From Glory To Glory
What is Faith?
“Now faith is the substantiating of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebr. 11:1; DBY)
From day one on, we are programming our reasoning, feeling and willing through the things we believe. We adopt our belief system from our parents, siblings, relatives, friends, acquaintances, teachers, books, mass media... Especially during the first years, our belief system gets formed by our environment, which is never neutral, but pervaded by tradition, culture and diverse human interests. Everybody believes something, without always being consciously aware of it, and these beliefs are anchored in every single cell of our body like a spiritual DNA. Brain researchers and cytologists have discovered that every cell of our body knows what we believe – not what we know intellectually, but what we believe deep on the inside about life. That’s why believing, or faith, is not foremost a brain issue. Faith is an inner conviction, which is anchored in the heart (not the physical heart is meant here, but our invisible inner man) and very likely permeates every single body cell. Therefore it is possible that even though intellectually we may view an issue very matter-of-factly, but when the situation comes up, we react totally differently – simply according to our faith. No matter what we say, under pressure it becomes apparent what we really believe – what’s really in our heart.
When we have come to understand that our own ways (which are based on our human faith) keep getting us in trouble, and when we become willing to do things according to God’s ways – i.e. when we accept Jesus as our savior, then we must begin to learn from God’s Word what God believes about certain things (or about all things) to attain “God’s faith” (this is the literal translation of this phrase in Mk. 11:22). Developing this kind of biblical faith is a step-by-step process, and we must allow God to lead us in this process, to reveal His truths to us. As Romans 1:16-17 puts it: “... I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth .... For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith ...” (KJV). – The Gospel is story of Jesus pouring out His love on mankind by taking our death into Himself and giving us His life in exchange, and abundant life at that (Jn. 10:10; Eph. 3;19). And biblical faith is the ability of perceiving these spiritual truths and reaching out to appropriate them in our physical lives. These truths have to be revealed to us step by step – or from faith to faith – and God does this to the degree that we allow Him to work in our lives.
And so, in its most basic form, faith is simply our childlike trust in God's love for us and that He is always for us, that He will always care for us (Ro. 8:31ff.). Jesus said that we had to be like little children in order to enter the kingdom of heaven (and we already saw that the kingdom of heaven is not talking about the sweet bye-and-bye, but about an intimate love-relationship with our Creator in the here-and-now). The Bible says that it is faith that pleases God (Heb. 11:6), and that faith is working through love (Gal. 5:6). This doesn't say, that we have to squeeze faith out of our ribs so that God would like us. It's just like in a good parent-child relationship – if the child trusts his parents no matter what a situation looks like at the moment, this will just melt the parents' hearts away and they would do anything to help their child. This simple childlike trust in God's love will keep us connected to God, so that He can see us through, even if circumstances are difficult and there are many things we don't understand yet. See, just like certain plants will thrive only in certain environments, so faith will only thrive in the environment of love. If we, for whatever reason, are afraid of God, it will be hard for faith to arise in our hearts.
Unbelief is the thing in our hearts that's opposes faith. Jesus couldn't heal many people in His hometown of Nazareth because of their unbelief (Mt. 13:58; Mk. 6:5f.), He scolded His disciples because of their unbelief (Mt. 17:17-20; Mk. 16:14).
So what about Unbelief?
It is important to understand that unbelief does not mean that I don't believe anything; it means that what I believe is contrary to what God believes about anything (after all, He laid down the rules how this universe functions). The sad fact is that most of us have been baptized in unbelief; unbelief has been spoken over us and to us on a constant basis.
In order to understand what unbelief does to our ability to receive God's promises for our lives, we must first understand how the human heart works. – When the Bible talks about our heart, most of the time not the physical organ is referred to, but either our spirit or our soul, and sometimes both of them. – Functionally, our heart is the “interface” that connects the spiritual side our existence with the physical side of our existence. Our biblical faith is our ability to perceive spiritual truths or reality, and our heart is the gateway through which they need to enter into our physical level of existence (that is manifest in our earthly life).
Take for example healing: If by faith I can “see” that in my born-again spirit I am healed already (because that's what Jesus purchased for me through His suffering in my place), then my faith draws on that spiritual truth, and through my heart the physical manifestation will (or will not) come forth. That is the reason why Proverbs 4:23 tells us to “keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life” (NKJ).
If my heart doesn't have any information regarding healing yet, then I am just ignorant, and hearing the truth from God's Word regarding healing through Jesus will be sufficient for my heart to respond with faith, and I can instantly receive the manifestation of healing in my physical body. But if I've been “educated” in so many ways already that sickness was the normal thing for our time and actually to be expected, while healing was not for our time, then my heart is stopped up with unbelief. Simply hearing the truth from God's Word about healing won't do for me now because my heart has bought into so many lies already (even though the people who fed me these lies were very well-meaning).
It's like my heart got filled up with the “chocolate pudding” of unbelief again, and again, and again (and I didn't think anything of it while it was happening), but then I also got hold of some truth from God's Word. But this truth now is just like a dab of “cream” on top of that huge mass of “chocolate pudding” in my heart. – I may be able to operate off that truth (and corresponding biblical faith) for a little bit, but very soon that “cream” will have integrated and disappeared into that big mass of “chocolate pudding.” So, walking out God's promises for my life can become very frustrating – and it's not God withholding anything from me, or healing not being for our time, or anything of that sort, but simply the unbelief in my heart that causes the blockage.
Can there anything be done to remedy such a situation? Well, there can, but it will take an active effort and time. Obviously, we must take steps to stop that constant input of “chocolate pudding” and instead increase the inflow of the “cream” of God's Word in our lives (the way God meant it, not necessarily the way religious/legalistic teachers and preachers are proclaiming it). Let the Holy Spirit be your teacher – that's His job description, He knows what He is doing, and He loves to help you (see Jn. 16:13ff.).
Grace – More Than Just the Opposite of Disgrace
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8; KJV).
“For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” (Ro. 6:14; KJV)
If grace is so important, then we need to understand what grace actually is. If you have experienced similar things as I did, then you may have heard a number of teachings about God's grace, but your gut feeling always has been, “Well, better grace than disgrace – but it doesn't seem to be really relevant to daily life.” One of the reasons why I felt this way, was the in many Christian circles prevailing interpretation of Paul's thorn in the flesh – the story with the famous sentence, “My grace is sufficient for you ...” (2Cor. 12:9; NKJ). – And most of its interpretations leave the hearer with a feeling of, “Well, seems God doesn't really help; all He does is watching benevolently as I suffer.” – But this is so far from truth and from the character of God as the east is from the west!
The first reason why this passage of Paul's thorn in the flesh is misunderstood so often is because the “thorn in the flesh” gets misinterpreted a lot. – Paul had absorbed the Scriptures of the Old Testament like mother's milk and had been instructed in them by the best teachers (the New Testament wasn't available as Paul had yet to help write it). The Greek word for “thorn” that Paul used in 2Cor. 12:9 is “skolops.” The same word was used in the Old Testament (in its Greek translation, the so-called “Septuagint”) with a clear reference to people: “And there shall no longer be a pricking brier or a painful thorn for the house of Israel from among all who are around them, who despise them ...” (Eze. 24:28; NKJ). The same reference to people we find also reading Micah 7:4: “The best of them is like a brier; The most upright is sharper than a thorn hedge ...” – Do read Paul's statements regarding his “thorn in the flesh” for yourself. But start reading already in 2Cor. 11 – this would also make it easier for you to see that neither Paul's “thorn” nor his “infirmities” are relating to sicknesses, but that he is actually talking about things relating to the persecution caused by the devil (Satan could not attack Paul directly, but he had to work through willing people, just like it is to this day).
The second reason why this passage of Paul's thorn in the flesh gets misunderstood so often is because we do not really know what grace is! – Grace is so much more than benevolence; grace is God's power at work in us! – Paul knew this. Just look at how he closes every single one of his letters – in each of them you will find a variant of: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you!” – In 1Cor 15:10 (YLT), Paul said: “... more abundantly than they all did I labour, yet not I, but the grace of God that is with me.” In Ro. 16:25 (KJV), he spoke of God “that is of power to stablish you ...” In Eph. 3:20f. (NKJ), Paul said: “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory ...” – This power that works in us, is God's grace! Hallelujah! In this light, read once more the famous sentence: “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2Cor. 12:9; NKJ) – In other words, God had told Paul that He could not take persecution away from him. (If God would kill all people who yield themselves to the devil by persecuting God's children, then Paul himself would have died a long time ago already; cf. Acts 8 where Paul still went under the name of Saul.) But God did help Paul more than he would ever have been able to help himself – through His grace, which is His power in us. (By the way, if you don't notice God's grace in your life, it may be because there is still too much of yourself at work.)
The best known definition of grace, however, is this: “undeserved favor.” Even though I wholeheartedly agree with this thought, it can only be considered one facet of what God's grace really is, and phrased like this, it is quite an understatement. – I would describe this aspect of grace more like this: an expression of the passionate, unconditional, everlasting love of God (the love that caused Him, for example, to create the world “very good,” and that caused Him after the Fall of mankind to keep providing abundantly for our needs, including salvation).
