August 21, 2015

Faith is not about faith

Isaiah 42:10–43:28, Luke 16:1–17:10, Job 9:25–35

A woman told me that she would go to heaven because she had faith. As we talked, it became clear that her faith was in her faith, and not in God. It might seem like splitting hairs because the Bible says we are saved by faith, but faith is only as good as its object. If I worship a stone idol and trust it to save me, no matter how much faith I generate, that hunk of stone cannot forgive and redeem. I am not saved by faith in faith; I am saved by faith in Christ as revealed in His Word. The Bible also says that faith is a gift from God, so salvation is of God. It is He who saves.

Today’s passage from Isaiah speaks of the Lord’s saving power and gives reasons why faith in Him is well-placed, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior . . . Fear not, for I am with you . . . You are my witnesses, and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. I, I am the Lord, and besides me there is no Savior” (Isaiah 43:1–11) and “I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.” (Isaiah 43:25)

Job recognized God’s power to save as he struggled with his situation and tried to reason with God that maybe his sorrow was due to guilt . . . “If I say, ‘I will forget my complaint, I will put off my sad face, and be of good cheer,’ I become afraid of all my suffering, for I know you will not hold me innocent. I shall be condemned; why then do I labor in vain? If I wash myself with snow and cleanse my hands with lye, yet you will plunge me into a pit, and my own clothes will abhor me.”

Then he said of God, “For he is not a man, as I am, that I might answer him, that we should come to trial together. There is no arbiter between us, who might lay his hand on us both. Let him take his rod away from me, and let not dread of him terrify me. Then I would speak without fear of him, for I am not so in myself.” (Job 9:27–35)

Job’s faith was challenged by his trial. He thought his faith would be stronger if the trial ended, but realized how badly he needed an arbiter or mediator. In a way, faith is a mediator, yet it is only a go-between. Faith is not a Savior; it needs to have an object.

Jesus told of a man who died and pleaded with Abraham (the “father of faith”) about warning his five brothers “lest they also come into this place of torment.” But Abraham said, “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.” The man said, “No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.” However, Abraham replied, “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.” (Luke 16:28–31)

When the apostles heard this, they said to Jesus, “Increase our faith!”
Jesus replied, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” (Luke 17:5–6)

Again, it is not the size of faith that matters, but the One in whom that faith is placed. God speaks; we believe His Word because of who says it. Faith can be a tiny thing, but when that tiny thing is placed in Almighty God, then faith joins me to all the grace and power I need. 

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