[b]From Faith to Faith[/b]
[i]by Alan Martin[/i]
In the gospel, the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith. This truth affirms what even the Law and Prophets spoke The just (righteous) shall live by faith. Progress in our growth in grace is directly related to the measure of faith we are exercising. Every believer has a measure of faith, but not all believers have the same measure. Paul warned the Romans in chapter 12 of his letter Do not think more highly of yourself than you ought, but with a sober judgment according to the measure of faith you have. The apostle John wrote, This is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith. This gives us an ability to measure the areas in our lives that we have faith and the areas where we lack faith. It is possible to have both; remember the fathers cry Lord I believe, help Thou my unbelief. Paul makes it clear that we stand by faith! Areas where we are not standing are areas in our lives that we have insufficient, weak faith.
Genuine faith enables the believer to overcome the circumstances they are facing just like Abrahams faith enabled him to overcome his own failing body and Sarahs dead womb. Paul recorded this in Romans chapter 4: Who against hope in hope believed and so became the father of many nations
and not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarahs womb. He did not waiver at the promise of God, but was strengthened by faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what God had promised, He was also able to perform. Note that Abraham was strengthened by faith. This strengthening came because he did not consider his or Sarahs condition; rather, he focused upon the ability of the One who had made him the promise.
This is why we are exhorted by the author of Hebrews to Look away unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our Faith. When we are more conscious of our circumstance and our own inability, we will not be strengthened by faith. We will sink into the stormy waters just like Peter did when he became more conscious of the storm than of Jesus who called him to step out of the boat. Peter was reproved for his lack of faith. We know that Peter had a measure of faith, but he was not exercising faith in this situation and he failed because of unbelief. Failure amidst the mental, emotional, or circumstantial storms we are in is also due to our inadequate faith.
We should not think more highly of our faith than the victory over sin and temptation our faith is enabling us to experience. We should ask ourselves what is the true measure of our faith and not claim to have faith in the areas where we are not having victory. This is what James was trying to say in chapter two of his letter. You claim to have faith, well I have deeds. Show me your faith without deeds; I will show you my faith by my deeds. Our faith should be demonstrated in victory over temptation. We should demonstrate our faith by keeping a tight rein upon our tongues and letting no unwholesome talk proceed forth out of our mouths. Our faith should be manifested in the fruit of the Holy Spirit which includes self-control. Outbursts of anger, harsh words, impatience with our spouses, children, co-workers, or fellow believers are indicators of either very weak faith or an empty faith that is nothing but a form of godliness that denies the power thereof.
We need to examine ourselves to see whether we truly are in the faith. If we are not experiencing the consistent demonstration of the fruit of the Holy Spirit, we have serious need to question the condition of our faith. We recognize that our body is sick when it is not functioning properly; the same should be recognized concerning the condition of our faith. Symptoms such as outbursts of anger, impatience, depression, fear, stress, anxiety, strife, moodiness, lack of spiritual desire, bondage to lusts, all indicate a lack of, or weakness of faith.
Our actions are the true indicators of our faith. To claim to have faith accompanied by regular unbelieving responses to trials is a contradiction and an indication of self-deception.
This is what James sought to warn his readers of in chapter one of his letter: Be ye doers of the word and not hearers only, so deceiving yourselves. Those who merely listen without retaining and applying what they have heard are like men who look at themselves in a mirror but immediately forget the image they see.
This is the problem with many believers; when the word is preached they catch a glimpse of not only what they are really like, but what they should look like. Many fail to realize that transformation has a direct correlation with application. James puts it this way: The man who looks intently into the perfect law of liberty; not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it, he will be blessed in his doing.
