I’ve been pondering something lately (and for that reason, today starts a new series on my blog).
What is faith?
This is a super important question!
- What is saving faith, faith that gets me to heaven? Nothing is more important than that, right?
- What do people mean when they say believers are “people of faith”? Is this just a politically-correct statement? I wonder, especially when all “peoples of faith” (muslim, catholic, buddhist, baptist) are lumped in together. Faith in what? in whom?
- What does Jesus mean when He says my faith can move mountains? I’ve never moved a mountain.
This question is important because the list of “do’s” and “don’t’s” is increasing all the time in our churches. The culture around us is becoming increasingly immoral, and in response, the list of regulations is getting longer within our walls. Which rules show that I have faith in God? And what is church anyway? A “house of faith”?
So what is faith?
First, I have made a commitment to return to God’s Word, the Bible, as my source of information about God and faith. Makes sense, right? If the Bible doesn’t have the answer, then why would I have “faith” in the God about which it writes? If the Bible isn’t totally true, then I certainly don’t see the sense in having “faith” in it! I’ve got better books to read with my time.
Deuteronomy 4:1-2 says,
Hear now, O Israel, the decrees and laws I am about to teach you. Follow them so that you may live and may go in and take possession of the land that the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you. Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the LORD your God that I give you.
God says to “hear” the decrees and laws that He teaches us in His Word. I’m then to “follow them.” Why? So that I can…
- Live. This is rather important, if I’m to take God at His Word — to have “faith” in what He says. Does He really mean this? Should I take Him literally? Is death really the opposite of life? So, if I don’t have “faith” in what He says (His Word, the Bible), then will I die?
- Receive His promises. In this verse, He’s promising possession of a literal piece of real estate to the nation of Israel. What other promises does He make in His Word? Which ones apply to me? (For instance, promises of eternal life. Do they apply to me?) If a promise applies to me, yet I don’t “follow” his “decrees and laws” (found in the Bible), then will that promise not come true? And have I even read this book I have “faith” in, so that I know what these promises are? or what the decrees and laws I’m supposed to follow are? And what will God’s response be when I fail? (I’m sure I will fail at some point, after all.)
Can you see why it’s terribly, urgently, life-shatteringly important to know what faith is? This is the most important question I could ever ask!
I want to start a series on the last few chapters of Hebrews, a book that doesn’t get near the attention it should from us women. It’s intensely practical, so rest easy! But this week, I just want to point you to Hebrews 11. You really should read it on your own sometime! In fact, this series won’t do you much good unless you do.
But reading through Hebrews 11 assumes that you have some basic biblical knowledge. It assumes that you’ve read the book of Genesis (referenced in verses 1-22). It assumes you’ve read Exodus through Deuteronomy (referenced in verses 23-29). It assumes you’ve read the book of Joshua (referenced in verses 30-31). It assumes you’ve read the rest of the Old Testament, too (referenced in verses 32-40). In other words, it assumes you know your Scriptures! Do you? Have you read them? If not, resolve in the new year to get started. You can find a reading schedule that’s light enough for busy moms here, with only 3 chapters per day. In the meantime, you can get a “Cliff Notes” version of who these Bible characters are by reading this plan.
God defines faith, in Hebrews 11:1-2, like this:
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.
Who were these “ancients,” and why did God commend them? Do we really believe these “ancients” even existed? Do we believe they were actual historical figures, or do we relegate them to the realm of myth?
God says here that they were real people, truly living in history. And these verses say that we are to be “sure” and “certain” of it! If we aren’t sure, then it’s not faith!
Are you sure?
- Are you sure that “the universe was formed” by God (verse 3)? Really, are you sure? When you watch television and hear that it happened over billions of years, which contradicts what God says in Genesis 1, that it took only 6, 24-hour, literal days, are you sure? Do you have faith that God is telling you the truth?
- Are you certain that a sacrifice is needed for sin (verse 4)? Did you even know that this is taught in Genesis 3? Do you know what that sacrifice is, and how God wants it to be offered? Do you believe this applies to you, and how does Jesus’ death on the cross fit into this? Have you studied this out? If not, what is the consequence (hint: death!)?
