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Friday, August 10, 2012

It Takes Faith to Understand Faith

1 Corinthians 1:18-20 (NIV) 
18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written: "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate." 20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 

I just returned from trying to visit someone in a jail. There was a time when I could visit someone because I was his pastor. The person at the desk said that the jail administration had decided that a pastoral visit was the same as any other visit. It meant that I couldn't come in unless I had an appointment and I was on the person's visitation list. This person had not bothered to put me on the list. I had never needed to be on it to see him before.

I do not claim to be more spiritual than any other person that visits. However, a pastoral visit has one purpose. It must seek to redeem the person in jail. I can't say that of any other person's purpose who visits. Others may or may not have this purpose.

I wondered if the jail administration thought that pastoral visits do no good. Why make it harder for pastors to visit if you believe that pastors can help the inmates from returning to jail? Of course, if you believe it makes no difference then the logical decision is to make their visits the same as everyone else's.

If that is the case, then we don't need any spiritual help for those in jail. Heck, we don't need it for the people in church either. If there is nothing other than the person himself who can pull himself out of the awful state he is in, then we should merely state that and tell each person that he will simply have to live with his own guilt forever.

The reason people can't understand faith is that they have no faith in which to understand it. They cannot understand the change that comes into a Holy Spirit filled individual because they have never been filled with the Holy Spirit. They cannot understand belief in the power of God because they have never known the power of God.

It would be like explaining colors to someone who has never seen. How do you tell them of blue sky, green grass, yellow flowers and red blood? What is their reference point to understand? All of our explanations have no point to stand upon while they are launched.

And when I ask someone to believe for their salvation, I am asking them to do something that they have never done before. Think about it: I am asking them to trust in Someone who died nearly 2000 years ago. I am asking them to pledge their allegiance to Him. I am asking them to believe that He is still alive and will come to live within them. That takes faith which they do not yet have.

But they do believe because the Holy Spirit comes to convict and tell them what they could never have known otherwise. They no longer see it as foolishness because they have had their eyes opened. They see and are somewhat surprised by their sight. It is the most beautiful thing that has ever happened to them.

Sometimes I preach to people who do not have a clue what I am saying. I speak of God's deliverance and they always equate it to circumstances. It seems very intellectual to think of an orderly universe which is its own master. Thus, it must follow the rules without interference. They chalk up hearings and God's miraculous provisions as random acts which will happen to someone eventually. They may even point out times when these things did happen naturally. Saying that they were acts of God seems foolish to them.

I walk in a different world from them and know that my responsibility is to bring them to faith. So, I continue to tell them stories of faith, read Bible promises of faith and pray in faith that God will open their eyes.

And when He does, they suddenly understand faith because they have it for themselves.


Anonymous said...

It has been widely stated that President Obama said that the USA was not a Christian nation. (I no longer remember if he actually said that directly or not. He certainly may have.) People were pretty upset at the time, and I just heard it repeated on Fox the other day.

Here's the thing, we were founded as a Christian nation. The very first act of the very first joint session of Congress, which occurred right after George Washington was inaugurated, was to go to church together--all of them--dedicate our country to the Lord, praying for His blessings, protection and guidance in the process.

So. We were founded as a Christian nation. But, Pres. Obama was right if he said we are not a Christian nation now. For we are not. We are a post-Christian nation.

God has been removed from our schools and our public square. When a business owner replied to a specific question that he supported traditional marriage and feared for our nation if we continued on the path we had taken, there were protests in the streets. City mayors said he business would be blocked from their city. Local newscasters were appalled b the intolerance of that business man.

When a private charity chose not to give money to abortion providers, they lost a significant amount of support and, recently, the founder of the charity stepped away from her position.

I could go on.... The point is that the general population is no longer understands or holds to the Judeo-Christian heritage that is ours.

Your experience at the jail just shows how foreign our belief system has become.Your post puts it perfectly--many do not have faith...and many do not know that they are missing a thing. And many who are, indeed, of the faith have missed the turning of that tide.

It troubles me. I think I am most trouble by the fact that so many did not know that President Obama was speaking the truth. We who belong to the "IF my people" group, need to wake up...and follow the directions given to us.

