On the Difference Between The Faith and My Faith

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December 28, 2019

Hebrews 11:6 (NIV)

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

CONSIDER THIS

There’s The Faith and then there’s faith. And understanding the difference makes all the difference. This celebrated chapter of Scripture brings them together in brilliant interplay. 

Let’s begin with “The Faith.” In the opening lines of the short epistle of Jude we get this bit: “Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.” (Jude 1:3)

Did you catch it: “the faith”? Which faith? “[T]he faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.” Hebrews 11 stretches “the faith” out for us like a 360 degree horizon, looking all the way back to the creation of the world, and all the way forward to “the city foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (v.10), tracing the contours of a sampling of faith’s impossibilities along the way.

I meant to say it yesterday, but here’s the invitation: For these next five days of immersion in this bulwark of a text, I want you to read the entirety of Hebrews 11 aloud—so your ears can hear it. That’s another interesting feature of faith. According to Scripture, faith comes by hearing. More on that tomorrow.

Over the centuries, “The Faith” has been crystallized into creeds and catechisms, framed up in doctrinal formulations and hammered into systematic theologies. While these things are all very good and necessary, they can and have become part of the problem for so many. For centuries now, many have given a kind of intellectual assent or a ceremonial Amen to “The Faith” and considered this salute as constituting their own confession. Faith in Jesus gets reduced down to a set of propositional truths about sin, separation, death, and heaven, which the would-be believer “accepts” like a software agreement before joining the church and heading to the new member luncheon.

All of this, as accurate and well intended as it is, has the effect of domesticating religion; producing the form of faith without the power. In response, many have swung the pendulum in the opposite direction, throwing off the great anchors of the creeds and catechisms while focusing all the energy on their own personal faith experience and journey. 

Hebrews 11 permits neither aberration, choosing instead to lead us into the ancient stadium of “The Faith,” giving us a bit of a breather in a nice luxury skybox and then insisting that we get back on the field and into the game ourselves. Only six verses in we get this stern admonition:

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (v. 6)

Pay close attention to anything Scripture says is impossible. “And without faith it is impossible to please God.” This is not faith as intellectual assent, sentimental salute or acceptance of the software agreement. This is faith as in burn the boats, no turning back, all-in abandonment to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is not faith as part of the herd who signed the decision card way back when. It is the faith of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Mary, Joseph, Meemaw, Peepaw, Mom, Dad . . . and me. 

Even me. Even you. In fact, only me and only you. That’s just how down to the ground and personal all this must be. You may “believe” the story and the stories. You may have recited the creeds ten thousand times. Heck, you may have been baptized and confirmed; still here’s the point:

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (v. 6)

So Christian, let me ask you: Do you have faith? Do you believe God exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him? And even as I ask you these questions it occurs to me just how pointless the exercise is. There is a better question. It is the real question faith asks us today, right now.

Are you earnestly seeking him?

THE PRAYER

Father of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, God of our fathers and mothers, awaken us . . . no, awaken me to the real faith . . . not the form of faith . . . don’t let me hide behind the faith of the church or of anyone else. I want to grow in my faith, so whatever it takes, Lord, let faith arise in me. Come Holy Spirit and train my spirit to earnestly seek after you. We pray in the name of our Lord and King Jesus Christ, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.  Amen. 

THE QUESTION

Stay with the question: Are you earnestly seeking him? How do you know?

NEXT ON THE DAILY TEXT: Invite your friends, families, churches, bowling leagues, axe throwing clubs, knitting circles, and golf foursomes to join us January 1, 2020 for a month long invitational Daily Text series called First Word. Last Word. 

P.S. Pre-order your copy of Casey Culbreth’s Advent Series, God is Here from our store here.

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