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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Thursday, August 26, 2010
1014: Justified By Faith (Part III): Living by faith.
In part I and II of this post, I have expressed the notion that Christianity is not a set of rules to follow apart from God, but rather a life that is supposed to flow from a walk of faith. In this post I hope to show how the preceding posts are put into practice in the Christian life by comparing living by faith with living apart from faith.

the righteous will live by his faith...

for we walk by faith, not by sight...

I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes

For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh

If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

But my righteous one shall live by faith; and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.

And without faith it is impossible to please Him


Scripture teaches that faith is not simply something you have, but the orthodox "way" to be a Christian. That's a heady concept because we tend not to think of faith as something you "do" we are inclined instead to think of it as something you either possess or lack.

The notion of faith is further confused by the way many limit its application to justification. Everyone who understands justification knows that you -need- faith in order to become a Christian. Arminians would argue that you need to continue generating new (saving) faith in order to remain a Christian as well; though a Calvinist would correct that errant notion and say that saving faith does not wax and wane being a gift not generated by man, but received by him, and depending not on the person to maintain, but rather on God to sustain.

It doesn't matter if you are an Arminian, a Calvinist, somewhere in between, or in the fringe vociferously rejecting both views in favor of your own special understanding, I am guessing that there are many in your group, however common or elite it may be, whose application of faith in their lives is primarily limited to their justification.

Among those who recognize that sanctification is also by faith, we still have many, perhaps even the majority, attempting to become sanctified by applying faith according to a variety of mystical formulas, plans, and methods. It has been my experience both in person and online, that only a very few congregations are ever taught how sanctification works, and again, fewer still that are taught how sanctification *really* works.

Let's start with the gospel. How did you become a believer? You became a believer the moment you appealed to be reconciled to God on the basis that God would accept your appeal in Christ. We might describe that more commonly, by saying you became a believer the moment your repented and believed the gospel.

The trouble I have with clichés is that they are repeated until they become a Christian phrase that no longer means what it says - and people no longer are being indoctrinated according to the actual meaning, but rather according to the current cultural meaning associated with the phrase.

So I say you became a believer the moment you appealed to God to be reconciled to Him on the basis that God would accept your appeal in Christ. That describes what a repentant heart is doing. It is saying, I repent of my rebellion, that is, of obeying the voice of my own will, and desire to be restored to that position for which I was created - that is, I desire to be abandon my sinful rebellion and incline myself to be ruled by God the Father; I appeal to be reconciled, not because I am worthy of it, but because I trust that God Himself has made provision in Christ for my reconciliation, and that my reconciliation will not be brokered through any self merit, but entirely through God's provision appropriated through the impossibly gracious requirement of simply trusting that God will indeed reconcile me to Himself if I appeal to Him in Christ. I recognize that my sins condemn me, but that God is just in forgiving me by uniting me with Christ, so that I am in Christ (joined to Him through a spiritual union) during the crucifixion. I see that my sins have therefore been put away justly having received a full condemnation in Christ, and that Christ, being himself innocent could not justly be kept in the grave, and so was raised from the dead, and that by virtue of my union with Christ I too have been raised in from the dead - my sins having been left in the grave (as it were), so that the fact of Christ's resurrection is the stamp of my acceptance with God, for if I were not acceptable to God, He could by no means have raised me up in Christ. The fact that Christ is raised demands that I am acceptable to God in Christ. This all becomes a reality the moment I receive grace to humble myself before God, and accept His rule thereby having been restored into a right relationship through Christ, that is, restored as God's servant.

We say repent and believe, but those words are quite pregnant, and tossed about like bones that could use a bit of meat on them, given the rampant theological ignorance of our day.

So when I speak of sanctification by faith - I do not mean that I try and do good or try and do what I am required to do as a believer, and that I am supposed to "trust" that it will work when I do so. It means that the same gospel that I trusted on day one - the gospel that saved me, also sanctifies me. The moment I rest in the fact that God is for me, and not against me; the moment that I trust that I am reconciled to God in Christ, I am free to draw near to God, and free to choose to do His will. If I try to do God's will apart from resting in this knowledge, I am going to be doing it in my own strength.

A lot of sermons are spent on trying to motivate believers to act like believers. This pastor says that gratitude ought to be our motivation. Another pastor says it is love, we have to love God so much that we are pumped to do good works. Another says we ought to just read the bible a lot and hope something good happens. Another says that we are too prayerless, we need to pray more, or maybe all the time, so that we can surf the spiritual high into good works or obedience. We have to keep the fire stoked, to be on guard against losing the buzz - we want to be hyped all the time, so that we can always be ready to perform the Lord's will. Still others preach asceticism, or denying self - we need to just stop doing everything we want to do, and if we do that, we will be obeying God.

As a casual observer, I would suggest, based on what I see, that we are all prone to this sort of thing. We want to obey God, and never stop to consider whether we want to obey God because we are satisfied in Him, or whether we want to obey God in order to feel that He is satified with us.

Listen: The Christian who is looking for the right "motivation" for obedience, this Christian is not living by faith - he is failing in his effort to live by works and is floundering to find the right way to make the Christian life a "light yoke and easy burden". He is trying to find a way outside of living by faith, to live the life of faith.

Consider within yourself dear reader, how amazing it is that we are inclined to use the right language ("the life of faith") but fail to actually employ faith in the mundane process of daily living.

The example I gave in the last post whereby I was frantically praying for my daughter, only to realize that I was performing a religious duty without actually resting in God was given as an example of living in faith. That is what it looks like, that is how it is done. It is nothing more than trusting that every situation rests in God's hands. It is acting in the certainty of God's provision, and not freaking out when things don't go the way we think they are supposed to go.

Try and generate love, or patience, or assurance in your own strength. If you manage to conjure up something, whatever it is, it is superficial and powerless. You will never work yourself up into a lather sufficient to drive you the rest of your life. The love of the Lord is the strength of the believer. We rest in what He has done and in the knowledge of that finished work we find peace, comfort, assurance, and grace. The more we learn to walk in this way, the less concerned we are with generating motivations - we don't care to be motivated, but operate from the groundwork of genuine contentment.

Every other formula I have tried, has frustrated me and failed according to my own failing strength. Throughout all this however, as my faith has grown, I have learned to simply rest in the Christ, rest in the finished work of God - to recognize that this is life more abundantly - and as the song goes, the things of this world become strangely dim. In the strength of contentment and assurance, what do I care if I am to perform some task that would otherwise be loathesome to my flesh? Is my Lord and God with me? Does this please Him? Am I content to be His servant? Then I will rest in the work, whatever it may be.

Sure, I will stumble and fall, but I will rise up again, and run the race with endurance.

Be encouraged then, to walk by faith, to live by faith, and to stop looking for the magic key by which you can avoid God but still live an obedient life. You're problem is you are still running away from God even as you desire to please Him. Stop running away, and see what happens. Stop kicking against the goads, but accept the yoke, and see if there is any comfort in the Lord.

That's all I think I need to say on this point.

Labels: ,

posted by Daniel @ 9:54 AM  
11 Comments:
  • At 10:18 AM, August 27, 2010, Blogger donsands said…

    Well said.

    "The love of the Lord is the strength of the believer."

    Yep. Knowing that I love Him, only because He loved me first, and sought me, and brought me into His domain and life.

    That's where our joy comes from for the most aprt, knowing that Christ loves me, and gave Himself for me (Gal. 2:20).

    That's a great strength, His love and joy. And He also gives us His peace to guard our hearts.

    So even in the darkest seasons of our walk through this devil filled world, we can have assurance that Jesus is faithful, even when we are not, because He loves us with an everlasting love (Jer. 31:3).

    Have a terrific weekend, and especially Lord's Day Daniel. Lord bless you and your family with His abundant peace and grace. Amen.

     
  • At 1:18 PM, September 02, 2010, Blogger M.A.C. said…

    Interesting post on faith. Ephesians 2:8-9 says that faith is a gift from God so that we can not boast that it comes from anywhere other than God. Jesus says in John 6:44 "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day".

    In 2 Peter 1:3-11 there is a path that we must walk and add to our faith. with the end result being love. I know you ended your post with that's all folks.

    But...

    What are your thoughts on the adding to our faith as we are instructed at 2 Peter 1:3-11?

     
  • At 2:23 PM, September 02, 2010, Blogger Daniel said…

    M.A.C.

    Good question, and thanks for asking it.

    Some older translations translate the Greek word επιχoρηγεω ("provide/supply") as "add".

    When I read that I am supposed to add X to Y and then add Y to Z, I picture the whole thing as a big mathematical equation (i.e.: X + Y + Z). I expect most of us think like that.

    Is Peter envisioning a "stack" of virtues beginning with faith, which God supplies, then cumulative layers supplied out of our own effort, layers such as moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, etc. ending in the crowning layer of love? Is that how we understand the word?

    I think that the desire for moral excellence is supplied by a genuine faith such that the believer who denies himself, and walks in faith, is going to pursue moral excellence. He can try to pursue moral excellence apart from faith, and in his immaturity he probably will, but eventually he will pursue it as the text implies: through faith.

    Peter writes that it is because all things pertaining to life and godliness has been granted to us, that we are free to appropriate them. How do we appropriate moral excellence? Do we produce it through self effort? Surely, if moral excellence flowed from human effort, not only could the godless achieve it as readily as the godly, but more, the results quickly dissipate the moment we slackened our effort. Has God provided moral excellence? The text tells us that God has supplied already all things pertaining to godliness. Presumably this shopping list is intended to act as an example of those things, off the top of Peter's head, that he considered as having been supplied by God for the purpose of our attaining to a godly walk.

    -cont-

     
  • At 2:33 PM, September 02, 2010, Blogger Daniel said…

    -cont-

    I think therefore that moral excellence flows from faith - it is appropriate through faith. This, I think, is the point of Peter's instruction. If we have faith, we ought to pursue what can be appropriated through faith - moral excellence, knowledge, self control, perseverence, godliness, brotherly kindness, love. Not that I think Peter was supplying and exhaustive list, nor intending it to be interpreted as a list of progressive prerequisites so that the believer is hindered from loving until after he has master the previous "links" in the hypothetical chain.

    So I don't think Peter is speaking of adding to our faith in the sense that your question implies, as though we were to add something to our faith that comes from without our faith. Rather I think Peter is speaking in the same sense as something like: having been given breath, let us add words to that breath. Having words, let us add song. Having song, let us add praise. Having praise let us add worship.

    I don't think Peter is suggesting that faith is insufficient, rather I think he is explaining the sufficiency of faith.

    Does that make sense?

     
  • At 3:08 PM, September 02, 2010, Blogger M.A.C. said…

    When I read that I am supposed to add X to Y and then add Y to Z, I picture the whole thing as a big mathematical equation (i.e.: X + Y + Z). I expect most of us think like that.

    I highly doubt that most of us think like that. Except to think that my house cost this much, my car that much. Therefore I am somehow better because of my socioeconomic standing then those other folks. This seems to be a good consensus whether a person attends church or not. But I digress.

    I was only implying within the context of the text. Considering that the original text was Greek perhaps there could have been a slight misunderstanding in the transliterated version. But I doubt that. For if that was so then the whole bible is mistranslated and therefore open to scrutiny if we use your method of trying to break down the text to mean something other than what the simple English is implying. Consider that the bible was translated into 500 different languages by 400 A.D. then after Jerome translated to Latin in 382 A.D. there was only one after 500 A.D. and it was Latin.

    My understanding is that virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love are things we must add. But that we add them by example through surrender. Which is what you have implied here and in your original post. Correct me if I am wrong.

    To further clarify. My experience with church has always been that; and you have implied this within your OP as well. That we must try to do this or that to be better through prayer, reading, acting better, etc. When all we really need to do is surrender our spirit (which could be translated as will) to the spirit of God.

    Sure I agree that he is explaining the sufficiency of faith. However if we add those things the text says we would have a better understanding. Such as when I was a child I thought as a child now that I am a man my thoughts and actions are no longer the same.

    So I think that Peter is saying that it is by action through surrender to the spirit of God that we add these things not by thought.

    Is that more or less what you meant?

     
  • At 5:26 PM, September 02, 2010, Blogger Daniel said…

    M.A.C.

    I appreciate your sentiment. I hope I do not come off as suggesting that the Greek says one thing, but it means something other that what it plainly says.

    Contextually, as I understand it, the text is saying that believers are commanded to use all those regenerate faculties that God has placed at their disposal through faith to live godly lives.

    My point was to say that the word "add" in this case, because of ambiguities peculiar to the English meaning of "add", can lend itself to alternate interpretations that one might not so readily attempt were one reading only the Greek text, or again, a more precise English translation. In the context Peter is saying that we are to abundantly furnish ourselves from what God has supplied - He means it in this sense: we should not be appropriating the faith that God supplies and leaving behind the moral excellence that flows from it. We should not be taking the faith and moral excellence that God supplies, and leaving behind self control, etc. We should be furnishing ourselves with -all- that God has supplied for us. That is the instruction Peter is giving.

    The conclusion that some readers might draw from reading the text when the translator uses "add" instead of "supply" or "furnish" is that we are to get faith from God, then add to that faith our own, self generated, moral excellence. I would say that when we use the word "add" in this way - it isn't that we are understanding or translating the word "add" wrong, it is that we are applying it wrong. I am not saying we should change the meaning of "add", rather I think we should use a less ambiguous word to translate the Greek, I think that might make the text a bit clearer in English.

    My concern is not so much about the "adding" as about where we get it from. That is, we add to our faith the moral excellence that flows from faith, as opposed to adding to our faith our own attempts at being morally excellent in the strength of our flesh.

    Surrender itself, if it not merely outward suppression, is the fruit of faith. In that sense, I would agree that through surrender we appropriate these things. Perhaps it is a po-tay-to/po-tah-to thing. That is, perhaps we are saying the same thing with different emphasis?

     
  • At 5:30 PM, September 02, 2010, Blogger Daniel said…

    Blogger is acting funny. Sorry, for those of you who are subscribed to the post, for the multiple posts there.

     
  • At 9:32 PM, September 02, 2010, Blogger M.A.C. said…

    Daniel,

    I am bible blessed plus I have at my fingertips every single translation available in the English language. And they all use derivatives of the word add. Such as; supplement, develop, etc. Nowhere can I find supply/provide.

    Perhaps we are saying the same thing with different emphasis. My concern is that after a brief study of the verses in 7 different English translations the word add or a derivative of add is present in all but one.

    I looked at the Amplified, KJV, NKJV, ASV, YLT, ESV CSV, and the World Wide English version. That is the only version that excludes add or a derivative of it. It simple says to live a good life and to learn more about God. I believe that version uses the KISS method.

     
  • At 10:27 PM, September 02, 2010, Blogger Daniel said…

    M.A.C.

    It is good to be bible blessed. ;).

    Perhaps our apparent disconnect stems from the fact that I am not examining various English translations, but looking directly at the Greek text, and translating the verb for you directly?

    Notwithstanding, my own impromptu translation of the Greek, after looking I found several English translations that translate επιχoρηγεω as "supply": NASB, ASV, ERV, PNT, WEB, HNV, UBV and J.B. Rotherham Emphasized Bible.

    While the Geneva study bible uses the word "join" to translate επιχoρηγεω, it adds a clarifying marginal footnote on the word: "supply also, and support or aid".

    Some other English translations use derivatives of supply:

    "Supplement": HCSB, ESV, RSV, and ISV

    Having Fully Supplied: Green's Literal Translation

    Still other English translations used words like furnish or join, but the clear majority of early English translations used the word "minister" for their translation:

    "Furnish": The complete Jewish Bible

    "Join": Geneva,

    "Minister": Tyndale NT (1525), Miles Coverdale Bible (1535), Biblia Sacra Vulgata, Wycliffe Bible, The Bishhop's Bible (1568)

    Darby translated it as "In your faith also have", and the NLT goes so far as to pre-chew the thought and forego translating the passage directly, instead giving their understanding of the meaning of the verse instead, "So make every effort to apply the benefits of these promises to your life. then your faith will produce a life of moral excellence. A life of moral excellence leads to knowing God better."

    I am pleased to discover that the NLT has "translated" the verse according to my understanding, but I wouldn't advise anyone to use that translation, as it strays too often, and too deeply into interpreting the text for you. I prefer a more literal translation (like the NASB).

    -cont-

     
  • At 10:43 PM, September 02, 2010, Blogger Daniel said…

    -cont-

    Which is not to suggest that because I can find many English translations that use the word "supply" that it means that translations which do not use the word are inferior or wrong. It only means that the word that is being translated does not have a perfect synonym in English.

    It is telling that the older English translation almost unanimously translate the word as "minister". Newer translations, opt for less precise language I find.

    Either way, whatever is meant in the Greek, is best understood in English by looking at the various words that were chosen by learned men to translate the text. Supplement, supply, add, furnish, join minister. The common thought these words paint is that of taking what you have (faith) and building on it.

    The disconnect seems to be, and this could just be myopia on my part, in how what is being built on our faith is supposed to look. I am painting it with a brush that emphasizes the fact that God supplies the whole of it, so that we are able to appropriate it all - even though many won't and we are commanded here by the Apostle to do so.

     
  • At 4:00 PM, September 09, 2010, Blogger Marcian said…

    thanks for the encouragement, Daniel.

     
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