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Studies In The Life Of The Christian by Henry T. Sell

STUDY V THE CHRISTIAN FAITH

Scripture references: Hebrews 11; Matthew 9:29; 17:20; Mark 10:52; 11:22; Acts 2:38; 3:16; 10:43; 16:30,31; Romans 1:17; 5:1; 10:17; Galatians 2:20.

FAITH AND PRACTICE

Belief Controls Action. -- |As the man is, so is his strength| (Judges 8:21), |For as he thinketh in his heart so is he| (Proverbs 23:7). |According to your faith be it unto you| (Matthew 9:28,29). |Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life| (Proverbs 4:23).

The Scriptures place stress upon the fact that a man's actions are largely dependent upon what he believes or disbelieves rather than upon his environment (Proverbs 4:23; Romans 10:10; Acts 8:21; Matthew 9:4; 12:34; 15:11,18-20; 23:25).

There is the will to believe and there is the will not to believe (Matthew 15:28; 16:24; Luke 9:23; John 5:40). Man grows from the inside out. What he believes in his heart will sooner or later manifest itself in his acts. If a man thinks evil in his heart and cherishes that evil, while outwardly his life is moral and upright, it is only a question of time when the inner badness will break through the thin crust of outer goodness. The real battle of life is in a man's soul and if a man sets himself to win this battle he need have no fear of outward evil circumstances; he will have to set no guard upon his words or acts for he will speak and act from a pure and upright heart. It is not what he disbelieves, but what he believes, his conviction of truth, that makes him strong.

Hence the necessity for the vigorous and living faith which Christ urged upon His followers (Mark 11:22-24; Matthew 17:19,20; Luke 8: 24,25), a faith that could not be daunted by mountains of difficulty or great storms of afflictions.

Jesus came into the world with a positive program. He had a constructive gospel to preach to men. His disciples after His death followed in the footsteps of their Master and carried out His commands. The result was that faith was translated into action; the old world was changed and myriads of men gave in their allegiance to the Christ. The positive setting forth of the Christian faith always brings definite results.

BASIS OF CHRISTIAN FAITH

The Christian Faith is Founded Upon the Fact and Experience of Jesus Christ. -- Without Him there would have been no such faith.

1. The fact of Christ. This faith bases itself primarily not upon reason or feeling, but upon Jesus Christ, a historical person, and what He said and did while upon this earth in bodily form. The early disciples and preachers declared themselves to be witnesses. They were sent forth as witnesses (Matthew 28:18-20; John 15:27; Acts 1:8; 2: 32). The speeches of Peter (Acts 2:14-40; 3:12-26; 4:8-12), Stephen (Acts 7:1-56) and of Paul (Acts 13:16-41; 22:1-21) are recitals, of certain well attested occurrences, which have for their chief point the setting forth of the fact of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as the Saviour of men and hope of the world (Acts 2:38,39).

2. The experience of Christ. By this is meant the experience which men have who receive Christ as their Saviour and Lord. There is a historical Christ; and there is a spiritual Christ who enters into a communion of happiness and joy, with believers in Him. Jesus Christ, when on earth in bodily form, promised the coming of the Holy Spirit who should glorify Him (John 16:13,14); He also declared to His disciples, |Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world| (Matthew 28:20). Wherever this gospel of Jesus Christ is preached and men under its power truly repent of their sins and accept Him as their Saviour, as in the past so now, men may enter into personal relations with their risen and glorified Lord (Acts 2:40-42; John 7:17; Acts 8: 5-7; Romans 8:1-10; Colossians 1:27; Acts 26:15-19).

Essential Elements. -- In the Christian faith there are six component elements.

1. Belief in God as The Spirit, |infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in His being, wisdom and power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth| (John 4:24; Exodus 20:2-7; Deuteronomy 6:4; Isaiah 44:6; John 17:3; 1 Corinthians 8:4,6; Psalm 19; 104:24).

2. Belief in man, as a child of God, whose spirit is destined to live forever (Genesis 2:7; 2 Corinthians 5:1; Ecclesiastes 12:7; Matthew 6:25; 5:29,30).

3. Belief in sin which taints and corrupts the heart of man, making it finally, if unchecked, the dwelling place of all evil. The effects of sin are everywhere plainly manifest. Men not only sin through ignorance and carelessly but willfully. The worst sins are those which are of the spirit, anger, pride, malice and envy (Isaiah 53:6; 64:6; Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8; Romans 1:18-3:23; 8:7).

4. Belief in Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Saviour of men, who can cleanse the heart of man and save him from his sins. Jesus Christ came not only to reveal God, the Father, to man but also to purge his heart from evil. |He is the propitiation for our sins| (1 John 2:1,2; Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:24,25; Matthew 20:28; Romans 3:24,25; 5:8; 8:3; Galatians 3:13; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Corinthians 1:30; Matthew 9:2-6).

5. Belief in the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:11; Ephesians 3:16; Galatians 5:22) who |testifies of Christ, as the Saviour of sinners, unites us to Him by faith, and makes us partakers of all His benefits.| Jesus said, |When the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, He shall testify of Me| (John 15:26). |The Spirit of truth ... will guide you into all truth.... He shall glorify Me: for He shall receive of Mine and shall show it unto you| (John 16:13,14; 14:26; 1 Corinthians 12:3; Titus 3:5,6; Matthew 28: 19; John 3:5,6).

6. Belief in the resurrection and the life to come, the issues of which are declared to be eternal. |The hour is coming in which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation| (John 5:28,29; Matthew 25:31-46; 25:1-13). The great rainbow of promise that spans the future, for those who trust in Christ, is in the fact that He said, |I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. And whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die| (John 11:25,26; I Thessalonians 5:23; John 6:47; 14:2,19). The resurrection body |will be spiritual, immortal, incorruptible, and like unto the glorious body of Jesus Christ| (Philippians 3:20,21; 1 Corinthians 15:20-23,35-57).

Definiteness. -- There is a marvellous directness and definiteness in the statements of the New Testament writers, in proclaiming the Christian faith, because they believe that they are dealing with the tremendous facts of life and destiny. God has manifested Himself and spoken in Jesus Christ as He has never manifested Himself before. |God who at sundry times and in diverse manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, whom He hath appointed heir of all things| (Hebrews 1:1,2). The eternal things of God, kept secret from the foundation of the world, are now made known to man; why should he not, in spite of any punishment or threatened ignominious death, proclaim these truths definitely and plainly to his fellow man (Acts 4:13-20)?

The keynote of all of Paul's work is sounded in a very definite and direct way in his first Epistle to the Corinthians (2:2,5) where he says, |For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ and Him crucified.... That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.| Paul consistently maintains throughout his Epistles that the sole basis of salvation is the grace of God through Jesus Christ, to be appropriated by faith on the part of man.

TESTS OF CHRISTIAN FAITH

Effects Upon Men and Institutions. -- Jesus Christ was ever urging His disciples to test His words and principles. He declared the difference between true and false prophets could be known by their fruits. He said, |Do men gather grapes of thorns or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit ... wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them| (Matthew 7:15-20). When Thomas expressed doubt of His resurrection, Christ gave him ample opportunity to test its reality (John 20:24-29). Christ's challenge to the world is, |Try Me!| |Come and see what I can do!|

What kind of men has the Christian faith made? What kind of communities has it produced? Two pertinent questions are asked in a recent book of sermons, What would be the effect upon this world if everybody was a consistent Christian? What would be the effect upon this world if everybody was a consistent infidel? |The argument is a crushing one, for of a truth Christianity can stand such a test with a glory that would astonish even the most ardent enthusiasts. And it is the one test, let it be admitted with sorrow, that a reviling world is not willing to have it judged by.|

A Saving Faith which meets men at their extremity of need and gives them a new heart. It is not only a faith that did save men when Christ walked the earth and healed the sick, giving sight to the blind and raising the dead, but it is a faith which saves men now. Christ is still performing His miracle of cleansing the hearts of men of evil. He is saying, |Come unto Me,| and men are coming as of old. The question whether He can save now is being put to the test every day and every day it is being answered in the regeneration of men. Wherever this gospel is preached amongst the wealthy and learned or the poor and ignorant, it shows its splendid fruitage as it did of old.

USES OF CHRISTIAN FAITH

To Make Plain the Great Cause of All as Father. -- We live in an immense universe, in the midst of giant forces of which, after science has made its most searching investigation and said its last word, we know comparatively little and that little imperfectly. No set of men is more ready to admit this state of affairs than that which has made the closest scrutiny of the phenomena of nature. There is a host of questions to which the most painstaking investigation on the part of the philosophers can afford us no answer.

Without this Christian faith which tells us of a revelation from God and His plan and purpose for man we should be helpless, ever seeking for light in this universe which we could not find. Then again we might believe in a first great cause of all things, but without a revelation we could not know God as the Creator of all things and as our Father who cares supremely for us -- made known in the manifestation of Jesus Christ.

By faith in Christ we are brought into communion with God the Father.

To Show the Importance and Value of Human Life. -- How could man know that he was more than an atom in a whirlpool of atoms, his life of sense but a transitory thing, if it had not been for the Scriptures which seek to impress upon him the value of his life in the sight of God (John 3:16,17; Matthew 16:26)? Without the pale of the Christian faith men hold life but cheaply, they squander it and waste it in sin; they too often say, |Let us eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die| -- forever passing out of existence. The Christian faith holds human life as a very precious thing, something to be cherished with infinite and loving care, for the spirit in man is to live forever. Here is a new significance given to life which, when the individual accepts it, gives him new and great ideals, which lift him to a higher level of living.

By faith in Christ we are brought into proper fellowship with our fellow men, and their lives are made precious in our sight.

To Show the Way to Happiness and Joy Through Jesus Christ. -- If there is one thing more than another which man is seeking it is happiness, but it is the kind of happiness which frequently destroys the body and soul -- still he seeks it. Many men seek happiness through relaxation of their moral nature.

Christ came preaching the happiness of a conqueror, the victor who sings the song of rejoicing over some victory won; He set forth a joy which celebrated a conquest over evil desires and made a man noble and pure in his thoughts and aspirations. Jesus did His work for the joy that was set before Him (Hebrews 12:2). The Christian faith was never intended to make a man gloomy or downcast, but to put joy in his heart and a song upon his lips. No one has more right to a cheerful countenance than the sincere Christian, for he can be sure that he knows the way of happiness here and nothing can come to him hereafter save peace and glory in the redeemed life.

QUESTIONS

How does belief control action? What is the basis of Christian faith? Give the six component elements of the Christian faith. What can be said of the definiteness of the Christian faith? Give some of the tests of Christian faith. Give three uses of Christian faith.

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