What is faith?

As Christians, we talk about faith. A lot. It is our belief system. It is the basis on which we live our lives. It is our calling. It is many things. We know that just a small amount—the measure of a mustard seed—can move a mountain. It can heal the sick and open blind eyes. Faith can raise the dead. But how many of us can accurately define faith?

Let’s go the the old standby in Hebrews:

What is faith? It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see.

Hebrews 11:1 (NLT)

I once heard a pastor say that grace is God’s grip on us and faith is our grip on God. According to Noah Webster, her statement was more than just something to be typed on a meme and posted to social media.

The sense of the verb is to strain, to draw, and thus to bind or make fast. A rope or cable is that which makes fast.

Our faith, combined with God’s grace, brings us or draws us toward God and binds us to Him. Without faith, we have no grip whatsoever. Grace alone is not enough. It is not the binding agent, faith is.

So, you see, it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that there is a God and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.

Hebrews 11:6 (NLT)

FAITH: That firm belief of God’s testimony, and of the truth of the gospel, which influences the will, and leads to an entire reliance on Christ for salvation.

When we are called upon to use our faith, our belief should not be in the desired outcome, but in the One who can bring it to pass. We must remember that faith goes beyond a little prayer and a hope. Faith is what binds us to God. It draws us closer to Him. It brings us to obedience to His Word and puts in line with His will. It is our judgement that what God has stated is the truth. And, if He promised it, He will perform it.

Daily Bible reading: Ezekiel 10-12, Hebrews 11:1-19

He learned

Jesus, while he walked the earth, being completely God, was also completely man. And, being a human, he was susceptible to all the things we humans are, too. He had to learn the same things we have to learn. Even obedience.

Look at a toddler. No one has to tell you that a small human being needs to learn to be obedient. Left to our own devices, we will make poor choices doing whatever we want whenever we want to do it. But, learning to be obedient to our parents and those in authority over us also teaches us how to make better decisions and makes us far more useful than a selfish toddler prone to tantrums.

So even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered.

Hebrews 5:8 (NLT)

In an earlier verse in this same chapter of Hebrews, the writer talks about the high priest in the temple and how, because he suffered the same things that everyone else did, he could deal with the people and their sins with more grace. He endured the very same things. In order for Jesus to be able to extend grace to us, he had to experience what we experience. And he did. He was bombarded with the same temptations we face every day. The only difference is that he did not succumb to them.

In this way, God qualified him as a perfect High Priest, and he became the source of eternal salvation for all those who obey him.

Hebrews 5:9 (NLT)

If Jesus, as a human being, was able to learn to be obedient—even unto death—so we too, can learn obedience. We have the Master to learn from. Jesus, who learned perfect obedience, is waiting as our High Priest both to forgive our sins and to teach us to avoid them altogether. The requirement on our part is to get close to Jesus. Spend time with him. Mature in our relationship with him. Be more like him.

If he learned, we can learn to.

Daily Bible reading: Jeremiah 49-50, Hebrews 5

What’s in a name?

There are a lot of people in this world who will tell you they’re a Christian. Maybe they were baptized as a kid or they go to church on Christmas and Easter. But is that what makes you a Christian—just calling yourself one? Noah Webster didn’t think so.

CHRISTIAN: A real disciple of Christ; one who believes in the truth of the Christian religion, and studies to follow the example, and obey the precepts, of Christ; a believer in Christ who is characterized by real piety.

There are many who believe that a simple profession of faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God is what makes you a Christian. I believe that profession is what makes you a believer. It’s everything that you do afterward that makes you a Christian.

By definition, being a Christian means that you should be ever striving to act like Christ. It’s right there in the name. Paul wrote an entire letter to Titus discussing how Christians should conduct themselves.

For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people. And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with self-control, right conduct, and devotion to God, while we look forward to that wonderful event when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed. He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing what is right.

Titus 2:11-14 (NLT)

Christians, true Christians, should turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should talk different. We should act different. And people should notice. If you claim the name of Christ, truly claim it. Live it. Act like him.

Imagine what this world would look like if every single person who claimed the name of Jesus Christ really acted like him. If, instead of churches full of nominal Christians, we went out on the street and actually lived the life we claim to have chosen when we first called on Jesus.

Salvation is free. It’s a gift for all people. But the name of Christ should be reserved for those who follow his example, those who are totally committed to doing what is right.

Daily Bible reading: Jeremiah 31-32, Titus 2

Living knowledge

[God] saves men because He loves them individually, and desires to make them blessed; but He also saves them because He desires that through them other shall be brought into the living knowledge of His love. It is most especially true about great religious teachers and guides.

MacLaren’s Expositions

In Paul’s first letter to Timothy, he tells his son in the faith to stop letting people waste time in endless speculation. Many in the church had begun to spend more time in discussion over fruitless facts rather than actually bearing fruit. They lost sight of the purpose of their salvation.

Our salvation is not only for our own personal good, but for the good of everyone. As stated in the quote above, God saves us because He loves us, but He also saves us so that we can share His love and be brought into the living knowledge of it.

Facts are great. I love facts. I love statistics. I like knowing things. But those things bear no fruit. Facts have no life to them. This is why Paul directed Timothy to keep the church from spending all their time arguing over these things. While genealogies may be important to an extent, when compared to eternity, it’s a bit of a waste of time. Because God wants to save everyone—not just a specific few.

This is a true saying, and everyone should believe it. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—and I was the worst of them all. But that is why God had mercy on me, so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life.

1 Timothy 1:15-16 (NLT)

The greater the fall, the greater the story of salvation. (Please don’t take this as an invitation to go on a sinning spree just so you can say you’ve been saved from all of that.) If Paul, a man who spent his life pursuing and killing Christians, could be saved, we can all be saved. And, if that same man can spread the Gospel, we can all spread the Gospel. This is the point he was making.

In the Kingdom of God, your earthy pedigree means nothing. The very same grace saves us all. Let’s not lose sight of that fact and let us not lose sight of the fact that we are saved so that others might be saved.

The purpose of my instruction is that all Christians there would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and sincere faith.

1 Timothy 1:5 (NLT)

Love is what we should be filled with, not fruitless arguments. Look for that living knowledge of God, that which edifies the soul and strengthens the spirit. Those are the thoughts that should be consuming us.

Daily Bible reading: Jeremiah 5-6, 1 Timothy 1

 

Children of the Light

There are many definitions for the word light. It’s meaning goes far beyond that of simple illumination:

  • life
  • day
  • means of knowing
  • a window
  • God
  • Christ
  • joy
  • comfort
  • deliverance
  • the Gospel
  • a true Christian
  • favour

All of these things exemplify light.

For you are all children of the light and of the day; we don’t belong to darkness and night.

1 Thessalonians 5:5 (NLT)

When we claim the title child of God, it means so much more than belonging to God. And that is a wondrous thing! When Paul says that, as Christians, we are children of the light, we have life, we have a way of knowing, we have joy, comfort, deliverance, favour. And, if we have anything other than these things in our lives, we have allowed ourselves to be pulled back into the darkness that Jesus died to save us from.

DARKNESS: absence of light; obscurity; want of clarity; that quality or state which renders any thing difficult to understand; a state of being intellectually clouded; great trouble and distress

These characteristics are unbecoming of a Christian. They have no place in our lives. Do we live in a dark world that would see us all brought back into that darkness? Yes. But that is why we are called to let our light shine. Let our joy, our clarity, our comfort, our deliverance, and our favour overflow and overcome the darkness that surrounds us.

But let us who live in the light think clearly, protected by the body armor of faith and love, wearing as our helmet the confidence of our salvation.

1 Thessalonians 5:8 (NLT)

The close we get to God and the longer we remain in His presence, the more clarity we will find and the more confident we will be in our salvation. Darkness will become a distant memory that no longer has a hold on us because we are protected by these gifts from our Father.

So let us live as we are meant to, as children of the light. Let us cast all darkness from our lives and walk in the close comfort that comes with our salvation.

Daily Bible reading: Isaiah 62-64, 1 Thessalonians 5

These rules

My parents have family rules. Even now that all of us kids are adults, there are still certain parameters and guidelines that we are expected to live by, especially when it comes to our interaction with each other. Anyone else who joins the family—by marriage or by birth—is expected to adapt to the family code of conduct. It’s not always easy and we don’t always like it, but in the end, we’re all still family and we still love each other.

God has adopted us into His family. And, like my parents, He has a set of rules and guidelines that we are expected to follow as members of the family.

God has called us to be holy, not to live impure lives. Anyone who refuses to live by these rules is not disobeying human rules, but is rejecting God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.

1 Thessalonians 4:7-8 (NLT)

If I decide that I no longer want to play by my family’s rules, I’m not only being rebellious, but I am telling my parents and the rest of the family that I no longer respect them and cannot be bothered to act in a manner fitting to be part of the clan.

We do the same to God. He has called us to a higher standard of living than the one we lived before we came to Him. He has grand plans for all of us—if we follow His instructions. But if we make the decision to disobey Him, we are not only letting down our brothers and sisters in Christ, but we are essentially saying that God is good, but not good enough and that His plans and purposes aren’t worth our effort. We not only reject His rules, but we reject God himself.

So, if we don’t feel like living up to God’s standards, what does that say about how we feel toward salvation? If God isn’t enough, was Jesus’ sacrifice enough? Was his message not worth his time and effort?

My parents haven’t laid out guidelines for the family to be mean or spiteful, they’ve done it so that we can continue to have fruitful relationships with each other. God has done the same. All of the rules He has given us are not to take things away from us, but to prepare us for the great things He has in store for us.

These rules aren’t such a bad thing after all.

Daily Bible reading: Isaiah 59-61, 1 Thessalonians 4

The gift that keeps on giving

It is a simple thing to accept a gift. And it can be just as simple a thing to set that gift aside and forget about it. If you receive something that you may not use right away or don’t need at the time, but may have use for it later, you can put it away and forget you ever received it.

But you must continue to believe this truth and stand in it firmly. Don’t drift away from the assurance you received when you heard the Good News.

Colossians 1:23a (NLT)

Paul understood that certain gifts can easily be forgotten. This is why he was so adamant that the church at Colosse continue to believe the truth and stand in the assurance they received when they first heard the Good News.

Accepting salvation through Christ is the easy part—keeping that salvation before us and remaining confident in it is where it may get difficult. Like a gift that is received and even welcome, yet set aside for later occasion, our salvation too, can be cast aside. And the longer it remains to the side and out of our direct line of sight, the less aware we become of it. It becomes the forgotten gift, collecting dust, unused.

For it has pleased God to tell his people that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. For this is the secret: Christ lives in you, and this is your assurance that you will share in his glory.

Colossians 1:27 (NLT)

Salvation is not a gift that is meant to be readily accepted and then set aside to be forgotten about or only pulled out on special occasions. It is meant to be used all the time. And the more we make use of it, the more we will grow, gain, and benefit from it. This gift of salvation is our assurance from God of even greater gifts to come. Like a kid excitedly waiting for his birthday party to start—with friends and presents on the way, we should be waiting in expectation of what is to come and grateful for what we’ve already received.

Daily Bible reading: Isaiah 41-42, Colossians 1

No plan B

There are some things in life I like to have planned out. When I know I have to be somewhere, I plan my route. I know which roads I will take and, if there is an unforeseen backup, I’ll have a secondary plan. Plan B.

God had no such thing. There was no plan B in case His whole humanity thing went sideways—which it totally did. God is smart. He’s smarter than smart. He’s all-knowing. When He put mankind on the earth and told them not to eat from a certain tree, He knew full well that they were going to eat from that tree. And He also knew what He was going to do about it.

May grace and peace be yours from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. He died for our sins, just as God our Father planned, in order to rescue us from this evil world in which we live. That is why all glory belongs to God through all the ages of eternity. Amen.

Galatians 1:3-5 (NLT)

He died for our sins, just as God our Father planned. I’m sure that all of Jesus’ followers would have liked to have been in on that plan. I cannot imagine how they must have felt having the person they assumed would be their king killed for a crime he didn’t commit. We have the ability to read through both the Old and New Testaments and see a bigger picture. We can see how God’s plan for our salvation—which included the death (and resurrection) of Jesus—began with Adam and Eve.

You can look at God’s lack of forward planning two ways:

  1. He’s really not all that bright. Who works out a plan so grand without any backup measures whatsoever? That’s just crazy right? Everyone needs a plan B. But… we’ve already established that God is omniscient.
  2. He’s a genius. Before time even existed, He put into motion the greatest escape plan of all time. And it wasn’t even for Himself—it was for us.

God was so confident in what He started that He never worried about failure. He had one shot and He took it and let it play out for thousands of years. All so that you and I could be redeemed.

I can’t even get across town without a plan B. God rescued all of humanity.

Daily Bible reading: Song of Solomon 6-8, Galatians 1

I am a C-H-R-I-S-T-I-A-N

We have a tendency to, at the moment of salvation, start referring to someone as a Christian. But is belief what truly makes us a Christian? Belief in Jesus as the Son of God, born of a virgin, having died and then raised to life is what makes us born again, but it is not what makes us a Christian.

First let’s look what being a Christian really is:

CHRISTIAN: A real disciple of Christ; one who believes in the truth of the Christian religion, and studies to follow the example, and obey the precepts, of Christ.

Believing and praying a prayer doesn’t make us Christians. Everything we say and do after will make that determination.

But salvation isn’t about works! Salvation is about one work—the one Jesus did on the cross. But our Christianity is all about works.

Just as the body is dead without a spirit, so also faith is dead without good deeds.

James 2:26 (NLT)

Our faith isn’t faith at all if we don’t do something about it.

So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and steady, always enthusiastic about the Lord’s work, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.

1 Corinthians 15:58 (NLT)

We are all labelled by who we are and what we do. You have a first name—that makes you an individual. You have a last name—that makes you part of a family. You may have a job title—that indicates your employment. You may have a designation—that indicates your education. Using the title of Christian should be a determination of how you live your life. And the crazy thing about being called a Christian is that, if you have to tell someone that’s what you are, you probably aren’t.

If you love each other, all men will know you are My followers.

John 13:35 (NLT)

Our works and actions as Christians shouldn’t be to show people that’s what we are. They should be an outward reflection of an inward change. Both love and works have to be involved or both are empty. You need faith to be a Christian and the works of faith need love or they are useless.

We are accountable to one person—God. Our faith, our love, our works should all come into line with what He has instructed us in His word and the direction He has given to each of us individually. It is not our responsibility to make it all work, but to do as we have been called to do in the manner in which we’ve been called.

Work hard and cheerfully at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.

Colossians 3:23 (NLT)

Are you just a believer or are you a Christian, too?

Daily Bible reading: Proverbs 11-12, 1 Corinthians 15:33-58

Come Ye Sinners

The Church is great. The Church is growing. We’ve got mega churches! We’ve got satellite churches. We’ve got multi-site churches. The Church is great. Fantastic. Never been better.

So then why did I hear just this week about someone who was afraid to come into a church building for a function because of the things that person had done? What has the Church done to make sinners believe that they are unwelcome in a church?

Because the church has made sinners unwelcome.

I’ve also heard of a local church that insists that any homeless person who wishes to attend a service has to sit in a different room where the message is streamed on a screen. We wouldn’t want to offend the regular members, would we?

Have we lost the focus of what church is all about? Church is all about sinners. People who were sinners and have found salvation and people who are still sinners who are looking for salvation. The Church, in many cases, has effectively cut off the supply that that Lord has given us.

O Israel, hope in the Lord;
for with the Lord there is unfailing love
and an overflowing supply of salvation.

Psalm 130:7 (NLT)

Where is this supply of salvation for the lost? Where is this supply of salvation for the lonely? Why has the Church hoarded it for themselves?

If we have been so greatly pardoned, why would we not want to lead others to receive that very same pardon?

Lord, if you keep a record of our sins,
who, O Lord, could ever survive?
But you offer forgiveness,
that we might learn to fear you.

Psalm 130:3-4 (NLT)

As often as we can, we should be flinging wide the doors of the church calling to the hurt, the lost, the lonely, and the sinners.

Come ye sinners the poor and needy
Weak and wounded sick and sore
And Jesus ready stands to save you
Full of pity love and power

Come ye weary heavy laden
Lost and ruined by the fall
And if you tarry until you’re better
You will never come at all

Come Ye Sinners, Dan Hamilton | Joseph Hart | Robbie Seay | Ryan Owens | Taylor Johnson

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 128-131, 1 Corinthians 7:25-40