is Christ.
But let us not confuse this walk of faith as progressive sanctification, where we are told that we are improving, that we sin less yesterday than we do today, and this will progressively increase. This comes as a result of day to day faith, but it is not faith in what we are doing, as if we can improve to the point we no longer need God. For that also is not what Paul said. He said he boasted in his weaknesses that the power of Christ will rest on him. We will never get rid of our flesh, or annihilate these patterns of sin, and certainly not by our efforts. Sin-indwelling flesh will be in us and with us until the day we die. Consider the struggle Paul addressed in Romans 7 in regards to the flesh and the solution in Christ and faith in Him. So these things said of progressive sanctification is stupid and is not based on truth. So, do you see how subtle things said can be, that leads us astray from dependence upon Christ, which is what faith is?
So, then we also come to understand what the opposite of faith is, one of which is worry with resulting anxiety. Faith can only trust in God for today’s problems. The past is over and the future is God’s country. You cannot change the past and you do not know what will happen in the future. We simply enjoy the relationship with God through Jesus Christ, who is our provision for today, for everything we need for life and godliness. That faith is what pleases God.
When I started studying this topic on faith, hope and love, originally just on love, I had difficulty doing so until I realized this triplicate that was involved. There is a Trinity when it comes to this topic of faith, hope and love. You cannot have one without the other. We are currently studying the first part of it, and that is faith. Hebrews 11:1 provides a definition for us of what faith is.
1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
Then in Hebrews 11:6, we read about how we need faith in order to please God.
6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
We get right back to what is impossible to please God is without faith. Faith is the only thing that pleases God. That, of course, is what sin is. In order to find out what sin is, you go back to where it started. It started in the garden of Eden. What that was was the day that Adam and Eve decided to stop living by faith in what God said and started living by faith in what Satan said. So unbelief is what brought sin into this world. In fact, sin is still defined by Jesus as unbelief.
John 16:9 (TLB)
The world’s sin is unbelief in me.
We are still dealing with faith and lack of faith is called sin.
So without faith, it is impossible to please God. In order to enter into faith in Christ Jesus, you must believe He exists and that He earnestly rewards those who seek Him. Everyone who has entered into a relationship with Christ has been made aware there is a God, either through nature or through instruction. You believe in God. Then you have to come to a point where you say, “Well, I wonder if God knows who I am and I wonder if He is a rewarder of anyone who seeks Him.” That heart of seeking God is the next step after recognizing God.
Certainly in my life, I would have known there was a God. I knew there was a Jesus Christ. I knew He was the Son of God even though I had no clue what that meant. I knew he died on a cross and rose from the dead. I knew he did it but I did not know the significance of what it was about. To earnestly seek Him, and to think that He rewards me for something, I never had a clue of that type of thing.
I was in a bible study the other morning and I met a man who was not a Christian yet. He said, “I know there is a God looking after me, but this type of thing you are talking about, about God loving me, is new to me.” I had to sit back and think, that guy was probably about the same age I was when I came to Christ. We are all just as dumb as a mule. I was sitting there thinking to myself, that is exactly where I was. I knew God was looking after me. I was, in so many occasions, where I should have been dead. But to know God loved me intimately and that God was there to reward me with salvation in Christ, I did not have a clue.
The first thing we do is recognize there is a God. Then, we wonder if He knows me. “Does this God have something for me?” That is when our heart begins to open up as we realize there is something wrong with me. Rather, if God does not do something to reward me, I have had it. All of that awareness has to take place in our life before we are ready for that marvelous salvation that God has given us, which God rewards us by seeking Him.
We also read in another place that anyone one who really wants to seek God will be led to Jesus, to the reward of wanting to know God. So the story of Joshua from Africa is an example of this. When I was a brand new Christian, I also tried to answer the question about the heathen in Africa. Joshua told me the story because I asked him that question, “What about the heathen in Africa?” His comment was a story of his own life. “We used to worship idols in my little village in Africa. These idols were carved out of trees. I looked in there, where my father was carving an idol out of wood from a tree, and at a very early age I walked out and looked up into the sky. ‘I know who made that little idol of wood, but what I want to know is who made the tree, the clouds, the sky and the earth?’”
What was Joshua doing? He was earnestly seeking to know God. While he was earnestly seeking, God had a missionary from New York prepared to visit him in his village. The first person he ran into in that village was Joshua. Joshua received the Lord and converted all of the people in his village. Now he is in Los Angeles trying to save the heathen in Los Angeles.
That was a promise. There was someone in some place diligently seeking God. Someone diligently seeking God will be led to Christ. That is why no man is without excuse. There is no man without revelation. What about these people who have never heard? If there was anyone there who was earnestly seeking God, they will hear. God will see to it that the message goes to them. That is a promise we have in scripture.
All of that ties into that we who now that we know there is a God, and now that we are seeking Him, and now God reveals Jesus to us, now it is our role. Am I going to put faith in that, or am I going to keep putting faith in myself or in my humanistic teaching. I have got a choice. Am I going to believe what God said or am I going to continue to believe the so called wisdom of the world, which is foolishness to God.
1 Corinthians 1:18
18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
God gave us that choice. We must continually, as we are studying the passages, we must continually keep in mind, that when God created man, He created man in that ability to choose. If he had not done that, we would be robots. How could God allow this to occur? Because He allowed man to have a free will. There was a choice. If God says “I will give you a free will” but every time you make a mistake, “I will cut you out”. Then you might as well not be given a free will. You might as well be a string on a bucket. Or, if a whole bunch of you make a bad choice over there, then “I will go ahead and wipe you out.” Then just make everybody just a robot.
So, how does God allow something to happen? The very day He gave man a choice, and man chooses to either follow Him or chooses to follow the ways of the flesh? When man does the latter, destruction is going to occur. There will be a settlement to all of that, but it will be in the end times.
Talking about this subject of seeking God and rewarding those who earnestly seek Him. That is exactly what happens to us at salvation. There comes a point in our life where we really become sick and tired of being sick and tired. If we have been under a legalistic form of teaching, the laws He gave to the Jews, and we dragged them into the Gentile world, and we have been under a law that put us under conviction, and put under guilt trying to obey the law. Like Paul said, the things you do are the very things you hate to do, and the things you do not want to do you do anyway.
14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
You finally come to a point in life, saying “Lord Jesus, I need you.” What is that doing? That is earnestly seeking Him. We were talking a little earlier about this. It is like, many times, that when I pray with a person, this is one of the first things I lead a person in prayer. “Lord Jesus, I need you.” We thank Him for the death on a cross, and invite Him in our hearts as Lord and Savior. The reality is that the benefit of prayer is for us not God. God sees our heart and He already has seen a God who has turned to seek Him. He has already seen a heart that says “I had it, and I want you to be my Lord and Savior”. So you are not saved by a prayer. Prayer is an expression of what is going on in your heart. But to pray about something is to solidify something. So prayer is for our benefit. In my heart I have been convinced, “I need you Lord” and in my heart, “I want Him more than anything in the world”. That verification merely solidified what has already taken place in my heart. There is a benefit to that. You are speaking it. You are hearing it. It is for your benefit not God’s. God has already seen your heart. You are already saved before you prayed that prayer. Prayer has that benefit to us. So I think it is important to have that public confession.
8 But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: 9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.
Confessing with your mouth is a way of solidifying what has already taken place in your heart. You are hearing your own self say, “Lord Jesus, I had it and Lord Jesus, I need you to come into my heart to be my Savior”. You are hearing yourself say that and that is for your benefit. Later on, someone else comes along and asks you if you did that. You reply, “I heard me. I heard me do that. I spoke it and I did that.”
Now, faith is not a feeling. There are many, many people who direct salvation and are trying to grow in God with feelings. You see that and you see that on television. Everybody is up there and you are being pointed to the emotions of man. The preacher is stomping up and down, and talking with a certain type of voice, and the organ is playing behind, and every time he is making a point, the organ makes a distinct sound, and everyone up there is yelling and carrying on, and this kind of thing. That is pointing to emotion. You can do that in a concert. When pointing to emotion, you have missed the head, who is Christ. You can come down and say, “Did you have a good night?” “Yes.” “What did he say?” “I do not know, but he sure said it good. I was so excited and I had this happen to me and that happen to me.” All you are talking about is experience that came as an emotional appeal. Faith is not a feeling. Faith is fact. Faith is based on truth. It is not based on feeling.
