Is My Faith Mine?
According to the Bible, faith is defined as "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." (Heb. 11:1) Anyone who is a student of the Bible and who professes to be one of Christ's adherents would have to naturally agree with what faith is, according to God, but such does not seem to be the case nearly so often as what we would think. Often, many who claim to be disciples of Jesus Christ have an entirely different view and definition of what faith is, and it does not match with what God has said about it.
It should go without saying, but we must understand the necessity of accepting what God has said about every matter, including the way He defines faith. If we accept His definition of faith, we must exclude any other definition. I firmly believe that we are saved by faith, for the Bible tells us so (Eph. 2:8; Rom. 5:1), but there is a major divide in the religious world based upon different understandings of what that faith is that saves us. So we must ask: What is real faith?
Based on Evidence. As the writer of Hebrews said, it is "the evidence of things not seen." At this point, many want to say this is where we must take a "leap of faith" and just believe in what we cannot explain. That concept is based on a misunderstanding of what the writer means here. The writer is not saying that our faith must be blind with no visible reason for believing other than "I just know it's right." That is not faith at all. The faith that he speaks of us is one that believes in those things "not seen" because we have seen evidence. Our belief in things not seen (heaven, Jesus, etc.) is based on what God has given us in the written and revealed word. When we read those things, we may come to believe that they are true and that they are real, though we have never seen many of the things that are contained within. I have never seen Abraham, David, Ezekiel, Paul, or even Jesus, but I can believe that they were real people who really lived on earth when I study the word of God and find it to be a reliable record and worthy of believing the accounts that were recorded.
For many today, faith in Jesus is based on hearsay, rather than on evidence. Such faith would fail the test of a court trial if it were ever challenged. Maybe what is believed about Jesus is what is seen on TV, heard from a preacher, or even what they think He is like. They've got some concept of what they think Jesus should be, and that's what they believe in. It is not based on anything they've found in the Bible, for they have never studied it and have never actually weighed the evidence to see if it was true or not. This is not the faith that saves us.
Faith, for many, is more a feeling than a conviction, and many abandon their faith when the feeling goes away. The reason for this oft-occurring event is that it never really was faith. To have real faith the one found in the Bible, the one that saves us it must have substance and it must be based on evidence, not on a feeling.
A Personal Decision. Throughout the New Testament, whenever faith is mentioned, it is seen as a personal decision one must come to and never something done by popular vote or something that was inherited from one's ancestors. Faith was always a matter of an individual coming to an understanding that the facts were, indeed, true, and worthy of admitting personally that he believed them to be true. At no time was faith ever represented as a matter to be voted on, something one did because their parents did it, or anything other than personal conviction.
When Jesus said, "unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins" (John 8:24), He was talking to individuals and the decision they each must make. When Jesus said, "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned" (Mark 16:16), we can see the individual responsibility in the statement, and nothing remotely like something handed down to someone from their parents. That belief was based on the disciples having gone into the world and preached the gospel to every creature (v. 15), not a matter of following what their ancestors had done for generations. If that were the case, they still would have been following the Old Law!
So here is where we must ask ourselves about our own faith. Is it real? Is it mine? Is the faith that I have based on the evidence found within God revealed word? Do I believe in what the Bible teaches more than just what I've been doing all my life or what my parents have done?
From having sat down with many people over several years, I have observed that many do not have the faith of the Bible, but are doing what they are doing and following the teachings they do, NOT because they have investigated the evidence and searched through the Bible to see what God would have them to do, but because it is what their parents have done all their life. I cannot tell you the number of times I have studied with individuals with an open Bible in front of us, letting them see for themselves what God's word teaches, only to have them say at the end of the study, "I know what it says, but ", and then they "but" the life out of any hopes of true obedience to God's word because it would mean their parents were wrong all those years. Sadly, many do not obey the obvious teachings of the Bible because it conflicts with what their parents taught them and to obey would mean their parents were wrong. Am I willing to admit truth, even when it means admitting others dear to me are wrong?
This is a difficult situation for many, but it is a decision that will affect our eternal destination. Jesus said, "He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me." (Matt. 10:37) In stronger terms, He also said, "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple." (Luke 14:26) As difficult as it may be to set aside our relationships and personal feelings, we must understand the benefits outweigh the consequences by far.
So, let's take a look at ourselves and investigate our faith. The apostle Paul admonished the Corinthians to "Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves." (2 Cor. 13:5) I must ask myself: Is my faith mine?
By Steven Harper
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