- Are you sure that God rewards faith (verses 5-6)? How does He reward it? Did you know that knowing faith is rewarded is evidence that you even believe God exists? Do you believe He exists? How do you know? Are you sure? Is there anything that could rock that faith?
- Are you certain that you should fear God (verse 7)? What does the “fear of the LORD” even look like? Why should we be afraid of God anyway? Are you afraid of Him? What does that mean to you?
- Are you sure that there is a future that is predicted in God’s Word (verses 8-10)? Do you know that the Bible contains history AND future? Do you believe it will happen? Does it affect how you live today?
- Are you certain that God can be depended on (verses 11-12)? Do you believe He keeps His Word? If so, do you believe He’ll provide for your finances, your health, your problem circumstances? Or does worry (rather than faith) rule your life?
God says, of people who have this kind of faith, that “God is not ashamed to be called their God” (verse 16). That is a powerful statement! I have to ask myself, “Is God ashamed of me? Is He embarrassed when I brag about the church I go to, or the denomination to which I belong, or the loud-mouthed way I call my culture to belief in Him? Are my actions backed by my beliefs?”
Hebrews 11:6 says,
Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
Without faith it is IMPOSSIBLE to please God. Wow! That’s a loaded statement.
In other words, if you’re not “sure” and “certain” that you even believe the Bible is true, then are you sure of heaven? Are you sure you’re a Christian? Are you sure about anything the church might teach, or that you might read, or that you might hear?
Looking back at Deuteronomy 4:2 again, we read that God warns,
Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the LORD your God that I give you.
Don’t add to. Don’t subtract from. Those are the roots of all error that has ever arisen in our churches.
What about “rules” and “standards” and “convictions” and “preferences”? Well, unless they are specifically mentioned in God’s Word, they are “adding to.” How many people have left God because of the added-to “thou shalts” and “thou shalt nots.” (I’m not referring to the ten commandments or any other of God’s laws, of course. I’m just talking about the modern ones we’ve added in.)
What about the laws of God that are ignored in our culture? For fun, take a peek at Genesis 1:28 or Leviticus 11 or 1 Corinthians 11? What about the truth of creation, taught as a myth in our churches? What else has been subtracted from God’s Word? You might as well grab your scissors and… snip… snip… snip… unless you believe that God has spoken in ALL of His Word (see 2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Without faith it is IMPOSSIBLE to please God.
Faith is being “sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Are you sure? Are you certain? That’s faith!
And faith affects our lives. If we really have faith, it changes how we think. It changes how we live. Next week, we’ll start looking at some of the logical consequences of faith in Hebrews 12 and 13. It might touch a little close to home….
P.S. Don’t forget your homework! Have you read Hebrews 11? Have you read ALL the Old Testament Scriptures? Go grab your Bible….
Thanks for this look into faith Anne.
Every year we hang Jesus a stocking next to ours and each person writes, draws, or cuts out a present for Jesus’ gift. This year my slip of paper said Faith, so this is a blessing to me to find you have a head start for me!
God Bless you all this new year,
Oh I love Hebrews 11. My ladies Sunday morning Bible study class is named after one of the girls in Hebrews 11. Sarah? Nope…Rahab. Odd isn’t it? Not the typical name but we wanted to be different and Rahab certainly qualifies. What we like about Rahab is ALL of us have a past we’re not proud of, like Rahab, but if we’ll have faith like she did we can be used by God. So…the moral of THIS story is have faith in God so He can use you just like He did the OT saints. Looking forward to the study!!
Anne Elliott says
Rahab is certainly one of my favorite Bible women! I just love that she heard about the God of Israel when she was a little girl (Joshua 2:10), and even though her life was “messed up,” she remembered what she heard, she believed, and she acted on it when she had a chance. And then! God put her in the line of the Messiah (Matthew 1:5). Wow… Gives me goosebumps.
Anne Elliott says
That IS neat! Faith is certainly something I’m needing more of in my own life. I’ve been reading the biography of Hudson Taylor http://tinyurl.com/yzpxcmc and I’m inspired to have faith as he and his wife did. I’ve got a long ways to go. We can pray for each other!