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FAITH: THE DYNAMIC LINK AND THE DELIGHTFUL ASSOCIATION
* The Advertiser, July 12
Awesome inputs ? Outrageous Outages ?
Consider faith, not the ersatz effort that merely sacrifices honesty, but godly confidences which willingly sacrifices its own life; and not the element which merely sacrifices its own life, but the one which does it for love; and not the one which does it for love falsely so called, mere zealotry in the service of sin, satan and preference, but the love which is abiding in its original, the LORD GOD Himself, not masquerading as love by sacrificing HIM first of all, but walking with Him ... like Enoch, whom God took.
Faith in the living God? How does it come ? The wind blows where it wills, said Jesus, and you do not know where it comes from. Such is the way of the Spirit of God. That is, while He moves as the Trinity moves, and in total accord with the Word of God, the living Word, Jesus Christ incarnate, crucified, risen and soon to return, yet He sites, surveys and moves into the terrain of the human heart as the Lord seeks for His people. Thus, when you deal with God, the fact is that HE is dealing with you! He does as He pleases, and it is the greatest of graces that His good pleasure (Ephesians 1:5) is so because He IS God and is love! (I John4:7ff.).
It was for example the GOOD PLEASURE of God that all the fulness should dwell in Christ, to whom the Spirit was not given by measure, and having made peace through the blood of the Cross, to reconcile all things, yes things on earth or in heaven, to Himself! (Colossians 1:19ff., John 3:34).
HOW He performs this stated objective, except of course that it is IN the ONLY Saviour (Acts 4:11-12), now and hereafter (Ephesians 1:10), is His business. Let us see more of His ways.
Faith comes from hearing and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10). It is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22 - the Greek is the normal word for 'faith'). When the Spirit is IN the heart, then this is a fruit, and when the soul enters the door which is Christ, into the kingdom of heaven, ah! best of all visas, then the Spirit is reigning in the heart, and the new-born soul cries, 'Father' and the Spirit witnesses with its spirit that it is a child of God (Romans 8:16).
WHY does the Lord enter the heart ? Because He loves, and died and rose and being alive, administers the salvation which HE IS! (Isaiah 42:6). HOW can the Lord enter the heart ? By the Holy Spirit. Whose initiative is it that He does so ? It is His, for as He says, YOU have not chosen me, but I have chosen you (John 15). WHY then does He not enter all hearts ? HE says that it is because some prefer darkness to light even when HIS light has come into the world, which is described in John 1: the condemnation is for ignoring it, as stated in John 3:19 (cf. John 3:36).
The simple fact is HIS LOVE is on record, HIS INITIATIVE is on record, MAN's PREFERENCE in the face of this is on record, and is the STATED GROUND OF CONDEMNATION, this love of the Lord being rejected in its very flower and bloom in Christ. This is to Him a great grief, so that Jesus even wept, so that Jeremiah wished his head could be a fountain of waters in grief (Jeremiah 9); but goodness bears and does not break, and the Lord is marvellously kind. All is done, and all are won whom love may reach on its own terms.
WHY are men permitted to stop Him ? Love does not force. They do not stop Him when He goes no further. It is He who knows, goes and proceeds with this vast motivation, and gracious restraint.
HOW could God be sovereign and men be ABLE to stop Him ? It is because otherwise love could not be love, as God has shown it throughout the prophets and the New Testament, if instead of appealing, exhorting and warning, in tones stern or tender, the Lord simply broke down the door. Since God IS love, for love not to be love would be for God not to be God. It is not a frustration to be pure to His own terms, though it be grievous; it WOULD BE more than a frustration if He ceased to be who He is!
Force therefore, or defilement of His image in man to use it, HE stops short of that. He is Himself, who He is, and does not change, and who He is He tells us. He is moreover the truth, so He does not invent a lie. What does NOT do what He cited, that is, prefer to light, darkness, is not His. But HOW could any prefer light when darkness is the natural medium, for to the natural man, so that spiritual things seem to him to be foolishness as Paul states (I Cor. 2:14) ? None could.
Hence it is a work of God, who as He states, would have all men to be saved, to become reconciled to Him, all whether in heaven or on earth. There is no barrier to His presence, or time to delimit God. He has foreknown His own before the very world, that platform of trial, plan, demonstration and test, exhibition and manifestation for all time, was so much as founded. HOW could He know His own ? Is there some problem with being omniscient ? (cf. Predestination and Freewill for a fuller answer).
