Living by Faith

Faith is ..., The Good Father, Thoughts
It is a prominent theme throughout the New Testament that the Christian life is lived by faith.  One example of that is our current topic; our family resemblance to God. The Bible teaches that believers are indwelt by the very seed of God.  His Spirit lives inside us.  As such, we have taken on a new nature; a nature prone to righteousness.  Now if righteousness is our new inclination, why do we struggle with sin?  If our family resemblance to God is in our moral character, why is that resemblance, at times, hard to recognize?  The answer to this question is multi-faceted and I have written on various aspects of this many times; Galatians 5 and the War with the Flesh, Temptation Vs Sin, and The Exchanged Life are a few…
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Can Faith Control the Outcome?

Faith is ..., Thoughts
An important distinction to understanding how much our faith affects an outcome is recognizing the difference between "change" and "control".  I believe God has given us the opportunity to change an outcome through our faith.  But He has not given us the power to control outcomes.  Let me explain the difference. Exercising the faith required to change a situation is putting our complete trust in what God can do.  It is having faith in God's ability to miraculously move, and remedy, and redeem what needs changed.  It is not a blind positive thinking approach that says if I believe something hard enough God is required to act. This is where the idea of control comes in.  We cannot control the Sovereign of the Universe.  And thinking our faith can somehow…
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Can Faith Change the Outcome?

Faith is ..., Thoughts
As I continue to study the New Testament, I am becoming increasingly aware of the potential for faith to change the outcome of a particular situation.  I fully embrace the sovereignty and omnipotence of God and His rule over all His creation, but I believe His plan includes our faith making a difference.  It appears in Scripture that God does not have an unchangeable blueprint design for all outcomes, but that through our prayers and faith we can affect what happens.  Why do I say this? After the incident in the gospels where Jesus' disciples failed to cast out a demon (Mt 17:14-20), they asked Jesus a pointed question, "Why could we not cast it out?"  Jesus replied that their faith was too small (Mt 17:20).  Jesus ascribes their failure…
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Faith and the Spiritual Life

Faith is ..., Thoughts
Faith is also essential for living the spiritual life.  In the final verses of Matthew's gospel, Jesus instructed us to teach new believers "to obey all that I have commanded you" (Mt 28:20).  Have you ever thought about the implications of the "all" in this verse?  Obeying all is a pretty tall order.  How do we obey all that Jesus commanded?  We obey by faith. We often think of faith as a mysterious concept, but living by faith is a very practical matter.  When our choices, decisions, and actions are controlled by biblical principles and biblical commands, we are living by faith.  When we submit ourselves to the authority of God's Word, we are basically saying two things; we believe, by faith, that there is great reward in obeying God's standard, and we…
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Faith and Salvation

Faith is ..., Thoughts
Last weekend, at the Ft Worth Children's Museum, I saw a quote attributed to Albert Einstein, "Logic will get you from A to B.  Imagination will take you everywhere."  As with most things I read these days, I immediately put a theology twist to it.  So I am thinking,  "Logic will get you from A to B, theologically speaking, but faith will take you everywhere."  So many of our theology systems, while built on Scripture, are carried to the nth degree by human logic and when they are, misunderstanding ensues. I am afraid that in our rush to fit everything biblical into a neat theological system, we have made knowledge and logic the ultimate goal in the Christian life.  But knowledge by itself produces arrogance (II Cor 8:1), and knowledge without…
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Is Optimism a Sign of Faith?

Faith is ..., Thoughts
Most people would consider me an optimist.  We are all familiar with the idea that an optimist sees a glass half filled with water as half-full while a pessimist refers to the glass as half-empty.  Since I see a half-full glass of water as completely full, sufficient to do the job, does that make me a super optimist? I have been asked more than once if I think my optimism is related to faith.  Let me describe what I see as the connection and you can decide.  Optimism based on unrealistic naiveté that completely ignores the dangers and downers of this world is not based on faith.  Optimism based on positive thinking just for positive thinking's sake is not based on faith.  So is there an optimism based on faith?…
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The Role of the Old Testament – The Righteous Live by Faith

Faith is ..., Old Testament, Thoughts
Throughout history, under both the old and new covenants, the righteous live by faith.  The faith of the Old Testament saints is a quality that we, as New Testament believers, are to emulate.  The New Testament reminds us of their example and of the critical need to live by faith no matter what era we inhabit. Despite their often public shortcomings, the faith of our Old Testament forebears is to be celebrated and followed.  Their faith was demonstrated by simply believing and acting upon the promises of God.  Hebrews chapter 11 highlights the various situations where the faith of the Old Testament saints was put to the test and they passed with flying colors.  And they believed even when the promises were yet to be fulfilled. Hebrews 11 ends with, "And…
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Walking by Faith – Overcoming the Enemy

Faith is ..., Thoughts
You may recall this encounter between Jesus and one of Satan's minions from Matthew chapter 17. "When they came to the crowd, a man came up to Jesus, falling on his knees before him and saying, 'Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is a lunatic and very ill; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water.  I brought him to Your disciples and they could not cure him.'  And Jesus answered and said, 'You unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you?  How long shall I put up with you?  Bring him here to Me.'  And Jesus rebuked him, and the demon came out of him, and the boy was cured at once.  Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and…
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Walking by Faith – Your New Heart

Faith is ..., Thoughts
As I reflect on the promise of Good Friday and Easter, I am excited to write about another of God's gifts that were secured by Christ's death and resurrection.  The gift of a new heart. Promise in the unseen world:  You have been given a new heart (Ez 26:36).  Your old deceptively wicked heart has been removed.  Application to the seen world:  You can trust your heart.  The heart, as used in the Bible, is the center of your will, thoughts, motives, understanding, and actions.  It represents the essence of who you are.  And suffice it to say, your old deceptively wicked heart was too far gone to clean up.  So God removed it and gave you a new heart to go along with your new birth. Your new heart…
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Walking by Faith – The Spirit Inside

Faith is ..., Thoughts
Let's look at some more ideas of how we put God's promise of a new identity into action. Promise in the unseen world:  God's Spirit now lives inside you (Rom 8:11).  Application to the seen world:  Because you believe the promise by faith, you act like His Spirit is living inside you.  You can't see it, you probably can't feel it, but you know God lives in you.  So you begin to live as if it were true.  What does "living as if it were true" look like? For starters, you believe that your body is God's dwelling place (I Cor. 6:19).  So you change some habits that you know God would not do dwelling inside you.  In the face of temptation, you literally ask yourself, "How would God act or…
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Walking by Faith – Your New Identity

Faith is ..., Thoughts
"We walk by faith, not by sight" (II Cor 5:7) is a short verse with incredible depth.  Set against sight as its opposite, walking by faith is walking in the principles of the unseen world of the spirit.  It helps me to think of our lives as living in two worlds at the same time.  In the unseen and eternal world, you became a brand new person when you received Christ.  All the provisions and promises of the New Covenant came true for you in an instant.  It may sound mysterious, but the unseen and eternal world is just as real as the black letters on this screen or page. But what about that other world, the seen and temporal world that we are more familiar with?  In this world,…
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The Necessity of Faith

Faith is ..., Thoughts
Several times on this website, I have written about the two parts of the gospel.  The first part of the good news is the gospel for unbelievers.  It centers around the transaction; the move from death to life (Rom 6:23); the transfer from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of His beloved Son (Col 1:13); joining God's family (Gal 3:26); all brought about by believing in Jesus Christ for eternal life (Jn 6:40).  The second part of the gospel - equally good news - is the gospel for believers.  It is all about how we live the life; how we live the Christian life; how we live the supernatural Christian life. Both parts of the gospel, the transaction and living the life, are grasped by faith.  The gospel is…
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“Finders Keepers”

Faith is ..., Thoughts
I have a suspicion that my road to becoming a geophysicist was paved by a childhood fascination with finding things; specifically, with finding treasures.  When I was a child, my bedroom was filled with collections of baseball cards, matchbooks, shiny stones, and all kinds of interesting stuff.  I liked finding things.  And my day job shows that I still do. So you can imagine my attachment to this quote from Dan Stone in his book, The Rest of the Gospel.  "But I have discovered that through union with Christ, I am no longer a seeker.  I am a finder.  Jesus said the kingdom of God is where?  In us.  Every kingdom has a king.  And the King lives in us.  The basic definition of the kingdom of God is the rule and…
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Our Counterattack – Prayer and Faith

Evil and Suffering, Faith is ..., Thoughts
(8 of 9 in a series on "Why do bad things happen to good people?") In Mark 9:14-29, we have a story of demon-possession that includes a long conversation between Jesus, a distraught father, and the disciples.  As Jesus returned from the mountain of His transfiguration, he found a crowd gathered.  While He was away, His disciples had failed in their attempt to drive a demon out of a child and the desperate father turned to Jesus.  After describing the child's pain, the father pleads, " 'But if you [Jesus] can do anything, take pity on us and help us!'  And Jesus said to him, ' "If you can?"  All things are possible to him who believes.'  Immediately the boy's father cried out, 'I do believe; help my unbelief.'  When Jesus saw that…
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Entering the Believer’s Rest

Faith is ..., Hebrews, Thoughts, Walking in the New Nature
Last time we posed the question "How do we enter the believer's rest?"  How do we go from wilderness Christian to God's promised land experience in the here-and-now?  The author of the book of Hebrews gives us some insight. Starting first with the Old Testament example of those who refused God's promised rest.  "Today if you hear My voice, do not harden your hearts as when they provoked Me in the day of trial in the wilderness, where your fathers tried Me by testing Me, and saw my works for forty years.  Therefore I was angry with this generation and said, 'They always go astray in their heart, and they did not know My ways;' and I swore in My wrath, 'They shall not enter My rest' " (Heb 3:7-11).…
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The Believer’s Rest

Faith is ..., Hebrews, Thoughts, Walking in the New Nature
Another prominent theme in the book of Hebrews is the believer's rest.  Entering into God's rest is foreshadowed in the Old Testament by the deliverance of the children of Israel from Egypt and their eventual arrival in the promised land.  The three stages of their deliverance are symbols of the three stages of deliverance for New Testament believers. Stage one is the Israelites release from Pharaoh's grip during their exodus from Egypt.  This represents our initial salvation when Christ delivered us from Satan's grip by His sacrifice on the cross.  The Egyptian taskmasters of Pharaoh's day represent the flesh, our sin nature, that controlled you and I prior to our salvation.  Paul writes of his before-salvation experience, "For the good that I wish, I do not do; but I practice…
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Putting Faith into Practice

Faith is ..., Hebrews, Thoughts, Walking in the New Nature
That the Christian life is lived "by faith" is a prominent message in the New Testament.  But how do we do it?  It is great to understand the theology and theory, but we all want to know, "How do we put it into practice?  What does living by faith look like?"  I can measure laws and law-breakers; I can measure rule-keeping and rule-breaking; I can measure a life lived by works.  But faith?  That's a little too nebulous; a little too out there in a world that we can't see, smell, or touch.  But it is exactly how God intends us to live.  So how do we bring faith to our every day experience? Think of your Christian experience as a big circle.  We start with a faith challenge.  Something…
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Faith and the Three Great Promises of God

Faith is ..., Hebrews, Thoughts, Walking in the New Nature
If you take a comprehensive read through the New Testament, you will find three great promises God makes to new covenant believers that are repeated over and over again.  And just like our old covenant ancestors, faith is a primary requirement to lay hold of and experience the power of these great promises. The first promise is the most familiar.  Believe in Jesus and you will have eternal life.  Jesus introduced this promise about a hundred different ways in the gospels.  One of the most succinct is, "He who believes in the Son [Jesus] has eternal life" (Jn 3:36).  Because we can't see the future, because people don't generally come back from the dead and share their experience, we don't know for sure what our after death experience will be. …
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A Better Promise (Hebrews 11)

Faith is ..., Hebrews, Thoughts
In Hebrews chapter 11, the author develops a critical similarity between the old covenant saints and new covenant believers; the absolute need to live by faith.  For the Old Testament believers, their faith was centered around the idea that something better was coming. "By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain...By faith Enoch was taken up so that he would not see death...By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, prepared an ark...By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out...not knowing where he was going...By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; for he was looking for a city…
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Faith is the Means