There is a great difference between being merely forgiven and being blessed. There were many Israelites in Babylon when Nebuchadnezzar erected the golden image and commanded all the people to bow to it. We only know of three who did not bow. What about all the other Israelites? God is merciful, thus it is safe to assume God was willing to forgive them for their cowardly lack of faith. Hannaniah, Mishael, and Azariah however, had faith and their faith enabled them to withstand the trial. They experienced the blessing of God in a way the rest of the Israelites who failed the test did not experience. Many may have been forgiven, but these three men of faith were blessed. James wrote, Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
What about ourselves? Do we have faith only for forgiveness for our continual failures or do we have sufficient faith to stand the tests we face so as to experience the blessing of God? This is the question we need to be asking ourselves. What is the measure of my faith as evidenced by consistent victory over trials and temptations? Instability is evidence of unbelief. James tells us that the man who doubts is as unstable as a wave blown and tossed by the wind. We should make a painfully honest examination of how we have been standing the temptations and trials we face. We already know that God will not even allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able, but in every temptation He provides a way of escape so that we can bear up under it; bearing up under, means standing firm, not yielding to emotional outbursts, to mood swings, or strong lusts. Standing firm means consistently taking the way of escape. If we walk by the Spirit, we will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.
Instability is a clear sign of lack of faith or an immature faith. Toddlers learning to walk are very unstable; they are a danger to themselves without constant supervision. As they grow in strength and experience, they learn to balance themselves better and fall less and less. As we grow in the faith, as our measure of faith increases, we too become far more stable and able to keep our spiritual balance. However, faith does not just grow automatically with years. Many are retarded in their faith; that is their faith has not developed properly as it should have. Thus they find themselves unable to do what a mature, strong, normal believer can do.
Here we have a real problem; failure, immaturity, and instability are far too normal. This is why we are not wise to compare ourselves among ourselves. Mature believers are, and will always be, rare! Narrow is the way and small is the gate that leads to life and few there be that find it. Over-comers are the rarest people on earth. Many have faith to receive forgiveness for their constant failures, but few have so grown in the faith as to become steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord. If we compare ourselves to those just like us, we can deceive ourselves into thinking we are on course and doing well. Many live in this deception; in fact, mature over-comers are so rare, that many believers do not even expect to have such a life until they enter heaven. They live in the misunderstanding of Romans chapter seven. The result of this is the same for them as it was for Paul, O wretched man that I am.
Only by discovering the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus can we be saved from this immature, unstable, life of failure. This is where faith becomes the most critical difference. If we look to ourselves and those around us, we should have no reason to expect dramatic transformation; this is found only by looking to the Author and Finisher of our faith. When we gaze into the glory of God, seen in the face of Christ, we are transformed into the same image from glory to glory actually from faith to faith. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. When we see the glory of God in the face of Christ, this becomes the basis of our own hope. Christ in us is our hope of glory. Hope is something we must have before we actually are brought into the full experience. The basis of our hope that we can be transformed from Adams image into that of Christs is Christ in us.
Faith is the key to laying hold of the reality that Jesus Christ actually lives in us. This is how we receive the promises of God by faith! Paul asked the Galatians Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law or the hearing of faith? They knew the answer by the hearing of faith. He also asked them Does God give you His Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the Law or the hearing of faith? The answer for them is the same for us by faith!
God will work the miracle of putting to death our old man as we believe. Gods promises are all yes and amen in Christ Jesus, but they will not become ours unless we receive them by faith. The Greek word for receive literally means to lay hold of. It is no different for us than for the Israelites standing at the edge of the land they had been promised. God spoke to them and said I have led you here and given you this land flowing with milk and honey now go up and lay hold of it. Joshua and Caleb were of a different spirit than all the other men twenty years or older; they believed the promise and only they actually possessed their inheritance.
It is very similar today; there are many who have not entered into the promised rest of God because of their unbelief. We can only lay hold of the promises of God by faith, but we are the ones who must lay hold. This principal of laying hold of is the condition given twice in the book of Hebrews: But Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end. Eight verses later we read, For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end. The key to fully partaking of the promises that are yes and amen in Christ is holding fast by faith. We will never come to a mature, over-coming, steadfast faith by any other means than holding fast to the word God has spoken. Jesus also made this clear in His explanation of the Parable of the Sower. In Luke 8:15 we read But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it (literally hold on to it) and bear fruit with patience.
