Posts Tagged ‘Ephesians 2’

ice fishing III

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for,
the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).


Faith, it seems, is taking a bit of a knock these days, at least in western societies. Although everyone has faith in something (even if it’s faith in oneself or fate or love or natural selection or…); I am talking about those who have faith in the supernatural, namely a God. Even that isn’t as ridiculous to some as faith in the one true God, the triune God, Yahweh.  It’s really popular and stimulating these days to be searching for truth and open and “tolerant” of all worldviews, but to say that you have found Truth (and He is also the Way and the Life) is absurd and humorous to those who find it much more intellectual (or noble or easy or…) to be ever searching and never finding.

By the new life, with its new affections and new longings, the new creature in Christ experiences for the first time a reality that always existed, but up until conversion, was never perceived. Now things previously hidden from them are revealed by the Spirit of God and are readily received and believed by them.  This is faith.

Hebrews 11, that great ode to faith, confirms the universal experience of the Christian believer. Where those outside of Christ perceive faith to be a wish or a hope or even a superstition that we follow, the Christian believer knows that faith doesn’t bring about our spiritual reality, but as Hebrews 11 states, it is the evidence of that spiritual reality. It is substance; not a mere hope, but an absolute assurance that we are sealed now by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of Christ, who unmistakably takes up residence in us upon our conversion, is our guarantee that we will one day take possession of the promised eternal inheritance that awaits all in Christ. The Holy Spirit in us, directing us, teaching us, revealing God to us, opening Scripture to us, etc. is “the anchor which holds beneath the veil” (Hebrews 6:19).

This undeniable presence in the life of the believer, a presence which most assuredly was not there before conversion, is evidence to the believer of things that are unseen. The whole of Hebrews 11 lists person after person who were indwelt by the Holy Spirit and acted in accordance with that new evidence in their lives. They believed beyond their senses of a yet-unseen, spiritual reality that exists as surely as does grass or trees or gravity or energy. They acted in obedience to God’s revelation to them, always with an eye to that other, heavenly country to which they were now traveling (vv. 14-16). All were sure of the substance of their faith, many willing to suffer and die for it (vv. 32-38), because they had evidence of things not seen (vv.39-40).

What was the evidence that provided them with the courage to stand and withstand? It was the faith given them upon conversion (Ephesians 2:8-9). We don’t simply have faith in faith however (i.e. “if I only had enough faith…”); instead we have faith in the Faith-giver. Dana has used the analogy of walking on an icy lake in the middle of winter. It is not my faith that keeps me from crashing through to the icy depths below, but it is the reality that I have at least 8-12 inches of a hard, solid surface on which to walk. Whether I have faith the ice will hold or whether I lack faith that the ice will hold makes no difference. Only the reality of what I walk upon makes the difference. Whether I speak of having faith in God or whether I mock those who trust in their faith makes no difference to the reality.  The only thing that matters is if there is in fact a God holding me up.

An open-minded study of our world reveals the imprint of God on every aspect of man’s experience; it bears witness to the reality of a God who exists outside of matter so as to design and create man and matter.  Education with this filter allows us to look upon the face of God in every field of study. It is to actually perceive that the “ice” upon which we stand is not there because we merely wish it to be so, but because we have bored down, down, down through the many layers of it and found it has substance and reliability. This is true whether we study –

– philosophy – the particulars and the universals;
– anthropology – is man basically good or basically flawed;
– the marvels of science and irreducible complexities;
– history with sin being played out from one generation after another -and
God’s divine plan progressing from one generation to another;
– sociology – how mankind in all ages seeks a spiritual and moral code;
– government and its God-given role as keepers of that moral code;
– labor and our ability and desire to create; etc. *

Such an education allows us to look upon the face of God and to see that God’s written revelation, given to us in his Word, is supported by his general revelation, revealed to us in nature.