So faith comes by hearing the word of God, by the convicting power of the Holy Spirit (as in John 16), in a dynamic divine enterprise leading to believing which appears quite simultaneous with regeneration (cf. SMR Ch. 6, endnote 6).
GOD GIVES faith, therefore, in harmony with His constraining desire that all might be reconciled to Him, His restraining reality of love, His omniscient grandeur; and He gives it by Jesus Christ as He will and when He will.
THAT is the AWESOME INPUT! But someone may say, But I have not faith ?
Very well, do you want it ? Yes ? No ? If the latter, you HAVE your desire, so can you then complain ? If the former, do you want it with all your heart ? If so, what hinders ? But you have doubts ? Then follow them where they lead, if this is your desire. It is not ? Then dismiss them and rest in the Lord. God is light and light dissipates dubieties and overcomes difficulties. It is not hard for God. But you do not feel able ? Then ask Him to make you able, being determined on that path, and tell Him that you are unable. After all, HE wants you, and if you reach this point, your spirit is already in His hands.
Furthermore, it is not as if there is a headwind, since His passion leading to the Cross shows the vast zeal He has to rescue people from their fallen status and state; but HE is truth and WILL not feign love when it is really a matter of mere self-oriented usage to be made of Him, as if that could be called love, rather than mere convenience. God, in other words, is not limited to your psychology, the superficial reactions, but knows past all human knowledge, in that simplicity and reality where sin does not limit, who are His own.
Where sin is not operative in His vision of all, not at its negative work to define, for God sees and knows all, there is no differential motivation from superiority in any. God knows past the bounds of time and condition. People are either His or not, and which is which, He knows before all history and past all events. Whom He foreknew, He then predestinated, in logical order (which is that order found in Romans 8:29).
God is able to go to places man does not even think of, past all time; and knowing the reality and meaning of freedom, knows how love eventuates in any and in each, before His own eye, before ever any were made. This gives to any a supreme confidence that technicalities do not rule; God does; ceremonies do not rule; the Lord does; accidents do not rule; Christ does; time does not rule, the sovereign omniscience of God does. What enjoins itself in the interstices of sin becomes like it, and its end is hateful, like garbage; but God assures us continually, in example and in principle of His own initiative in love, and the scope of it.
These things being clarified in all simplicity, let us consider the gloriously impactive result of the action of this God-given faith, stirring hearts to deeds worthy of such a discipleship as that of the Lord Jesus Christ.
To do this, we will follow a study of Hebrews 11, first.
THE DYNAMIC LINK TO
I The Dynamic God 11:1-3
"Now faith is the assured certainty of things hoped for, the testimonial evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible."
Faith is the absolute assurance of things hoped for - it is not a finger on a pulse, but a grasping with both hands.
Faith is affirming testimony of things not seen - the confirmatory cry in response, the conviction which draws on evidence, prompted by reality, stirred by actuality, like a fish, waving its tail and meeting water with it!
Here there are two aspects. Firstly, there is a fundamental reality so great that its appreciation brings strong assurance. Secondly, there is an evidential thrust so enormous that it brings a conviction from its very plainness. Things unseen are inescapable, inveterate, basic and original (cf. It Bubbles Ch. 9, Little Things Ch. 5). They include all your purposes, motives and aspirations, all your heart's store of thought and intention, but more importantly, those of the Creator of this universe, and the Maker of the heart and spirit of man.
Having spoken His mind for man into a book, the book of the Lord, and manifested Himself definitively in a person, the Lord Jesus Christ, since sin has come into the world, God has applied, by the prophets, just one message over the millennia (cf. News 87, Barbs 13, 17, TMR Ch. 3). The Maker of both the seen and the scene, undergirding and unseen, has sent His word which operates under the power of the living God.
It is by logic that you are constrained to find this, though you may fight; it is by His Spirit that a person is caused to understand and become converted; it is by the Saviour that the building of faith has any way in! Repenting of sin, whether stubborness or autonomy, whether action or thought, the person of faith then aided mercifully, brings all thoughts and desires to the Lord, but especially finds HIS! Then wisdom can grow.
You see that the source of the visible is the invisible, the source of the programmed is the unprogrammed, product of none, original and eternal, always there so that anything ever might be there: the beginning and the end for man lies in the free origin of his now sinful spirit - in the Maker of liberty whose product, man, has twisted and torn it, until only a new making can be its redemption. The cost of the rescue knows no limit; but Christ has borne it all, writing the cheque not in ink but in blood, in His own life's name. He was given to contain all penalty for all who receive Him, resurrected to supervise these, His people. Of Him we read in Hebrews 1:1-3: for there we see the depiction of Christ, who being the brightness of the glory of deity, and the express image of His Person, when He had by Himself purged sin, sat down on the right hand of Majesty on High.
Where He lived, He returned (cf. John 6:62, 5:19-23, 8:58).
Shortly. where He lives. He will leave to come again to this earth,
sufferings past, in glory (Answers to Questions Ch. 5, Acts 1:7ff., I Thessalonians 4).
II The Historical Chain of Links 11:4-31
Now we come to exhibits, examples of this vast deployment of God, opening eyes, entering hearts, transforming lives, showing His own presence and presenting His own power, not for pomp or circumstance, but for service, industry and His praise, as His kingdom moves on its own ineffable way to the day of its entire disclosure (Revelation 21-22). Here is faith not under arrest, where faint-hearted denials show it not present, but invested with reality, secured by its target, loved and strengthened by its object which in this case, is the subject. And who is that but that divine Sovereign whose word is truth, and whose will is to love, but not to force.
It seems best here, since the Bible is normally readily available, simple to cite verses 4-11.
"By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks. By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, "and was not found, because God had taken him"; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God. But 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 diligently seek Him. By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised."
ABEL did not dare or care to offer his own works, as if these could be impressive, but instead presented before God a sacrifice. Why ? It is because sin kills, life is routed by it, and the depiction of this fact in sacrifice suggests repentance and the admitted need for a divine cover. CAIN did not share this view, and was told that if he did not do well, did not sin lie at the door ? like a wild beast waiting to prey.
Would Cain then yield to this error ? He did, and even augmented it by killing his brother Abel, the one who did well!
This has become almost a certain routine for the unbeliever, this persecutory proclivity, this dispersive endeavour of those who love to attack the children of God, by tongue, and lately, in vast numbers, by allowing blood, not great in quantity, to drip or pour out of its containing limits. Such is murder, whether by Palestinian invader, African zealot, Islamic order or other means. It does not matter who you are among men, or why you do it; for if you want to kill for such motivation as Cain felt, you are not now in any guidance of God, but merely awaiting judgment, like someone in the dentist's waiting room, rattling on the door for faster pain.
Enoch, descendant of godly Seth, however, had a close walk with God, and neither relied on works nor showed a desire to become an eliminator. God took Him (Genesis 5:24).
Faith walked where God was, and God walked where faith was, and in this case, you have one of the two preliminaries in direct ascent to heaven, which Christ then made permanent in His atoning work, placing its credentials in heaven itself for us who believe and for any who do not believe, but will believe in Him in due time (Hebrews 6:18).
Incidentally, it is never a matter of having a 'second chance' as some controversialists claim, since there is no question of mere chance ever or at all (Ancient Words, Modern Deeds, Chs. 9, 13); and especially is this so when it comes to spiritual things. GOD ELECTS (Ephesians 1:4), and does so to those whom He foreknows. Where is this alien idea of chance entering into the sovereign work of the Lord! Secondly, if anyone rejects Christ, that is not chance, but a result of the utmost importance, and such is the last word on the topic, if alas, it is uttered to the Lord's own hearing, who hears the truth and misses nothing. By no chance is anything of chance wrought in any person's destiny.
God fails in nothing of His stated plan, program, and knowing all, does all well. It is best not to second guess Him as to His timing and the hearing.
Faith, then, when it is present, considers that GOD IS, that His existence is not a thing to ponder, any more than is that of your car in your garage or car-port. Being so, it is approached as life comes near what is real, with confidence, conviction and expectation. Moreover, faith does not consider the divine nature in mere abstraction, but comes near with the sure and indeed assured knowledge that God hears, listening to His children, born again believers who revere Him and relish His written word, people who seek to abide in Him and have His words abide in them (John 15:7). Even if this be so imperfectly in result, yet characteristically in nature, so the person of faith will ACT, and know that God will ACT. There is thus this reciprocity and mutuality.