So what determines our progress or lack of it in the development of our spiritual life is whether we hold on to what we have heard. We must hold on to Gods promises by faith! The Israelites who failed to enter the promise land did not profit from what they heard because they did not mix their hearing with faith. We have the same promise of entering into a spiritual rest that will only become a reality for us if we hold on to what we hear mixing it with faith! We are admonished to See to it that there be in none of you a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. Many are in danger of turning away from God in their heart, long before they cease to attend meetings and associate with other believers. How can we know who is turning away? Those really living a victorious life of faith, being transformed into the image of Christ, have believing hearts; those who profess to know God but in their actions they are in effect denying Him, do not have saving faith. He who has ears to hear let him hear, those who over-come will inherit all this and be given access to the tree of life.
When Paul wrote to the Colossians, he said that he was delighted to see Your good order and the steadfastness of your faith. Could Paul say that from observing our lives? Good order was a military term, used for soldiers who remained at their post and did not break rank. Steadfastness was also used of that line of soldiers who remained unmovable despite the fiercest assault from the enemy. When trials and temptations assault us, do we remain at our post, steadfast and unmoved, or due to our lack of faith do we panic, yield to fear, and break rank? The only way to attain to good order and steadfastness is by becoming rooted in the faith In the Parable of the Sower, those who believed for awhile but quickly fell away because of trials had no root in themselves. We must become so rooted and built up in Christ till we are firmly established in the faith. Pauls use of the term built up indicates that we must go from faith to faith, continually building upon a level of faith we have previously attained.
Peter also exhorts believers in the same way to Give all diligence to add to your faith. He indicates that we must make it our top priority to fully develop our faith, seeing to it that it is fully supplied with virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love. He says If these things be in you and are abounding, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful. This is how we are to make our calling and election sure. We should have no assurance other than what is based upon a life of ever-increasing faith to faith, a glory to glory transformation from Adams likeness to the likeness of Christ. This must become our only confidence in the Day of Judgment - that just as He is so are we in this world. Those who claim assurance of eternal life without evident regeneration and transformation have deceived themselves. It is a process, but the process is not automatic. Progress will be determined by diligence! There is no mercy for continual, unrepentant, willful neglect!
We should heed Pauls admonition to Timothy to Lay hold of the eternal life to which you were called. Certainly Paul knew Timothy had been born again; so what was he meaning? I believe he meant for Timothy to lay hold of every grace available in the treasure of the wisdom and knowledge of God in Christ. We too should lay hold of Christs life, His power, His love, His wisdom, His endurance, His meekness, His lowliness. This is part of the finishing work that Christ can do in our lives. Mature believers with a finished faith are a joy to God and a beauty to other saints. They are such an example and inspiration to those who are privileged to know them intimately. They are rare, just like Jesus indicated they would be. They are as rare as Joshua and Caleb. These two were the only men out of the 603,050 that actually entered the land that had been promised to all. Many are called but few are chosen, or in other words, many hear but few believe. He came to His own and His own received Him not; but as many as received Him to them He gave power to become sons of God, even to them that believed on His name.
Jesus told His disciples a parable that they should always pray and not lose heart. It was about a persistent widow whose continual coming gained her petition from a difficult judge. At the end of the parable Jesus added However, when the Son of Man returns, will he find faith on the earth. Some have grown weary and lost heart; their hands hang down and their spiritual knees are giving way. We need to come along side one another and do what Aaron and Hur did for Moses. We need to lift up the hands that hang down; because when we allow our hands to hang down from discouragement or unbelief the enemy wins! Believers only experience victory from faith to faith, glory to glory when they are lifting up holy hands in believing prayer to God. Let us be honest with where we are, and seek every help available to strengthen our faith until we are being built up and become established, steadfast, and unmovable, always abounding.
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon