Faith Factor 2 – Man

“All things are possible to him who believes” – Jesus Christ, Mark 9:23

And that’s what makes faith such a vital and powerful component of Christianity. Faith is the most powerful force available to ordinary people in every generation.

By faith lives are transformed. By faith miracles are performed. By faith impossible obstacles are removed. By faith whole nations are impacted. By faith “all things are possible”!

So what is faith? How does it work? How do we get more of it? How can we build our faith, use it more freely and see more of its fruit in our lives?

I began answering these questions in part one of this series, explaining that faith is anchored in the person of God. Now it’s time to look at man’s part in this thing called faith.

Fusion of God and Man

I discussed the ‘faith fusion’ in part one, explaining that faith brings together multiple elements of Christianity into one powerful, explosive package. This fusion brings together two polarities of Christian thought; God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility.

Anyone who has delved into theological studies has been confronted by the passionate debate and polarising nature of Calvinism versus Arminian thought. In simplistic terms, Calvinism places great emphasis on the sovereignty of God, while Arminianism recognises man’s responsibility.

Without getting caught in the vortex of the debate, allow me to point out that the very defining verse on faith creates a fusion of those two, supposedly competitive concepts. While Hebrews 11:6 clearly gives weight to the person and character of God, as seen in part one, it also gives clear place to the part that man plays as well.

“But without faith it is impossible to please him (God): for he that comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” Hebrews 11:6

Man Believes

While God is all that He is and all that the Bible reveals Him to be, God’s almighty glory does not take effect in a person’s life until and unless that person believes. God is the ultimate and complete source of everything. But man must access God’s reality and grace, by man’s response to God. If man does not respond, then all the benefits of God’s reality, salvation, power and grace are lost to that person.

Unbelievers cannot engage faith. Faith is not a one-sided dynamic. Faith is anchored in who God is, but it is also activated by man’s response to the truth about God.

In fact, man is in a unique place to activate faith. We are told that the demons believe, but it does them no good. They believe “and tremble”.

“You believe that there is one God; you do well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” James 2:19

Man, however, gets a powerful result from believing.

“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” John 1:12

Man Seeks

The key verse I am using to define faith (Hebrews 11:6) not only reveals that man believes, but it points to man also seeking God. Faith has confidence in God’s character to reward those who “diligently seek him“.

A person of faith becomes confident in who God is and that God’s character is to bless. That person becomes confident that seeking God brings positive outcomes and so they press in to Him, seeking Him and expecting Him to respond to their actions.

A person of faith has a high level of engagement in their relationship with God. They are not passively dependent on God, but actively pressing in to access the benefits which can only come from God. They are ‘actively’ dependent on God. God and man work in synergistic fusion to bring faith into play and to release the grace which God is keen to give.

So man has a double part to play. Man is not a pawn, nor a sidelined passenger in Christianity. Man must “live by faith”.

“Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.” Hebrews 10:38

God and Man

Christianity is a ‘relationship’. God is our Father. We are His children. God and man work together and are bonded together in salvation and in the new relationship which springs from it.

Faith is the sweetest energising of the bond between God and man. It is the lynchpin of the relationship. It initiates the union and energises the on-going relationship. Faith is a team effort, engaging God and man in mutually satisfying cooperation for the fulfilment of God’s Kingdom.

So man cannot engage in faith outside of intimate relationship with God. Faith is an expression of that relationship, not something that man can activate independently of God.

Yet faith is offered to man to operate. It is like a father providing a car for his son. The car belongs to the father, but the keys are passed to the son. In the fullness of intimacy between God and man, man is able to operate with all of God’s resources.

Boldness in Faith

Faith, then, is something which people should enter into confidently. We are to come to God with boldness, because faith is something God is keen for us to engage in.

“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16

Fear of faith is out of place in Christianity. Christianity is a ‘faith’ which creates relationship, and it is relationship based on faith. Fear causes people to draw back, and drawing back is the opposite of faith.

Be encouraged that God wants you to step out in faith and to connect with Him in faith. He wants you to become completely confident in who He is and in His will to bless you, so that you will actively seek Him.