This is the reward of rewards. For God does indeed ACT for those who wait for Him (Isaiah 64:4). To know Him, and see Him act, is already to be dwelling, in the spiritual sense, in the land of promise which the future light will reveal in all its contours in heaven! (Hebrews 11:9).
Indeed, Moses walked as seeing Him who is invisible (Hebrews 11:27). Abraham looked for the city whose builder and maker is God!
Thus we are being introduced to truly divine things, which man in faith wings over, and finds in perspective a landscape for the heart to live in, one in which the life can operate, where the spirit can rest in quiet confidence, and labour in sufficient strength and understanding.
That is the principle, the perspective and the reality as we read Hebrews 11:6.
What then is the testimony of so many for so long in this faith ? We read of Moses who for God put himself where the going was grievously difficult, to deliver his people, and endured as seeing Him who is invisible; of Abraham who OBEYED when he was called to go to the place which he would receive as an inheritance, just as Christians are called to go from the ways of will and of this world, to do the will of God and receive that inheritance which is Christ's (Ephesians 1:11), and graciously given without limit. We see Noah who when warned, went to the colossal expense of building an ark, and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.
These we read, all died in faith, and "truly if they had been mindful of that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return." Abraham even believed that God could raise Isaac from the dead if need be (Hebrews 11:17-19), when at first challenged about the lad; and does not his willingness teach us that unless we love God more than father or mother or son or daughter, we are simply not worthy of Him (Luke 14:26). Your FIRST concern is effectually your god, and if it is not God, then it is an idol.
III The Holiness Faith Requires 11:32-40
We read now more generally of the genus of faith, and in particular of arrested heroes of faith, of those who "through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouth of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens ... Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection ... destitute, afflicted tormented - of whom the world was not worthy."
THIS is the stuff of faith, this is the dynamic response to arresting glory of the Lord who takes His people and uses them, whether in drastic deliverance or dynamic testimony, through strength or in weakness, on all sides and in all ways through courage and endurance, attesting what the world still despises as it tramps its final miles to the cliff face of judgment.
Faith is not a nice little feeling of security, or a nice pleasant assurance that you matter. You might as well say that athletics is looking after your body. That may be true in part, but it is for a PURPOSE, to RUN or act in strength in contest, to bring glory to the art. When it is with God you deal, it is neither comfort nor 'success', neither feelings of content nor displays of power which matter: it is obedience to the call of the Almighty, to the tasks Christ sets for you in His church, with the strength, joy and peace which FOLLOW. Thus Peter declared this: God gives His Spirit to those who obey Him (Acts 5:31).
Money is given to get a work done for a firm; power is from God for His purposes. Yet do not imagine it is mere employment; on the contrary, it is DEPLOYMENT, willing participation in the dynamic power and wisdom of God in order to achieve what He desires for you while the earth lasts just a little longer, before Christ returns. The faith of the Christian works therefore by love and through grace, but with understanding and in the power of God. The world is on fire, and the Christian is a fireman, not to put out what sin stokes, but to rescue many, showing the situation to the ignorant, and bringing those who desire, out of the smoke into the light and its pure radiance.
without holiness no
man will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).
Without faith, you cannot please Him (Hebrews
Without love, you are nothing (I Cor.
Without the Lord, you can do nothing (to the point, of value) - John 15:5.
How much DO you do without the Lord, without SUBJECTING your thought, plan and hope to Him ? Is HE the criterion ? Is YOUR will the criterion ? If the latter, this is not even related to Christianity at all. Unless you FORSAKE all you have, you CANNOT be (not merely are not) His disciple. If there is a hang-up, a hesitancy, it is like expecting power to flow in your house when fuse wire is broken. It is pointless to protest that it is a nuisance. It needs fixing.
Consider the faith presented in Hebrews, and consider your actions: there should be parallel lines. Let us then with all boldness, fearlessly be spiritual athletes, never imagining that mere form counts for anything but condemnation as in Isaiah 1!
The sort of pseudo-soppish-christianity (small 'c' on purpose since it is anomalous error)
which makes it relevant for some article (The Advertiser, July 12) to refer to the idea that "the thirst for the sacred may be turning people away from traditional Christian churches to religions that demand greater sacrifice and a more zealous demonstration of faith",
is simply an unbiblical hash.
