Tag Archives: “Faith Is…” Series

Faith is… Radiating the Glory of God | “Faith is…” Series, Pt. 14

The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God… (Hebrews 1:3a)

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Romans 8:29, ESV)

2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3 All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. (1 John 3:2-3, NIV)

What is the purpose, goal and ultimate end of this life of faith?

I think that we could come up with a wide and varied list of answers to the question. And, I do not think that any of those answers would be wrong or inappropriate. What I would say is that many of our answers would probably be much too shallow to accurately represent how God sees us. To think otherwise might somewhat naive on our part. God’s ultimate purpose for his people must be greater and grander than anything we could even conceive. If it is something that we could conjure up in our own minds and hearts we would be able to make ourselves equal to God.

The power of God to transform us from what we are to what he intends for us to be is something truly amazing. I say this, and I know that I do not fully understand what I am thinking. Just imagining a time in my future where I will be perfect. Where every action, thought and word will be correct. Thinking about a time where I will no longer be the source of pain or suffering to those I care for most. That I will no longer make a mistake in judgment that will bring about negative or unintended consequences to those I have never met. That truly is a wonderful thought. I can only dream about what that will be like

Over the course of this series I have hoped to be expand our understanding of faith. Knowing what something is can help us to live better and choose better. But, faith is not like most other subjects. Faith, unlike many other things in life, is something that comes from God and works its way through us. Faith is dependent on an object. It is impossible to have faith in nothing. That is a contradiction in ideas. Faith always points to something outside of itself.

What I have come to realize is that our faith, this faith in Jesus, is not something that we strive for. While there are times that we can talk about pushing into our faith, or holding onto faith, the Christian faith is of a different nature. Faith in Christ takes hold of us, it pulls us forward, it calls us to go deeper. Christian faith is not something that has be fabricated from within. Christian faith is poured in from without because the object of our faith is so compelling, so transforming that it provokes action.

This begs the question, “Why do we not see this more often in those of us that profess faith in Jesus?”

I think that the major reason is that we have not accepted the fact about one of the most important effects of our faith in our lives. That effect is that God desires to make us like Christ in every way. And, one of the most compelling ways that we are made like Christ is to radiate the very glory of God to world. At no point are we to point to ourselves or our won glory.

Fundamentally what this means is that at the center of our lives is not what is at the center of Jesus’ life. Everything that Jesus did he did becaue that was exactly what God wanted him to do. Everything that Jesus said was exactly what God wanted him to say. Jesus and God were so close together that Jesus described the relationship between himself and the Father as being one (John 10:30). I know the theological realities that this statement was pointing to. However, it would be a terribly short-sighted perspective to dismiss the relational reality that Jesus is describing.

Do you remember Jesus prayer for the disciples and all disciples to follow? Jesus prayed that we would all be one. How? Just like Jesus relationship with God the Father. John captured Jesus’ prayer on this issue and recorded it on John 17:

20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” (John 17:20-26, ESV, emphasis added)

I highlighted one phrase of this passage, but the entire paragraph is so rich with implications about what God desires for us to become because of our faith in the Son of God. It would take more space than is available here to explore what this means. Just read and re-read that paragraph a couple of times and see how Jesus joins together, not only his life with that of the Father’s, but also how Jesus joins our lives with God’s life.

Everything that God desires for the Son, he desires to seen in those that are becoming like Jesus. The closer we draw to Jesus and the closer we walk with Jesus, the more like him we will become. The more we become like Jesus, the more like him we will be in radiating the glory of God to the world.

Faith is… Caring for the People of God | “Faith is…” Series, Pt. 12

So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. (Galatians 6:10, ESV, emphasis added)

For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. (1 John 3:11, ESV)

Faith is not just what we have inside of us. Faith must find its way out of us into the world in which we live. One of the areas where we must not forget to extend the grace that we have received is to those who are a part of our community of faith. Paul plainly tells us that we should love one another and that we must not miss the opportunities to do good to those of the “household of faith.” It would seem that Paul believed that it was easy to miss. As in most cases, the most familiar things are most often taken for granted.

If we cannot help one another, whom we know and see on a regular basis, how are we ever going to convince anybody else that we care for them? What we will create is a consumption-based relationship. People will come and receive from us because we are willing to give, but true and deep relationship will not be a part of our time together. The heart of the church is the joining of the hearts of its members.

This truth of our faith is an outgrowth of what Jesus taught the disciples. Without a caring church there will be no power in the testimony of the church in and to the world. Jesus’ clearest example shows that if we are not growing and participating in loving actions toward one another, our witness will amount to nothing.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34-35, ESV)

Paul also joins in and expands on this point and lets us know that it is possible to fulfill God’s law when we love one another as Christ loves us. The idea here is not that we can do now what we could not do before without Jesus. What this next statement points to is that the purpose of the law was to help us love one another. Unfortunately, the law had the opposite effect on us.

