What is Christian Faith? (Revised again)
The Christian faith is the experience of living in a dynamic and new personal relationship with God through the transforming and indwelling power of Jesus in your body and life. The key to this new experience of living, and its essential factor, is trusting God to make you into a new person by allowing him to place the Spirit on behalf of Jesus, his Son, into your mind and body where Jesus (really Jesus, the Spirit, and God, the Father) can do their work to give you a new life.
An example of such a new experience of living
Imagine that your heart has become so weak that you are no longer able to live with any dynamic energy. You can’t do any work. You can’t really enjoy any of the benefits of living. You feel crushed by the challenges of each day. You can no longer effectively fight infections in your body, even with the help of pills. Your basic desire is to escape this state of deadness by sleeping all of the time as your bodily functions stop working or you induce that process by drugs. Your doctors tell you that you need a heart transplant in order to experience a new quality of living. And they have a new heart that is in “perfect” shape that they can place within your body where its power can restore all of your basic vital signs of healthy living. Your doctors want you to have the new heart. The donor of the heart knew in love that this organ, this gift, would dynamically change your life. The heart has been donated and is ready to be placed in your body. All that you need to do is to allow the transplant to be made, to allow the new heart to be placed in your body, to trust your doctors and the donor of your heart enough to go through the process of “dying” when your weak heart is removed so that the new strong perfectly healthy heart can be planted into your body where it can give you a new experience of living. When you “surrender” to the surgery, trusting the doctors and the donor who already trust the process and the organ, the transplant is made, and your body accepts the new powerful working presence of the new heart within you. And you awake from your ordeal, including the surgery, as a new person.
The nature of your spiritual heart
All of the “evil” desires and emotions that “ defile” a person, according to Jesus, come from “the heart” (Mark 7:21 & 15). These desires are replaced by the divine power of God’s Spirit that gives the redeemed and regenerated individual new power that can express desires and emotions that are in keeping with God’s heart rather than a person’s “dead” heart. Solomon, the wise king of Israel and the author of Proverbs, teaches the importance of this process in his instruction to “Keep you heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” (Proverbs 4:23) Paul acknowledges this importance of one’s spiritual “heart” in his teaching that “ if you … believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved … For with the heart one believes and is justified.” (Romans 10:9-10) Hannah, an Israelite woman who lived during the period of time when these people of God were being led by Judges and priests, acknowledged the importance of her spiritual “heart” in her words of prayer and praise as she said, “My heart exults in the Lord; my strength is exalted in the Lord,” as she prayed for the Lord’s blessing upon his people. (1 Samuel 2:1) After her prayer, “a man of God” came to Eli, the Judge, and told him that the Lord would “‘raise up for myself a faithful priest, who shall do according to what is in my heart and in my mind.’“ (1 Sam. 2:35) This individual was Samuel, who served the Lord as a mighty “prophet”. The great prophet of Israel, Isaiah, declares that it is the intention of the “Holy” God “to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.” (Isaiah 57:15) David, after his sin with Bathsheba, prayed for such a blessing from God in his appeal to have have God “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10) Apparently God did this for David, because the prophet Ahijah testified that God had praised his “servant David”, because he “followed me with all his heart”. (I Kings 14:8) The great prophet, Ezekiel, announces to the people of Israel that God will perform such a basic transformation in his people as he says, “you shall be clean from all your uncleanesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh….” (Ezekiel 36:25-26) This is the heart transplant that is experienced through God’s gift of his Spirit in his act of justification for the obedient faith of those who are willing to trust God for his forgiving grace and regenerating power in their lives.
Faith is trusting in the goodness of God
After God created the universe with all of its various coordinated systems and the earth with living creatures (including Adam and Eve) with all of the food and resources that they all would need, he “saw all that he had made, and it was very good”. (Genesis 1:31)
He gave man, these human beings that he had created (Adam and Eve), dominion over all of the living creatures that he had made and told them to “take care” of his garden. (Genesis 2:15)
He also gave Adam and Eve the freedom to eat from and to enjoy the trees of the garden that he placed there; but there was one tree whose fruit was forbidden to them, the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil”. (Genesis 2:17) If they ate of it, they would “surely die”. (Genesis 2:17)
So God apparently had given Adam and Eve everything that they needed only requiring from them that they trust him with the exclusive authority and power to determine in their existence what would be GOOD and what would be evil. And so Adam and Eve resided in God’s garden in a personal relationship with God, the creator of everything, and it was GOOD!
Sin breaks the relationship of faithful trust
When Eve and Adam desired this forbidden fruit and decided to eat of it, with the devil’s lying and seductive encouragement, their relationship of faith and trusting submission with God was broken. They didn’t die immediately, but they were expelled from God’s garden and forced to endure pain and hard work to produce their children and their provisions.
