Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Levels of faith



Oswald Chambers describes three levels of faith. He says the first level is mental belief. This can be mere assent that something is true, but also a commitment that abandons all things not related to that commitment. For example, after a brief discussion on the difficulty of faith, I asked a man about his faith. 

He said, “Sure, I believe that Jesus died for the sins of the world. What is so difficult about that?”

I replied, “But what about your sin?”

He paused, then said, “Oh. I see what you mean.”

I don’t know if he ever abandoned his commitment to his mental belief and moved to the next level of faith — personal belief. Had he done that, he would have realized that this truth about Jesus is deeply personal. He would have made a moral commitment that refuses to compromise with any other ideas. 

When I believed that Jesus died for my sin, I experienced a life change. Jesus offered me Himself and in that, I was reborn, entering a personal relationship with Him. This is a huge leap involving confession of sin and repentance, but making the leap cannot happen without the power of the Holy Spirit. 

The third level is about particular belief. This goes from acknowledging and receiving Jesus as Savior and submitting to His Lordship. After I was reborn, I soon realized that most of what I did was at my own direction. God called me to trust Him by doing what He says — all the time. This is the most difficult level of faith, and again, leaping there requires the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit. 

But this is the level God wants me to live on. I see it in the account of Lazarus. After his death, Jesus came to his sister Martha and talked to her about her level of faith. He asked her a question…

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25–26)

Martha believed in the power of Jesus Christ. She told Him if He had been there, He could have healed her brother. She also believed that Jesus had a peculiar intimacy with God and that whatever He asked of God, God would do. Yet she needed a closer personal intimacy with Jesus, trusting Him even to raise the dead. 

These levels of faith apply to all issues of life. For example, I’m praying for the salvation of family members. Some of them are not even at the first level. They think Jesus is a swear word and that He never existed. Some grant that He was a historical figure, but that is all. They reject Him without even knowing very much about what they are rejecting.

I believe that He died for them. I believe He has the power to save them. I believe that He could say the word and the Father would release the power of the Holy Spirit and change their lives. But… 

But when I see no progression, when I see nothing happening, then my faith falters. Whether it is this issue or any of other doubts and worries, Jesus says to me, “You know what I can do. You know my power to answer prayer. Do you really believe in me? Or is your confidence in what you can see?

Walking by faith is part of that third level. I know what God can do, but can I live fully committed to trusting in His Lordship and in the decisions that He makes? Without ever seeing what He is doing? 

The last lines of today’s devotional reading are about this leap from personal faith (I know it is true) to particular faith (I KNOW it is true)…

When I stand face to face with Jesus Christ and He says to me—“Believest thou this?” I (will) find that faith is as natural as breathing, and I will be staggered that I was so stupid as not to trust Him before.

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