Friday, June 22, 2007

Significant Faith - Part 4

Throughout the Bible, believers are called to obey God. God does not ask us to obey Him because He is dictatorially self-centered: His way or the only way. He has created us with the capacity to not choose His way - to be like Frank Sinatra and "Do It Our Way."

But our way will ultimately lead to misery - if not in this life, in the next, where God will honor the choices we make here. If we have chosen to live without Him on earth, He will make that state permanent after we die.

The Bible is clear that God asks for our obedience because He knows better than we do what will truly satisfy our deepest desires, how we can have real and lasting peace, how we can be reconciled with Him - despite our previous rebellion - and achieve the relationship He so longs to have with us. God intends our obedience for our own good (Deuteronomy 10:13); He intends to richly bless us, if we follow the guidelines He has laid out for us (Deuteronomy 28:2).

Significant faith comprises one final element, beyond knowledge, assent, and trust: Commitment.

Commitment means acting on what we know to be true and in which we have placed our trust. The Apostle James writes:

"For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead" (James 2:26).

The 'works' James is talking about are anything we do that provide an outward demonstration of our inward commitment to trust and obedience in God. The New Testament is clear that such 'works' do not save us - salvation is a gift of God, based solely on faith (Ephesians 2:8). We can do nothing to earn God's favor - to cause Him to love us any more than He does today. Even before we come to significant faith, He loves us with an infinite love that arises out of His very Being ("God is love"; see also Romans 5:8). But significant faith will inevitably produce works - acts of selfless love, kindness, gentleness, self-control, charity, forgiveness, patience, and endurance.

Of course, such works do not come all at once, or easily, even with commitment. The walk of significant faith is a long, slow one, for most of us. But God has promised that if we remain committed to living out our significant faith, He will bless us by shaping us into the person He intends us to be (Philippians 1:6). And this shaping process can sometimes take the form of trials - like the one I'm going through right now. But such trials can produce a stronger faith and a deeper commitment (1 Peter 1:7).

The commitment to obey God is usually the biggest stumbling block to significant faith. I've written previously that it was certainly that way with me - I knew the God of the Bible was real, but didn't want to submit to His authority over my life. I still wanted to be Frank Sinatra. But what turned me around was the simple realization that if God was who He said He was in the Bible, He would not ask me to do anything contrary to His Good Purposes. And those things that I was clinging to amounted to nothing of value. I realized that I was like a little boy whose father wished to give him a dollar. "Let go of the penny in your hand, and I'll give you this dollar." But the little boy clung to the penny, believing it to be more valuable than the dollar - not trusting that his father knew what was the greater blessing.

Thank you for allowing me to share some thoughts with you about Significant Faith. Sharing one's faith is integral to Christian theology - it is something we are commanded to do (Matthew 28:19), but not in an offensive or pushy way. The Apostle Peter writes:

"Always be ready to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence" (1 Peter 3:15).

Sharing one's faith has been likened to having a cure for cancer - one having such knowledge would have a moral obligation to tell everyone dying of cancer about it. In a sense, everyone lacking significant faith in God is dying spiritually. Significant faith is the cure.

So, if you've gotten this far, thank you again. It's not my way to push my faith on anyone; nor am I so proud as to think I have all the answers. But I think God has given me a unique platform, at least for the moment. Peter says that we are to give an answer to those who ask.

So, if you have questions, ask away!

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