Faith’s Concern

I once knew this man who I considered to be a great person of faith. I think he prayed more hours per day than I was even awake. It seemed as if he had a direct line to God. He spoke as if the Lord spoke directly to him. When he went through a particularly difficult time he continued having confidence that God was going to answer his prayers. He was, as the television preachers tell us to do, believing in his miracle. He kept the faith.

Until he didn’t.

He’s an atheist now. The main reason is because God didn’t come through on His promises to the man. Tragedy struck. He prayed. Tragedy continued. The mountains didn’t move, even though he had the faith of a mustard seed hundreds of times over. To him the only fitting conclusion was that his faith was nothing more than a fairy tale.

Truth be told his faith likely was a bit more in a fairy tale than the living God. After all, faith isn’t the ability to hang onto promises I made up, but it’s the ability to trust in what God has clearly communicated. As Calvin so aptly put it, “we must be reminded that there is a permanent relationship between faith and the Word.” (Insitutes, 548)

A good picture of faith is the little boy jumping off a high rock into the arms of his daddy. He just knows he can trust his daddy to catch him. It’s as simple as that. It isn’t blind faith because he’s seen daddy’s arms. He has watched him lift heavy stuff and catch things. He knows his dad’s character and that he can be trusted. And so he leaps. That’s biblical faith.

There is a brand of Christianity which has a much different idea of faith. A fitting picture of this type of “faith” would be a little boy grabbing hold of scissors and cutting something that looks like daddy out of a cardboard box. He calls it daddy, treats it like daddy, and even at times it holds up enough to break his fall. But at the end of the day it isn’t daddy and when the cardboard collapse he ends up bruised and battered on the floor and somehow blaming his real dad because the cardboard cut-out didn’t catch him when he fell.

I’m not saying that God only speaks to us in His Word. Nor am I even de facto ruling out that God can clearly communicate things to us today, much in the way He communicated to Abraham or Moses. But you aren’t Abraham or Moses. In these last days God has definitively spoken to us through His Son. That means something.

And here is at least one thing it means. When you get these impressions, or these promises, or even something you are calling a Word from the Lord, then whether or not it comes true has a bearing on if it really was from God.

If you feel that God promised you that your sick uncle was going to be healed and your sick uncle isn’t healed then you have no right to claim that God backed out on his promise. Instead what you ought to do is either conclude that you had a bad burrito and didn’t hear from God or that you are indeed a false prophet. Because God never lies. That’s the biblical picture. What he said to Abraham came true. What he said to Moses came true.

It isn’t a lack of faith for you to even wonder, “Did I really hear from God?” That’s just good common sense. It’s not even a lack of faith to wonder if what you perceive to be a promise from God is actually a promise from God. That’s not a lack of faith it’s actually believing the Scriptures that the human heart is deceitful and that we are finite sinful human beings who can at times be wrong.

You aren’t responsible for believing promises you’ve dreamed up in your head. In fact if you look at the communication of God in the Scriptures it usually isn’t for the purpose of giving us insider knowledge. It’s for the sake of the gospel. The gospel is the goal of God’s communication. When we turn away from this we run into trouble. Again I turn to Calvin:

“Therefore if faith turns away even in the slightest degree from this goal [the gospel] toward which it should aim, ti does not keep its own nature, but become uncertain credulity and vague error of mind. The same Word is the basis whereby faith is supported and sustained; if it turns away from the Word, it falls. Therefore, take away the Word and no faith will then remain.” (Calvin, 549)

Faith is not primarily concerned with blindly wrestling with God’s activity in the world and trying to interpret His actions. I’m not called to have faith that God is going to do some particular thing (i.e. heal a sick uncle), I’m called to have faith that whatever God does do He is good and I can trust Him.

Faith is primarily concerned with wrestling with what God has communicated through His Son in His Word. Am I going to believe this promise? Am I going to believe what God’s Word says about this situation or am I going to believe my feelings? Am I going to obey this Word of Christ even if it means pain and discomfort on my part? These are the questions we need to be asking.

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Today in Blogworld 06.28.16

What the Hook-Up Culture Has Done to Women

Ideas have consequences and these are heartbreaking.

Missional Hymns

I absolutely love the work of Keith and Kristen Getty

4 Ways to Reach a Child’s Heart

Love the simplicity of this.

10 Thoughts On Speaking (And Not) In a Digital World

Lots of wisdom here, though I do think we can be silent to a fault.

Love the Church More than Its Health

Yes.

Here is The Bible Project’s summary of Jeremiah:

Does Doctrine Matter For Your Worship?

“I don’t care much about doctrine or theology, I just want to press into Jesus”.

I’m still not totally sure what it means to “press into Jesus” but I’ve heard things like this quite a few times. Sometimes I hear it in the form of “Love unites, doctrine divides”. At other times you hear it from folks who don’t care much about that fancy book learnin’ they just want to follow Jesus.

There is one sense in which I think such folks are on to something. There are silly little doctrines, endless myths, and genealogies which unnecessarily divide the church. Such things ought to be covered in love. And there is something to be said for a simple trust in Jesus. The truth is my disobedience isn’t usually because I don’t know something—my disobedience is really because I’m not following what I do know. No amount of fancy book learnin’ will capture a heart in rebellion—it’ll likely just give more tools to convince yourself and others that you really are obedient.

But there is another sense in which a lack of concern about theology is counter-productive to your growth in Christ. If you do not know the value of certain things then you will not know how to approve that which is vital. And when you consistently do not approve the vital your life will have a tendency to drift away from growth in Christ and not towards him.

My daughter has little to no concept of money. She thinks four quarters are more valuable than a $10 dollar bill. If I gave her 100 pennies she’d gladly exchange that for one bill with Ben Franklin on the front. This year, though, she will learn more about money. She won’t be so easy to trick next year at this time. Why? Because she will know enough about money to approve what is vital.

Theology is the same way. If you are not anchored by good solid biblical theology then you will be tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine. False teachers will easily be able to fool you into trading valuable truths in for a shiny penny theology. Theology helps you approve what is vital.

I love the way Sinclair Ferguson states this. After arguing for our need to get back to the great basics of the gospel, Ferguson adds this qualifier:

To say this is not to make a plea for superficiality, nor is it to downgrade the importance of a thorough grounding in all the doctrines of the Bible. In fact it is the reverse, for a really thorough grasp of biblical teaching and the relation between its doctrines will always help us to put the weight of our testimony where it really belongs. (Ferguson, Man Overboard, 62)

If understood correctly, forcing people to choose between Jesus and theology is a false choice. The two are not diametrically opposed. In fact, as Ferguson states, your theology ought to serve your devotion to Christ. It should, when rightly applied, lead to stronger devotion and more vibrant worship. Or to put that into contemporary terms that I still don’t quite understand—theology will probably help you press into Jesus more (or maybe to stop saying things like that all together).

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Today in Blogworld 06.24.16

7 Things Google Tells Us About Evangelism

Interesting.

Four Ways for Fathers to Engage at Home

There are certainly many more ways to engage but I appreciate the simplicity of these.

The Real Reason You Can’t Date Jesus

I love this.

The Ten Pleasures

David Murray does something wonderful and helpful with the 10 Commandments.

Parents, Tell Your Kids They Are Sinners

Sadly, I find this incredibly difficult to do sometimes.

This is the how Shakespeare would have originally been pronounced: