Many of us have heard that said "a jillion times" — well, maybe not "a jillion," but you know what I mean. But, what is genuine faith, saving faith, the faith of the first disciples? Really, what does it mean to believe? I ask because I fear our definition of faith has left us shallow; little more than faint reflections of the Lord we say we follow.
Paul opens a huge window to let us see what genuine faith looks like when he points us to Abraham's faith:
So the promise is received by faith. It is given as a free gift. And we are all certain to receive it, whether or not we live according to the law of Moses, if we have faith like Abraham's. For Abraham is the father of all who believe, ... This happened because Abraham believed in the God who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing (Romans 4:16-17 NLT).
Notice especially that last declaration: "Abraham believed in the God who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing." That is the kind of faith we are called to have. This is not some wimpy, "I believe in Jesus!" declaration by a person who shows no openness to the Lordship of Jesus or willingness for the Holy Spirit to transform her or his life. Abraham's faith is a risky, bold, and "I'm putting everything on the line" kind of faith that invited God to do the impossible to keep his promises. And, if we are to have Abraham's type of faith, it is a faith that trusts Jesus to help us:
Abraham's example of faith is the convicting reminder that we've made faith into something it never was. We've allowed our modern definition of faith to be drained of depth and turned into a shallow kiddie wading pool of little more than mental assent — something we believe between our two ears but do not allow to call our hearts to open to others and our hands to serve as Jesus served. That kind of faith is too wimpy when compared to Abraham's faith.
Jesus calls us to faith in God, Abraham's God, Israel's God, the God who miraculously delivered and worked through Abraham and his descendants to bring us to Jesus. This is true faith in YHWH, the great I AM, the true and living God "who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing." This is faith in God who re-creates us (2 Corinthians 5:17) to be like him (Ephesians 4:24). He transforms us a little more each day to be more like who he was in human flesh, Jesus (2 Corinthians 3:18). He takes our shallowness, our pettiness, our fearfulness, our short-sightedness, our selfishness, our weariness, our brokenness and transforms us into little "Jesus live-a-likes" — because that is what a disciple is (Luke 6:40).
True faith — Abraham-styled faith — trusts that what we can't do now and what doesn't yet have their transformative hope in God. After all, he is the God "who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing." This faith doesn't settle for less than being a true reflection of Jesus (1 Corinthians 11:1) in the righteous character he displayed and the gracious compassion he shared. Anything less is playing church and choosing our denominational flavor and church preference for our Sunday morning entertainment. It is simply less than faith in God "who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing."
Sound too hard or too edgy or too demanding or too "un-churchified" or too simplistic? Think again. Remember how Paul described the faith that saves us?
Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, ... (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).[NOTE]
Sounds a whole lot like the faith of Abraham who believed in the God "who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing"!
If you are like me, you feel convicted. Way too many times I've settled for faith in an ancient Jesus and doctrines about what he did and what that means. I want to have a richer textured faith that believes in the God that Jesus shows us. He is the God "who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing."
I refuse to settle for less than this kind of faith, this gracious Savior, and this incredible God. I hope you will join me in pursuit of this kind of faith!
[NOTE] Notice the seven phrases with underlining added. They are ways Paul emphasizes that this saving faith is what their Christian life is built upon, and not just their life in Christ; this was what was taught by all the apostles. The bold emphasis ties us directly back into the faith of Abraham in God "who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing."