Monday, May 23, 2005

Where Does Faith Look?

Perhaps it’s not a question we’re accustomed to asking ourselves, but it’s certainly one that requires an answer: “Where does our faith look?” But I suppose that before we can even answer that question, we first have to answer the question of “What is ‘faith’ in the first place?” The textbook Bible definition is Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (ESV). So faith is essentially a firm trust and belief in things not seen, but hoped for. It should also be pointed out that the word ‘faith’ comes from the same root (in Greek) as the verb ‘to believe.’ But to ‘believe,’ ‘trust,’ or ‘have faith’ in something is different than just simply a ‘head knowledge’ about something. For example, Jesus cast out many demons that knew who He was. A demon-possesed man said in Mark 1:24, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—The Holy One of God.” Jesus rebuked the demon and cast it out. So faith is more than just knowing God, as James reminds us somewhat sarcastically in James 2:19, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!” Faith certainly includes knowledge, but more than that, the primary aspect of faith is as Hebrews 11:1 describes, a trust or conviction.

So if faith is a belief or trust, then it has to have an object or something in which to believe. In other words, faith isn’t just some quality that exists in itself—it is actually directed to something—something not seen, yet hoped for. This brings us around to our original question, “Where does our faith look?” Is faith’s object inside ourselves or outside ourselves? When a person is troubled over their sin, where do they look for their comfort and hope? The answer that the Bible gives repeatedly, is that we are to have faith in Christ, or in God, or faith in Jesus’ blood (Rom. 3:25), or faith in the power of God (Col. 2:12). So the object of Christian faith is always Jesus Christ, our true God, and His powerful workings for our salvation. Galatians 2:16 says, “We know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.” Therefore, faith finds its object in Jesus Christ, the Son of God “who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). Then we have the answer to where faith looks. Does it look inside ourselves or outside ourselves? The answer is outside ourselves! Faith looks outside ourselves to Christ, to God, and to God’s powerful working. Which powerful working? Christ loving us and giving Himself for us at the cross! Because this event is outside of us, it is a certain objective reality for all to believe in!

This is why Christian faith, properly speaking, is never turned inward on itself, but rather is directed outward, to it’s sure and certain object—Jesus Christ. This is certainly not to say that Christ is not dwelling in us—for the same passage I just quoted says this: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). Christ is indeed living in us, because we have been “crucified with Christ” (2:19), but our faith doesn’t look inside for Christ, it looks outside to the Christ who loved us and gave Himself for us.
Does that seem to make sense? Maybe it would help to consider why this is so important. It is important because the place where we can find Christ, and securely grasp a hold of Him by faith, is where He has been revealed to us, namely in the Word of His Gospel—the account of Jesus’ deeds of salvation, from His life to His death to His resurrection. When faith is improperly directed inside ourselves, it can never be certain or have that conviction; at least not for very long. Because when doubts and fears arrive in life, especially those pertaining to faith, where do they most often arise? From inside us! And if the fears and doubts come from inside us (perhaps because we see some insufficiency within ourselves), then how could faith ever be a solid trust and hope if it too were directed inside us? No, when faith is shaken, and needs to find conviction and sufficiency, it must look outside of us to Christ, who loved us and gave Himself for us. He alone is our sufficiency and our hope. He and His forgiveness for us and His promise of eternal life is the thing hoped for and not yet seen. So where do we find the Christ who we believe in? In the Word of God that reveals what He has done for our salvation at the cross—outside of us.


Kobra said...

Glad to see this post, Josh. I often use an analogy to explain "faith" to people. Here it is:

Faith is an instrument like a telescope. In order for it to work properly--that is, in order for one to see that distant star normally invisible to the naked eye--one must look through it. Now, when one looks through the telescope, the telescope becomes invisible. This is the proper use of the instrument, and this is also the proper use of the instrument of faith.

Just my $.02 Kobra

Josh Schneider said...

excellent analogy! I like it!

Stuart Floyd said...

Nicely done, Josh!

Stuart Floyd said...

Nicely done, Josh!