There are many illustrations that you can give on that. There is a good illustration of a train. You have the engine and the caboose. The engine is faith. The caboose is feeling. So when your faith is placed in the object, the feeling will follow, but you do not pull the train by the caboose. You pull the train by your faith in Him. So, we have to come to grips with this truth that if somebody is pushing toward your emotional appeal, they are hitting the wrong place. You are to aim at the head, not at the emotion.
Now, what happens is you can put yourself in neutral. We talked about that feelings always follow thought, but you can put your head in a point of neutrality, almost like transcendental meditation where you put yourself in neutral. What you are putting in your head is emotional things, such as sounds and rhythms. All of that hits your head but with no substance. It is what scripture calls having a zeal for God without knowledge.
2 For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge.
A beat is going into your head. Those things are stirring up vascular emotional responses. Then we call that faith. That is not faith at all. Faith is something you listen to. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ.
17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.
That is basically what that passage says. As you and I hear, not some gibberish, but you hear truth from God, in regard to His word, and therefore, now my response is, “Am I going to put faith in that or am I going to deny that?” But sadly, someone might say, “I do not want any one of those things. I just want to feel good. Just get me excited, and let me jump and down and feel good, and then I can go home and say ‘I had a good day in the Lord and I was worshiping Jesus’”. You see thousands of people doing that type of thing, and it breaks your heart when you see it because the person is getting nothing. Until you come to grips with truth and know what truth of the word of God says, and allow the Spirit to teach you what it means, you have nothing except an emotional experience to brag about or talk about. Folks, faith is not a feeling. Faith has substance.
In Hebrews 8:11, we read about Abraham’s faith.
8 By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.
Abraham heard God say “go”. He did not get him all jacked up with emotion. The only emotion he had was “why?”. “You are telling me to go into a land I do not know anything about. I do not know why you are telling me to go but I am going to go.” Now that is faith. In faith, you do not initiate something to God. Abraham did not work up faith to get God to say “go”. God said “go” and Abraham by faith said “okay”
8 By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9 By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise.
Turn also to the passage in Luke concerning the angel’s visit to Mary in regards to the birth of Christ Jesus. Here you see another example of faith.
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”
38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
The angel said to Mary and said “you are going to be chosen above all people to bear the Son of God, unmarried, and probably going to be called all kinds of names all of your life”. Mary said, “Let it be so”. Mary is saying “I would like to have God in my womb”. She did not cause God to do that. You do not cause God to do anything. God said, “this is what I am going to do, Mary”. Mary said, “Let it be so.”
That is what faith is. Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. Mary had not seen a baby yet. Abraham did not see where he was going and did not even know where he was going. But I have faith that if you said it, there is a place for me to go. It is sober. It is not exciting. It is not spectacular. It is just faith. God says “do it” and you do it. There was nothing excited about God saying to Jesus, “Go to a cross and die for the sins of the world.” Nothing to jump up and down and get all excited about. That song, “get excited and tell everybody that Jesus is Lord”. I have something better. Tell everybody Jesus is Lord and then you will be excited. We have got everything in reverse. Now, we are talking, therefore, about the fact that faith says “Okay”. God says, “do something”. Faith says “okay”.
Now, what is a couple of opposites of faith? First of all, fear is one of the opposites of faith. You cannot fear and have anxiety and have faith at the same time. That is why Jesus spoke about not to worry.
34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
When I am worrying about tomorrow, how can I put faith in that? Tomorrow is not here yet. Tomorrow is fantasy. When I am sitting here worried about what is going to happen tomorrow, then I cannot put faith in that because tomorrow is not here. That is a fantasy. But I can sit there thinking about all the bad things that will happen tomorrow. Now, my feelings do not know they are not happening because my feelings are merely responding to what I am thinking. So I am sitting there as an emotional wreck as a preoccupation of thinking about what is going to happen tomorrow when tomorrow is not even here yet. So I cannot put faith in anything.
So, you say “Lord, I have got faith in that you will take care of that thing that is going to happen tomorrow”. God says, “How can you have faith in Me about what is going to happen tomorrow when you do not even know what is going to happen tomorrow?” God says, “You do not even know what is going to happen tomorrow. You may not even be here tomorrow.” You can only put your faith in what is going on right now. You put faith in what is going on right now, not tomorrow and not yesterday, but right now. In as much as there is enough trouble each day. We have a lot to put faith in. We do not have to worry about exercising faith in what is going to happen tomorrow.