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. (Romans 13:8, ESV)

And again Paul says,

Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. (Romans 12:10, ESV)

John goes so far as to say that our love for one another is evidence of the very existance of God when he says,

No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us. (1 John 4:12, NLT)

God has chosen to use the bonds of love between members of the body of Christ as evidence of the Gospel, his existence and his ability to change the human heart. Too often we stop short of saying this. If we accepted this as a part of our faith and calling much of the bickering that we see in our churches would have to stop. But, this would mean that we had to live out the love that Jesus demonstrated toward us. We cannot fake this kind of love. We cannot behave our way into loving people like Christ loved the church. That is impossible.

Genuine love can only come by a radically changed heart. Only when we are willing to surrender our own desires to do what we want and to choose whom we will love can we begin to love biblically. An this may be where many of us falter. We want to be able to choose whom we love. But, Jesus had something to say about that (Matthew 5:43-48).

There is a question that I now find myself asking regularly. It is based on a Paul’s declaration in Galatians 2:20. This is the question:

Whose life am I living?

If I cannot answer this question I will not be able to move forward into what God desires for me in my life. What is worse is that if I cannot answer this question I have to ask some other questions about the “change” that was borne as a result of my profession of faith. There is a struggle to live a life of faith. This is natural, but which side appears to have the upper hand? Who keeps winning?

The second verse that started our discussion makes a subtle claim that I do not want us to overlook. John is declaring that the message that he and the other disciples took to the world and the nations was and is the same message that was delivered “from the beginning.” It would be somewhat naive to believe that John was thinking only of Jesus’ ministry. John, in his Gospel and in the letters, tends toward an eternal perspective. John, I believe, is pointing us toward the fact that God has always desired to express his love toward his creation. But, that is not enough. An important component of God’s plan was also to have love be the defining reality of all relationships.

The way that the Bible seems to describe the connection between our faith in Christ and our love for one another, there does not appear to be a way to separate the two. If we claim to have faith in God and there is little-to-no evidence of love for those that are also God’s children, then we are walking on dangerous ground. John said in his first letter that this is, in essence, an impossibility. If we love God then we must love one another.

If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. (1 John 4:20, ESV)

Read that verse again. John calls us liars for saying that we love God and then fail to show love toward our brothers!

Based on this verse, how are you doing? You cannot at the same time love God and hate your brothers in the faith. Love is a positive, intentional action toward those you see. There is no such thing as “passive” love. Love is action. Love is movement. Love is alive. Anything less than this betrays the condition of our own hearts.

In closing, I want to offer this prayer for you to consider and pray for yourself. Let it be a guide.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Your love for me is perfect. You demonstrated your love by sending Jesus to live, die, be buried and to rise again on the third day. Help me to feel deep within my heart the weight and power and breadth of your love in Jesus. Help me to take what you have put within me by the power of the Holy Spirit and share it with those who are a part of my family of faith. I know that I may not always like or approve of what they do, but that does not change that I should love them as Christ loved the church.

Father, help me to prove your love for me by loving others. I no longer want to be a liar. I desire for my life and testimony to agree. The only way that this will happen is by trusting in you to transform my heart. I recognize now that this is a daily act and a life-long process. Give me the strength and courage to surrender to your will, your plan and your purposes for my life.

In the name of Jesus the Savior I pray, Amen!

Faith is… Standing on the Word of God | “Faith is…” Series, Pt. 11

1Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. 3For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.” (1 Corinthians 15:1-4, KJV)

This is, according to Paul’s own understanding, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. One of the things that I am amazed by is that there are a lot of things “missing” from what we have commonly come to believe the Gospel is. There are many things that we must understand about the Gospel, but these come after we have received this simple message and believed what it says.

There are four key aspects that Paul says must be present in order for the Gospel to be “THE” Gospel. Those four revolve around the resurrection of Jesus.

  1. Christ Died
  2. Christ was Buried
  3. Christ rose again on the third day
  4. All this is was done “according to the scriptures.”

Over the last several months I have been coming back to this simple definition of the Gospel. I think that I have found that many time the message that proclaims the redemption of the human soul is not complicated. It is profound. The heart of the Christian faith is a miracle of unprecedented proportions. The entire Christian faith depends on the resurrection being true. If there is no resurrection there is nothing. Paul tells as much when he explains that if Jesus did not rise from the grave, then we all should be pitied (1 Corinthians 15:12-19). If any point of the resurrection account is questioned the entire thing falls apart.

Let’s take a few moments to look at each of these.

1. Christ Died

There are many who do not believe that Jesus actually died. The mystery of God becoming a man in the person of Jesus of Nazareth has been a point of contention for many people. But, to think that God would allow himself to be subjected to the humiliation and horror of death is not something that many are willing to accept. What we have to realize is that if Jesus did not die, we cannot live! His death had to be real and total.

2. Christ was Buried

The death of Jesus was like every other dead. It was total and complete. There was no life left in Jesus body. If it were not true, then Jesus would not be able to provide for us what we needed. Without a substitutionary death, I would not be able to experience the fullness of Christ’s life in me. The reason I can share in Christ’s righteousness is because he fully, completely and perfectly shared in my death.