It does however show that the long-known and increasingly violent departure from the Bible to which many ONCE traditional churches ONCE held (that is, those formerly churches of a Christian kind), but now seem increasingly to honour in the breach rather than in the observance, fails to fill the place God made for Himself in man's heart. Of course it fails, since it is fraudulent.
The imperfections of the flesh are not the point here, for none is perfect; but the perfections of Christ are very much to the point, since when HE lives in you (Colossians 1:27), the transformation is radical (Romans 8:10-14) and dying daily is if not a routine, at least a rule. His life never dies in its liveliness. Hence the failure of many formerly sound bodies, for 60 years or so in free fall from the Bible, has contributed to the growth of heresies of other sorts; it has led to violations of truth, of spirituality, mockeries of godliness, with many indulging in money-grasping, power-seeking, or satisfaction- maximising as AIMS. This may be major or partial (as in 'success Christianity' a strange version of taking up your cross daily), but has place in the scope of foolish religions, based on false prophets, stolen words not the Lord's but set forth in His name*1.
This much is so, predicted, and predictable (Matthew 24:24, II Peter 2:1) of the present falling away of which Paul spoke as a coming phase to precede the end of the Age and the return of Jesus Christ, in II Thessalonians 2.
But let us return to the Christianity of Christ.
Faith moves mountains ? It is in fact GOD who moves them in answer to faith. Faith does what it pleases ? How could it, since it first seeks to please God. He is alive, His promises are clear: concerning all your affairs, ASK Him! Do not grieve the Spirit or do a Jonah, but walk in the Spirit and avoid the works of will. SEEK Him and His way, and do not merely hope you are on it. God is alive, and those who live in Him know it. Those who wait on Him, find it. THAT is why it is possible as in this Ch. 11 of Hebrews so to itemise the experimental reality of faith, its operations, with such evident relish and admiration. It is for faith no pain to secure its meeting of the stricture of James - SHOW me your faith by your works! Just as we are saved without works, but not without faith, and faith works! so faith indeed works.
Will a living soul stop breathing! That is the way of it. Living things do...
That is why the sad parameters of Foxe's Book of Martyrs constitute only one of a mass of testimonies of the fortitude of faith, the fervour of faith, indeed the wit and wisdom of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, as of the love which blends with it like an exquisite tartan; for this is not mere human obstinacy for a human desire, but is the work of a soul gripped by God, divinely accorded, with reason-saluted reality in its accolade, where God Himself, the author of faith, being seen as invisible, is followed as if visible.
If then one is to speak of Christianity, let it not be like speaking of bowls in a golf tournament. Let it be in the arena, like a physics experiment, which is its own area. Just as you do not see Raphael's work in a pool, so you do not see the work of God through faith, in ceremonies that omit Him, emphases which deny Him, imaginations which distort His word or even supplant it.
Life is not a mere theory, but a participatory reality. Being born is not an idea, but a reality; being born again is the same; being alive is not a surmise but a vital and enduring operation. Lifeless pretences do not make Christians; but Christians do still make the testimony of Jesus, and they are still being slaughtered, imprisoned, tortured, repressed, prejudicially suppressed, as many as follow Him and abide in His word. The record continues, and the mass of unbelief, whether in former churches, in fads of philosophy or their outreaches in false prophets, this merely aggregates till the time comes, as Christ put it, to take the weeds and burn them in fire unquenchable. Gardening is like that. However, why be a weed ? Its whole life is an intrusion where it does not belong.
Especially do not confuse the work of weeds with the savour of the wheat. The weedy work of false witness needs to be severed from that of the true, and where the word of God does not rule, what has this to do either with the kingdom of heaven or the work of faith, that faith in God which is the embrace of the one to the other, and of the other to the one, bracing for action, enabling for labour, sending for mission.
Its testimony is all but overwhelming, like the smell of frangipane, of daphne, or violets in Winter. But you know, this is not true of the paper ones, not true at all.
Jeremiah 23:30ff., deals with this theft either of the name of God for one's own ideas, or of words from others attributed to Him.
"Therefore behold, I am against the prophets," says the Lord, "who steal My words every one from his neighbor. Behold, I am against the prophets," says the Lord, "who use their tongues and say, He says. Behold, I am against those who prophesy false dreams," says the Lord, "and tell them, and cause My people to err by their lies and by their recklessness. Yet I did not send them or command them; therefore they shall not profit this people at all," says the Lord.