Occasional editorials written since 2001 

 
Passion yes, aggression no. Harry Potter All roads lead to God?  
Value of a soul. Homosexuality Passion of Christ
Islam and Christianity  Love not the world Persecution coming
Biblical or secular worldview? Freewill offering Letter or Spirit?
Faith The sacred and non-sacred Test your self
Discernment The gospel of me Repentance
Sinking sand That awful four letter word  

 

No faith, little faith and great faith.

We all know the verse from Romans 10:17 regarding faith..

So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Yet 100 people could hear the same message and all develop vastly different levels of faith.

Biblical faith is more than just intellectual ascent to Christianity in general.

True Biblical faith brings both heart and soul into agreement with God’s Word and produces submission and obedience to God.

Faith has many levels..

The lowest level – and what I would term as counterfeit faith - is intellectual ascent alone.

James tells us

Even the demons believe—and tremble! James 2:19

Demons have total ‘intellectual’ belief in the reality of God, the authority of God, the power of God and the Holiness of God, but their belief does not effect their ‘heart’ resulting in submission and obedience to God. It is a ‘counterfeit’ unfruitful faith and satan is content to have many church goers sharing in this faith.

Usually this fruitless intellectual faith only exists, and only remains, as long as each point in question can be verified by intellectual reasoning and affirmed by the media’s acknowledged experts.

If this is your level let me try and describe your faith.

The Bible speaks of a supernatural creation, the great worldwide flood, Noah’s ark, the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea, Jonah surviving three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, Jericho’s mighty walls falling with a shout, the sun standing still, the iron axe head floating - and your belief steps aside. Your intellectual senses scream that this is nonsense. The experts on the media tell you it cannot be so, and that it would be foolishness to believe it, so in your heart, you don’t.

You can only believe that which can be explained in the natural. You will not, cannot, accept that which scripture clearly reveals as super – natural.

Then when you come to the gospels you are confronted with so much that is super – natural.

Jesus turning the water into wine, feeding the four thousand and the five thousand with a few loaves and fishes, walking on the surface of the stormy sea, raising the boy in the coffin to life, and raising a dead and entombed Lazarus back to life.

These things don’t happen naturally; therefore you cannot believe that they ever did happen.

You agree within yourself to mentally ascent to believe in Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection because you understand that this is the kernel of the Christian faith and is a no go area for belief.

You will occasionally read some portions of your Bible, attend church fairly regularly and sit under much teaching over the years, paying Sunday morning lip service to such teaching, but will have no spiritual growth whatsoever. Your ‘Christianity’ is dull, monotonous and largely irrelevant to your everyday life. You certainly would never dream of ‘sharing your faith’ with others.

You don’t kill, or steal, and are essentially a decent and honest person, so feel that this makes you a Christian.

However the truth is that you are a spiritual hindrance to others. Given a suitable arena you will avidly defend your substantial levels of unbelief as the level that all rational people should live at.

You gravitate towards teachers and books that agree with your rational mixture.

You judge the Word of God, and you would never permit it to judge you.

Jesus may be the Lord of lords and the King of kings, but He is your Lord in lip service only. You are your own master.

Truth is what you believe it to be, not what scripture declares it to be.

The word of God is not a lamp unto your feet and a light on to your path.

Not only that but you will actively disagree with scripture when the world raises a flag in a particular area.

For instance, the Bible states that

You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination Lev. 18:22

The world vigorously disagrees with scripture, and you do also.

You would immediately place Darwin’s molecules to man theory above scripture’s super natural creation theology.

If there was an Adam and Eve they evolved from monkeys.

You are in friendship with the world. You are the kind of believer that the world applauds.

You have not ‘found God’ - at least you have not found the God revealed through scripture.

You have shaped a God of your own liking with your own intellect and thus you are merely a believer in yourself. You still remain on the throne of your life as Lord of your life.

You may take communion; attend a cell group, even tithe, yet radical Christians, and exuberant worshippers are an embarrassment to be in church with.

How do I know all this?

This pretty much describes me until the age of 42.

Again I say..

True biblical faith brings heart and soul into agreement with God’s Word and produces submission and obedience to God.

..you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul. Deut 4:29

what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, Deut 10:12

Nineteen times in scripture, from Old Testament through to New, we are told to love, or to serve the Lord with all our heart, or with all our heart and soul.

Let’s look at what New Testament faith in God asks of us.

Jesus said to him, “ ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. Matthew 22:37-38

If our faith does not draw us in this direction, but keeps us forever stuck fast in a bog land of unbelief, then we have a counterfeit faith.

True faith draws the Holy Spirit to dwell within us and lead us both forwards and upwards.

True repentance and true surrender to the Son of God will produce fruit in keeping with that repentance.

John the Baptist cried out to his listeners..

“Produce fruit in keeping with repentance” Matthew 3:8

True faith grips the heart of a man or woman, not merely their intellect.

Then Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” 
And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Acts 8:37

Therefore my heart rejoiced Acts 2:26

Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart Acts 2:37

You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God Acts 8:21

Paul declared that salvation comes when the heart is gripped by the supernatural truth of the resurrection, and the mouth acknowledges the Lordship of Jesus.

That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. Romans 10:9-10

Jesus declared that He is THE way, THE truth, THE life and that no one comes to The Father but by Him.

Therefore if we believe that when Jesus quoted from Genesis chapter 1 he was mistaken, if when He spoke of Noah and the flood he was mistaken, if when He spoke of Jonah spending three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish He was mistaken, then of course – in our hearts - we do not really believe that He was THE truth.

Thus the Jesus we claim to believe in is one shaped into our own liking by our own mixture of belief and unbelief.

Scripture does not present itself as an a la carte menu for us to pick and choose from.

Old Testament physical types of the New Testament spiritual show that mixtures are totally unacceptable to Him.

Keep my decrees. Do not mate different kinds of animals. Do not plant your field with two kinds of seed. Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of materials. Lev 19:19.

Nothing changes in the New Testament. Ungodly mixtures are not acceptable.

Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? 2 Cor 6:14-15

Many believe that today’s church is the Laodicea Church spoken of in Revelation. If ‘hot’ is belief in God’s Word and obedience to God and ‘cold’ is belief in the World’s word then Jesus will suffer no lukewarm mixture of the two within the church.

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. Rev. 3:15-18

When such counterfeit faith, posing outwardly as genuine faith, sides with the world in matters of morality rather than with scripture, then it confirms that the owner of such faith is an enemy of God.

Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God James 4:4

Adam Clarke's commentary on 1 John 2:18 (which speaks of ‘many antichrists’) includes this challenging statement…

"Every man who opposes the spirit of the Gospel, and every teacher and writer who endeavors to lower the Gospel standard to the spirit and taste of the world, is a genuine antichrist, no matter where or among whom he is found"

Sadly much of the church, often including leadership, has such a dangerous counterfeit faith.

A Sunday Times random survey of 200 Anglican clergy in January 1997
showed that

31% of them did not believe in the virgin birth.

21% did not believe in a devil.

33% said that sexual intercourse before marriage was not a problem.

33% said the same thing about homosexual activity.

Others didn’t believe in the miracles of Jesus.

Some did not believe in His second coming.

For 4 clergy, there is no such place as heaven.

Indeed in England a sizeable group of clergy of like mind have banded together for mutual comfort in a grouping known as the ‘See of faith’. What binds this group together is no faith.



No faith in God, in the Bible, in Jesus being God’s Son, in heaven, in hell, in the virgin birth, the resurrection, the second coming, judgment.

It is vital that all of us, from time to time, check whether we are still ‘in the faith’ Will be pass the test or be disqualified?

Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?— unless indeed you are disqualified. 2 Cor 13:5

But let us move on to the gentle slopes of real faith.

At the foot of the mountain there is the genuine “I believe Lord, help my unbelief” level of faith.

They believe but will only REALLY believe when they get their weak faith confirmed by signs or by feel.

Gideon was hiding away in a wine press when an angel appeared addressing him as

"The LORD is with you, mighty warrior." Judges 6:11

Gideon was given the task of taking on the enemy and despite the dramatic appearance of the angel he asked for a sign from the angel, and got it.

