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What is faith? Is it...
-- a feeling of dependence or that everything is going to work out?
-- sincerely believing in something but the something doesn’t really matter?
-- believing in faith itself, as in “just have enough faith”?
-- believing a creed or set of doctrines?
-- a leap in the dark, believing in something that is empirically unproven?
-- wish fulfillment, or visualizing a future outcome that we desire?
-- making a decision or "going forward" in a church service?
Four key concepts from Romans 4:13-25, which are characteristics of Abraham's faith that apply also to believers today.
PROMISE / POWER / POSSESSION / PERSON
1) PROMISE. Faith looks to God’s gracious word of promise. (4:16-17, 20) It is not wishful thinking, projection, or a feeling, but is based upon God's revelation, in words, focusing upon a promise given in grace. Unless salvation is by grace, it is an uncertain thing.
"Promise" (4:13, 14, 16, 20) “It is written...” (17) “as he had been told” (18) “the words, it was counted to him” (23) So faith is taking God at his word.
There is content, history, and doctrine to be believed. Christianity not merely idea, ideals, or moral code, but death and resurrection of God's Son in history, and what this means. Not just truths about God but promises from God to us.
"We find no rest for our weary bones unless we cling to the word of grace." (Luther)
2) POWER. Faith realizes our inability and relies upon the miraculous power of God. (4:17-21)
An impossible, miracle birth which foreshadowed another miracle birth. ...in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. (4:17) ...fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. (4:21) Abraham “hoped against hope... a divinely given hope that went beyond normal human hopes and expectations.
Christian faith is supernatural from beginning to end... We rely on God’s ability to do what he promised. The Fact-Faith-Feeling illustration [below] shows that it is the engine of God's facts (truths, power) that pull the train; our faith is attached to that; and our feelings follow. It would be futile to try to pull the train by our faith (we do not have faith in faith itself), nor to try to pull the train by our feelings. The power is in God and his promises.
So faith is more than just believing words, or accepting a creed, it is believing God has the power to fulfill his words. It is not just believing whatever makes sense in the natural (material) world.
3) POSSESSION. Faith appropriates God’s promise and power for oneself.
Abraham owned it... In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, "So shall your offspring be." (4:17) The words "it was counted to him" were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. (4:23-24)
Righteousness is not achieved, but it is to be received. Not a promise and power that stays outside of us, or for the world in general. But for me. It must be laid hold of (Phil 3:12)
"Faith is the hand that grasps the finished work of Christ and makes it my own." (Lesslie Newbigin)
4) PERSON. Faith is trusting a Person, it is walking in relationship with God.
“...in the presence of the God in whom he believed...” (4:17) He believed not just the promise of God, but the God of the promise. He walked with God. He was the "friend of God." (Isaiah 41:8; James 2:23)
Faith is relational. It’s a turning TO God. “Faith is the resting of the heart on God.” (William Ames) "But to all who did receive him..." (John 1:12) There is something to believe, to agree to, but behind and under that, there is a Someone to trust and walk with.
Jesus our savior is a whole Person who brings a whole salvation: We do not receive a component of salvation, but a Savior, in whom is all our salvation...
In the Gospel of John we see this: he is the Lamb who takes away our sin, he is the living water who quenches our thirst, he is the bread of life that nourishes and sustains us, he is the light of the world who gives us knowledge and understanding, he is the good shepherd to feed and guide and protect us, he is the resurrection who gives us eternal life, he is the vine that bears fruit in us, and he is our priest who intercedes for us.
PROMISE / POWER / POSSESSION / PERSON
Not only for justification, but Abraham's faith exemplifies the lifestyle of faith for the believer:
- Am I meditating on, thinking about, applying and clinging to the promises of God in Scripture?
- Am I relying daily on the power of God to fulfill his purposes for me? Am I living a supernatural life to the glory of God?
- Am I pursuing, clinging to, and making God's gracious word my very own?
- Am I personally relating to God who is my Creator and Redeemer? Am I walking daily with him in the light of his countenance?
"God, hold us to what drew us first, when the Cross was the attraction and we wanted nothing else." (Amy Carmichael)
Faith does not come by looking at our faith. It comes by hearing and believing the promises of God. Consider them prayerfully:
Matthew 11:28 "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."
Acts 10:43 "To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name."
Acts 16:31 "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household."
Romans 10:9, 12-13 "...if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved... For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."
Revelation 22:17 "And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price."