Be bold. Step into the presence of your holy God. Press in to know Him and to be knitted together with Him. As you do so you will be stepping into the arena of faith.

In ‘Faith Factor 3′ I will point out the imperative of faith.

George Blaurock Initiates Re-Baptism

This is the day that … George Blaurock was burned to death, in 1529.

Blaurock was born Jörg vom Hause Jakob, in 1492 in Bonaduz, a village in Grisons, Switzerland.

An ex-Roman Catholic priest, he had been converted to Protestantism when he was about 34 years of age.

That same year Conrad Grebel debated Ulrich Zwingli on the issue of infant baptism. Both were Protestant, but Grebel had become convinced that baptism was for believers only. Zwingli held to the belief that children of Christians were to be baptised as infants, on the same basis that the Old Testament required circumcision. Nothing was resolved by the debate.

Blaurock (so named because of a blue coat he wore on one occasion) went to Zurich to consult with Zwingli, but was disappointed in him. He then met with Grebel and Felix Manz and resonated with their commitment to Biblical truth.

Blaurock was already married at this time, so it appears that he had already abandoned the non-biblical practices of the Catholic church.

In a meeting in which the small group discoursed on their commitment to Biblical practice, rather than church tradition, they were deeply moved by this new conviction and Blaurock asked to be baptised as a believer, as the New Testament recorded. Once George was baptised the others asked him to baptize them.

Thus George Blaurock not only became an associate of Grebel but instigated the practice of re-baptism, becoming a vigorous preacher in the newly formed Anabaptist movement. At the time this rebaptism was performed by pouring, rather than total immersion.

There followed “tireless evangelism” around Switzerland, and clashes with the followers of Zwingli. Eventually Blaurock was arrested (on 8 October, 1525), escaped (on 21 March, 1526), re-arrested (in December, 1526) and sentenced to death (on 5 January, 1527). This sentence was, however, altered to a public flogging and exile from Zurich.

He maintained most of his ministry by dodging those who opposed him, preaching in a variety of places and using remote locations. His itinerant preaching ministry continued until he was arrested again in August, 1529. Death came at the age of 38.

A German historian identified Blaurock’s ideals as “freedom of religion, liberty of conscience, (and) the equality of all citizens before the law”. He also composed hymns which have endured in German worship to this day.

Georg Blaurock was one of the noblest martyrs of the Christian Church. For the brotherhood he helped to found he cheerfully sacrificed everything, honor and respect, freedom and comfort, property and goods, wife and child, body and life for the sake of his Lord and Saviour. Under the sign of adult baptism he gave the brotherhood its actual reason for existence in the world.

It was Blaurock’s falling away from the Catholic priesthood and from the Catholic Church, with his repudiation of the Mass, the confessional, and the adoration of Mary that marked him as a criminal worthy of death.

His biographer writes: “George Blaurock was a pioneer evangelist. His methods were sometimes crude and his remarks impolite. But he was sincere, untiring and courageous in spreading the gospel as he understood it. He was the apostle of the Anabaptists to the common people.”

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.

Building Faith or Sharing Doubts

Do your friends build your faith or pull you down with doubts? Since you desperately need ‘faith’ in your life, in order to please God, you are wise to protect yourself from those who will pull it down.

Let me remind you that faith is the thing the Bible says will “please” God. If you want to please God you must be a person of faith. Faith is not something reserved for the religious. It is vital for everyone who ever hopes to have God’s help or any kind of relationship with Him.

“Without faith it is impossible to please him (God): for he that comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” Hebrews 11:6

Sharing Doubts

Many years ago I heard a preacher tell of a conversation he had with a minister who was heading to a conference. The conference brought together theological people from many places, so they could “share their doubts” about the Bible with one another.

Such a gathering is preposterous. It celebrates the very antithesis of faith. And since Christianity is ‘faith’ based, there is no prize for promoting and propagating doubts. If the people around you pull down your faith then you need to shield yourself against that, not dive into it with gusto. It is no wonder that many men of the cloth (priests, ministers and theologians) have empty hearts and a vain religion. They do not value and protect their faith in God.

Building Faith

Faith is found in people in different measures. It is possible to have “great faith” (Matthew 8:10). We can be “weak in faith” (Romans 4:19). We can build up our faith (Jude 1:20). We can have “little faith” (Luke 12:28).

Faith can be built up as noted above in Jude 1:20. We are even told how to build up our faith. The two main instruments we have for encouraging our faith are the Word of God and the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Jude tells us to build up our faith by the gift of the Holy Spirit which we know as praying in tongues. Jude calls this “praying in the Holy Spirit”.

“But you, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit” Jude 1:20

The other way to build up our faith is through hearing the preaching of the Word of God. The Apostle Paul points us to this means in his letter to the Romans, explaining that faith is produced by hearing the preaching of God’s Word.

“So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10:17

Build Up Your Faith

To encourage your faith make sure you listen to someone preaching a faith building message each week. You can do this much more easily than in previous generations, thanks to audio-recording. Listen to people who believe what the Bible teaches and who press in to see God’s power in their lives. Those people are seeking to live in faith, so they are likely to boost your faith in God.

Also make sure you associate with people who are moving in the power of God’s Holy Spirit and operating the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Your faith will be encouraged and your life impacted by the fresh experience of God in your life and among your friends.

Oh, and if someone invites you to a conference where everyone is going to share their doubts, don’t go!

The God Who is Not!

What is God to you? How do you come to Him? It may be that you are worshipping a God who does not exist! You may be trying to deal with a God who is Not what you think He is.

I take my case from a favourite text which I have mentioned before, but which tossed to me a refreshing new point of reflection just a few days ago. My text is on the topic of “faith”, which you know is a current theme for me. The text is Hebrews 11:6

“But without faith it is impossible to please him (God): for he that comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” Hebrews 11:6

I have pointed out often enough before that there are two key elements in our approach to God. We must believe two vital things. We must believe that God “exists”, just as the Bible describes Him. This is what is meant by the words “believe that he is” – that He is Exists.

We must also believe that God is a rewarder of those who seek Him. That is, that He will act on our behalf.

Putting those two thoughts together, we must believe that God CAN do things and that He WILL do things for us.

That much is part of my regular discussion about faith. Now for some fresh thoughts I only noted last weekend. We are to “come to Him”. Not everyone comes to God. So faith puts us in a place of coming to God. If we have no faith in God we will not “come” to Him.

When we come to Him we should have only two thoughts in mind. We should believe that God exists: that He IS who and what the Bible says about Him. And we should believe that He will reward us if we come to Him: that He WILL do things on our behalf.

OK, are you ready? Here’s my question. What is MISSING from that verse?

“But without faith it is impossible to please him (God): for he that comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” Hebrews 11:6

Many people who think about “coming to God” hesitate because they don’t think He is a “rewarder”, but they think of Him as a judge, rebuker, annoyed parent or angry God. They think of Him being exasperated, reluctant or having to be cajoled or negotiated into some deal or other.

And so they DON’T have faith. Faith is significant because of what it DOESN’T include, just as much as for what it does include. People who don’t have faith don’t come to God, or don’t get any results from their attempts to come to God, because they are trying to approach a God who doesn’t exist.

They are trying to approach an angry potentate who despises them and is ready to knock their heads off. They think about approaching a God who must be bought with promises, negotiated into deals or fooled with flattery.

And so they never come to God! For those who come to God must believe that He is who the Bible says He is, and that He is a REWARDER! They are not to come to God as an angry God. If they do, then they are not coming in Faith! They are not to come to God as some exasperated, disinterested party, who must be conned into helping them. If they do, then they are not coming in Faith!

So, one of the most powerful ways to activate your faith is to come to an assurance that God loves you and plans to do you good. Even when He judges you for your sins, it is not because He despises you and is keen to throw you into hell. He rebukes and deals with you, only in order to see you blessed, because He loves you.