Still his weak belief could not spark him into active service. The job looked too big.

He put out a fleece for God.

God confirmed the call through the fleece, but then Gideon asked for a confirmation of the confirmation. “I believe, Lord help my unbelief”

"Do not be angry with me. Let me make just one more request. Allow me one more test with the fleece. Judges 6:39

A mustard seed faith perhaps, but still capable of bearing great fruit for God

Gideon went on to do great things for God.

Thomas, or ‘doubting Thomas’ as he has come to be affectionately known, needed to ‘feel’ before his belief could spark into submission. “I believe, Lord help my unbelief”

The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” 
So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” 
.. Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” John 20:25-30

A mustard seed faith perhaps, but still capable of bearing great fruit for God. Reliable church history places Thomas as the one who brought Christianity to India. There he died a martyr’s death.

I believe I could safely use the term ‘little faith’ to this level of faith. A term that Jesus used several times. (Mt 6:30 Mt 8:26 Mt 14:31 Mt 16:8 Lk 12:28)

God’s word says He will provide all our needs.. but ‘mustard seed faith’ says “will He? Things are getting very tight. Will He come through. I need ‘a sign’ that He will.”

Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Matthew 6:30

God’s word says that He will protect us.. but ‘mustard seed faith’ says “will He? I ‘feel’ frightened in case He will not. If only I could feel safe.”

But He said to them, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. Matthew 8:26

Then there is great faith.

When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel! Matthew 8:10

It is faith in God’s word without the constant need for outward confirmation or the need for strong inner feelings. A faith that says “Lord I believe Your word is truth even though there is so much I cannot yet understand, cannot yet explain or cannot yet successfully defend in a debate.”

A child like faith that trusts with child like innocence.

He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Matt 18:2-3

It is a faith that simply says ‘God said it, I believe it and that settles it’

A faith that is willing to place all our ambitions hopes and plans on the altar so that God’s plans and purposes can be outworked through us.

just as Abraham “believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Galatians 3:16

Perhaps we could say that this should be the working normal for a Christian. People should proclaim “what great faith you Christians have!”

Then there is a greater level of this ‘great faith’.

A faith that transcends the other two.

A faith that believes God and His word when circumstances, emotions, appearances, people and human reason all seem to urge something to the contrary.

Paul exercised this level of faith when he said..

‘When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved’ (Acts 27:20)

Then, nevertheless, he went on to say..

“Keep up your courage men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as He told me” (Acts 27:25)

Paul’s faith stayed afloat and burnt brightly in the face of great and persistent adversity.

But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in sleeplessness, in fasting; by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, by honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report; as deceivers, and yet true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold we live; as chastened, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things. 2 Cor 6:4 -10

Amazingly John the Baptist’s faith crumbled when great adversity came against him.

He was anointed in the womb. He devoted his life to preparing the way for the messiah. He had the privilege of being the first person to point out the messiah.

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29)

He had the unique and enormous privilege of baptizing the Saviour of the world.

Jesus told His listeners that there was non greater than John

I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; (Matt 11:11)

Who could have had more favour with God than this man?

Surely a man with such a dedicated life and so many experiences with Jesus could ever have his faith shaken to its very core?

And yet that is what happened.

Thrown into a hot, horrid eastern jail for speaking out against Herod’s decision to marry his brother’s wife, he must surely have cried out to the Lord for his freedom.

I surmise that when no answer was forthcoming doubts began to set in.

Maybe the god of this world was whispering that surely if this Jesus was the Messiah, the very Son of God, he would be set free again.

His faith – yes even John the Baptist’s faith - was shaken. He felt the need to send two of his followers to see if Jesus really was the One or should they expect another!

When John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples and said to Him, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” (Matt 11:2-3)

His faith needed confirmation when adversity and opposition came. God’s promises were not enough.

His friends brought back news that would have restored his faith.

The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. (Matt 11:5)

So often it is the words of fellow believers that stirs up faith in us again.

Faith that assures us afresh that despite the negative events and the apparent silence from heaven so far, that God is still on the Throne, and still knows what He is doing.

But I have come to understand what I believe is the greatest level of ‘great faith’.

