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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Without Faith, It is Impossible to Please God

Hebrews 11:6 (NIV) 6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

I often ask people why they have come to church. This question is especially true of those who are coming for the first time. I tell them that they may be here because others have invited them, have seen the app, our sign or simply don't know why they have arrived but there is a purpose for their arrival.

Many people may come to church for purely fleshly reasons. They come because they make business contacts, are looking for a spouse or are looking for some way to beat the system. The latter are hoping to find some spiritual principles that will give them power over others. They want to be rich, famous and powerful. They are hoping for a teaching which will enable them to manipulate God into giving them their fleshly desires.

Many of the unchurched people who come to our church have no real understanding why they come. They tell me that they just thought they should be in church. They have no background of church, no one telling them they should come and know no one in the church. They don't know the songs or what to do but have bravely walked into this strange place with strange people who talk a strange language. They really don't know that God imprinted His image on them so that they will seek to give Him glory even if they have no idea what it is. He has drawn them in to please Himself. He is reaching them within themselves. They can resist coming but have no reason to do so because they know nothing of what they are getting themselves into.

However, they are not pleasing God simply because they have come to church. They will please Him when they accept the faith He has waiting for them. They will please Him when they continue to act on faith which is given by His grace.

Pleasing God is accepting faith to see Him change us, the situations around us and others. It is by faith that we come to Him in prayer believing that He is a God of love who will not give us a serpent when we have asked for bread. It is by faith that songs of praise originate in our hearts and come through our voices. It is by faith that we give out of our love for Him. It is by faith that we daily take up our crosses and walk determined that the world will be changed for His glory.

Faith pleases God because it is an outward manifestation of who God is. It loves on the world rather than condemns it. It points toward righteousness because of the character of God inside the believer. It brings His image in the believer to clarity.

It pleases God because He loves to see His children grow. We show to Whom we belong when we act in the faith He has given us.

And what is the reward that He gives us?

It is peace. Now, before you dismiss this peace as worthless you should look at the lives of many of the people who are rich, powerful and famous. Do most of them appear to have peace? Are their lives full of broken relationships? Are they often pursued by the demons of drugs and other addictions? Why do you suppose that Jesus said it was so hard for the rich to enter heaven? Do you think it could have been because the riches they sought to own now own them?

Faith is a word from God that must be believed. It is a belief that must take action. It is an action that gives Him the glory. It is the glory that pleases God.

And that glory is our fulfillment.

What is God saying to you that you must accept by faith? What is keeping you from acting on that faith? If you fail to act when God says go you will fail to believe He responds to your prayers. You will fail to seek Him.

Each believer comes to moments in his life when he must act on faith or his faith will stagnate and grow cold. It isn't about doing something great for God that should be sought. It is always about being obedient to what God is telling you.

And that always takes faith.


high-expressions said...

The word "faith" is commonly on the tongue of any Christian, yet it is NOT that simple a word to many. Is NOT a definition given in Scripture of what faith is? Yes, there is, and it is:

"Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Heb 11:1, KJV).

I have preferred this KJ version over the NIV, for the simple reason that, with it, we can more clearly linked it back to the original Greek text with the Strong's Lexicon for the meanings of the words in the definition. I actually would like to give the "theological exposition of what faith is", which I do believe I have had illumination from the Lord, but the space here is a constraint. So, what I will do, here, is to give an abridged version of the full explanation of what faith is (hopefully, people can still understand):

The shortest version of the paraphrasing of Heb 11:1 will be this - Faith is right belief with conviction,

where right belief is a belief having its foundation in the Word/promises of God. If you are trying to connect it back to the KJV verse, Heb 11:1, "right belief" is the "substance" in the verse. The Lexicon's definition of “substance” used in the verse amounts to "that" which has a foundation or basis. Because we are referring to "hope", the "that" is belief; and the foundation is the Word/promises of God. So faith is NOT any belief, it has to be a right belief, and a right belief is one that has its foundation in the Word/promises of God.

The definition verse is of 2 parts; we have tackled the 1st part, but what about the 2nd part - "evidence of things NOT seen"? One of the 2 major meanings of the word "evidence" from the Lexicon is "conviction", and is the relevant definition here; in other words, faith is the conviction of the things hoped for (but NOT yet come to pass), to come to pass.

This is the quick explanation of my understandable shortest version of the definition of faith: Faith is right belief with conviction.

What I dislike about the NIV definition (without linking back): "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see", is this - Even though it rendered it easy to understand because the use of straightforward words, it is missing on the emphasis of the need of a foundation/basis for the assurance/certainty/belief. So, in the use of the shortest version of the definition, one must always remember what "right belief" means, and I repeat, it means a belief founded (and it must be) on the Word/promises of God.

With this understanding, a person can more readily understands the various nuances of the use of the word, faith, in Scripture. For example, how come there is such thing as dead faith and living faith? Or what was James trying to say, when he said, “Show me your faith, and I will show you my faith by what I do”? Faith is NOT just a belief, and it is also NOT just “right belief”; it is right belief + conviction. It is paramount to have the “conviction” element in the definition. Yes, James was hinting that too many people are leaving out the “conviction” element, taking faith as just a “belief” or even “right belief”.

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high-expressions said...

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You see, if you are too casual in what you understand as what faith is, then, you may be found, often, in situations where you become puzzled as to why faith does NOT “work”. Of course, things don’t work, if what you believe is just any belief and it is NOT founded in the Word/promises of God. And things often don’t work when you have the right belief alone! Having the right belief is only as good as “I know that”; you know that, so what! Scripture said even the demons know a lot of things, even the Word; Satan knows the Word; He used them on Jesus in the Temptation of Jesus, when Jesus was coming out from His fast of 40 days and 40 nights. Right belief without conviction is just right belief; conviction is often the critical ingredient of whether or NOT things happen.

