By Larry White
(Originally delivered in Grants Pass, Or. March 11, 1984)
We are born into a world of sin, a corrupt world controlled by the lust of its deceit. The deceit is the course of the world or "modus operandi" of the age. (Eph.2:1-5) It is what blinds the minds of men to their real situation, even to the point of not acknowledging the spiritual realm at all. We all then quickly followed that course and lived in sin and rebellion to God just like the rest.
Can we then change? How is that possible?
Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may you also do good, that are accustomed to doing evil.
That is true. Taking man on his own without God, at his best, he really cannot change himself or extricate himself out of this world of sin and deceit. In the flesh it would be like a blind man trying to invent sight.
But in the spirit, the flesh can be changed. For the saints of God this is possible because we live in the spirit.
All things are possible with God.
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service. And do not be conformed to this world: but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
So, instead of being conformed to the world by our looking around at what others are doing, God wants us to be transformed from the inside out. It would be like the leopard growing new skin that had different markings than all the other leopards.
He wants us to do this by the renewing of our minds. So, how do I do that?
I'm beginning to realize that when a writer like Paul says to have something done and then does not tell us how to go about getting it done, it is because he thinks it is obvious for the Christian who reads it; and the obvious thing that is needed here is Faith. We have to let it all go... all the doubt and fear and disbelief, and let our minds be renewed by believing the truth.
So it goes along with what modern psychology has found. Our behavior is based upon our thinking and our thinking is governed by our core beliefs. To change our behavior we must change the way we think. To change the way we think we must access and modify our core beliefs.
Core Beliefs ---> Thinking ---> Behavior
Therefore in Bible terms; to change our works or deeds, we must change or renew our minds, and to renew our minds we must have faith.
Faith ---> Mind ---> Deeds
I.) Today I would like to look at two bible definitions of faith. One is in Romans 4, the other is in Hebrews 11.
Rom.4 = Knowing the Path.
Heb.11= Walking the Path.
- 16. For this cause it is of faith, so that it may be according to grace; so that the promise may be firm to all the seed; not to that which is of the law only, but also to that which is of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.
- 17. As it is written, "A father of many nations have I made you" as standing before him whom he believed, even God, who gives life to the dead, and calls the things that are not, as though they were.
I have made you a father of many nations - standing before God, the one who he believed - the one who makes the dead alive and calls things that are not, as though they were. Abraham was standing before the one he believed, God, and to God he stood there as the father of many nations.
- 18. Who against all hope, in hope, believed, to the end that he might become a father of many nations, according to that which had been spoken, "So shall your seed be."
Who against all hope, believed - in expectation. He expected what God had said to be a reality. His faith said in his heart and mind, "I am the father of many nations."
- 19. And without being weakened in faith he considered his own body now as good as dead (he being about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah's womb;
He considered the actual circumstances - he was not being foolishly blind to reality.
- 20. yet, looking unto the promise of God, he did not waver through unbelief, but grew strong by faith, giving glory to God,
But the circumstances that he was in (90 years old with a barren wife) did not sway him from having confidence in God. He glorified God - he thought, "God can do it! God can do the impossible, so he can do this."
- 21. and being fully persuaded that what he had promised, he was able also to perform.
Abraham was absolutely sure that what God said - God could do. That is why it was accounted to him as righteousness.
- 22. Wherefore also it was accounted unto him for righteousness.
So, definition #1 = Faith consists in holding the divine promise for the reality itself.
Then what the believer has done in regard to God's promises, God in turn does in regard to his faith, he holds it as righteousness itself.
That is knowing the path, knowing it as REAL.
The next step is walking the path, LIVING it as real.
II.) It seems that it is entirely possible for us to be stewards of God's word and study it diligently and for the most part be experts on the scriptures, knowing them forwards and backwards, and yet for all this, have a lack of faith - not believe the words we read.
We certainly must believe the words of God are true, but more, we must believe to the extent that the things the word of God describes to us are real to us. A life changing belief, a behavior changing belief.
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (KJV)
Now faith is the foundation of things expected, the conviction of things not being seen.