So, a more comprehensive definition, that includes the aspects of grace just mentioned, would be this:
God's grace is God's power that is at work because of His love.
But we could also say:
God's grace is God's love that activates His power.
Applied to the lives of God's children, grace is not simply God’s benevolence, as great as this alone would be, but:
the love-motivated working of God’s power in the believer’s life.
It is God's power in your heart that enables you to live the supernatural life. From this point of view, we want to consider the following verse now:
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8; KJV)
Here is also a more literal translation of the same verse to make an important detail more plainly visible:
“For in grace, through faith, are you saved…” (Eph. 2:,8; CLNT)
If you compare this with Ro. 6:14 (“For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace”; KJV), you can see that being in (or under) grace is the opposite of being under the law (and under the dominion of sin). Our relationship to “grace” reveals something about our relationship with God! As long as we – through faith – abide in or under grace, we are saved ones, that is, we experience salvation constantly – because of God’s enabling power working mightily in our lives.
To avoid misunderstandings, we want to look again at the term “salvation.” And to make this absolutely clear first, on one hand my “salvation” is a done deal if I am born again, and I will definitely go to heaven once I’ve accepted Jesus as my savior through faith. But on the other hand is my “salvation” also an ongoing process as long as I am living here on planet earth. And these different aspects need to be taken into account when we come across the word “salvation” in the Bible (and related words).
As already mentioned, the Greek word for “to save” – sozo – can mean:
1. to save with regard to eternity, being born again (Ro. 10:9);
2. to save from a current danger (Mt. 14:30);
3. to save from a messed up life, to give our life purpose and meaning (Ro. 5:10; Phil. 2:12);
4. to heal physically (Mk. 9:22);
5. to liberate from captivity (Jud. 1:5);
6. to save from demonic oppression (Lk. 8:36);
7. or even to raise up from physical death (Lk. 8:50)
So, when I know now what salvation includes, what grace is and what biblical faith is, then I also know what Eph. 2:8 really wants to tell me:
When you get born again, it happens through God’s enabling power in your heart and through your faith (which came through hearing God’s Word).
When you get healed supernaturally and walk in supernatural health, it happens likewise.
When you walk out God’s best plan for your life, it happens likewise.
Everything God does for us, is a matter of grace which enables us. Grace enables us to walk in love with the unlovely. Grace enables us to walk in material abundance. Grace enables us to be all that God says we can be. It is His power, not ours. – And the best of it is that grace is here already (Jn. 1:16f.)! What’s missing is only our knowledge and biblical faith.
“Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all.” (Ro. 4:16; KJV)
As we already found out – nobody could ever keep the law (except Jesus, who had come to fulfill the law so that we could enjoy the fruit of His righteousness). Because we could (and still can’t) keep the law in our own strength and ability, God made a way how ALL of us could still partake in His promises and blessings – the way is His grace (which is activated through faith).
“Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law…” (Gal. 2:16; KJV)
“For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse…” (Gal. 3:10; KJV)
“Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.” (Gal. 5:4; KJV)
To be “fallen from grace” doesn’t mean that one has lost one’s new birth or is about to loose it; but people who are fallen from grace, are on purpose doing without – waiving God’s love-motivated enabling power in their lives.
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” (Gal. 2:20f.; KJV)
So, what are our “modern” methods of being under the law? Thanks to Paul, hardly anybody considers circumcision as a means to obtain righteousness anymore these days. But we have developed plenty of our own kinds of works of the law – and in a nutshell, this is ALL that we do in our own strength, in order to earn God’s acceptance, benevolence, approval, or blessing or to prove our worthiness of receiving them. This is what is called being “after the flesh” in Ro. 8:5, and generally is called “flesh” in the Letter to the Galatians (e.g. Gal. 3:3). If you believe that even though you were saved by Jesus, but now you have to do certain things yourself to earn righteousness, then you are under the law and after the flesh. If you believe, for example, that you have to join a certain religious community, in order to be accepted by God(!), then you are under the law. If you believe, for example, that you have to tithe, in order experience God’s blessings, then you are under the law. If you believe you have to tie your shoe laces in a certain way … I think you understand what I mean. Laws are not only the OT law, but also the laws that we humans came up with to add something to Jesus’ work of salvation. To be carnally minded (or after the flesh) means simply, that we try to do things in our own human strength and wisdom (Jesus plus ...).
