Friday, October 16, 2009

Faith and Works

Where there is faith
There is a voice calling, keep walking
You’re not alone in this world

    I have learned so much this past month, but looking back there is one thing that really stood out to me. One thing that has changed my worldview and the way I will live my life from this point forward. This is the concept of Faith and subsequently Acts of Faith. It simple and foundational to the Christian life. Yet, often overlooked or misunderstood.

     There is a  common mis-conception that Old Testament believers were saved by following the Law. Essentially salvation through works. This misconception continues to prevail in our modern understanding of faith. James 2:14 speaks of faith without works being a dead faith.  Faith and works go hand in hand. You can not have one without the other. Yet they are different and this difference is essential. To understand acts of faith we must first have a clear understanding of faith.

    Faith is more than simply having a particular belief. If faith was only believing that God exists then even the demons would be saved. They believe in God. They chose however, not to put their trust in God. They do not have faith. Faith has to have an object. It does not exist on its own. Kaiser spoke against this idea of faith without object when he stated, “[Abraham] trusts God. His faith is not just faith in faith, but faith in God who can do what he says...” (Kaiser 55) That last part of his statement helps us start to understand what we are to have faith in. Bjoraker's words on faith will further this understanding. Here he is speaking on the Hebrew root word for faith, “It had to do with what or whom you trust. So faith in the Hebrew sense is the holistic trust of one's complete being in one or the One who is faithful.” (Bjoraker) So there we have it! Faith is a complete giving over of ones trust. There is no doubt and there is no holding back in faith. Faith is trusting that God will follow through with His promises, that what He says is true and that He will act on His word.

    Being saved by faith has nothing to do with merit. There is nothing we can do to make us more or less saved. All we to do to be saved is put our faith in God's word. After Abraham put his faith in God's promise, that is say, after Abraham stopped trying to do things his own way and gave up to God, “God declares -not makes- Abraham righteous.” (Kaiser 46) See that, we simply put our trust in God, give our lives completely over to Him, and we are saved, justified. Because the moving of our trust from our ourselves to God involves action it is often confused as a work. But it is not. Think of it this way, if someone were to give you a gift you would have to put out your hands to receive that gift. You did nothing to deserve it, you didn't make the gift for yourself. You are just accepting it.

    Once we transfer our trust wholly to God our faith in Him should be evident through our lives. This is where Acts of Faith come in. When we trust someone completely we are willing to do things that don't make sense, that don't even seem right. Falling backwards trusting that your friend will catch you is a modest example of faith in action. Acts of Faith are when our choice to trust God follows with a change in heart and behavior.

    Usually it is not so much what you do, but how you do it, what heart attitude you have behind it. I like how this paragraph from the Insight Reader gets at the faith behind the action, “With Abel, we find that blood sacrifice is better than grain sacrifice. It's by faith that Abel offered a better sacrifice than Cain did. Noah believed that a flood, a rainstorm, was going to come, even though there had never been such rain before. He believed God, so he built the ark” (Saving Faith). This is almost an exact quote of Hebrews 11:4 which says, “In an act of faith, Abel brought a better sacrifice to God than Cain. It was what he believed, not what he brought, that made the difference. That is what God noticed and approved as righteous.” As we read on in Hebrews 11 we find many more examples of people who acted in faith. I had never read this chapter before Insight. As soon as I did read it I wondered why I had never heard of it before! It is such an encouragement to see all those that have gone before and to finally understand what was going on behind their actions.

    I have faith and I have even exercised that faith recently. But I did not fully understand just what that meant until a few days after our lesson on Saving Faith in the Old Testament (Module 1 Lesson 15). Last Sunday night I was writing in my blog about my best girl-friend's recent marriage engagement and at the end I also wrote about myself. That is when it hit me just what an Act of Faith is! Here is what I wrote:
    I would like to write a little note about my engagement. Or more accurately, my lack of engagement. You see, I know that Dan and I are to get married someday. Yet, we are not engaged. Earlier this year I was really struggling with the definition of the relationship. Either we should be engaged to be married or not be in a relationship at all. It was a very black and white issue to me. I struggled with feeling that he wasn't truly committed to me if he didn't want to be engaged. I wondered if I should pull out of the relationship until he was ready to take on that commitment. Countless different emotions and thoughts were swirling around in my head. Then one day I heard God speak to me. He told me that I needed to give it up to Him and stay in the relationship without being engaged. I realized that it was actually God whom I was failing to trust, not Dan. It was totally unfair to Dan to make him carry my lack of trust in God! It took an act of faith from me, but I gave my struggle over to God. I now feel freedom and peace to be in a relationship with Dan and I am trusting God for His timing regarding the engagement.
It was literally right after I unconsciously typed out the phrase “act of faith” in reference to my own life that this all came together for me. I have my own relationship with God and from that God spoke to me and asked me to do something I didn't fully understand, but because I believed in Him I followed. Just like countless people before me. Now that I better understand just what an act of faith is I hope that I will be able to better recognize future opportunities to put my faith in action.

4Him. "Where There is Faith." 4Him. 1990. MP3.

Bjoraker, William. "The Hebraic/Old Testament View of Salvation and the Afterlife." Insight Reader 1 (2009): 15A-5. Print.

Kaiser, Walter C. Christian and the Old Testament. Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 1998. Print.

"Saving Faith in the Old Testament." Insight Reader Module 1 Ancient World (2009): 15-2. Print.

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