Oh, dear. My comment is longer than your post, I think. I got off on a bit of a tangent there. Sorry.


Anonymous said...

Is there a man's part in entry into salvation? If there isn't, then no man should be blamed for NOT entering into salvation. Maybe, logically, he is even entitled to say, "That is the fault of God, don't blame me; blame God, for there is NOT my part, only His." And he may even say, "If Ps Prentis said it is faith that I do NOT have, it is still His fault as He does NOT give it to me, even though He gave to another." In fact, he could yell, "Since you (God) don't include me, so be it, I don't want you, either!" If we indeed say that, the person has no part to play, it has to be the burden lies with God; it is of course, NOT logical to put the blame on Ps Prentis, like for example, he has NOT preached convincingly enough! If Ps Prentis had NOT preached convincingly, it too, is the fault of God, by logical extrapolation!

Well, we can argue until our faces turn purple, at the end of the day, it is NOT facts; but I am of the view that there is the drawing of God, and ultimately, there is also the choice of man. I am of the view that GENERALLY SPEAKING, faith for salvation cannot be said to be a faith to be given by God. EXCEPTIONS are possible, but exceptions are the prerogative of God, and for general application it is best to stick to what is the norm.

Like Ps Prentis said, in one of his earlier entry, a couple of days ago, there is mystery in the Gospel. Generally, 3 parties are involved (there are exceptions!), the person, the sharer and God or the Holy Spirit. Generally, we say the Holy Spirit works with the sharing, the words (or testimony, etc), to bring about conviction to the person; in that sense, there is the drawing, I will call it. The sharer is only required to do as required, to share properly, and even to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit; there is no need to unnecessarily blame oneself for lack of result. There is however, a need to do as required, and be sensitive to the Holy Spirit.

I am going to share a testimony of a minister who had been used of the Lord widely and internationally. He shared that once, in Switzerland, when he was with a group of his mentees in a shopping mall after dark. In Switzerland, shopping malls closed with the streets people allowed to take shelter in the malls from the cold outside. He was in such a situation where about 100 people had gathered and were kind of being captured audience, for his sharing. In the crowd was a chap who was a professional atheist and he engaged the minister, and the minister used all the apologetics he mastered, on the chap, with people watching on.

The minister then felt a sudden pain in his chest where his heart was, and he paused to figure out if it was a prompting from the Lord to tell him something about the atheist chap. He felt it could be, but just to make sure he did NOT make a fool of himself if it was NOT, in front of his mentees, he let it go (i.e. did NOT act on it). Soon after that, the chap yelled out. “It does NOT matter anymore, as I am about to find out in 2 weeks time, as I am given only that time to live because of my enlarged heart condition”, and he took off, and could NOT be located.

The minister was stunned; it was indeed the Lord’s prompting for the minister to break the impasse of the argument. Had he, the minister, gave out the “word of knowledge”, that God had revealed of the chap’s pain in his chest, and proceeded to pray for him, that chap might have been saved physically as well as spiritually! No amount of regret could salvage the situation, and the minister resolved that day, he would no longer ignore the prompting of the Holy Spirit, no matter how stupid he may appear, if he misinterprets any prompting.


Anonymous said...

Cont. from above

Even so, may I suggest, if you have been in such failure as experienced by the minister, you ask God for forgiveness, and forgive yourself; learn what you have to learn, and move on. You have to move on, so that God could still use you in the future. Don’t wallow in defeatedness, for when we do that, we fall into the snare of the Devil and lose our effectiveness for the Lord. As a sharer, we need to do our part, but we do NOT need to unnecessarily reproach ourselves.

As to the Holy Spirit’s role, I just believe the Word, and the Word said that the Holy Spirit convicts, and God does NOT sleep or slumber, meaning the Holy Spirit was and is and will be working. Sure, the Holy Spirit can do without us, but, we are to do our part; work with Him, give Him something He can work with, to do whatever conviction He wants to do, on the person. There is no doubt that the Holy Spirit is working.

As to how the mechanics of it all, how the working of the Holy Spirit brings about conviction, impacting the person, or registering something there, in the person, we do NOT really need to be particularly wanting to know. This is one of the mystery parts of the Gospel. However, my position is that, in it all, somehow, there is still a part for the person, to muster up the faith to make that critical choice of giving over of his life to the Lord.