The “repentance from dead works” mentioned in Hebr. 6:1 is addressing exactly things like we just discussed. Repentance is not self-abasement, or something like that, but a change of mind. When we come to Christ, we have to renew and change our minds according to God’s Word. We have to change, for example, what we believe about God, about ourselves, about life, marriage, finances, and so on. This is repentance – an inner about-turn in our thinking and believing. With regard to grace, most people were taught from childhood on that we have to earn things in our own strength and that (human) grace is an exception. And, therefore, a life “in grace” or “under grace” seems to be against the grain to most of us. So it is really hard for most of us to simply REST in what Jesus has accomplished and purchased for us. But this is exactly the way that we need to learn in order to abide in God’s righteousness and in His blessings and do the good works which He has ordained for us to walk in them.
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Eph. 2:10; KJV)
Good works and dead works can look completely identical on the outside – what sets them apart from each other is our inner motivation. Do I, for example, read my Bible because I “have to” read a certain amount of chapters a day, or because I am hungry to learn more about God? Do I attend Sunday Services because I am expected to do it and God won’t bless me if I don’t, or because I want to enjoy fellowship with God and share His love also with other like-minded people? Do I help others to get some recognition, or because I have experienced God’s love and want to pass this on to others, too? You see what I mean. – Here is the difference of being spiritually minded or being carnally minded; abiding in God’s grace or in my own ability; resting in my new (that is Jesus') righteousness or struggling with the law. The difference is only in my inner orientation, my inner perspective – and I can correct myself anytime and get my focus back on God when I got pulled away. I can decide every day anew to deal with my challenges and problems God’s way (that is, let Him do it through me). I can decide every day anew to replace the anxiety and fear in my heart with biblical faith – with my childlike trust in the person of Jesus Christ, my resting in His presence, my confidence in God's love and in His truths and promises that are written down in the Bible.
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Mt. 11:28-30; KJV)
If you as a Christian still feel helpless against sin, then look again at this verse:
“For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” (Ro. 6:14; KJV)
We could phrase this sentence also in this way:
“For sin shall not have dominion over you: when ye are not under the law, but under grace.” (Ro. 6:14; KJV)
We could keep talking forever about this topic how to live the life of God. My foremost intention has been to show you the big picture, because when you know the point of departure and some distinctive landmarks along the way, then you can also better see the finishing post and insert the details for yourself. When you read the Bible for yourself, never loose sight of these checkpoints – what’s the purpose God created us for; that His love has never stopped (even though sometimes He had to apply tough love to protect mankind from total self-destruction and point out our need of a savior); and that in Jesus He has given us everything so we still can live here on earth the way He had meant it from the beginning.
Keep calling it to mind every day that you have the choice whether to focus on the challenges of this world and thus live by your own strength, after the flesh (which will inevitably produce the works of the flesh, s. Ro.7:8ff.; Gal. 5:17ff.), or whether to focus on God, His love, His grace and live your life by His strength, depending on Him, minding the things of the Spirit (and therefore bringing forth the fruit of the Spirit as (super-)naturally as an apple tree brings forth apples, s. Gal. 5:22ff.). The question is not, what is the situation, but in whom do you trust – in you and your strength, or in God and His grace?
By the way, it will be easier to keep your eyes on God if you make praising and worshipping God your way of living – and praying in tongues on a regular basis helps a lot, too.
“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:4-7; NKJ)
Book of Romans – commentary by Andrew Wommack, both in audio and text format (by far the best commentary on Romans I’ve ever come across!!!)
“Sharper Than A Two-Edged Sword” – book by Andrew Wommack (essential truths from God’s Word – short and to the point, yet profound)
“Health Food: A Daily Guide to Spiritual Nourishment for the Soul“ – book by Kenneth Hagin (in short, daily devotions, important details are imparted not just about healing, but about living by faith in general)
The Divine Exchange –transcripts of sermons by Derek Prince
“God's Image Of You” – book by Charles Capps
“Who Switched Off My Brain? – controlling toxic thoughts and emotions” – book by Dr. Caroline Leaf
BibleWorks6 – Bible-Software with various Bible versions – here esp.: ASV - American Standard Version (1901); BBE - The Bible in Basic English (1949/64); DBY - The Darby Bible (1884/1890); DRA - The Douay-Rheims American Edition (1899); KJV - King James (1611/1769); NAS - New American Standard Bible with Codes (1977); NIV - New International Version (1984) (US); NKJ - New King James Version (1982); NLT - New Living Translation; YLT - Young's Literal Translation (1862/1898) and BibleWorks LXX/BNT
CLNT – Concordant Literal NT
Geheilt - Durch seine Wunden – German audio teachings regarding healing in general, and Isaiah 53 in particular (Heilungsschule 2008 der Familien- und Internetkirche in Rapperswil)