What Is True Faith?

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Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.

Heb 11:1 NLT

Faith is relying on God’s character, standing on God’s promises, believing Christ’s Cross, and obeying God’s Spirit with a certainty that surpasses physical sight and human reasoning. Faith is the firm, solid confidence that God will be steadfast to his promises and true to his Word. Faith holds God’s Word as an absolute conviction in our hearts even though we cannot physically see God or his promises.  Faith is not blind nor is it a leap into the dark nor a wish upon a star. Faith is believing what God has said and basing your entire life upon it.

Faith is a response of the heart which receives what God has already done for us in Christ. Faith says that Christ’s shed blood is more than sufficient to forgive our sins, Christ’s death on the Cross defeats Satan’s hold on our lives, and Christ’s glorious resurrection conquers the world’s influence, the flesh’s control, sin’s grip, and death’s defeat over us.

True faith is not only a knowledge and conviction that everything God reveals in his Word is true; it is also a deep-rooted assurance, created in me by the Holy Spirit through the gospel, that, out of sheer grace earned for us by Christ, not only others, but I too, have had my sins forgiven, have been made forever right with God, and have been granted salvation.

The Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 21

Looking Unto Jesus

Faith is the firm solid confidence that God will be faithful to his present and future promises. We hold this absolute conviction in our hearts even though we can’t physically see him or his promises. The great men and women of the past lived like this and God blessed them.

Paraphrase of Hebrews 11:1-2.

The phrase,”Let us fix our eyes on Jesus” (Heb. 12:2) is one of the most succinct definitions of faith in the New Testament. “Looking unto Jesus,” is an expression of dependence, obedience, allegiance, and devotion. Faith as “looking unto Jesus” is a looking away from everyone else and everything else that would distract us from supreme satisfaction in Christ. It is declaring to the world that only Christ satisfies and fulfills. To look to Jesus and Jesus alone is our soul’s fulfillment, prize, and delight.

Looking unto Jesus is resting on God’s character, believing Christ’s Cross, and obeying the Spirit’s leadership with a certainty that surpasses physical sight and transcends human understanding. Looking unto Jesus believes God’s promises, relying on his faithfulness, and being confident in his unfailing love. When we look to Jesus we ignore bad circumstances, negative feelings, and discouraging thoughts to stand on God’s word and walk in his ways (Isa. 55:8-9). In short, this faith believes what God says is true—our sins are washed away in Christ’s blood, our lives are in his hands, and his grace will never fail us.

Looking to Jesus, with the look of faith, because our salvation is in Him alone; with the look of love, because He alone can satisfy our heart; with the look of strong desire, longing to know Him better; with the look of soul devotion, waiting only to know His will; with the look of gladness, because we know He loves us; with the look of wonder and admiration, because He is the brightness of the Father’s glory, our Lord and our God.

Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All: An Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews (New York: Anson D. F. Randolph & Company, 1894), 484.

 

Faith Alone in Christ Alone

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has become a child of God.

1 John 5:1 NLT

Faith is a response of the heart which receives what God has already done for me in Christ. Faith is relying on God’s character, standing on God’s promises, believing God’s Cross, and obeying God’s Spirit with a certainty that surpasses physical sight and human reasoning.

In my heart, I am assured that God’s faithfulness will bring God’s Word to pass in my circumstances, intervening in my life, and meeting my needs. Faith says that Christ’s shed blood is more than sufficient to forgive my sins, Christ’s death on the Cross defeats Satan’s hold on my life, and Christ’s glorious resurrection conquers the world’s influence, the flesh’s control, sin’s grip, and death’s defeat over me.

Faith, if it is to be sure and steadfast, must lay hold upon nothing else but Christ alone, and in the conflict and terrors of conscience it has nothing else to lean on but this precious pearl Christ Jesus. So, he who apprehends Christ by faith, although he be terrified with the law and oppressed with the weight of his sins, yet he may be bold to glory that he is righteous. How? Even by that precious jewel Christ Jesus, whom he possesses by faith.

Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books,1998),99.

Faith is looking away from ourselves to another. Faith is total dependence on another. When faith stands in front of a mirror, the mirror becomes a window with the glory of Christ on the other side. Faith looks to Christ and enjoys him as the sum and judge of all that is true and good and right and beautiful and valuable and satisfying.

John Piper, “Assessing Ourselves With Our God-Assigned Measure of Faith, Part 1.”

(HT: Ray Ortlund)

A Prisoner to My Feelings

Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again–my Savior and my God!

Psalm 43:5 NLT

“Luke, trust your feelings!” says the omnipresent Obi-Wan Kenobi in the ever popular movie, Star Wars. Though Obi-Wan was referring to the Force, the ubiquitous presence that supposedly holds all things together, many have interpreted Obi-Wan’s admonition to live by their feelings as wise and dependable advice.

However, our feelings can be very deceptive, our feelings will tell us that God has forgotten us and abandoned us in the hour of our greatest need. However at the very moment when we feel furtherest from the Lord, Scripture says he is closest. “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand” (Isa. 41:10 NLT).

Our feelings do not dictate God’s nearness, he promises that no way ever will he leave us or forsake us (Heb. 13:5). We need to be believers of God’s promises not prisoners to our feelings.

For many years in my own pilgrimage of seeking to come to a place of trusting God at all times, I am still far from the end of the journey, I was a prisoner to my feelings. I mistakenly thought I could not trust God unless I felt like trusting Him (which I almost never did in times of adversity). Now I am learning that trusting God is first of all a matter of the will and is not dependent on my feelings. I choose to trust God, and my feelings eventually follow.

Jerry Bridges, Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts (p. 211), Kindle Edition.

The Grip of Fear

I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.

Psalm 34:4

Fear is overwhelming anxiety and worry which immobilizes our spirits into believing that our circumstances are bigger than God’s provision.  The sin of fear fails to trust God: fear declares that God is not adequate to met our daily needs. Fear causes us to freeze in our tracks preventing us from going on with God. The resurrected Jesus can and will overcome our greatest difficulties. He is greater than our fears.

Fearful feelings is not the same thing as the sin of unbelief. One may feel extremely afraid, yet choose to stand on God’s promises. Rather than sink into the pit of despair, we can reach out in faith believing that God will be faithful.  Focusing on the power of the resurrected Christ gives us the confidence and certainty that the things we dread are not bigger than God’s almighty strength and faithful promises.

Fear resides in the heart. Take it physically, if you take a deep breath, you cause your heart to pump the blood faster through your veins, and physical fear goes; and it is the same with the spirit. God expels the old fear by putting in a new Spirit and a new concern. What is that concern? The fear lest we grieve Him.

Oswald Chambers, Biblical Psychology: A Treasure Chest for Christian Counselors (London: Simpkin Marshall, 1996).

I Will Trust Him

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

Heb. 11:6

Trusting God is a response of the heart that believes God’s promises, stands on his faithfulness, and is confident in his unfailing love.

Trusting God is relying on God’s character, believing God’s Cross, and obeying God’s Spirit with a certainty that surpasses physical sight and transcends human reasoning.

Trusting God ignores bad circumstances, negative feelings, and discouraging thoughts to stand on God’s word and walk in his ways (Isa. 55:8-9). In short, faith simply believes what God says is true—our sins are washed away in Christ’s blood, our lives are in his hands, and his love will never fail us.

Therefore I will trust Him [God]. Whatever, wherever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him; if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. My sickness, or perplexity, or sorrow may be necessary causes of some great end, which is quite beyond us.

He does nothing in vain; He may prolong my life, He may shorten it; He knows what He is about. He may take my friends, He may throw me among strangers, He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide the future from me–still He knows what He is about.

John Henry Newman, Meditations and Devotions 

Faith Is God’s Work in Us

Faith

And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith.

Acts 15:8-9

Faith is a response of the heart which receives what God has already done for us in Christ. Faith is relying on God’s character, standing on God’s promises, believing God’s Cross, and obeying God’s Spirit with a certainty that surpasses physical sight and human reasoning. Faith ignores bad circumstances, negative feelings, or discouraging thoughts to stand on God’s word and walk in his ways (Isa. 55:8-9). In short, faith simply believes what God says is true.

True faith passively receives the benefits of Christ’s victory on the cross resulting in active obedience to Christ’s commands and acquiescence to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Saving faith does not involve meriting salvation by human work. However, genuine faith will bear good fruit: an expression of the life of Christ in us. Good deeds are not the foundation of our acceptance with God, but the correct response and fruit of a living relationship with him.

Faith is God’s work in us, that changes us and gives new birth from God. (John 1:13). It kills the Old Adam and makes us completely different people. It changes our hearts, our spirits, our thoughts and all our powers. It brings the Holy Spirit with it. Yes, it is a living, creative, active and powerful thing, this faith.

Faith cannot help doing good works constantly. It doesn’t stop to ask if good works ought to be done, but before anyone asks, it already has done them and continues to do them without ceasing. Anyone who does not do good works in this manner is an unbeliever. He stumbles around and looks for faith and good works, even though he does not know what faith or good works are. Yet he gossips and chatters about faith and good works with many words.

Martin Luther, Martin Luther’s Definition of Faith: An Excerpt, “An Introduction to St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans,” Luther’s German Bible of 1522.

 

 

When Trials Befall Us

 

Refined by Fire

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 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.

1 Peter 1:6-7 ESV

We live in the midst of the fallout of the fall: sin has affected every area of creation and all aspects of our lives. Disappointment, pain, and trouble are significant ingredients of our daily lives. Ill-timed, unexpected tragedies can shape our lives for the better or make our hearts hard through bitterness. Our choice: trust that God is sovereignly working or become angry that life is not going our way.

Some trials come upon without our choice: some trials are self-inflicted. Whatever their source do not become despondent, depressed, or despairing. God is giving us our heart’s desire: Christlike character, Holy Spirit intimacy, and Fatherly guidance.  By faith, we must trust that our Heavenly Vinedresser is sovereignly cultivating Christ in us.

Let us not then be disturbed, neither dismayed, when trials befall us. For if the gold refiner sees how long he ought to leave the piece of gold in the furnace, and when he ought to draw it out, and does not allow it to remain in the fire until it is destroyed and burnt up: much more does God understand this, and when He sees that we have become more pure, He releases us from our trials so that we may not be overthrown and cast down by the multiplication of our evils.

Let us then not be repining, or faint-hearted, when some unexpected thing befalls us; but let us suffer Him who knows these things accurately, to prove our hearts by fire as long as He pleases: for He does this for a useful purpose and with a view to the profit of those who are tried.

St. John Chrysostom (c.347–407), “Homily on the Paralytic Let Down Through the Roof

HT: Christian Classics Ethereal Library

 

 

Luther on the Three Miracles of Christmas

The Incarnation, the Virgin Birth, and Mary’s Faith

The word, “miracle” has become trite and meaningless. The word, “miracle” is used in television commercials for the cleaning properties of a particular soap. “It’s a miracle!” that I got a pay raise from that miserly company. Miracle has come to mean anything unexpected that brings pleasant results.

Theologically, a miracle is an extraordinary event revealing God’s intervention in the everyday affairs of men and women. Martin Luther comments on the three miracles of Christmas day: the incarnation, the virgin birth of Christ, and the Blessed Virgin Mary’s obedience. Luther marvels that the greater of the three miracles is Mary’s faith: her willingness to obey God even though it meant hardship, misunderstanding, and loss of reputation.

Saint Bernard [of Clairvaux] declared there are here three miracles: that God and man should be joined in this Child; that a mother should remain a virgin; that Mary should have such faith as to believe that this mystery would be accomplished in her. The last is not the least of these three. The virgin birth is a mere trifle for God; that God should become man is a greater miracle; but most amazing of all is that this maiden should credit the announcement that she, rather than some other virgin, had been chosen to be mother of God.

Had she not believed, she could not have conceived. She held fast to the word of the angel because she had become a new creature. Even so must we be transformed and renewed in heart from day-to-day. Otherwise, Christ is born in vain.

Martin Luther, “The Maiden Mary” in Nancy Guthrie, ed., Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus: Experiencing the Peace and Promise of Christmas (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2008), 26.

Slay me

Trusting God Even When Heart and Body Suffer

Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him; I will surely defend my ways to his face.

Job 13:15 NIV

Faith sees our circumstances from God’s perspective, believes what God says about that circumstance, and obeys all that God is commanding for us to do in that situation. Faith is a gift from God and a choice of our hearts enabling us to believe that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are faithful, sufficient, and present for every life circumstance. Faith’s result is the peace that passes all understanding and a heart content in God’s sovereign grace. Maintaining faith is a battle of the heart: it is a spiritual challenge to stay fixed on the goodness and faithfulness of God in the midst of turmoil and bodily affliction.

We should inquire once again as to what the life of faith is. It is one lived by believing in God under any circumstance: “If he slay me,” says Job, “yet would I trust in Him.” That is faith. Because I once believed, loved and trusted God I shall believe, love and trust Him wherever He may put me and however my heart and body may suffer . . . Emotion begins to doubt when it senses blackness, whereas faith holds on to God even in the face of death . . . God asks for men (and women) who are totally broken and who will follow Him even to death to work for Him . . . .

Watchman Nee, The Spiritual Man