Faith is ..., Thoughts, Walking in the New Nature
The power to live the victorious Christian life is "Christ in me, the hope of glory" (Col 1:27).  The power of the Exchanged Life, the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit of God is the fuel that frees us from the power of sin.  And the means or vehicle to lay hold of this power is faith. God has promised that our old self, our sin nature, died with Christ.  I believe this by faith.  God has promised to take up residence inside us by His Holy Spirit.  I can't always feel this, but I believe it by faith.  God has promised Christ's resurrection power to all believers.  I believe this by faith.  God has promised that sin will not be our master.  I need constant clarity on how this works…
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Crucifying the Flesh by Faith

Faith is ..., Thoughts, Walking in the New Nature
It is one thing to preach, teach, and discuss the need to "crucify the flesh".  It is another matter altogether to put the idea into practice.  That is, how do resurrection-empowered saints "crucify the flesh with its passions and desires" (Gal 5:24)?  At least three ways come to mind as we read the New Testament. The first is to "walk by faith" (II Cor 5:7), another New Testament phrase that needs some explanation.  "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" (Heb 11:1).  Faith is believing everything God has said is true even when temporal evidence - what we see, hear, and touch - would suggest otherwise.  Faith is believing God is active along the lines of His promises even when His work remains…
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Faith, Love, and the Watching World

Faith is ..., Love is ..., Thoughts, Walking in the New Nature
In II Peter chapter 1, the apostle highlights some of the qualities of the fruitful life with the bookends of faith and love.  We wrote about faith last time.  Today, we want to concentrate on love.  Some writers see the list of II Peter 1:5-7 as a progression, starting with faith and continuing step-by-step through virtue, knowledge, self control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love.  In this view, love is the ultimate goal.  Whether this list represents increasing maturity in the Christian life or not, we do know from the rest of the New Testament that love indeed is our highest goal. Jesus taught it in the two great commandments.  Paul taught it throughout his letters.  In the book of I Corinthians, Paul elevates love as the final answer to…
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Entering the Kingdom

Faith is ..., The Kingdom Of God, Thoughts
(7 of 8 in a series) We enter the kingdom of God by faith.  We often think those who saw Jesus in person must have had an easier time embracing Him than those of us who came after and must come to Him by faith; not having seen, heard, or touched Him in the flesh.  But the faith requirement was just as real for Jesus’ contemporaries as it is for us.  We require faith because we did not see Jesus in the flesh.  They require faith for the very reason they did see Jesus in the flesh.  Look at this exchange in John chapter 6.  “Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me will…
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Faith Energized by Love

Faith is ..., Love is ..., Thoughts
I guess in a way the most unique attribute of God is just that: His uniqueness.  His holiness.  His set apartness.  His off-the-charts Godness.  In a comparative sense, God is untouchable, a one of a kind.  And the most unique attribute of God's holiness, His uniqueness, is His love.  God is Love.  And that love found us. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life" (Jn 3:16).  As Kenneth Osbeck writes in Amazing Grace, "Christ did not die merely to display God's love - He died because God is love."  God, in His very essence, is love.  And as a Christ follower, love should be our essence as well.  "Therefore be imitators of…
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Faith and Fruit

Faith is ..., Thoughts, Walking in the New Nature
"We walk by faith, not by sight" (II Cor 5:7).  The New Testament speaks of faith in primarily two ways.  A saving faith, which we wrote about in our last post, and a living faith, today's topic.  Our introduction into Christ, into the family of God, required saving faith.  A belief that Jesus of Nazareth lived, died, and rose again as the promised Messiah, our substitute who paid the debt of our sins.  Likewise, our walk, our experience of the supernatural Christian life also requires faith. When I embraced the gospel message of Jesus Christ, God placed within me a new nature, a new heart, and new Holy Spirit.  I can't feel my new nature.  I can't see my new heart.  I can't observe the Holy Spirit roaming around inside His new…
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Faith Enters the Picture

Faith is ..., Thoughts, Walking in the New Nature
"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" (Heb 11:1).  Faith is the "assurance" that God's testimony is true.  And because it is "the conviction of things not seen", it solely rests on God's revelation, not our experience.  Faith is believing that what God says is true. It was by faith that we first entered the Christian life.  "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast" (Eph 2:8-9).  Our deliverance from the penalty of sin and our instantaneous new birth came about by our faith in God's free gift of salvation.  When we, by faith, embrace the gospel message of…
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