One of the few memories I have of 9th Grade Biology class involved exploratory surgery of dead frogs and amazing acrobatics that the legs can do when nerves are stimulated by electrodes. Not everyone in the class was impressed, but I have to admit it did fascinate me.
Whatever the entity, it is only viable as a whole, but as scientists all understand, a great deal can be learned from dissecting the subject. Our family devotional study this crisp, sunny Sunday morning (a rare treat this time of year in Washington) concluded the first section of three in the book Claiming Christ. In it we explored briefly the biblical evidence of parts of faith.
Valid faith, as defined in Scripture, has several distinctions that are worth noting. In the context of understanding what it means for those of us who want to claim faith in Christ as Lord and Savior, these distinctions are worth separating for discussion and study purposes, but in reality, they operate as an integrated whole.
The first is clearly identified in Heb 11:6 by looking at the phrases on either side of the conjunction: and.
“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” [bold added in all quotes]
What most of us reference when we speak of faith is the first part: believing in God, and rightly so, for that is the essence of faith. However, we are elsewhere told that even the demons believe in God, but they do not exhibit biblical faith. The reason for this difference is found in the second part. True faith always is accompanied by a heart’s desire for drawing nearer to God, or earnestly seeking him.
For your own devotional today, try reading through the Faith Chapter of Hebrews 11 and look for this distinction. What you will likely find is that the first part of believing is assumed and that in reality the entire chapter is devoted to recording the second part—the evidence of seeking him.
At this point in our dissecting lab it might be worth reiterating that these parts never operate alone. We note these revealed distinctions in order to better understand faith and hopefully to improve our own efforts at coming into line with the kind of faith God is developing within his children. But, in reality, both belief and practice (or what Scripture also calls “fruit”) must always co-exist.
This does not elevate our works in terms of earning salvation. Instead it recommends our participation as the natural outflow of what genuine indwelling of the Holy Spirit will look like. As the Apostle James noted, any other kind of claimed faith is as lifeless as those frogs on my 9th grade Biology desk.
But there is more. That is what is cool about science; there always seems to be more that can be learned from careful study, and the same is true with the word of God. The next dissection of faith can be recognized in Heb 12:2.
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith”.
In all things, Jesus is our lead through the Spirit. And yet, faith is more that just a gift, for which he is honored as the Author. We are told that he is also called the Perfecter.
This is not intended to imply that the gifted faith is in any way inadequate or imperfect in us and thus in need of being perfected, but rather that what has been freely given to those chosen by God is now expected to develop within us. This is where our own free wills are invited to submit and join in. God is calling each of his faithful to contribute along with him towards our own transformation.
We don’t lead it, we don’t earn it, and we don’t sit back like some lifeless robot and wait for God to force our change. This is why God cautions us about what we ask for, because he may well give us what we want. God wants us to want him. He wants our free participation within the boundaries he establishes. He wants the faith of Christ to mix with each of our own personalities and desires and transform into our own unique expressions of worship of him.
The parts are fascinating and instructive, but when put together, they project a scripturally valid faith that honors God and grounds us solidly on the Rock of Christ. That is what differentiates us from others who believe in good luck, or trust in human goodness, or have faith that God is real. The parts help us recognize the presence of godly faith.
“for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.”
How does the expression of your faith reveal that you are a willing participant in the born-again transformation into the likeness of Christ?