You also do not put faith in the past. You come to realize what Paul says in Philippians 3:13.
13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Paul is saying that I am not going to be thinking about tomorrow because tomorrow is God’s country and I am not going to beat myself up over the past because the past is over. There is nothing I can do about my past. Some people ask, “What about my sins?” If you just sinned, that is a past sin. “I know God forgives my past sin, but what about my future sins?” If you just sinned two seconds ago that is a past sin. Even to people who constantly believe you have to keep short accounts with God, you do not have time. Once you have sinned, it is a past sin, and you already said Jesus died for all your past sins.
Two things we are continually dealing with in the Christian life is what has happened in the past and what we think is going to happen in the future. In both cases, a preoccupation on our thought patterns, in either one of those directions, will keep us an emotional wreck. As we talked about, we are designed by God, whereby our emotions predictably respond to whatever we are thinking. If I am beating myself up over what I have done in the past, which is a second ago, then my emotions do not know whether that is present or whether it has already happened or whether I think it happened or it actually happened. Your emotions are just predictably responding to that. Then I can think about all the bad things that are going to happen in the future. Again, my emotions do not know whether it is going on or I just think it is going on. For your emotions cannot distinguish between past, present or future or fact or fantasy. They just respond predictably to what you are thinking.
That is why Jesus told us to live a day at a time. That is the only way you can walk by faith. You cannot walk by faith in God’s provision for yesterday. That has already occurred. I cannot walk by faith in God’s provision for tomorrow. That has not occurred. The only time I can walk by faith, which is only thing that pleases God, faith, is right now. That is why He says to live right now because that is the only way to exercise faith that pleases Me. So if you want to please God, you do not sit around thinking about what you ought to be doing. You do it. When you are thinking about what you ought to be doing that is ought to be doing when? A little bit from now. That is anxiety. That is not pleasing to God even though you are doing it very self righteously, saying “I know God is pleased because I have got such a desire”. God is saying, “No, if you want to do something, go and do that. If you think that this is what I am leading you to do, then go do that right now. Do not worry about tomorrow. Respond right now by faith.” That is why He says to live one day at a time.
To tell someone to live a day at a time physically would be a ridiculous statement to make. How else am I going to live physically one day at a time? But He is talking about mentally. Do not allow your mind to get up there in the future. Do not allow the mind to sink back into the past. Think about today and today only and walk by faith in Me today. You cannot walk in yesterday. It is over. You cannot walk by faith tomorrow. It is not here. You can only walk by faith right now. That is why people set out to improve themselves. Turn to 2 Corinthians 12:9.
2 Corinthians 12:9
9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
Here, again, let us think this through for a moment. Does anyone of you know someone who does not have human weakness? We all have weaknesses? We all have sinful behavior. We all have patterns. There are sin patterns that are already built in us. They are like grooves in a record. They will be there for the rest of your life. What we would like to do is to somehow get rid of that record, to get rid of those grooves, and to get rid of those temptations. We want to get rid of this yucky flesh. “If I could just get that improved, then one of these days, I will improve myself enough I will not need the Lord at all. I will be so wonderful that I would be kissing myself all over the place for I would be so proud of me.” That is where self righteousness gets to you. That is what people call progressive sanctification. You are just getting better every day. You are just getting more sanctified every day. All of that kind of thought. “You used to do this but I do not do this.”
I remember, as a brand new Christian, where I used to say that when I would go speaking. I heard it some place. You always say something you heard. You are not thinking whether it is true or not. You are just repeating what you hear. “I am not sinning as much as I used to. And by the grace of God, in a few years, I will not be sinning as much today.” That sounds so good. It is a stupid statement. But the issue is that what you have to realize is this is weakness of the flesh we all have. What did Paul say? Improve it? No. You cannot improve the flesh. He said, “rejoice in it”. “Huh.” In other words, boast about your weakness. It is the only thing that will keep you dependent on Christ. Why? So the power of Christ may rest on me. Christ’s power will not rest on someone who does not need Christ’s power.
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