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Characteristics of Faith

Here is another “Straight and Narrow” blog post. Well, it’s not so much a blog post as it is a devotional I recently wrote for family devo night, but I haven’t had time to keep up with my Christian blog idea since starting my new job, so I thought that I’d just post this for the time being–

Everything we do as Christians is a by-product of having faith. Without faith, we wouldn’t have even become Christians in the first place. Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” 1 Peter 1:7 claims that faith is “more precious than gold that perisheth.” But what does faith look like? And is faith even visible? Lets read Mark 2:3-5.

Mark 2:3-5 And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

Here we are told that Jesus was able to actually see the men’s faith, so we know that faith can be visible. So lets ask the question, what did their faith look like? Well obviously it wasn’t a tangible thing with physical dimensions, what Jesus saw were the actions of the men. In fact, the only way a person can see faith is to see it manifest in action. Lets look at James 2:18.

James 2:17-18 Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead in itself. But someone will say, You have faith and I have works. Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.

The idea James expresses here is that faith can only be shown by a person’s works. And in this context, “works” would encompass anything done for God. Obvious things like prayer or attending church services, down to even the choices we make on a daily basis. Philemon 1:5-8 mentions that we should share our faith with one another. This can only take place if our faith is visible in our actions. But what for what purposes can we use faith? Lets look at 1 Thessalonians 5:7-8.

1 Thessalonians 5:7-8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.

Notice that Paul says that Christians should put on faith as a breastplate. So we now we know that faith is not only visible, it also has the characteristic of being wearable. The inference is that faith, like a breastplate of armor, can protect us, in this case specifically from the fear of not going to Heaven. But is there anything else that faith can protect us from?

Ephesians 6:16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.

We are warned many times in the bible that Satan is constantly trying to influence our decisions. He throws us a multitude of distractions and temptations with the sole intent of causing us harm. Without the shield of faith described in Ephesians 6, we have no protection against this assault and Satan will easily overcome us.

So we know that faith is visible, wearable, and can protect us like a shield. So how do we get more of it? Well another characteristic of faith is that it is grow-able.

2 Thessalonians 1:3 We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.

The next logical question would be, how does one go about growing their faith? The answer to that is in Romans 10:17 “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” So if a person desires to increase their faith, then they must spend more time studying the scriptures. Romans 1:16-17 says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.””

I think that it’s fair to say, if faith without works is dead, then surely faith without hearing God’s word is pre-birth. 2 Timothy 2:15 states “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” We’ve already established that our faith is evident in our works, so if studying scripture leads to us being workmen approved by God, then studying should also lead to us being men of faith. This isn’t the case in every circumstance however, 2 Timothy 3:7 warns of people who are “always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.” When we study we shouldn’t lean on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6), but should be open to the teachings God has left us as they are intended.

Now finally, lets look at what happens when there is an absence of faith. James 1:6 says “But let him ask in faith, without any doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven by the wind and tossed.” Hebrews 11:6 says that without faith it is impossible to be pleasing to God. Hebrews 3:12 says “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief.” Clearly, the last characteristic of faith is, that without it we cannot be faithful Christians. I’ll leave you with 1 John 5:4 “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.”

I have never been one to get in front of a crowd and talk, I don’t have any particular skill for public speaking and frankly no one would want to watch me nervously speed-read through que cards (if you don’t believe me you can ask my two different speech teachers as that is the one college class that I had to repeat). I do however enjoy writing, and I also enjoy biblical discussions. So I decided to try an experiment and start a blog where I can post my thoughts on random biblical issues as I come across them in my personal studies. Feel free to read, comment on, or completely ignore this blog. I will be connecting it to my facebook account, but if you want to get the full effect check out: http://thestraightandnarrow.wordpress.com

Now getting back to the title of this post, how to navigate a moral decline. It amazes me how easily a society can change. What once was considered morally reprehensible is quickly becoming the norm, embraced even. And as each immoral behavior becomes socially acceptable, another behavior steps up behind it ready to loose it’s stigma. It’s not hard to notice this change, just turn on your tv. I dare you to find 5 sitcoms that don’t have a homosexual character. To find 3 shows that don’t portray drinking or drug abuse as a perfectly fine way to spend time with friends. To go 30 minutes on any channel without hearing bad language or sexually crude remarks. In many instances the media seems to be pushing society to accept sin as a healthy lifestyle. Even in the political word, among our leaders and representatives, the shocking depths of corruption point towards a society in decline. In any case, it’s getting easier every day to recognize that our county is rapidly turning away from God and his will.

So what does that mean for the modern Christian? Well for starters, it’s generally much harder to spread the gospel when popular opinion is that Christianity is outdated, unjustly intolerant, or unrelatable. Earlier today I was called a bigot for referencing a verse that said, among other things, that God doesn’t like homosexuality. Name calling hardly compares to the the severe persecution of the early church, but I do fear that it will become harder-and-harder to be openly Christian in the years to come as society spirals away from biblical principles. As bleak as that sounds, it isn’t entirely unexpected. John 15:18-20 states:

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”

The end result of our society will likely be akin to the descriptions given of Sodom and Gomorrah, which were destroyed by God for their rampant perversions and complete disregard for God’s will. It will be tempting for Christians to hide in such times, to avoid discussing hot-button issues. to try to blend their views to fit the standards of the world. What we have to realize is, that in a changing world, the bible stays the same. Hebrews 1:10-12 says:

“You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning,
and the heavens are the work of your hands;
they will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment,
like a robe you will roll them up,
like a garment they will be changed.
But you are the same,
and your years will have no end.”


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