A Return to Faith
In the middle of the nineteenth century, Danish theologian Soren Kierkegaard wrote, “Christendom has done away with Christianity without quite being aware of it.” He avidly opposed the prevailing philosophy of his day, which attempted to create a synthesis between logic and faith. He contended that faith was absurd; that it could never make rational sense to the finite mind, and that any attempt to make this radical way of life palatable to the mainstream would compromise the true essence of our faith.
Kierkegaard was right. Not surprisingly, he was eschewed by his religious elite contemporaries, and although his writings would go on to influence many and be regarded as ahead of their time, he died penniless and alone, an outcast of the systematized religious tradition of his day.
As I observe the cultural Christianity of our day, I wonder if I would put it any differently than Kierkegaard. Indeed, it seems that true faith – faith-working-through-love faith – is hard to come by. Looking at many sectors of the organized Church that are, quite honestly, apostate; one can see no power, no authority, no effectiveness. In fact, they don’t claim to have those things, or profess to even want to. Sadly, Kierkegaard’s words seem to be as accurate today as they were two centuries ago.
The truth is – God was, in the early Church, always has been, and is now more than ever, looking for the manifestation of His Overcoming Church to expand the Kingdom and usher in the coming reign of our Lord. But the only way He’s going to do it is through a people of faith.
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Religion is neat. It is based on what we can see, and therefore, is easy to trust in. Placing our faith in religion (on what we do because of our beliefs) is a very strong temptation for us all… Who wouldn’t want to have the security of believing our righteousness is within our own control? Of believing that being right with God is as simple as:
- ‘If I attend X number of services a week, I’ll be ok.’
- ‘If I just don’t do what they’re doing, I’ll be ok.’
- ‘If my good deeds outnumber my bad, I’ll be ok.’
Faith, on the other hand, is messy. It is based on what we can’t see (e.g. GOD). It is for those who know they’re not ok, and have no intention of ever trying to be. Faith in Jesus as the One who fulfilled the requirements of the Law is the one true alternative to religiously-earned righteousness.
“For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith,’” (Romans 1:17 NIV).
Of course, it didn’t take long for this antidote to religion to be made into the biggest religion of all time. Instead of continuing in the radical ‘otherness’ of the New Testament Church, we have largely sold out to pat formulas, easy answers, and man-made strategies.
If you trust in yourself long enough, you will have no need of faith, and eventually, you might find that you can do away with God as well. Tragically, what the world is being offered today is a faith-less, God-less Christianity that is easy to accept. No creation; no miracles; no shed blood; no “mess.” But the question remains: After you take faith and God out of the equation, where is the salvation supposed to come from?
Friends, the absurdity of our beliefs (according to this world) is the essence of our faith! It is what distinguishes us from the atheists who try to deny the truth by rationalizing it; the Buddhists who try to transcend reality through escaping it; and from the new-agers who try to appease the cycle of life by becoming one with it.
We are those who believe a virgin gave birth; who symbolically eat the flesh and drink the blood of our Lord. We speak in a language of the Spirit that neither we nor any other human ear comprehends. We believe Someone we have never seen, who died on a Roman cross thousands of years ago, is alive and is our Savior. We believe mud and dirt, mixed together, can make a blind man see. We believe that to live is Christ and to die is gain.
The passage in the book of James that speaks of the relationship between faith and works is often quoted with the intent of emphasizing the importance of works and minimizing the role of faith. However, what the Apostle is actually doing is making a revolutionary distinction on the causal relationship between the two.
“But someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’ Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works,” (James 2:18).
Here, we see religion turned on its head: our works are to serve as the evidence of our faith, not the basis of it. Instead of thinking we’ll be saved by what we do, we do what we do because we are saved. For followers of Christ, works are an expression of our faith; they are what authenticates or proves our faith. In light of this, it is not hard to see the irony of a Christianity that has placed its trust in its own righteousness instead of in Christ’s. While we may be quick to judge with other standards, faith is what serves as God’s litmus test; without it, you’re not even in the door.
The end-times battle is a battle of faith.
“…when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8 NASB).
It is apparent that God, upon His return, will be looking for faith. But why? Why faith? Why is the end-times battle a battle of faith?
I believe it is because faith is the one thing God can’t “do” for Himself. Since God exists outside of time, it simply wouldn’t make sense to say that God believes something is going to happen. He already knows it will!
If you think about it, faith is the only thing we can offer God. He doesn’t need our armies, He doesn’t need our money; He doesn’t need our strategies; He doesn’t even need us! The One who created the world – who even created you – doesn’t need you to give Him anything. The one thing God does ask of us – the one thing He is looking for is faith. And to be clear, He doesn’t need our faith so that He can overcome, He needs our faith so that we can overcome.
“For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith,” (I John 5:4 NKJV).
If you think your victory lies in your having it all together and coming out on top, allow me to give you some advice I learned from my own journey: You will never have it all together, and you will never, in your own strength, come out on top. In light of this, I John 5:4 comes as good news. It is not achieving a certain outcome that overcomes the world – it is faith. Faith is the victory. It is the victory! It is not the pathway to victory, the means to victory, or the formula for victory. Faith is, itself, the victory! It’s not even what we do because of our faith… The faith that prompts us to do the works we do, that is the victory; that is what overcomes.
In short, faith is what started it all, and faith is what is going to finish it all.
“For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all,” (Romans 4:16 NASB).
Like Abraham and his descendants throughout history, we are the arbiters of a divine assault on the ‘possible’. Return to faith, and join the revolution that overcomes the wisdom of this world.
Want to learn more? The Bishop and The Rabbi is a dynamic and informative weekly podcast, hosted by Bishop Robert Stearns and featuring different guest Rabbis from the Jewish community. It presents discussions on topics like the content of this article, the Hebrew Scriptures from Jewish and Christian viewpoints, current events in America and the Middle East, and the future of Jewish-Christian cooperation. Tune in now to the latest episodes on the Charisma Podcast Network!