Now faith is the basis upon which something is expected, the fully assured conviction of things that are invisible.
In the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, we tend to stress the fact that these great people of faith did something by faith. We do this as an over-reaction to the denominated churches who teach that you can be saved by faith only. But if we look at the scripture without worrying about what denominations teach, we can see the key to understanding the faith of these Old Testament worthies. It is that they believed something that they could not see was real and then responded accordingly. It was not blind obedience, but the obedience of faith (which is based upon faith).
Noah believed God concerning - things not seen as yet. (v.7)
By faith Abraham went out not knowing where he was going - looking for a city which he could not see. (v8-10)
By faith Moses endured - as seeing him who is invisible. (v.27)
All these people saw something that other people around them could not see, by faith. They had faith to the point that they were assured that the things they could not see, were nevertheless real, and then acted upon them.
That is what we are also called upon to do. In the scriptures we are faced with a world-view, and a definition of the universe that is spiritual and moral. It is the realm or sphere where God dwells and holds a communion with man - another spiritual being. That is where our activities and interests must be; that is where we are called upon to live our lives. But we cannot unless we believe in the reality of that spiritual realm. Not just holding a loyalty to an idea in one part of our minds - but something we live and breathe moment by moment - walking in the spirit.
Now with this type of faith, we can begin working in the spiritual realm. We can step out of our old lives and habits and live and walk in the spirit. Mainly because now we have eyes that can see and ears that can here. We can respond to spiritual issues and find we can effect a powerful influence in the spiritual realm (and also find it kicks back).
This type of faith will change us; change our thinking and change our behavior.
III.) I would like to apply this to 3 areas that are important.
A) Understanding the word.
The most pressing and fundamental problem we have in the church today is a lack of faith. Certainly we have a lot of knowledge and have all the right answers on many doctrinal questions, but to a great extent we lack a heart-felt trust in God. I have found that knowledge and faith are often confused. Faith is the most vital thing to us. Please understand me. I know that we can have a lot of faith in a doctrinal error, but being right doctrinally is nothing without faith, taking our doctrinal rightness and living it as real.
With some Christians there seems to be this arrogance that because we are in the right church and our church is doing all the correct things, that therefore we are Okay, when all the while we personally lack faith. It could be we really do not believe in the things that are unseen.
Unbelief is continually a matter of concern in the brotherhood. It just so happens that this time around it centers in a denial not only of the Spirit's work, but of the spiritual realm itself and how we interface with it.
What worries me, is when faced with a spiritual concept in the scriptures that we do not understand, or with which we have not had any experience, some of our brethren conclude (arrogantly conclude) that it does not exist - and even then make an effort to explain away the words that teach it.
"After all, am I not a true child of God? Been in the church over 30 years; if I haven't experienced such a thing then it must not happen and therefore these words that teach it must mean something else"
I would respond, "Well, how much faith do you have? Don't you think that what the scriptures talk about might be real, even though you do not understand them, and what might be needed is more child-like faith in what we cannot see, in order to conform our lives to the word, instead of conforming the word to our lives?
It worries me when men reported to be "somewhat" in the brotherhood, in trying to explain passages like Rom.8:9 which says that we are not in the flesh but in the spirit, if the Spirit of God dwells in us, have a priori, i.e. beforehand concluded, that such is not possible, the Holy Spirit cannot dwell in a Christian. And so they teach that the passage is not referring to the Holy Spirit at all and thus explain away the words. And not only this, some have gone on and concluded by the same reasoning that the Holy Spirit did not come on the day of Pentecost, nor did Jesus have the Holy Spirit, and in fact there are men now who teach that the Holy Spirit has never, ever left heaven at all and has never been to the earth.
Reasonable? Certainly! But is that faith? Aside from us forgetting that we must have faith in the Christ who was crucified for our sins, this colossal misunderstanding is without parallel.
