About Jesus    Steve Sweetman

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Faithfulness In Light of Faith

Introduction

We all know that our Lord Jesus was faithful to His Farther and to His ministry, even though it took Him to the cross. I can picture Jesus on the mountain top looking down over Jerusalem, weeping for the city and people He loved. (Matt. 23:37-39) I can also see Him asking God to take the cup of suffering and death away from Him, but that was not possible (Luke 22:42). Through the rejection of His own people and His death on the cross Jesus remained faithful to His Father and to His ministry.

As Christians the Lord wants us to be faithful as well. We do not have the same ministry that Jesus had. We might not have to die for the cause, but He does require faithfulness to be found in His people. We are required to be faithful first to Jesus and then to the things He has for us to do.

I would think, to the degree we are faithful to Jesus is the degree to which we are faithful to our family, our church, our ministry, our jobs, and everything else in life.

One time I was in a prayer meeting years ago with a number of young people like myself. We were talking about being faithful. I mentioned that the Christian life was a long road that we traveled and that it was important to walk this road in a way that we would end up as Christians at the end. By this I meant that we needed to be faithful until our death. I was openly rebuked for even suggesting that some of us might not make it to the end; that some may quit along the way. As I look back on those people in that room, most of them are no longer walking with the Lord. I guess my words should have been taken more seriously, but people tend to want to hear nice things, not true things.

Another word for faithful is trustworthy. If you are a faithful person then you are trustworthy. You can be trusted to do what you say you will do. You can be trusted in your relationships. A faithful husband will remain loyal to his wife. Thus the words faithful, trustworthy, and loyalty are all interchangeable.

 

Faith

Obviously the word faithful, or faithfulness comes from the word faith. As always, when I am looking for the definition of a word found in the Bible, I look first to see what the original Greek or Hebrew word means. In this case the Greek New Testament word that is translated as faith is the word "pisitis". Vine, in his expository says that "pistis" means a strong conviction based on persuasion from hearing. In the New Testament "pistis" is always used in relation to Jesus, God, or things spiritual.

Holmanís Bible Dictionary thus defines faith as a "trusting commitment to a person, and especially to God".

From our Greek definition of "pistis" and Holmanís definition of the word "faith" we conclude that faith is a "loving commitment to a person". It is based on "hearing something about that person and being persuaded that he is trustworthy". As a result of hearing and being persuaded you put your faith in him. The New Testament uses the word faith in relation to God and to Christ.

We as Christians have heard the gospel of a faithful God. We have been persuaded that this is the truth. We thus put our faith in Him. By this we mean that we have "committed ourselves to Him in a trustworthy relationship".

This is what faith means. We have watered down the word over the years. We should also note that the word believe in the New Testament is also from the word "pistis". When you see Jesus telling us to believe in Him, He is actually telling us to have a "committed relationship" with him. He is not telling us to mentally accept His existence or what He has to say.

It is very interesting to note the evolution of the word believe. Read what Holmanís Bible Dictionary says about the words faith and believe.

"Our English word "faith" comes from the Latin fides, as developed through the Old French words fei and feid. In Middle English (1150-1475) "faith" replaced a word that eventually evolved into "belief." "Faith" came to mean "loyalty to a person to whom one is bound by promise or duty." Faith was fidelity. "Belief" came to be distinguished from faith as an intellectual process having to do with the acceptance of a proposition. The verb form of "faith" dropped out of English usage toward the end of the sixteenth century."

We thus see a new definition of the word believe, that came about around 1150 and 1475 AD. Prior to then faith and believe both meant a committed relationship to a person. During that time period the word believe came to mean a mental ascent to an idea. That is where we get the phrase "belief system". A belief system is a systematic and organized way of thinking.

This new definition for the word believe is a departure from the New Testament way of thinking. This departure has remained with us to this very day and has effected us in a negative way.

We now tell people that they need to believe in Jesus in order to be saved, but what definition are we using for the word believe? When we tell people to believe, what is their definition for the word? They are most likely using the new definition. So what we are saying for the most part is, give mental ascent, believe what we are telling you about Jesus and you will be saved. Or to put it another way.  We are saying, "just accept what we are saying".  Then they say, "O yea, no problem, I can agree with that".   This is not what Jesus meant when He told people to believe in order to be saved. Jesus meant to give oneself to Him in a loving committed way and then you would be saved. He mean to trust Him alone for your salvation.

Our Christian faith is more than a belief system that people need to accept. Our faith is a committed relationship with the Lord Jesus. Mental ascent to the gospel is only a step towards salvation. It is not salvation.

I have a strong fear that we as Evangelicals have lost the original meaning of the words faith and believe. Evangelicals once stood for a personal relationship to Jesus, but now I fear way too often we preach "mental ascent" to the gospel.

Where does that leave the Evangelical church? This is where my fear comes in. Do we have many people attending church only accepting a belief system? Do we have many that believe in their heads that Jesus is Lord and that He died and rose for them? How many people do we have who have actually committed their lives in faithfulness to the Lord Jesus Himself? This is what constitutes salvation.

When Jesus tells us to believe and have faith, He is telling us to come to Him and have a trusting relationship with Him. THIS IS THE GOSPEL THAT SAVES US.

 

Peterís Denial

Jesus told Peter and the other disciples that Satan wanted to sift them as wheat. (Luke 22:31). Jesus went on to tell Peter that He would pray for his faith. Jesus knew of Peterís frailties. He knew that Peter would deny Him and sin, but what was most important to Jesus was Peterís faith, his trusting relationship with Him. Jesus wanted that relationship to remain intact even though Peter would deny Him in front of others.

This is also true with us. Jesus is most interested in our faith, our relationship with Him. He knows that the better relationship we have with Him the less likely we will sin.

Once again the emphasis in on relationship, on our faith, not merely a belief system. Now I certainly do not want to minimize our belief system. It is very important to know what we believe and why, in order to pass it along to others. (1 Pet. 3:15 ) Without a relationship with Jesus our belief system cannot help us much. It is like the Old Testament Law, something that is external and not in our hearts. If we only have a belief system, we are no different than the Muslim or any other world religion.

 

Acts 2:38

Peter tells the crowd of people in Acts 2:38 to repent and be baptized and then they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is receiving the Holy Spirit that allows us to have this relationship with Jesus. It only makes sense. As Jesus said in John 4:23, "God is spirit and they that worship Him must worship Him in Spirit and Truth". By receiving Godís Spirit we can have a trusting relationship with Him. This is why mental assent is not enough. This is what being "born again" is all about.

 

Faithfulness

Once we have given ourselves to Jesus in this trusting relationship and have received His Spirit, we then can be a faithful person as He wants us to be. We can first be faithful to Him and then as a result be faithful in all other areas of our life.

I used to hear Christians say that they loved the Lord first, their spouse second, their children third, their brothers in Christ fourth, and so on down the list. My response to this was that if we love the Lord as we should, we will love those whom He has placed us with. We really donít need to make a list of who we should love and in what order they should be in.

It is the same with faithfulness. If we are faithful to Jesus, we will be faithful in all areas of our life. If Jesus canít trust us, who can?

In closing let me remind you that faithfulness presupposes that we have faith, and faith is a trusting, committed relationship with Jesus. Faith is not some abstract, or vague concept that is hard to understand. It is not a leap into the unknown. We put our faith in Him who we know. As a result our lives will show the difference in the faithful people that we are. If our lives do not show the difference, then we can question the reality of our faith.

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