Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Maybe, I over think things a little bit. Faith can be tricky when one’s life is at stake. When a person is forced to face their own mortality on an hour by hour basis, immortality is a constant consideration, and that requires faith. Conversion requires faith. What also requires faith is trust. One must trust that God exists, that He lives, and that He loves. We know this because of scripture. Faith comes from hearing the word, if we do anything without faith it is sin, faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Trust comes with respect and relationship. Today, we needed to trust God…after some prayer, I found that trust. It required some contrition. Perhaps a humble heart before God is a faithful heart. Obviously, regardless of what life offers, we must live daily by faith; we do THIS by our obedience to Christ. That includes deep love and servitude to this world. In servitude to ungrateful family members (mine not this way, really, we are all grateful for each other, but I know that I have been ungrateful for my family, so I understand that side of the coin.), neighbors, coworkers, and strangers is an act of faith. We trust that it is worthy of Christ. We trust that there is some sort of payoff. That payoff for some people is thanks and a pat on the back. By faith we don’t take credit for that lawn mowed for our elderly neighbor. By faith we say hi to them and not mention what we did. By faith we give a stranger a ride home from the grocery store and not accept a dime, and not mention it to others. By faith we send anonymous money to people we’ve only heard of that needs help. Now, I personally haven’t done all these things, and by faith I won’t mention what I’ve done. As Christians, by faith we evangelize. In regards to most people, by faith we expect a new day. We live as if time will continue and tomorrow will come. We also drive by faith. We trust that the person on the other side of the road will stay in their lane. But, do we make plans on faith? Do we trust that God will reward our hidden gems of love and servitude? Moreover, do we trust that we will live forever with Christ as King and God as our Father? Yes, I do. In fact, I quite plan on it. I take God’s word for it. By faith, I accept that God has personality. I know that God isn’t the universe, because He created the universe and is above or outside the physical realm; yet He is within, through, and filled in our world. He has become mass in order to save mass. He has begotten Himself to live in a world that hates Him, and resents His existence, in order to save that same world from itself. By faith I believe that He always accompanies new revelation with a break from the natural laws. By faith I believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah. He is merciful. He is Spirit. He is current, relevant, ancient, ageless, perfect, beautiful, righteous, holy, ethereal, just, worthy, funny, serious, loving, caring, emotional, in control, sovereign, wise, omnipresent, timeless, virtuous, sinless, pure, unparalleled, merciful, compassionate, righteous, holy, beyond genius, wise without limit, trustworthy, without equal, peerless, creative, artistic, alluring, eternal, mysterious, righteously judgmental, paternal, wonderful, poetic, powerful, wrathful, vengeful, jealous, expressive, patient, kind, meek, humble, light, blinding light, infinite, faithful, and most of all, indescribable to the truest sense. By faith, I accept his love and am willing to receive it. By faith, I know that he expresses His love through Christ. He is the supplier of faith. He chooses whom he reveals himself to. He chooses those who choose Him, to save from destruction. He chooses to save those who love Him. He chooses to grant opportunity to all of mankind, if not with the word, then by conscience and revelation through Creation. He loves those who love Him, and through Christ, He loves those who hate Him. When we were or are at our worst, He loves us the most. Faith isn’t alone…it doesn’t stand by itself. Faith isn’t an intellectual acknowledgement of something. It is trust revealed through action. The scripture says that we are saved by Grace through Faith. Two questions: 1) How is grace expressed? 2) How is faith revealed? These answers are in the bible. When someone is saved by grace, they aren’t magically rectified. There isn’t some magic formula of words and prayers that can be said that allows us to be saved. Grace isn’t just some sort of…what…say a prayer and poof, saved!? That is not at all right, and moreover, to think that a simple prayer is the way to “receive” Christ is a misunderstanding of what God is all about. Contrived prayers are too much like an incantation of witchcraft. Say these certain words in a certain order, and bing-bang-bong saved? This “sinner’s prayer” is one of the most damaging concepts in modern American Evangelical Christianity today. In fact, to think that the sinner’s prayer is relevant is to confess ignorance of what the Gospel is all about. It is an admission of not understanding what Jesus’ teachings are supposed to convey. NO WHERE in the entire bible does it say, “Pray and be saved.” “Believe and be saved”? Yes. “Repent and be saved?” Yes. “Be baptized and be saved?” Yes. And there are other things to being saved, but Pray? No! “Dear Jesus, I am sorry for my sins and believe you are Lord.”…then suddenly the Holy Spirit enters you life? Preposterous! The question isn’t if you receive Christ, it is “does Christ receive you?” Quickly read Matthew 7 and think about it again. The path is N-A-R-R-O-W and sadly, way narrow. I say sadly in empathy of the sacrifice Jesus had to go through for us and the willingness of those prayer converts in ignoring so much of what He has to say. I don’t, however, think that it is entirely the fault of the average “Sinner’s Prayer” converts. In many ways, they are victims of their environment. It is what so many of us have been taught. In that, I don’t like to use the words, “false convert” that others use. I like to look at it as an incomplete conversion. I know many people who have gone through the sinner’s prayer concept= conversion and loved Jesus as much or more than others who have gone through a valid conversion. In these cases, it is then our obligation to pull that person aside, and guide them in the truth in a loving, compassionate way that shows the genuine concern of a fellow believer. In many ways, this takes years to be effective doing this, but then again, if we pray and ask the Spirit to intervene, right there, as you speak to them, which will go a long way; it also is a good way to ask God to be with you, more affective as it were. This is also why we all should be carrying a compact type bible—of our favorite version. A perfect and fair bible for this is the ESV. We must be prepared to do the work of Christ when someone who loves God is not reconciled; they need to be presented with the opportunity to repent. Asking someone on the spot to look at a few scriptures will weed out those who love God, and those who love the benefits of being a member of their church. Many times, we can hear a preacher say that we shouldn’t question someone’s motives…I disagree completely. However, we must also remember the parable of the wheat and weeds (Matthew 13) where the farmer’s workers planted wheat, during the night, the enemy planted weeds, the workers asked if they should weed the fields, and the farmer said not to, and let the harvesters do it at harvest. This parable is saying that the kingdom will have both, wheat (true converts) and weeds (incomplete converts), and to let the angels of the Lord separate them at the resurrection. On top of that, I say we must also acknowledge the other scriptures and love every believer like Jesus loved the disciples (that is an entirely different topic). Great books to read on faith as an element in being a Christian are Galatians, Romans, Ephesians, and Hebrews. Of course there are others, but those are a good start. Bible study is also an entirely different topic also. Relationships to study are Abraham, Moses, David, and Hosea. These are particularly great examples of “You do what God asks, and God will do what you ask.” That is simply not an exchange of favors; it is a lifestyle of respect, obedience, and love. Moses is where I particularly learned this thinking. Well, it is relevant in conversion. Next time, we’ll deal a little bit more with conversion. It is a crucial topic that cannot be ignored.