A faith that still flickers deep within the human heart when a darkness is so deep, so thick, so prolonged, that the person has long passed beyond waiting in hope, and is reduced to waiting for hope.

Think of Job.

Once healthy and wealthy. A good upright man, a good father, a good friend.

Suddenly wave after wave of destructive darkness - orchestrated by satan himself - robs Job of it all.

He looses everything but his life, and even his very body is covered in painful boils and sores.

Why God why?

Job searches for answers and for divine comfort but finds none. Even when God speaks to him, He does not give him an answer, but simply poses more questions that Job cannot answer. God - whom He had seen as his friend and comforter - now seems to be his worst enemy.

He sees no reason. No glimmer of light at the end of his tunnel. He exists in a darkness is so deep, so thick, so prolonged, that he has long passed beyond waiting in hope, and is waiting, hoping for hope.

Listen to him in his deep darkness.

“What strength do I have that I should hope? And what is my end that I should prolong my life? Job 6:11

“My flesh is caked with worms and dust, my skin is cracked and breaks out afresh, my days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle, and are spent without hope” Job 7:5-6

“My days are past, my purposes are broken off, even the thoughts of my heart. They change the night into day; ‘The light is near’ they say in the face of darkness. If I wait for the grave as my house, if I make my bed in the darkness. If I say to corruption, “you are my father” and to the worm “you are my mother and my sister” where then is my hope? As for my hope, who can see it?” Job 17:12–15

And yet, in the midst of this total darkness his faith still flickers deep within his heart and he cries out..

“Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him”. Job 13:15

Despite this declaration of faith in the midst of his darkness, the darkness seems to grow ever darker, and more prolonged

“He has fenced up my way, so that I cannot pass: and He has set darkness in my paths. He has stripped me of my glory, and taken the crown from my head. He breaks me down on every side and I am gone, my hope He has uprooted like a tree”. Job 19: 8-10

And yet, even now, when there is within him a vast cold empty space where the comfort of God once seemed to dwell, he will not completely surrender the smoking wick that once gave off his bright flame of faith.

Out of his hopelessness, his darkness, his pain, his torment, he cries out… just 15 verses later..

“For I know that my redeemer lives and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, that in my flesh I shall see God” Job 19:25

This is truly GREAT FAITH.

Remember Joseph and his seemingly endless years is slavery and in jail.

Seemingly forgotten forever, but never giving up on God.

Remember Moses, in the wilderness for 40 years. Seemingly forgotten forever by God and abandoned by God. No apparent destiny, but never giving up on God.

Hebrews 11 from verse 30 onwards is the heroes and heroines faith memorial.

First it gives many examples of those whose faith was rewarded by seeing God work powerfully during their time on earth....

By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they were encircled for seven days. By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace.

And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again.

These are wonderful examples of faith without doubt during very difficult days.

“Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ it will be done. Matthew 21:21

But now we read about great faith.

Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented— of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.

And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.

Today tens of thousands of believers in eastern nations are holding true in prolonged adversity. We salute them.

Faith is a great gift from God. It is something you cannot have too much of.  It must surely be God's heart that we His Church are a peculiar people of great faith.

As Abram needed to chase away the vultures that came down to peck away at the sacrifice (Genesis 15:11) so we must guard that faith, and exercise that faith.

We must guard our hearts and minds against the thief who comes to steal our faith, kill our hope and confidence in God, and destroy us.

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Cor 10:5

When our hearts and minds are troubled, and troubled they will be in this dark troubled world we are passing through, we are told how we should deal with it.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Phil 4:6-7

Finally a Matt Redman's worship song that challenges us with the various levels of faith..

Blessed be Your Name

In the land that is plentiful

Where your streams of abundance flow

Blessed be Your Name

Blessed be Your Name

When I’m found in the desert place

Though I walk through the wilderness

Blessed be Your Name

Blessed be Your Name

When the sun’s shining down on me

When the world’s all that it should be

Blessed be Your Name

Blessed be Your Name

On the road marked with suffering

Though there’s pain in the offering

Blessed be Your Name

O Lord we believe, please help our unbelief.

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