Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Gleanings from the Pastor's Perspective: More than Just Knowing

The Pastor’s Perspective
Vol. 29 Num. 12

Last week we observed that saving faith involves a true knowledge. In other words, we must know certain truths in order to exercise saving faith. These truths are found in the Word of God and are part of true Gospel preaching. So, in order to embrace Christ in a saving relationship, we must also embrace the truth about Him (both about His Person and Work) revealed in the Holy Scriptures. By the way, the importance of catechizing our children becomes apparent when the above truth is grasped.

However, there is more to faith than knowledge, for saving faith also entails a FIRM BELIEF (Hebrews 11:6). That is, when confronted by the truth-claims of the Gospel, saving faith responds not with mere assent or acquiescence (The Bible tells us that the demons “assent” and tremble! - James 2:19), nor with apathetic acknowledgment (that bored yawn that says in the heart “so what?”), but with a firm and hearty conviction. Saving faith always involves a personal embrace of the truth of the Gospel. This conviction of saving truth means a whole-hearted commitment that confesses “I BELIEVE” both the facts of the Gospel and the Savior of the Gospel. In other words, I believe in Christ and His Word, and I believe in the Christ of the Word. The church has always recognized the essential importance of such a faith commitment, and that is one reason it composed creeds (from the Latin “credo” -- “I believe”) -- short summations of Biblical truth meant to be confessed by the church and its ministry
May I mention in passing the dangerous modern tendency to set belief in a Person and belief in truths in opposition to one another. We often hear evangelicals say “Christianity is a Person, not a doctrine.” This is precisely what the Liberals began teaching a century ago. And it is a soul killing lie. Saving faith is a personal relationship, true, but it is a relationship with a Person who is revealed to us in the Word of God alone. So if we are going to know Him, we are going to have to know Him as He has revealed Himself (and not on our own terms). Saving faith says both “I believe in you, Jesus” (Your Person -- who You are) and “I believe you, Jesus” (Your Word -- what You say)
Let me say in conclusion that GOD GIVES FAITH (Phil. 1:29; Eph. 2:8). It is true, we must believe, but we cannot do it on our own. We need the grace of God. There are two enemies of real faith: self-confidence and despair. Self-confidence assumes that faith is an almost effortless action -- anybody and everybody can do it. Despair fears that faith is impossible. Satan knows this and so he tempts us with two lies or half-truths. On the one hand, he persuades some to believe that faith is the easiest thing in the world. Thus they think that they can do it on their own. But in the end, they end up trusting themselves, or their faith, and not Christ. On the other hand, he persuades others that faith is the hardest thing in the world. Thus they never believe because it seems impossible. They are paralyzed by the fear that they might not be able to believe, and thus their fears become so many self-fulfilling prophecies.
The Bible unties this knot by reminding us that for us alone, by ourselves, on our own, faith is impossible, but that with God all things are possible! The Lord gives faith. The Lord enables our belief. This is the blessed truth of Scripture. The Bible teaches that saving faith is the fruit of divine election (Acts 13:48), the result of regeneration (I John 5:1) the effect of the Spirit’s work (I Cor. 12:3). It is the Father who enables us to come to Jesus (John 6:65) and Jesus who is the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). So the proper Biblical posture with regard to faith is always: “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24).

Yours joyfully,

Ligon Duncan

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