For one thing, without conviction, there is no action on your part; a belief, even a right belief stays a belief, even as a heart condition but an untested heart condition; and an untested heart condition is often NOT countable, in the eyes of God. Scripture also said the heart of man is very deceitful, and because of this, untested heart condition is NOT reliable, often; and so, God has to test or allow testing to be done on the particular heart condition. A very simple reason is so that, that particular belief or resolve is made truly strong, and the person becomes reliable, at least in the particular area. Too many people are only with belief and even right belief, but are without inaction-busting conviction; that was what the Apostle James was referring to. No, he was NOT saying we do NOT need “faith” (or right belief), only action; He was saying many people are NOT having faith (faith and NOT mere right belief) or strong faith, for the definition of faith includes the conviction thereof. Only when an action consistent to that right-belief is seen, are we to know that one has indeed a faith or a strong faith, or a faith that is eligible for “countability”.

What is this “countability”? By this I am referring to the God’s counting righteousness to believers. Hebrew 11 gave several accounts of God counting righteousness to people, and it is faith with action or living faith that is eligible for God’s counting out righteousness to you. Dead faith is NOT eligible; what is dead faith, the phrase used by James? It is another way of saying it is only a right belief without or with too little conviction. It is only when our conviction of the right-belief has reached a level that busts through the inaction threshold, that we act, and that is when we say the faith is a living faith or faith in action, and such is eligible for God’s counting of righteousness to you.

Clearly with such understanding, when we look at Heb 11:6 that said that “without faith it is impossible to please God”, we must understand now that just any belief will NOT do, even a right belief will NOT necessarily do, but a right belief with inaction-busting conviction is that which will please God.

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high-expressions said...

Cont. from preceding page

As an application, even for a non-believer coming into a church service, and he is coming because he was drawn by the Spirit of God; if he hears the words of God, say, the Gospel being preached, and the Holy Spirit gives the required understanding (a non-believer can only receive understanding because the Holy Spirit gives it, the unregenerate man cannot yet understand spiritual things, said Scripture.), still the person must believe enough, and give action to his belief before it will please God. Is it NOT so, that in entry into salvation, the non-believer, with understanding from the Holy Spirit about the works of Christ on the Cross, and therefore, is with a right belief (in this case, a salvation belief), and only when he is of enough conviction of that belief, that he will raise his hand or come down to the sanctuary-front as a sign of his willingness to accept Jesus into his life.

He believes (with understanding from the Holy Spirit), and he decides; in other words, volition is involved as a matter of norm; and so, banish from your mind, that teaching that insisted that entry into salvation is all God’s part, and if you give NOT, your life to Jesus, it is God’s fault or you were NOT pre-destined into salvation. Also, banish from your mind, that you are special over those who giveth NOT, their life to Jesus, because God predestined you, and NOT them, into salvation; rather, you are special solely because you make that volitional decision to follow Jesus. The Holy Spirit is always doing His part; Scripture said that God neither sleeps nor slumbers; don’t ever insinuate God is failing on His part; it is the non-believer, having heard and understood the gospel must provide the faith (salvation belief + conviction).

I want to caution people NOT to be too casual about saying faith (ALL faith, they mean) must come from God (only “supernatural” faith comes from God). Is it NOT true that it is oxymoron to say that ALL faith comes from God, and then in Heb 11:6 to say that “Without faith it is impossible to please God”? If God must give you the faith you required all the time, do you know you are saying that you tell God in the face this: “Not my fault or don’t fault me; you, God, are at fault, you did NOT give me the faith to please you!”

As to the other parts (2nd and 3rd parts) of the Heb 11:6 verse, I will say a little: The use of the conjunctive, “for” was to say that the 1st part (a truth) was flowing from a “greater” truth, which is that "one who comes to God must believe that He exists ...”.

I am NOT going to elaborate here, the 2nd part (and 3rd part, which is part of the “greater truth” started at 2nd part), but the point I want to put across is that one is NOT supposed to interpreted that the exact meaning of the faith in the 1st part of v6 is found in the 2nd and 3rd parts of the same verse; it is NOT (but it is good to know the exposition for the “greater truth” though, but I giving it here).

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high-expressions said...

Cont. from preceding page

Rather, I am moved to elaborate that even though v6 said that without faith it is impossible to please God, it is NOT to be understood as “with faith God cannot, but be pleased”. I would NOT be wrong to say that some actually subconsciously subscribe to this! Many believers can fall into such “traps”, for the simple reason of lack of knowing the overall counsel of the Word. The overall counsel of the Word can only be had if one studies all of the Word. I know, to do that, it can take a lifetime and more, still we have to endeavour to do that, and when we do that, and with the right heart attitude, we trust that the Holy Spirit would “push in” the relevant words or counsel which we need in our living, despite we saying that, knowing the entire Word takes a lifetime and more. And as believers, we should be careful of teachers who are skewed particularly to one or a few areas and want NOT to cover the others. It is NOT a matter of right or wrong that I caution, but I am saying those teachers are putting themselves vulnerable to be ensnared by the enemy to form wrong theologies and doctrines. I mean “he errs, he does NOT even know; and he may actually be a case of a blind, leading other blinds!”

Back to Heb 11:6; it is NOT “with faith, God cannot, but be pleased”. For example, with faith but without love, God may NOT be pleased. In 1 Cor 13:2, we read this:

If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

Or you should take heed in this:

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. (Gal 5:6).

The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. There, it said it all: acting in faith is to be done through love. Indeed the more excellent way is: act in faith with love.

The Apostle Paul also said this:

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love (1 Cor 13:13).

Indeed, faith and love are separate items, and both are required. And of course, Ps Prentis knows this well.