Despite the attempts of godless men to divorce learning and education from the source of all Truth, does not the very definition of insanity – “lost contact with reality” – cause us question those who define their world only in terms of what they themselves have experienced (or selectively so as with their belief in the existence of wind or magnetism or their belief that there ever existed an Attila the Hun or Alexander the Great)?  They have wittingly or unwittingly rejected a portion of reality that, although unseen, has much evidence of its existence.

Praise be to God who gives to men faith – the evidence of things unseen. No wonder that “without faith it is impossible to please [God]: for he that comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).

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* Thanks to Focus on the Family’s Truth Project for its deep analysis of these disciplines, revealing the reality of God in each.

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Because of parent conferences, I missed the Billy Graham broadcast My Hope America which was aired on his 95th birthday (11-07-18).  I was glad to find the video, though, which not only features Dr. Graham, but Lecrae Moore and Lacey Sturm.

I grew up watching the Billy Graham crusades.  Whenever they were aired, my dad would call us from various parts of the house and  strongly suggest we watch with it only takes a little bit of your time or it won’t hurt you to watch, etc.  I never told my parents that I actually responded to a crusade call during my elementary years and wrote to Billy Graham, Minneapolis, MN (that’s all the address you needed) to get follow up material.  I include that incident in my testimony, believing that even at that age, God was making himself known to me.  Fast forward several years to June 1987 when Dana and I had the privilege of being counselors at a Billy Graham crusade; driving 70 miles south each of three days to where Billy Graham preached and Cliff Barrows led the choir (and Johnny and June Cash brought special music one of the days).

I no longer hold to popular decision theology.  I have come to see that regeneration precedes and produces faith; not the other way around.  God is not the responder, waiting and hoping for people to respond in faith to his Son.  Unless the Holy Spirit shines the light of truth into my darkened understanding, I am dead in my trespasses and unable to respond in faith to the cross of Christ.

We are indeed “saved through faith” and “faith comes by hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ.”  “This [faith] is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (see Ephesians 2:8-9 and Romans 10:17).  Just as the world needed the Word of God to speak it into being, so too, we who are dead in our trespasses, need the same Word of God to quicken our hearts before we can be made new and respond to him (see John 1:1-4 and Ephesians 2:5).

For me, God began to turn his light of truth on in my heart over several years, but for many, like those at a Billy Graham, Louis Palau, or Greg Laurie crusade, it may feel like one puts their faith in Christ and is then made a new creature.  We are unaware in that moment of the Holy Spirit’s work in helping us to “put the pieces together” and in the necessity of his call which prompts us to repentance and faith.  Almost everyone at the time of conversion feels as if they “chose” Christ, especially, I’m sure, those who pray a repentant “sinner’s prayer” as Billy Graham invites.  Only after, are many made aware through Scripture, that it was always Christ’s first move in their hearts that brought them to the realization of his saving work on the cross.  It’s been likened to light that comes on immediately when a switch is flipped.  Only with further study, we note there was a necessary outside source acting upon the switch, to close the circuit, and to bring about light.  Our faith and regeneration often seem to come simultaneously, but it was God first regenerating our wills and our minds to bring us to the point of faith.  “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

Charles Spurgeon put it this way:

“…When the gospel comes to some, they fight against it, and will not have it, but where men receive it, welcoming it, this is a sure indication that there is a secret work going on in the soul, and that God has chosen them unto eternal life. Are you willing, dear reader, to receive Christ? Then there is no difficulty in the way; Christ will be your guest; His own power is working with you, making you willing.”

The cross has always been an offense to many.  It is not given to us to know who will receive or reject it.  It is ours to hold out the Word of God and to unashamedly profess the gospel “for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).  Likewise, in hearing the Word of Christ and desiring to receive him, one need not wonder if the gospel is meant for them or not.  The font of such a desire is the “secret work going on in the soul” as Spurgeon put it and Christ assures us, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (John 6:37).


[There is an answer to the title conundrum too–what came first the chicken or the egg?  Genesis 1:24-25]

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