Friday, October 06, 2006

What Is Faith? Definition One - Vital Connection

What is faith?

There are certain words in the bible that seem very difficult to grasp. Just when you think you understand what the word means you read it in another passage and your previous definition doesn’t fit. Some good examples of this are the words, glory, world, walk and faith. Trying to nail down the meaning of these words seems as simple as stapling jello to plywood.

In fact, the words are not that complex but they do have several different meanings and each meaning is activated by it’s immediate context. When studying the scriptures it is of utmost importance to keep the verses and the thoughts contained in those verses in their context. The word is defined by the sentence, the sentence by the paragraph, the paragraph by the chapter and the chapter by the book. “Faith” has a certain set of definitions and once understood it is simply a matter of determining which definition you have encountered in the Bible. Faith is a very important word in establishing how we acquire truth and a misunderstanding of the word can greatly distort our worldview.

You have heard someone use the expression, “It’s a matter of faith.” This phrase is often used for example in setting our system of religious belief apart from science. The implication being that science is based in fact and religion is based in belief of the unseen. This is true in part but it is wrong to conclude that science is based in fact and it is equally wrong to propose that all facts can be seen. Science is based on unseen presuppositions as well. The so-called facts of science are interpreted through the filter of someone’s worldview. In the end both science and religion stand on a foundation of belief in the unseen.

So what is faith?
Definition one -
Faith is the vital connection between you and Jesus Christ. By vital I mean it is life itself, the abundant life that Jesus spoke of. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. John 10:10 By connection I mean a link, a channel through which new life flows. Before Adam and Eve sinned this vital connection was evident in all the dealings between God and man but sin and the fall broke this connection. Without this connection man became a wise fool. Having been made in the image of God he was still able to reason and make decisions but his perception of God and the world around him now passed as through a dark glass. Our thinking became dull and distorted.

This distortion was compounded by the fact that we tried to cover our guilt by trying to hide from a holy God. The pursuit of self-atonement guided our thinking. The apostle Paul explains this tragedy in the first chapter of Romans.

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.

Without the vital connection between God and man, man at his very best possesses a debased mind. Apart from this connection man can only sin and therefore we are all lost and we are by nature God haters. So as God seeks out his sheep, gathers his people to worship him the first thing that must be done is to restore that very vital connection between God and man. God does this by what the bible calls atonement and this important work of the Son will be taken up in a later writing.

Here is an illustration to help you understand faith as a vital connection. Those of us who have used land phones know what it’s like to wait on the phone company to establish phone service. You can pick up your phone and listen but you will hear only silence until someone at the company throws a switch. You can push all the buttons you want and it will have no effect. The switch thrower is acting according to his pleasure and won’t throw it until he is ready. Furthermore, the switch is either on or it’s off, there is no middle condition. If the switch is off the line is dead, if the switch is on there is a link to the world. This is what I mean by a vital connection.

Faith as a vital connection is a gift from God, there is really nothing we can do to acquire it. Jesus says it this way - No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. John 6:44 We also see this kind of faith at work in Jesus healing the man with the withered hand - Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And the man stretched it out, and it was restored, healthy like the other. John 12:13 It would be foolish to say the man in his own power stretched out his hand. Jesus commanded the man to stretch out his hand because Jesus supplied the healing and power to do so; a vital connection took place between Jesus and the mans’s hand and life flowed into it for the first time.

Faith as a vital connection is either on or off, it is there or it isn’t. Jesus refers to this aspect of faith when he says - For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20

It’s not the amount of faith that is important here it is whether or not faith is present. Faith is as powerful as its object. Faith does not give us power to do anything but faith as a vital connection links us to the Creator himself and nothing is impossible for God. Again Jesus reaffirms our own inability when he says - I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5 Jesus makes this truth more sure by pointing out that he works through this same vital connection - So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. John 5:19

(Go To Part Two)

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