Continuing on with the what the birth of a Christina into God's Kingdom should look like we are going to move on to the second step of the four step process - believe (have faith). Now I understand the could arise, 'But wouldn't faith be first? It just makes logical sense?' To which I would have agreed before seeing the explicit order in our covered chapters in the Book of Acts and in John the Baptist's and Jesus' language. However, I will say that logic is partially correct. None of the four steps of conversion can happen without faith. Faith (trust in God) is interwoven in each step. You must have faith to repent from something towards Someone you cannot see. You must have faith to see that baptism is more than a mere symbol or ritual, but rather has a deep spiritual component. Finally, you must have faith that God wants to and will give His Holy Spirit to all those who go on asking like He said He would. Faith is in the start, middle, and end of the process. So what is faith? What did the apostles look for when they saw faith? What should we look for and teach?
First, we all know, faith is simply trust. Trusting what? Trusting who? We have to know the difference between believing IN something and believing THAT something. It's one thing to say you believe THAT I exist. It's a whole other thing to say you believe IN me. Even is someone says they believe IN someone there is no profession of faith is real or not. We must remember, a profession of faith does not always mean a possession of faith. So how do we know? You cannot know that someone believes IN you unless they have done something that shows they trust you and have taken a risk that you will let them down. We don't just believe THAT Jesus exists, we believe IN Him. Jesus, as well as the apostles, urged people to believe IN the Father and believe IN Him. So what does our Christian faith look like? The following are five characteristics of the Christian faith and what to assure and look for in our friends:
1. Faith is Historical
We have faith in facts of history. It doesn’t matter how long ago they happened - they happened. We don’t feel these things are true, we trust in the reliability of the facts just like with all of history. We trust that, like Paul and every early Christian creed said, 'Jesus died according to the scriptures, was buried, and was resurrected on the third day' (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). If Jesus did not die AND was buried, our faith suffers. If Jesus did not rise with a new body, then our faith comes to nothing. The evidence for them is as good as for any fact in history. Faith must have a solid foundation in these three historical facts. Our faith is in this part of history. The Christian faith is exclusive to these three events. We do not just have a general belief in God. Even more specifically and crucial to the Christian faith, we believe in Jesus' conception, birth, death, burial, resurrection, ascension, return, and judgement.
2. Faith is Personal
Yes, can believe THAT Jesus was here, but we must also believe IN this person. We can’t just believe in the facts but in the person to whom they happened. No other religion can make this claim. Muhammed is dead and his tomb is still full, Buddha is dead and his tomb is still full, Confucius is dead and his tomb is still full, but Jesus is alive and His tomb is empty!. We can’t have a personal relationship with them, but we can have one with Jesus. The person to whom all of this happened is someone you can know and have a relationship with. Our faith is a personal faith with an alive and personal God.
3. Faith is Verbal
Faith must be expressed in words. If, like Paul said in Romans, you 'believe in your heart and confess with your MOUTH' it is of the essence that you SAY so. We all know that somehow when you really believe something you are prepared to say it! When people believe they have seen the best show on Netflix, they are prepared to say it. When we undoubtedly believe in anything we are prepared to say it! This has two parts:
Talking TO Jesus. If you believe that Jesus really was raised from the dead can TALK to Him. 'Whoever CALLS on the name of the Lord will be saved.' Calling on the Lord is putting your faith into words and calling out to Him. The first verbal expression of Fatih is calling out to Him for help saying, "Jesus, help me!" If you believe He is alive, the first expression of that faith is to talk to Him. That is how most people begin to exercise their faith.
Talking ABOUT Jesus. Jesus said, 'If you confess me before men I can confess you before my Father.' The act of confession is to take ownership of what is true in your life! If you are too embarrassed to confess Jesus before men then there is something weak in your faith. Our faith (trust) grows when we tell other people about it.
4. Faith is Practical
We said earlier that the only way to know if a profession of faith really means a possession of faith is when someone takes a step of faith. What do I mean? There was a game a Bible teacher used to play with his kids called, 'faith'. His kids would stand five stair steps above him and he would say, 'okay jump to me.' 'Well, are you going to catch us, daddy?' the kids would ask. 'I may. I may not. You'll just have to jump.' So they would wobble there for a minute and then JUMP! Paul says in Romans that man is justified by faith and NOT by works, but James says in his book that faith without works is DEAD! Are the two at odds with each there? Who is right? They both actually are. The problem is that the word 'works' is being used differently and we don't usually know it (I didn't). Paul is referring to the works of law (good deeds) while James is referring to the general idea of 'actions'. James is saying that a profession of trust with an action of trust means not truly possessing trust. Back to the kids. The kids could SAY they trusted their dad to catch them, but it wasn't really true until they jumped - until they risked being let down. Before the jump there was no risk and, therefore, no way validate this claim to trust. Faith is very practical. FAith is when you ACT on the word of God. Faith is not accepting the truth of God’s word, it’s acting on the truth of God’s word. When we look for true faith in our friends, we can't look for if they agree or accept the scripture, but if they ACT on it Without actions, faith is actually non-existent (dead).
5. Faith is Continual
Now this is a big claim, but at the moment this is where I stand when I read scripture: it’s not those who start in faith who are saved, it’s those who FINISH. Faith is continual. Faithfulness and fidelity are the same in greek and Hebrew. To have faith is to be faithful - to go on believing. There is a verb-tense in the greek language known as the ‘present continuance tense’. We don't have it in English, so you just add ‘go on’ to everything. 'How much more will your father give his Holy Spirit to those who [go on] ask[ing]. Whoever goes on believing will not perish/expire. The faith of today will not save us tomorrow. The faith of yesterday will not save us today. Paul spoke of race meant to be ran to the end. It makes sense of passages like 'He who ENDURES to the end will be saved.' Paul says ‘I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God to salvation for all those who GO ON BELIEVING.’ The just shall live by keeping faith. You are now starting a life of faith. It’s a life of faith that saves. He who endures to the end will be saved. The Jews were cut off and you too will be cut off if you don’t go on trusting Him.
So how do we help our friends to have this five fold faith?
1. We have to tell them the facts. They can’t believe facts if they don’t know them. You need to give them the evidence if they need it. Not all really want it so discern well. We have to give a reason for the faith we have. Josh McDowell's 2017 Version of 'Evidence that demands a verdict' is the best place to go for these resources and answers.
2. Personal - they have to be able to SEE the gospel, not just hear it. Jesus said when he sent them out two by two, go out heal the sick, cast out demons, and preach the Gospel. Essentially, demonstrate and then declare it. Let them see it and then hear it.
3. Encourage them to pray to Jesus themselves - It takes faith to speak and pray. Don’t let them repeat prayers after you; tthat is not calling on the name of the Lord.
4. Always look for what they are DOING in faith, not just saying.
5. Encourage them to continue on. We need continual help, Accountability, and encouragement from community to go on believing.
Jesus, help us to always put ourselves in situations to trust you. Help us to do what is uncomfortable for us and out of line with what we want if it is what would please you.