Sunday, November 22, 2009

Faith: A Work and a Fight

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We are saved by grace through faith, and not by works.  Nothing could be clearer in Scripture (Eph 2:8-9).  The faith that saves is a gift from God (Eph 2:8).  It is He who draws us (John 6:44), it is He who keeps us (1 Pet 1:5 NKJV), and it is He who circumcises our hearts to love Him that we may live (Deut 30:6).

And yet we are told that believing on Jesus is a work that the Father has given us to do (John 6:29), and that faith is a fight (1 Tim 6:12). 

How can that be?

I'm in need of that good fight right now.  I'm struggling with a particular temptation.  It doesn't matter what it is, and it's best if I don't tell you, because I want you to put yourself in my shoes with your own struggles, and fight the fight along with me.

If the Spirit of God does not yet reside in you, what I'm about to write does not apply.  What you need is a different, yet still miraculous work of the Holy Spirit.  I hope you'll start your journey by clicking on that link and reading more about it. 

When God brings a dead soul to life, it changes everything.  But nothing can really change until He does that work in you.

It is vital to understand that the fight of faith is not a struggle to believe out of thin air.  It is not a blind leap.  It is not closing your eyes and saying, "I do believe, I do believe, I DO believe!"  Save that nonsense for Peter Pan.

The fight of faith is a struggle to believe in what God has already revealed to you within your heart when He placed His Spirit there.  It is fought by those who are already made new from above, but are wrestling with the remaining weakness and foolishness and darkness which continue to plague us all in our mortal flesh.

How is this battle fought?

First we must understand that all sin is a failure of faith.  All wavering is a weakness of faith.

Here's where I'm weak, and where I often fail.  I'm tempted to believe that sin will give me much-needed relief.  I bet that's where your faith stumbles sometimes, too.

I can preach against my sin using Scripture (as in, "Thou shalt not…"), but that's likely to lead to one of two possible outcomes, neither of which is what I desire. 

  • I can rebel against the commandment
  • I can hold myself back from the desired behavior, but with resentment and a sense of "missing out on the best."

Both responses lack faith.  They completely miss the boat.

I want to use Scripture to preach my soul toward Christ.  I want to remind myself that at His right hand are pleasures forevermore (Ps 16:11), that He is my Life (John 14:6, Col 3:4), that my joy is found in Him (Neh 8:10), that He is truly my deepest desire (Ps 42:1-2).  When I re-connect with these truths (which I already know to be true, because I have experienced Him), I find the strength to fight off temptation with the power of a greater desire.  And in this victory God is honored, desired, and glorified, not resented as inferior to some sin I'd really rather have.  

I don't have to make-believe.  I just need to renew my belief right now, at this moment, when my flesh is weak.

That is the good fight of faith.

Or what about this other facet of my unbelief?  I want to rationalize that my sin will just be a brief jaunt…so short it will be harmless.  How do I fight that?  By reminding myself that God's Holy Word describes sin as a snare or trap (2 Tim 2:26), and as a fiery dart (Eph 6:16).  It warns me that a momentary lapse can cost me for a lifetime (Gen 25:29-34, 2 Sam 12:10), and that God will expose everything on Judgment Day, if not before (2 Sam 12:12).  I can remind myself that dabbling in sin is like throwing rocks at a Tyrannosaurus, because I'm engaging myself in a macabre dance with powers far stronger than myself, bent on my destruction (Eph 6:12).  All of these truths are helpful, but I want to take my fight further.  Anyone, even the unsaved, can restrain themselves if they fear the consequences enough.  There is some faith in believing God's warnings, but the good fight of faith is so much more than that.

The good fight of faith always reorients us to God through Christ, and results in His honor and glory.

How do I fight this "It won't really hurt me" mentality towards sin?  By realizing that what happens to me isn't even the paramount issue.  The question is not, "What will my sin do to me?" but "What will it do to the glory of God?"  Can I claim to have true faith if I don't care about His glory?

True faith always glorifies God, but all sin belittles Him.  Do I believe He deserves to be revered as Holy, and to be publicly proclaimed as superior to sin?  Do I agree with His attitude towards sin…an attitude of hatred so severe that it led to Calvary?  If I don't take sin seriously, then what on Earth does Calvary even mean to me?  What's the basis of my Christianity if it ignores what Calvary means?  What kind of faith do I have if I want to make a pet of the viper whose head Christ has crushed?  Will I so dishonor Him as to try to waltz with His mortal enemy?

If I am not moved by such arguments, I need to do some serious examining of my faith.  I may have believed some facts about what Jesus did in history, but I cannot truly believe that He is all that He said He was, that He is the holy Son of God, and still believe that it's a trivial thing to spit in His face "just for a moment."

All of these thoughts are good, but if I seek to apply them in my flesh alone, I'll still not be fighting the good fight of faith.  And so I pray:

Lord God, in this time when I feel weak, please help me to believe what I already know to be true; to remember what You have already revealed of Yourself and Your worth and Your glory.  Help me to overcome the deceitful allurements of sin with the truth of Your superior delights.  Help me to refuse sin as only the first step of this fight, and to embrace You more tightly as the second.  Be glorified in my life today.  In Jesus' Name, Amen!


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1 comment:

Karin said...

Excellent post! Thanks for all the work that goes into thinking it through and making the post. Some folks have a wrongly calibrated conscience though, i.e. it is sin to see a movie, to dance,to play sports or even shop on a Sunday, etc. etc. It would be wise not to do anything that goes against their conscience, but they see other godly believers doing it. That's where their struggle begins and their feelings of guilt about having their particular weakness are not based on truth. Not sure if I explained this well enough. What are your thoughts on that?

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