Sunday, February 1, 2009

Just Believe (pt 3)

John 5:17-24 But Jesus answered them, "My Father is working until now, and I am working." (18) This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. (19) So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. (20) For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. (21) For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. (22) The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, (23) that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. (24) Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

Last week we covered the concept of faith in Christ as a cause & the more perceptible signs that follow- e.g. confession, baptism, good works, & a yearning towards sinlessness- as effects of said faith. These are only the outward signs of the inner reality of a saving belief in God’s grace extended to man through Jesus Christ. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.”

See, both the faith & the grace are gifts from above so that no one may boast of saving oneself.

But we are called to examine the gift of our faith (2 Cor 13:5). We examine the outward signs of the inner reality & often find ourselves seeming to be in lack, & such that we justly understand it as a gift, we naturally make request of God to deliver more to our inner being. We rightly pray the prayer of the penitent father of Mark 9: “I believe; help my unbelief!”. Though, as we pray that prayer, we should ask ourselves “Have I actually utilized all of what I have already been given? Is there latent belief lying dormant in the closet of my heart as I, like a spoiled child, ask for something new? Could I be so cold & callous to ignore the precious gifts my loving Father has already ministered unto me?”

“Is the faith I seek truly already been given, but not exercised, & so is not evident?”

There are many suitable applications of the parable of the talents (Matt. 25:14ff), & I think one of them is towards utilizing the gift of faith in Christ placed within you. Consider the first two servants as they took possession of their master’s property. They were regarded as “faithful” as they made use of it, not lazily, according their desire, but obediently, “according to their ability”. Contrast these with the “slothful” servant who did nothing with what his master had accorded him except hide it away.

Maybe a greater understanding the kind of faith I am referring to as “latent” faith can be seen in an exploration of the two modes of energy- potential & kinetic. Potential energy is static energy that is in a form ready to do work- such as in a charged battery, a compressed spring, or a skier perched at the top of a mountain. The energy is put into the battery by charging it, into the spring by compressing it, & into the skier by the ski lift. Kinetic energy is that energy released, or unbounded to perform work. Such energy should be released in controlled fashion so as to properly perform the task at hand. The battery’s voltage should be regulated, the spring’s force should be modulated, & the skier should be capable of steerage & braking for the welfare of himself & others.

God has ministered to His elect by binding within us “potential” faith in the power of Christ‘s resurrection.

Before receiving Christ as our Lord, the Spirit builds up that “potential” faith within us; then, at the right time, He simply releases it to kinetically impel us towards our Savior. Up to this point, it has been all Him; we may think it is our decision, but little do we understand that all the events of our salvation have been orchestrated autonomously by the triune God. He will not lose a single one of His children.

But it is my belief that, after we have come to His salvation, we have some measure of control over the “release” of our faith. I say our faith not to say that it has originated from us, but to the point that it has been given to us. Just like the talents, it is ours to take & put to work, not so much for our welfare, but primarily for the welfare of the Master. Sometimes we use it unwisely, without moderation, to little effect. Like I did with the expensive bicycle my father gave me when I was young, we often crash hard as we put it into use. This should not dissuade us from pressing on with it though, because it was given to us for a purpose. God’s purpose.

Faith can be expressed, & therein brought to maturity in so many ways. One way the recluse often avoids is through fellowship with other believers. “Potential” faith within racked balls on a pool table will remain so until the “kinetic” faith of the cue ball strikes them. In this, some of the cue ball’s kinetic faith is delivered to every other ball set upon the table. With every stroke of the cue stick, faith is distributed around the table; but the balls not in play can receive nothing.

Maybe the prayer we should pray sometimes is “Lord, how can I release the latent “potential” faith already within me? And Lord, let it not explode forth with unregulated force, except as you would desire. Allow me to bless, & do no harm to others as your faith, given to me, impels me down the mountain of life.”

Romans 12:3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.

Ephesians 2:8-10 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, (9) not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (10) For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

'Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.'

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