3. Christ rose again on the third day

If Jesus did not come out of that grave, there is no hope of heaven and fellowship with our heavenly Father. Jesus comforted the disciples by telling them that he was going to prepare a place for them (John 14:1-3). When was that going to take place? After his death and resurrection! That is why the disciples could not make sense of what Jesus was saying. They wanted to follow Jesus, but Jesus let them know that the path that was laid out for him was not one that they could travel with him.

4. All this is was done “according to the scriptures.”

Of the four aspects of the Gospel that are necessary, this last one stands out. It stands out becuase Paul is essentially saying that God has staked his reputation and his “worthiness” as God on his ability to predict and fulfill the resurrection. Everything that happened to Jesus happened exactly how God said that it would. Everything that the Bible has to say about anything hinges on the Resurrection of Jesus having taken place! That seems like a big risk unless it actually happened.

As we have traveled on this exploration of faith, I have found that many times we do not understand the place of God’s Word in the development of faith. God’s provides his word to us to verify and to support everything that he is doing in, through and around us. Whenever we forgo using the word of God as God designed we will find that what we are trying may not work as well as we have planned.

I am thankful that God has awakened me to a this powerful truth. The Word of God, all of the the scriptures are not only sufficient for all that I need, they were designed to fulfill my every need in preparing me for living a life of faith. Paul tells Timothy to never lose sight of this amazing reality.

16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16, ESV)

With each passing day I grow more convinced that the reason the Word of God does not have the effects that it describes is not because it does not work, but because we do not allow it work in us.

Faith is… Satisfied with the Person of God | “Faith is…” Series, Pt. 10

1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say,"… 8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” (Genesis 3:1a, 8-11, ESV)

What was the first sin? It has been described in different ways: pride, greed, ignorance, being deceived. In the end it doesn’t matter what you call the first sin, there is one undeniable reality that remains. At the root of the first sin was a failure to be satisfied by God and God alone.

As we look at what faith is, we must take the time to consider that faith must be pointed at something. Faith that is not moving, or said another way, faith that does not cause us to move is not faith. Faith is an action word. What makes this word different and unique when we talk about it in a Christian sense is that the object of our faith is not a place or state of being. The object of our faith is actually something that is really unexpected. As followers of Jesus and believers in the Gospel of Jesus, the object of our faith is God. God is the only object in all of the universe that is worthy of worship and devotion.

Now that we have the obvious statement out of the way, we have to take this a step further and realize what we are saying. God is not merely the one that calls us to a better life. God is the better life that we are striving to have. God is not merely offering us joy and peace and grace in this life. God is the joy and peace and grace that are lives need. To get to the point: If God is not enough, then nothing else will be either. What we have to see is that as we are looking for the things that God offers to us because of our relationship with Jesus, we fail to see that what God is offering to us is himself.

Look at this statement that Jesus gave to the disciples in John 15:

28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30, ESV)

What is the location that Jesus is inviting us to? It is not someWHERE, but rather to someONE. Come to ME. Jesus is not saying that in being physically close to him we will find peace and rest. Jesus is saying that he is the peace and rest and if we are in relationship with him we will have what we are longing for.

I will admit, this is not an easy subject to think about or consider. But, we have to take the time to understand what this means for us. I don’t remember who said this first or who said it to me, but it has never left me. It goes like this, “We are so busy looking at God’s hands, that we have stopped looking at God’s face.” I don’t know about you, but this is very true of me. I can fall into the “give me” game that I forget that what God is interested is in the “with me” game. God wants us to be with him.

This is the sad scene that we find in Genesis 3. God has created paradise, but that is not enough. God has given freedom, but that is not enough. God has given them responsibility, but that is not enough. God has given them pleasure, and that is not enough. God has given himself, and we see that even this does not satisfy the first couple. Why was it so “easy” to trick and trap Adam and Eve into sin? It was easy because when we are given everything we want, we think that there is more to be had. There was nothing missing in Eden. Everything that they could have ever wanted was there, but in an attempt get more they lost it all. We still haven’t figured that out. We still are trying to exceed the boundaries of God’s love and grace.

There it is. The great sin is not that Adam and Eve disobeyed God. I am not diminishing this. The great sin was that they believed that they needed more than what God has provided for them. As we walk this path of faith, we must recognize that faith is not the ever increasing experience of new things. Faith is the simple delight in the same thing, in this case, God himself. God is the only thing, and he is also everything.

Where are you? Have you allowed the extravagant opportunities of this world distract you from the simple joy of fellowship with God? Has your heart been dulled by the constant barrage of stimuli offered to every sense? What is it that is keeping you distracted from looking forward to those moments spent with God in the “cool of the day”? Until we allow God to satisfy our every need, longing, desire and appetite we will struggle to live the abundant life that Jesus promised.

Faith is… totally and unashamedly satisfied with the Person of God.