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Do You Have Enough Faith?
What does it actually mean to have faith? This is a topic I address at length in Benefit of the Doubt, but this post provides a very basic answer to this question. To appropriately understand the New Testament’s teaching on faith, we need to understand faith within the context of our marriage-like covenant with God that I introduced on Monday in this post.
However, most of the time we don’t view faith within this covenantal perspective. Instead, we view faith as intellectual assent. Since the Bible teaches that we are saved by “faith alone,” apart from works (Eph 2:8-9), multitudes of western believers conclude that a person is “saved” (acquitted) when they intellectually agree that Jesus died for them. How they actually live is much less important, since it doesn’t affect their “salvation.”
Given how pervasive this understanding is, it’s hardly surprising that numerous studies have revealed there is almost no difference between professing Christians and non-Christians in terms of how they actually live. This is tragic for a number of reasons, not least of which is that God’s plan for spreading the Kingdom in the world centers on his people living lives that sharply contrast with the surrounding culture.
In reality, this understanding of faith as intellectual belief is not what the Bible means by “faith.” In fact, Scripture views this sort of “faith” as completely worthless, for even demons have this kind of “faith” (James 2:19).
Like most other key concepts in the Bible, “faith” can only be properly understood in the context of a covenant. “Faith” refers to a person’s willingness to trust their covenant partner as well as to a person’s pledge to live as a trustworthy partner. A woman says “yes” to her prospective groom’s proposal only when she places complete trust in his character to uphold the marriage covenant and pledges to be faithful to the marriage covenant herself. In a covenantal context, faith is inseparable from faithfulness.
Now, to exercise covenant faithfulness certainly requires an element of intellectual assent. A person obviously can’t enter into a marriage-like covenant with God unless they believe he exists and are convinced that his character is trustworthy. But merely believing these things doesn’t come close to constituting a marriage-like covenant with God. To enter into this kind of relationship, we must choose to act on our beliefs and pledge our lives to God.
This is why the Bible teaches that it is impossible to have faith in Christ as Lord while living in a way that doesn’t reflect his Lordship. In a covenantal context, the pledge to have faith in Christ is inseparable from the pledge to live faithfully toward Christ. Indeed, the meaning of confessing “Christ is Lord” is that one submits to him. To confess him as Lord without submitting to him as Lord is a contradiction. He’s only our Lord insofar as we’re actually submitted to him.
While the legal-framework view of faith encourages people to understand it as mere belief, the covenantal understanding of faith reveals it to be trust and whole-hearted commitment.
Tips on what NOT to say to someone struggling with their faith
Neal Fowler via Compfight Here’s a post from a year ago from Elizabeth Esther on What NOT to say to someone struggling with their faith. Historically, the church has been a very unsafe place for people expressing doubts or struggles. Let’s be safer than this. From the blog post: “Don’t throw the baby out with…
Podcast: If Doubt Is Good, Why Did Jesus Rebuke It?
Greg talks about how doubt relates to faith. http://traffic.libsyn.com/askgregboyd/Episode_0453.mp3
Faith is the substantiating of things hoped for and the conviction of things not yet seen, based on Hebrews 11:1 as I explained in this post. Practically speaking, this means that you become aware of what you are representing in your imagination as you pray, and that you take care to align it with what…
Beshef via Compfight Christopher Hutton wrote a piece that was featured on the Christ and Pop Culture blog called Skepticism for Christianity: Why Doubt it Our Best Friend. Greg’s upcoming book Benefit of the Doubt deals with the topic of doubt extensively and we thought this was an interesting voice in the conversation. From the blog: Doubt…
Why Doesn’t God Heal When We Ask?
If we are called to manifest what Jesus manifested and revolt against what Jesus revolted against, and Jesus carried out the kingdom through healing, then why doesn’t God heal those we pray for? One of my personal kingdom heroes is a Vietnamese lady named Dr. Huyen Tranberg. She is a medical doctor who works with…
Some News and a Giveaway!
We’ve got some exciting news for you. Starting next month, ReKnew will be sending out a monthly e-newsletter to those who are interested in getting a little something extra from our ministry. We’ll be including a personal video message from Greg in each issue as well as other news and updates. If you’re interested in receiving…