According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise masterbuilder I laid a foundation; and another builds on it. But let each man watch out how he builds on it. For other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. But if any man builds on the foundation gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, stubble; each man's work will become manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it is revealed in fire; and the fire itself shall prove each man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work remains which he built on it, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he will suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as through fire. Don't you know that you are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man ruins the temple of God, God will ruin him; for the temple of God is holy, which you are. Let no man deceive himself. If any man thinks that he is wise among you in this age, let him become a fool, so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, "He that takes the wise in their craftiness:" and again, "The Lord knows the reasonings of the wise that they are vain."
Jesus said to the Sadducees, "You do err not knowing the scriptures nor the power of God."
Without our child-like trust in that power of God's - the power he has to do the impossible, we are blind, and our understanding of God's word will be limited and at most carnal, even as babes in Christ. I think to explain away spiritual realities that the scriptures talk about is evidence of little faith. He might be a great name in the brotherhood, but without faith in the unseen, he is blind and his carnal teaching is stubble and it will be burned up. "But how can big brother Preacher-At-Large be so wrong?"
You say, "Can God communicate or not?"
Yes, but not in the flesh, i.e. to a carnal mind relying only on his own reasoning ability.
You say, "But God wants us to understand."
Yes, but he recognizes our inability to understand with our carnal minds. He wants to renew our minds.
You say, "We have a command to understand - (Eph.5:12)"
Yes, but not with human wisdom - the way to understand is to believe his word and ask Him for the wisdom that is from above, and not rely on your own clever reasoning ability and the criteria of your own human experience to figure it all out.
Some teachers in the past have said that God so wrote the scriptures that the any man on the street could open the book and understand the truth of God. I will need a "book, chapter and verse" on that one for nowhere in the scriptures can I find this statement or sentiment. In fact the scriptures say just the opposite.
We speak of the idea of trusting in your own intelligence or intellect being certainly the wrong path for coming to God. But we need to consider that "intellect" in not the problem but that our own human-ness is what keeps us at arm's length from God. Human intellect is the problem - the intellect of the flesh. Christians are not anymore mere men.
We have to realize that the way that everybody's mind works, the common sense reasonableness of the way we "normally" look at things, must not be our commentary on the scriptures. The natural, fleshly mind cannot discern the things of God.
Which things also we speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches, but which the Spirit teaches; imparting spiritual things to spiritual men. But a natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God: for to him they are foolishness; and he cannot know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual discerns all things, however he is discerned by no one. For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.
If we approach our study of God's word with the attitude that my human reason can grasp the word of God because my human intellect has always been sufficient to grasp everything else - then we will drag the spiritual things in God's word down to what our limited human intellectual ability is able to assimilate and digest. Everything in God's word cannot be limited to what is humanly reasonable or what is only possible.
Faith takes the word of God makes that its reality and makes that what is possible - not ever relying on human understanding.
In believing in the reality of what the scriptures describe, do not let yourself get deceived into taking things that are divine and spiritual and explaining them down to your human, carnal level of what is real or possible. Rather, by faith, allow your concept of what is real and possible to ascend up to meet the word of God.
In Jesus' words, "Believe in God, all things are possible to him that believes." (Mk.9:23)
Let yourself become a fool, so that you can be wise.
This is the area with which we have the most difficulty - the area in which we feel the greatest tug from our flesh, when we are faced with what we know to be God's will and yet we have a very strong desire to fulfill some behavior that we know is opposed to God's will. So we struggle with it and we are miserable. Actually, with that inner turmoil, we have already lost the battle because we have become ineffective in the work of God. God cannot use us in that condition, and we wonder why we just get passed by and nothing is happening in our lives as Christians. There is nothing going on.
We talk about haw God can empower your inner-man by his Spirit (and he can) but it will not do us any good unless we are willing to come out of the flesh and live for God in the spirit.
"But how do I deny the flesh? I want and need and crave my attachment, the thing that can fulfill me in the flesh. I cannot say no to the very thing or person that answers like a key, every need and desire I have, that can fill the aching void in my heart. How could I possible do that?"
You can - through faith in God and his word. Really believe it, and the knowledge of the truth will so influence you that your choice will already be made - it will seem that easy.
If you are having trouble with a stubborn sinful habit - what you need to do is trust God and believe his word, really believe it.
