Over the next several weeks we will look at what faith is. But before we can get there we have to make sure that we understand what faith is not. There are three specific and important truths we have to understand about faith. We will talk about them in this introduction.
Faith is NOT blind Trust
One of the most common definitions of faith is that it is trusting or believing something that you cannot know for sure. It is often described as a blind leap, or just a leap of faith. But, there is one fundamental problem with this approach. It is not based on anything found in scripture. Faith, the faith that the bible describes, is grounded in something very real and more certain than our very lives. Biblical faith is undeniably tied to the character and nature of God.
The writer of Hebrews makes this statement when describing what God did to give Abraham confidence in what He was going to do.
13 For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself… (Hebrews 6:13, ESV)
When oaths were made during Abraham’s time the object you swore by was an object that was greater than you. So, If I wanted prove my commitment I would say something like, “I swear by Mt. Everest that I will fulfill my part of the deal.” But, what does God swear by? Well, there is nothing greater than Him so he swore by Himself. His character would serve as the basis for Abraham’s confidence. Abraham’s faith in God was not a blind trust in something unknown. Abraham’s trust and our trust is based on someone who is sure and that we can have confidence in.
Faith is NOT an occasional practice
My faith, your faith, is not something I DO. My faith is someone I AM. The difference between these two positions cannot be exaggerated or over-stated. Until we make this switch in the way that we think about what it means to have faith we will fail to understand why our faith “doesn’t work.”
Paul made this incredible claim about what it means to live a totally committed life for God in Christ. He says it in his letter to the Galatian church.
20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20, ESV)
Who’s life was Paul living? When was he living that life? Only on Sundays? I don’t think so. Life is lived EVERY day. The life I now live… is not an occasional life. If my faith is going to be what the bible describes I have to see that my life has been replaced with His. And, Jesus is not interested in only living through us once a week.
Faith is NOT produced from within
What I mean by this is that faith is not something that exists independent of an object of faith. I can’t just walk around having faith. Faith is always aimed at something outside of me. When we talk about faith we are talking about having faith “in” something.
6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:6-9, ESV)
Peter helps us to understand that faith, if it’s going to be properly called faith, must have an object. What is the “outcome of your faith”? It is salvation. But, the question that we have to answer is what is that faith holding onto? Peter tells us in verse 8. The faith that results in our salvation comes because we trust the one we “have not seen” and yet love. Jesus is the object of our faith.
Everything that Jesus did, said and continues to do through His disciples become the reason that we are compelled to consider Jesus. We are acted upon by God’s grace, God’s people and God’s word. And, as these and other expressions of God’s goodness in my life are seen and felt I am drawn to God.
If we are going to know what faith is we have to know what it is not. As we journey together over the next several weeks remember that faith is more than you ever imagined, not less.