Passionate Faith - Part 1
Pastor Arn Buck
Heart Song Worship Center
"Can a faith that does nothing be called sincere?" - Jean Racine (1639-1699)
Many people go to the gym regularly. They invest time and energy to condition and strengthen their bodies. It is a good thing to do. It improves health and raises energy levels so that they can function better. What about our faith? How often do we exercise it? If our faith was examined, would the doctor have to recommend that we change our life-style?
What is Faith?
Christian faith is not easy to comprehend. Although its characteristics can be studied intellectually, faith must be exercised to gain a workable knowledge of it. True Christian faith is not static. It should be dynamic and ever expanding. It does not usually operate along a predictable path. If we wish to follow it, faith requires our attention to the leading of the Holy Spirit. It is important to understand that faith is foundational to a good relationship between us and God. Hebrews chapter 11, verse 6 begins, "Without faith it is impossible to please God." The intention of this sermon is to offer a practical and usable understanding of Christian faith. Let's begin with a very basic and well known definition of faith taken from the Bible.
Hebrews 11:1 (NLT) Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.
By this definition any interaction with God could be considered an act of faith. For example let's look how this definition fits petitioning God in prayer. We pray because we have an assurance that God exists, that He is willing to listen to us, and that there is a possibility that He will answer the request. We have this assurance because we have read about God answering prayer in the Bible or we because have seen Him answer prayers.
Different Levels of Christian Faith
To enhance our practical understanding, let's look at the different levels of faith that we can experience. This will help us gage where we stand in our faith journeys. It also might help us discern why some Christians behave as they do.
Intellectual faith - Our comprehension of God based on our intellect alone.
Saving faith - A revelation from the Holy Spirit that convinces us that God alone is able to redeem us from the condemnation of original sin.
Working faith - The trust that we have in God as the answer to all the challenges that face us in our walk with Him.
Intellectual faith is generally the starting point. It is the mental act of believing Biblical truths that cannot be proved by man. An example is accepting the statements found in the Apostles Creed as truth. Intellectual faith is based on the truths we have read or have been taught.
When I look at the state the Church universal and the life styles of many who call themselves Christians, I have to believe that the majority are stuck at this level. They live lives that are almost indistinguishable from non-believers. They have unknowingly deceived themselves into thinking they are true Christians. This is because they intellectually believe in the existence of God, His power to save them, and His right to rule their lives. They might have had a tremendous emotional experience as they accepted Jesus as their personal savior, however they have not taken their hands off the reigns that control their lives. They did not truly surrender to His lordship over them. Someone could be a pastor and have a doctoral degree in theology and be at this level of faith.
The church universal is no more faithful to God than Israel was as described in the Bible. As in Israel there is a remnant of true believers that is probably threaded across all denominations and local churches. Some local churches have much more than a remnant. Unfortunately the remnant, as a whole, is too small to affect the overall image of the Church. This might be hard for some to accept. Prove me wrong. I would rather believe otherwise.
In his book entitled "Walking in the Spirit", A. B. Simpson said, "The Church was never intended to be a natural and intellectual organization, but a supernatural instrumentality wholly dependent upon the direct power of God for all her efficiency, and therefore, needing to be ever separated from the arm of the flesh and the strength of mere human agencies."
Romans 10:17 (NKJV) So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
This passage and the verses surrounding it are relevant to saving faith. At some time in our life the Holy Spirit will bring us to a point where we realize that we are a sinner in desperate need of redemption. Saving faith is when we act upon the Gospel of Christ that we have intellectually accepted as truth. At that point we are born again. We are now a new creature in Christ. The Holy Spirit enters us and dwells in us. He opens our eyes to receive spiritual truth that we were previously blind to. We can now experience God first hand. The Holy Spirit is the part of God that actually touches us.
John 14:15 - 17 (NLT) If you love me, obey my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn't looking for him and doesn't recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.
Saving faith opens the door to our relationship with God. It is as significant to that relationship as a wedding is to marriage. It is the start of God's process of sanctification. This is where He changes us to become more and more like Him. It is important that we go on with Him. It is not good to remain at the wedding altar.
"We never become truly spiritual by sitting down and wishing to become so. You must undertake something so great that you cannot accomplish it unaided." - Phillips Brooks
God leads us to exercise faith to develop us and to prove His love and faithfulness to us. Following His leading can at times be difficult and challenging. People who exercise to build their bodies often use the expression "no pain - no gain." The same is true in the faith building process. God wants us to be successful in this. He will call us do things that we are capable of doing. As we succeed He will develop and stretch us to have faith in greater things. All along He will supply us with all we need. Just as importantly He will be there to help us.
As a young Christian I was part of a musical evangelistic group. Every now and then we would receive an exceptionally large offering. Sometimes it unexpectedly came from a very small church. God consistently would provide the finances just before we had a need to get a vehicle repaired or had to replace some of our musical equipment. It was always there at the right time.
He will use others to encourage us and pray for us. It is important that we stand beside our brothers and sisters as they exercise their faith. It is part of the body ministry. Seeing God respond to our faith has an impact on others. How would Daniel have felt going into the lion's den if Shadrach and Abednego were consumed in the fiery furnace? Who Benefits from Working Faith?
Who Benefits from Working Faith?
God benefits. Exercising our faith provides God with an opportunity to be glorified. As God works through us He stretches our faith and is able to do greater and greater things. This, in turn, makes His power more visible to the world that so desperately needs Him.
Those around us benefit. Unbelievers see God's love and power in a tangible way that gets their attention. Other believers are encouraged by how they observe God responding to our faith. to the world that so desperately needs Him.
We benefit. Experiencing His love and faithfulness first hand brings greater peace and joy into our lives. Seeing the benefit it has on those around us brings a greater sense of purpose to our lives. It is rewarding to see God transform lives, restore relationships, heal the sick, and save the lost.
Exercising Faith as a Service to God
It is important that all that we do for God is done with a humble heart. Any act of obedience should be done as a demonstration of love for our benevolent Master. We should always keep our place as a blessed servant of the creator of all things. He is God and we are not!
The exercising of faith is an important part of our service to Him. As His servant, we must remember that it is our duty to respond to His commands. Our ability to hear Him grows as we spend time in His Word, in prayer, praising Him, and giving Him our attention. Keep in mind that nothing we hear should ever be contrary to His Word or to His nature. Also consider that it would be unfair of a just God to demand our obedience without telling us what to do. Learning to discern His voice usually takes time and effort but it is a worthwhile endeavor.