Thursday, August 13, 2009

Are You a Faith Factory?

By S. Michael Durham

(Third installment on faith)

We have seen thus far that I have a faith problem stemming from my fallen nature. I was born with a heart that says, “I do not want to trust God in the least. I want to trust me.” The temptation in the Garden of Eden came down to whom Adam and Eve were going to trust—God or themselves. Of course, we know how they opted. And as a result we have opted right along with our first parents. We inherited their rebellious nature, and all a man can do is act out of his nature. We were born with a sinful nature that does not have faith in God.

The new birth counteracts our first birth. The new birth is a birth of a new nature. To be born of the Spirit is to be given a spiritual nature that is from above, given to us from our Spiritual Father. In no way does that make us divine, but as the Apostle Peter says in his second epistle, we partake or share or participate in the divine nature. This new nature or new man, as the Apostle Paul called it, has holy affections and desires. It, by grace, can exercise faith in God. To trust in God is standard equipment for the new heart.

In conjunction with the giving of spiritual life is the fact that our old man, that is who we were before conversion, is gone. The Bible says he has been crucified with Christ (Romans 6:6). To put it another way, the old man was my fallen human nature ruled and dominated by sin. When God regenerates the sinner and the sinner puts his trust in Christ, there is a literal conversion or change. A transformation occurs. The principle of sin enslaving and controlling the sinner is broken. The new believer is free to break with sin and no longer do sin’s bidding. He can now obey God from a heart of faith because sin’s power to enslave is gone.

But as wonderful as the gift of salvation is, it is not perfection. That is not yet. The new believer confidently hopes in a day when he or she will be absolutely and completely rid of the corruption of sin. Even the ability to sin will be vanquished. However, until that day we still have a mind and a body polluted. The mind and the body are not sinful, but within them are appetites and desires contrary to the Spirit that still remain. This is the remnant of the fallen human nature, with which we were born. The Bible calls it the flesh.

The Bible describes in Galatians 5:17 that a contention, to put it mildly, resides between the flesh and the Spirit within the Christian. The flesh promotes self and the Spirit promotes Christ. Flesh trusts only one person, self, whereas the Spirit trusts only Christ. So how are we to put our faith in God if we feel this tension between ourselves and God?

Thankfully, the answer is to walk in the Spirit and we will not fulfill the lust of the flesh (Galatians 5:16). We consciously reject faith in ourselves and look to the Savior. This is all Jesus meant when He described the conditions of being a Christian, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24). Self-denial means I deny myself the right to trust in myself. I refuse to live my life by my own wisdom or strength. This is the key to faith.

One of the most difficult things for the Christian to learn is that he cannot trust God without God’s help. If I trust me to trust God, then it is no more than my flesh trying to meet God’s requirement of faith. The sad fact is that even though I have a new nature and the Spirit of God resides with me, I still am insufficient to trust and obey the Lord. I must look away from myself totally and look to the One who gives faith. Only He can maintain my faith, increase my faith and preserve my faith. Only He can strengthen the faith that He has already given. Faith is still a gift from God. It is a spiritual gift, having spiritual substance. Otherwise faith becomes me straining with my brain to believe God. Sadly, this is what so many Christians think faith is—mere mental assent. If they can hurdle their own minds’ objections and feel like they believe, then they consider themselves to have faith in God.

If you are to have a strong faith, you must have a weak faith in you. Faith that is strong in God is based upon a strong belief in human helplessness. You must be absolutely convinced that without Jesus you cannot even hope to have faith in God. You believe with intention that Jesus meant what He said, “for without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Your will must be exercised to renounce any self-sufficiency so that you may receive God’s sufficiency.

Is not this the lesson of nine frustrated disciples who could not cast out a demon from an afflicted child? Did they not pray to the Lord, “Why could we not cast it out?” Note the “we.” They tried to cast out the demon. Contrast that to the prayer that got results. The father of the demonized prayed, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” He somehow knew Christ could help him to believe. You and I are not faith factories. We do not nor cannot produce faith in God. All we can do is exercise the faith that He gives. Maybe that is why the disciples eventually, after this event, prayed more accurately, “Increase our faith.”

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