Making Real Contact with God
It's easy to say "I believe that", but in most situations we are talking about things that we agree with. Is that what the bible means by faith? Mental agreement with someone's argument or saying?
I was talking to someone recently, and they raised something they believed about a church I know , based upon never actually going to that church, nor ever investigating the thing they were so confidently claiming to find out if it really was the case. This form of "belief" is prevalent around us, but is that what we are talking about when we talk about having faith in God, believing in Jesus?
On Sunday morning I talked about Making Room for PEOPLE by faith. God has given us His righteousness through Jesus Christ. This means we are given the gift of right standing and relationship with Him, but more than that, it means being able to relate to each other in healthy ways as God has designed us to. Based out of Ezekiel 18:5-9, what this means in reality is:
Doing what is just and right - these are massive terms in the Old Testament which mean doing what God considers JUST and RIGHT. Reflect God's justice and right standards out into the world in our daily interactions with other people.
Getting rid of pursuits that distract us from pursuing God first and foremost. Trusting in God, not our wealth or other false hopes.
Being personally pure and faithful in marriage.
Not oppressing anyone, taking unjustly from anyone, not building a divide between rich and poor.
It is being conscious of and generous to the poor.
It is self-control in all matters - not lashing out, seeking revenge, nor doing things on a whim.
It is to judge impartially, under God, not out of personal interests.
It is, in the end, to follow God, firstly, freely, and boldly.
This right way of relating to others is only possible because of Jesus and by faith in Him. Paul says it like this in Romans 3:
"This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." [Romans 3:22-24]
But what does this faith, in reality, look like in our lives?
Through Real Belief
When we talk of faith, we're not talking of mere mental assent or agreement with what someone is saying - or even what God is saying. We're talking of actually making contact with, mysteriously but truthfully, the reality that we believe in. Making contact with the living God and His real righteousness.
Let me explain the difference, with reference to the belief that we humans can fly. Mental assent would be to say, "I believe that we humans can master the forces of nature in order to fly vehicles in the air over long distances." And then forever remain on the ground, never entering such a craft and doing anything in order to actually fly.
Faith would be to say exactly the same thing, "I believe that we humans can master the forces of nature in order to fly vehicles in the air over long distances." But then it would be to build such a vehicle, and through trial and error man it, and eventually to fly. And note this - as you fly, are you not in mysterious but real ways, not only coming into the forces that control flight, and mastering them?
When we say we receive God's gift of righteousness by faith, we are not saying, "I believe he's given me his righteousness," and then never raising a finger to ever attempt to live right as a result. That is mere mental assent, and that is not faith. You are living an illusion, in fact. To live by faith is to say "I believe I have the gift of Jesus' righteousness", and then slowly by God's wisdom and truth put together a life that reflects this, through trial and error, and you in real ways (and mysteriously nonetheless) connect with God and His powerful righteousness and master the forces of sin and evil that are against His righteousness in the world.
How does this really change things?
We need to be forming, committing to, and practicing righteous plans and ways in our world. We need to be committing to courses of action in our relationships and daily lives that reflect God's righteousness. And trusting that as we receive the righteousness of Jesus as a gift, we are being really and powerfully empowered to fulfill our plans, commitments and ways in the world. More and more. Which means real change in our lives - the righteousness of God, as described by Ezekiel, becomes in us more fully and strongly!
I want to live this kind of way in the world around me! I need to! We need to be such a people as a church. Who do what is just and right, who get rid of distracting pursuits, who are pure and faithful in marriage, who don't oppress anyone, who are conscious of and generous to the poor, who live self-controlled lives, who judge impartially in all matters, and who in the end follow God firstly, freely and boldly.
It's a high calling - but one that is enabled by faith in the living God who we really can, in powerful and mysterious ways, make contact with and be empowered by!
Written by Ps Rob.