Because of this rebellious act of distrust, sin became the inheritance of the entire human race and the relationship of faith that God desired and enjoyed with his human creatures was replaced by separation, struggle, pain, and death. The 3rd chapter of Genesis in the Old Testament contains this report of man’s fall, his rebellion against God’s GOOD will and providential care.
But God in his love didn’t leave humanity alone
The Bible is the record of God’s ongoing efforts to restore this relationship that he intended with his human creatures. It relates over and over again his calls, his invitations, to human beings to trust him, to have faith in his word, and to accept his GOOD gift of grace and his GOOD will.
The record includes the stories of Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the nation of Israel, Moses, Samuel, David, Isaiah, Daniel, John the Baptist, Mary and Joseph, Jesus, and a group of disciples that included Peter, James, John, Matthew, Mark, Paul, Barnabas, Luke, Timothy and others (see Hebrews chapter 11 for some details regarding this record).
Throughout this record God demonstrates time and time again his loving desire to bless and to care for those who will trust him, who will live in a relationship of faithful submission to his GOOD will and care.
Faith in Jesus brings one back into a GOOD relationship with God
The summary of the gospel, God’s good news is contained in Jesus’ words of instruction and appeal to Nicodemus: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
This relationship is restored when a person believes that God offers him/her, even though he/she is a rebellious sinner, the gift of a blessed relationship with him if he/she will have faith in his word and trust him by acknowledging that his Son, Jesus, is Lord, God in human flesh, and in repentance from his/her sinful rebellion accept Jesus’ atoning sacrifice when he was crucified on a cross.
As Jesus began his ministry, he said, “Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15) When Peter concluded his powerful sermon on the day of Pentecost with a proclamation of the Lordship of Jesus, in response to their question, “what shall we do?”, he replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.” (Acts 2:36–38) Paul covers this topic of the connection between faith and repentance, belief and obedience, sin and righteousness in Romans chapters 4–8.
God is saying to his sinful human creatures, if you want to live in a GOOD relationship with me, have faith in me, trust me that I can and will bring you back into a joyous and providential relationship with me as you believe upon my Son, Jesus, and accept his sacrifice for your sins.
Like your physician by your bed who is ready to transplant a perfectly healthy heart into your dying body, God offers you his challenging invitation for an amazing personal experience of his loving and GOOD care, by saying in effect, “If you really believe me and trust me or have faith in me, surrender to my surgery and let me give you the heart of Jesus, and I’ll even give you the faith to undergo the process.” But there is a challenging rule that comes into play here. It is this: if you do not trust me enough to accept my invitation, then you will not be able to experence the benefits that you claim to believe that I am offering you. Belief has to be expressed in active faithful obedient surrender or it will not bring you the experience.
But this new dynamic life as a new person with the power of Jesus’ Spirit working within you is not accomplished by keeping a set of divine rules or regularly practicing a series of religious rituals or even believing a creed of theological doctrines. It is surrending in trust to the wisdom and the power and the love of Jesus, the Spirit, and the Father who lives within you.
The GOODness of such faith
Accepting God’s invitation in faith is extremely GOOD. Not only will it deliver you from being separated from God by your sin and death, but it will enable you to live as a forgiven sinner who has been cleansed and renewed by the righteousness of Jesus, God’s Son, and who is able to live with dynamic energy in this world of sickening and deadly forces protected from their harmful effects and ultimately empowered to resist the devil’s lying and seductive words for eternity (see Romans 8:28–39).
Sharing such faith with others in daily demonstrations of trusting God, testifying to the GOODness of his will and the dependability of his promises, can have extensive and everlasting blessings to you and to those with whom you share your faith. The life of “faith” with the Spirit and power of Jesus within you should not be a passive experience in which one just enjoys God’s thrilling blessings. Jesus has work that he wants to accomplish through you as he motivates your desires and empowers the activities of your life. There are hungry men, women, and children that need to be fed and clothed. There are the sick and broken that need to be healed and visited. There are those who are “lost”, perhaps members of your family and friends, who are overwhealmed by the challenges and burdens of living, that need to hear and to see your “witness” regarding what God and Jesus can do when one has “faith” in God’s GOODness and his victorious power. There are your “enemies” that need to be forgiven. God and Jesus need to be glorified by what others see happening in your life as Jesus empowers you to live as a new person of faith on this “battlefield” in which we all live. And they will be glorified as you resist the temptation to be constantly trying to live in accord with your own selfish feable efforts to do what only Jesus can do.
This is what the Christian faith is all about. It is the experience of living in a new relationship of trust and surrender with God through his Son, Jesus, by the indwelling power of the Spirit. And your fundamental Christian ministry is sharing the good news of Jesus’ redemption of sinful humanity. This is why Christianity is not a religion of rules and rituals but rather a life of personal faith in God and a daily walk of surrender and trust in union with him and Jesus.
If you would like to enjoy such a relationship of faith with God, a guide for doing this is available in this statement on this website: “The Plan of Salvation (Revised)”.
The above Scripture quotations are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society, Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.