MEanderings

My Hope: An Answer, not an Argument

resting.place

My heart is leaning on the Word, the written Word of God.
Salvation by my Savior’s name, salvation through His blood.
I need no other argument, I need no other plea;
It is enough that Jesus died, and that He died for me.

My faith looks up … and in … and beyond. Faith provides the lens through which I see everything.

The leadership development company I work for teaches principles that encourage people to assess their own potential for leadership – in their jobs, their families, their communities and even within themselves. The philosophy of the company is rooted in the foundational belief that everyone possesses a worldview in which they see everything. That worldview shapes how we live, why we live, what we appreciate, what we reject, what we love and what we hate.
My worldview has at its foundation a faith in Jesus Christ – the One in whom I’ve placed my trust.

I’ve been thinking lately about where my faith rests. Although a quick word study will most often produce information about “faith” in religious terms, it’s interesting to note that one definition of faith is “a firm belief in something for which there is no proof.” At first glance, that bothered me a little. No proof?!? Then I realized that the bible says basically the same thing!
In a particular verse of scripture that I’d probably cite to define what kind of faith I have, the different versions include these words: assurance, conviction, certainty, evidence, confidence and proof. Good, solid words. What’s a little unusual is that all these words are linked with the phrase “what is not seen/what is unseen“. So, in essence, my faith does indeed rest in a firm (certain and confident) belief in something (Someone) for which there is no present proof (unseen).  And this kind of faith has led me to a specific Faith.  A Christian Faith. [For clarity purposes, I’m going to distinguish my specific Faith – that is, Christ-based- by making it a proper noun.] In other words, this hopeful certainty in what I can’t yet see has produced in me a “firm belief in God and in the doctrines of the Christian (Jesus Christ-based) religion, based on intellectual assent and spiritual trust, which result in commitment and obedience to the One who provided my salvation.” (James 2)

One of my favorite things in life is listening to people share inspiring testimonies about how they came to Faith. I have heard testimonies of people who had been so destroyed by their personal choices that it sent them into a dark and downward spiral. Others have shared their stories of growing up with very little knowledge of God or the Bible, but hoping deep within their souls that surely there was more to life. I have been especially intrigued by the testimonies of a couple of friends who, after much research and great academic achievement, began to conclude that it was very unlikely there was a God at all.  As I listen to these, I am fascinated at the way God uses all kinds of means to bring unlikely people to Himself.
There are also those like me, who grew up with sincere Christian influences that taught them what the Bible says about Christ. These influences possessed a strong belief in the authority and reliability of scripture that had led them to a conclusion that Jesus was/is the only Way to eternal life.
Although the people in these stories have had different starting places, they all ended up at the same resting place. Eventually, each one was brought to a gospel understanding that led to belief that led to trust and faith in the Person of Jesus Christ for their salvation. Rooted in soulful consideration (mind and spirit), they all made a faith decision to enter into a personal relationship with the Creator God. A relationship made possible through the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Son.

Calling the crowd along with His disciples, He said to them, “If anyone wants to follow after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.” Mark 8:34

So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ. Rom 10:17

Now without faith it is impossible to please God, since the one who draws near to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him. Heb 11:6

Listening to people tell their faith stories brings me deep peace and joy.
But, in an attempt to understand others, I also like to observe and engage people who do not consider themselves people of Faith. It’s not always simple to converse with people who have strong opposing beliefs. The main thing I have noticed is that this Faith (grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone) can often stir up angst, anger and frustration within those who believe it to be ignorant or arrogant. The reality is that all too often the kind of faith that has convinced us of an unseen surety is not the kind that can be communicated by argument alone. Peter encourages us to never shy away from sharing the reason we have this hope within us (1 Peter 3), but he does so with a warning that we should maintain respect and gentleness. I think this implies that our faith may be met with skeptical questions and doubt. Even so, we share and live out our faith consistently and continually with graceful dispositions.

The natural man is no less certainly a man of faith than the spiritual, but his faith is in the ultimacy of something other than the Word of God. The spiritual man is no less certainly a man of reason than the natural, but his reason, like that of every man, functions within the perspective of his faith.
Edward T Ramsdell

Sharing our faith shouldn’t be rooted in a desire to convince someone of their wrong lifestyle or their wrong beliefs. If our kind of faith is rooted in the specific Faith I have mentioned, then we will understand that apart from the Spirit’s work, it will be impossible to convince someone that they need Jesus to save them. But if we are of The Faith, we will also never stop building relationships with people who are far from God, because we believe that coming near to Him is the only way to live forever. This belief should produce in us a deep longing for people to know the Jesus we know – the One who claimed to be The Way, the Truth and The Life (Jn 14). So even though people may push against our beliefs that to them seem foolish, if we are convinced the convictions are true, we can do nothing less than continue to make known our desire for them to build their life on this Faith.
If this Faith is indeed foundational to me, I simply can’t NOT talk about my faith. Because with my commitment to this Faith comes a mission to share it. Based on Christ’s teaching, they are inseparable. (Mt 5:16, Mt 28:19-20)

We will most certainly be met with skepticism and criticism. We will be challenged and condemned. We will be considered as fools and as foes. Even so, this should not shake our faith in our Faith. We won’t have an answer for every person with an argument against our beliefs. We may feel unprepared for those who wish to discredit what we cannot prove. Even so, do not lose our hope. We are ready again and again to share the reasons we have such hope. After all, God IS knowable (1 Cor. 2:11), even though we must stay mindful that He is simultaneously incomprehensible (Rom. 11:33–36). God CAN BE known, but He cannot be known completely (Deut. 29:29).

Thankfully, in the midst of the frenzy of disbelief and disrespect, I’ve found a hopeful resting place:
“Everyone who has been born of God conquers the world. This is the victory that has conquered the world: our Faith.” 1 Jn 5

Who stands fast? Only the man whose final standard is not his reason, his principles, his conscience, his freedom, or his virtue, but who is ready to sacrifice all this when he is called to obedient and responsible action in faith and in exclusive allegiance to God—the responsible man, who tries to make his whole life an answer to the question and call of God.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The Christian faith is incarnational. God became man; God with us.
But without the clarity of a well-informed, robust, scripturally-based Christian worldview, our engagement with the culture will be flawed. In Scripture, we are given the stable truths that must undergird our work in the world. The “imago dei” is the grounding for all of our interactions with others, including those on the other side of critical issues. The fall and its consequences for both individuals and communities clarify what is at the root of all of the world’s brokenness. And, the obedient work of Christ stands at the center of history, promising the restoration of all things and compelling us to make the invisible kingdom visible.
John Stonestreet

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