Monthly Archives: June 2014

When Faith Isn’t Faith

“Without faith it’s impossible to please God.”  So says the oft’ quoted Hebrews 11:6.  What do you understand that to mean?  I am convinced that some of us understand faith, at least to a degree, to be something I need to achieve or accomplish.  “I’ve got to have more faith”; “if only I had enough faith.”  And we take the same understanding to Ephesians 2:8 “it is by grace you have been saved through faith.”  We tend to look at faith as if it were something we manufacture, and by which we make God approve of us.  Let me give two illustrations to help grasp what faith really is.

The Bible compares the covenant relationship of marriage to our relationship with Jesus for good reason.  When a couple gives their vows they act on the basis of what they have been convinced of, a belief.  What belief?  Simply this: “I believe you.  I believe that you will love me and be faithful to me for the rest of my life.  I believe that you will care for me, provide for my needs, cherish and honor me.  I believe you.  And on the basis of that belief I give you the rest of my life.”

Salvation is simply declaring what I have become convinced of: “Jesus I believe you.  I believe you are the Son of God.  I believe that you loved me and gave yourself for me.  I believe that in doing so you forgave my sin.  I believe that you will care for me and be faithful to me for all eternity.  And on the basis of that belief I give you my life.”

The belief, or faith, isn’t what earns me God’s grace, it’s simply, well, believing God has provided it.  But even after we believe, something inside of many of us keeps telling us that we still need to achieve or keep doing something to continue to hold God’s approval.  That’s a lie.

Look at it like this.  When a baby is learning to walk and takes her first faltering steps, we cheer.  But then when inevitably she falls we don’t disapprove of her, we help her up and celebrate the next steps.  Her value doesn’t increase or diminish because of her achievements or lack thereof.  She is valued for who she is; our child.  The parallel is obvious.

One more thing, celebrating achievements is important, but if that’s the primary means we express the value of others to us we’re subtly sending the wrong message.  Today make sure others, especially your children, hear from you that they are treasured for who they are, not their achievements.


Not My Legacy But Thine Be Done

What do you want to be remembered for?  We are all leaving a legacy, but few of us consider what that legacy will be while we are busy building it.  Here are a couple of tombstones with epitaphs for folks who maybe should have given this some thought.

Arrabelle Young lived from 1794-1863:

Beneath this silent stone is laid

A noisy, antiquated maid,

Who from her cradle talked to death,

And never before was out of breath.

Here lies, returned to clay Miss Arabella Young,

Who on the eleventh day of May

Began to hold her tongue.

Or here’s what was said of Beza Wood:

In Memory of Beza Wood, Departed this life Nov. 2, 1837 – Age 45 yrs.

Here lies one Wood enclosed in wood

One Wood within another.

The outer wood is very good:

We cannot praise the other.

So what do you want to be remembered for?  Hebrews 11 is a sort of memorial to many great “heroes” of faith and a casual reading of it may lead one to believe that it is their accomplishments that are being lauded.  But the beginning of chapter 12 “since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses” affirms something different.

The writer is not saying those listed are now witnesses of us, he is saying that they are witnesses to the faithfulness of God; witnesses of what God has done and continues to do; witnesses to the truth of who Jesus is and what he accomplished on our behalf.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and completer of our faith”

I admire the desire of George Whitfield, whose popularity during the Great Awakening of the 18th century was of Rock Star proportions.  He spoke to crowds in the tens of thousands, and it was said his voice could be heard for a mile.  But this was his desire: Let the name of Whitefield perish, but Christ be glorified” . . . Let my name die everywhere, let even my friends forget me, if by that means the cause of the blessed Jesus may be promoted . . . after I am dead I desire no other epitaph than this, ‘Here lies G.W. What sort of man he was the great day will discover”