In other words, I believe even the fallen man is still capable of working up the faith, with the help of the Holy Spirit, if he wants to. If there is NOT the man’s part, no matter how small it might seem to be, then clearly such verses in Scripture that said, it is God’s desire that all men be saved (1 Tim 2:4), is NOT meaningful, as in fact, NOT all men are saved, and if there is NOT the part from the fallen man, it will appear that God does NOT give effect to His own desire!

Our God is the omnipotent God, NOT impotent God, if it is all His part, and none the part of the fallen men, then surely, all men are saved according to His desire. What narrow and wide gates and roads, if there is NOT a part from the fallen men, all men go through one gate, narrow or wide, is irrelevant! The part of the fallen men is the mystery bit; how it integrates exactly with what is dished out by the sharers, the works of the Holy Spirit, we don’t understand, we leave it as mystery, for the time being; we just know that when that part is done, God knows, and God puts His Holy Spirit as a deposit in that man. Outwardly, there is agreed manifestation consistent with the achievement of that man’s part, like raising of hand, walking down the aisle to the sanctuary front, and saying of the Sinner’s Prayer, or just filling up a salvation form, etc.

For me, for simplicity, I understand salvation faith (the same with faith generally) is of 2 components: a right belief + an inaction busting conviction. A right belief is a belief based on the truth of God, and when the accompanying conviction is strong enough, it triggers a completion of the man’s part, and we outwardly, see a raising of hand, etc. At times, the conviction build-up is NOT yet strong enough, and giving over of life to Jesus is NOT achieved, but such can be “stored” and built upon, in future time, until the inaction busting conviction is achieved, and salvation comes. This is my simple way of explaining the scenario of people can be, NOT giving over of their life to Jesus, even after several times of hearing the gospel, and then one day, when the built-up is strong enough, it just happen – the giving of the life to Jesus.


Anonymous said...

COnt. from above

We should NOT need to be unduly disturbed by such phenomenon/mystery – for some people, one time is all it takes; for others, after many times of hearing. The perspective is the same when we pray for the sick, some are healed instantly, others, needed to be prayed X no. of times before the person is healed. The point is that we continue to share, and we continue to pray (for the sick).

Other people can suggest their theory of such thing, entry into salvation or healing, as random things - you do it long enough, it will happen; let them believe what they want to believe. Those who want to believe, it is all God’s part, and so, they just sit there, basking in grace, and saying to God, “It is all your part, none, of man’s part, and NOT even, the need of a sharer”; they have to answer (to God) when the time comes.

As to whether I am saying if there is nothing that can be done other than the person himself who can pull himself out of the awful state he is in, I am saying I am NOT saying that. The person can be weak, but it is NOT necessarily that he cannot be helped; and so, we help (by sharing or praying), and the Holy Spirit comes in, too. It is love in action; we are to do that – help another; the Good Samaritan story illustrates it well.

God wants to help and we should want to help, too. Yes, it is sad that many people have no understanding of the power of the Gospel, and they give NOT, themselves or others (like the situation Ps Prentis encountered for the prison visits), the opportunity of help, to help them cross the hurdle of life and death.

I read Deb’s comment, touching on the nation of USA, as being a Christian nation or post-Christian nation and what your President Obama stands for. I don’t want to comment too much, afterall I don’t live in the States, and so, I am NOT close to the ground, so to speak. But I just want to say, “It troubles me”, what you said in the lines below:

“It troubles me. I think I am most trouble by the fact that so many did not know that President Obama was speaking the truth.”

I don’t know what truth was being referred to, he sure is NOT sending the right messages about how a Christian nation should be carrying herself, with his support of same-sex marriages; he is NOT helping! God is against homosexual lifestyles (NOT the people, per se, necessarily). I cannot bear to see a child being adopted by a 2-men couple or a 2-women couple, and the child has to address one of them as Dad and the other, Mummy, when both of them are either men or women! What is the world coming to! Since USA is a “big brother” nation to many smaller nations, it really does NOT help us, the smaller nations, in our desire to oppose the coming on, of some of the worldly lifestyles.

Anthony Chia, high.expressions