Peter says, "Add to your faith, virtue." But if you are having trouble adding virtue i.e. moral strength, then you have to back up and take a look at your faith. That is where the problem is.
The need and desire of the co-dependent (his addiction or compulsive behavior) is in the flesh. So we need to divorce ourselves from the flesh, reject it - die to it - deny ourselves. But we do not want to. Our need we have is perceived to be too great. "I cannot afford to lose what completes me. So we hold on to it, even though it is hurting us.
The truth must enter in here at this point. The truth that we have another life promised to us. That we can live above our circumstances. That we hold the image of God and we are not just mere men. The truth that our destiny lies with God in heaven. The truth about the temporary nature of things, The world passes away and is far from worth it. The truth about God's being and nature - that he is the only lasting thing.
But we have to believe it. That is wherein lies the strength to say, No, to the flesh - FAITH. Faith puts our affections on things above, so that we can sell all that we have and buy that pearl.
The truth sets you free. It dispels the lure and fascination of sin and opens our eyes to the realities of spiritual life, and that is where we are made complete - in Christ, sharing his life.
One of the reasons why we Christians in general may not be converting people to Christ is because we are lacking in faith. Fear of telling others about God is evidence of little faith. We are not believing what the Bible says is serious and real.
But we must not get on a guilt trip and think, "Hey, I gotta get our and convert somebody", and then start concentrating on ways to get a contact. I'll show you a more excellent way. The trick to converting someone to the Lord is to have faith. Believe what the Bible says is real and things will start clicking. I don't think our job is to find contacts. If you believe what the Bible says is real, you will have more contacts than you thought possible - both contacts for damnation bringing persecution and suffering, and contacts for salvation bringing joy and glory to God. If you believe the spiritual realm is actually real, then you will not be able to hide from your contacts. Like the harvesters of old... "Lift up your eyes, look on the fields, for they are white already to harvest."
Our field that we should be working in is actually our area of influence. Whoever we have influence with is our field. Your neighbor, boss, fellow employee, friends and relatives. But that is just part of your field. Your field is actually as big as God's influence, not just your own. Jesus said, "My father works up till now, and I work." (Jno.5:17) Jesus was saying that the context and motivation and opportunity for the work he was doing, was taken from what God was doing at the moment - which Jesus could see. Jesus would recognize the fathers hand and join along in the work with him; and with that co-operation, the work God was doing he was doing through Jesus. That is the secret of working for God, let him lead you and first watch him work and then join in.
I've found that most of my contacts over the years have been strangers, chance acquaintances with whom I had a brief but profound influence, and they came when my faith was the strongest.
If you believe what the Bible says is real and you have your "feelers" out, (i.e. you are waiting in expectation to teach others about God) what you are doing is making yourself available to work, and God knows it, and God will use you. He wants to communicate faith - and when you are actively having faith, then God will use you to influence others.
When God sees someone who wants the truth, and they are ready to receive the truth, then he leads them to the truth - and if you have the truth and are expecting God to bring you a person who wants the truth, then you will see that person too. Like Jesus, you will see the opportunity and you will see God working in that person's life to bring them to the truth. You will see God using you to that end and you will see it all - by faith. What a happy occupation!
In the Old Testament, the men that God used to bring about his will and accomplish his purpose in the earth, were men of faith. God is actively converting the world to Christ one person at a time. If you believe God is real, and what he has said in the scriptures is real, then God will be using you and you will be doing the same thing God is doing.
We need more faith.
Faith in the area or our understanding of God's word. Not relying on what we think is possible, but humbly accepting the language as he gave it, and then believing it, without regard or respect for the face of any man.
Faith in the area of repentance. Realizing that faith is the way to strength. The truth sets us free from our attachments and the lure of our human needs. But that truth has to be real to us, and it is made real by faith. By faith we should walk as aliens in the earth, not being a product of the world.
Faith in the area of evangelism. We need more faith so God can use us. If everywhere you look there is nothing going on spiritually, then take a look at your faith. Being zealous for lost souls is a result of faith.
And all our faith is based upon the fact that Jesus died for us and made our life in him possible. He is the author and finisher of our faith.
~ Invitation ~