“… a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.”2 Timothy 2:24-26
Have you struggled the nature of faith?
I certainly have.
For quite a while I came from camp Kierkegaard. Which is basically that: My faith is my own, anchored in free will. Kierkegaard is famous for the “Blind leap of faith” principle. Something happened though. I kept going to church. And bible studies. I made a habit of finding myself in fellowship with believers. We “reasoned together.” Some of those brothers argued the perspective that faith is “of God.” Faith is something passed to me, not something I conjure. And scripture backs this up. Jesus is the “author and finisher of our faith.” Hebrews 12:2.
“For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.“Romans 12:3
For me, I came to understand that faith can only be anchored in love. Otherwise faith is baseless. An intellectual faith is one that can be sometimes convinced and at other times, quite simply put – SERIOUSLY DOUBT!
And now-a-days, working with prisoners and in 12-step schools … I ponder the nature of salvation. Spiritual salvation, yes – Just as Jesus discussed with Nicodemus:
“There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”John 3:1-2
But also temporal salvation – such as being saved out of deadly circumstances – which I personally equate to healing. An addict in recovery, a drunk who has found sobriety. So many other afflictions we struggle with… And God grants new life. Resurrection, the picture of baptism – coming up out of death into life. Salvation isn’t always a part of this healing. Remember for instance the 10 Leapers Jesus restored. They all ran off to visit the Priests and only one returned to worship. “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?” Luke 17:11-19. The fellow who returned wasn’t a Jew. Jesus blesses him.
Just like Faith is something passed to me, not something I conjure. So it is with healing. I can’t heal myself. It comes by grace, through faith.Author.
The notion I’m meditating on is this: It’s God, in His unfathomable grace that touches us. It’s His breath of life that brings us out of death into life.
“If God perhaps will grant them repentance…”2 Timothy 2:2
Not that I’m petitioning God and he’s deciding … but that God opens my eyes to “come to my senses.”
Turning away from evil is an expression of the heart as much as faith. I have to fall in love with something greater than myself in order for real change to take hold. I have to love the objective I seek more than the place I occupy. Is that objective the “High Life” – numbness and perpetual sickness brought on by toxic substance abuse? Or is that objective freedom, serving something I love outside of my nature? My nature is – pure selfishness. With God living in me I live a super-natural life — that is to live above my nature. In this place I care for others, self-sacrificially.
Step One tells us about powerlessness, and Step Two about faith. But the Program tells us nothing about how to traverse the gulf between them. If my approach is simply one of mindfulness – a willful, dogged, rational choice (I can’t imagine anything drier) – what an abject emptiness that is! I know quite a few bitter, angry “dry drunks.” This is the outcome.
“And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”1 Corinthians 13:13
The emphasis on love is a Greek literary inversion — consider it: Love, hope and faith.
Love begets Hope and Faith is the substance of things hoped for.
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”Hebrews 11:1
If hope begets faith — it’s like a tube of toothpaste – I have a container for faith, it’s hope. If I squeeze hope, faith is the substance that comes out.
And it’s love that produces hope. As one who’s spirit is poor, and mourns over living a life of death — I fall in love with the truth. God loves me. He made just the way He intended. This includes all my defects of character. I fall in love with Him and as a result I pursue Him.
Now I understand how I can move between those Steps – It’s love that draws me into Him. And according to the scripture above it is God who gave me this chance. All of creation exists so that we have the opportunity to fall in love with God.
But, man, this is the furthest thing from my nature. He gave me free will so that I could love. My nature abuses the privilege of choice, I’m not wired to love God. I’m wired to serve myself. As an independent, eternal being I face this conviction and this challenge.
Have I seen enough of God to fall in love?
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.1 Peter 1:3-9