I exhort you to hurry into God’s presence. But be sure you are not approaching a God who is not! Come “boldly to the throne of grace” Hebrews 4:16, because you are confident that God is a Rewarder!

Building Up Your Faith

One of the personal issues I am pressing through at present is that of encouraging my faith so I can press in for some particular blessings I believe God has for me at this time. So the idea of ‘building up our faith’ is in my thinking. Since I know that you need to have your faith encouraged I am sharing some of my thinking with you, as a fillip to your own spiritual condition.

The Bible speaks of differing levels of faith. Jesus told His disciples they were of “little faith” (Matthew 8:26). He commended another person’s faith, calling it “great faith” (Matthew 8:10).

We have each experienced times when our faith has been encouraged and we have been much more ready to act in faith. While at other times our faith seems to be at low ebb and we have hesitated. My personal aim is to encourage my faith in God, so that I am emboldened to do the things He wants me to do for Him.

So, how do I build up my faith? The main mechanism for increasing faith is to hear the word of God. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17). Listening to the faithful and faith-filled preaching of God’s Word is a positive way to boost your faith in God. Get into God’s Word, the Bible, and believe what God speaks to you from its pages.

Now, to be more thorough in my explanation let me pull some key thoughts out of the Apostle Paul’s sermon on faith, in Romans 10:6-17. Paul declares that Faith produces Righteousness which cannot be gained by serving the Mosaic Law. Faith involves a heart conviction which is expressed in our words. The heart conviction is that Jesus came from heaven, died for our sins and then God raised Him from the dead. The verbal declaration is that Jesus is Lord of your life. The act of believing in Jesus rescues you from shame and brings deliverance in your situation.

So faith involves a conviction of heart that is then expressed in your life.

As we hear God’s Word our heart conviction that God is able to do more than we could ask or think is built up. Our faith is increased. That faith needs to be put into action, by our confession of Christ as saviour, and by other appropriate expressions of our confidence in God.

Let me now take you to Hebrews 11, the great Faith Chapter in the Bible, to find another simple way to understand what you have to believe to have effective faith. I call this the Faith Two-Step. It’s found in Hebrews 11:6.

“But without faith it is impossible to please him (God): for he that comes to God must believe that he is (exists), and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” Hebrews 11:6

Firstly that verse declares the absolute centrality of faith in our life and experience. It is absolutely vital in our relationship with God, since only by faith can we please God.

Faith is then described as two compatible beliefs. The first is a belief in God, Himself. We must believe in His existence, as He reveals Himself in the Bible. We “believe that he is” – which means we believe Him to be all that He says He is. He is all powerful, holy, loving, gracious, eternal, and so on.

Next we must believe that God responds to human initiative. While God is able to do whatever He wants to do, He has somehow connected His actions to ours. While He can do far more for us than we can imagine, He limits what He will do, waiting on us to prompt Him to action. He is a “rewarder of those who diligently seek him”. This means He does not give His grace equally to all. He measures out more of His blessing to those who take initiative and action to draw upon His grace.

In this verse we have the convergence of Calvinist and Arminian concepts of God. God is indeed supreme, yet God has also limited Himself, at least to some degree, to the actions of mankind.

I have two simplistic questions, the Faith Two-Step, which I use to get to the grist of faith in this key verse. First question is: “Can God Do It?” This question challenges our heart with, “Do we believe God to be who He says He is?” It speaks to the “believe that he is” portion of Hebrews 11:6.

The Second question is: “Will God Do It For Me?” This question challenges our heart with, “Do we believe that God will use His eternal power for your benefit?” It speaks to the “he is a rewarder” portion of Hebrews 11:6.

Many people believe God is able to do miraculous things, but they don’t believe that God will do anything for them. Thus they only have one part of the Faith Two-Step. God’s sovereignty is real, but it won’t impact your life if you don’t activate personal faith in God.

Allow me to encourage you to build up your most holy faith (Jude 1:20). Make it your intention to boost your confidence that God can do anything. Nothing is impossible to God. Then build up your confidence that God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.