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04 July 2018

Grow your faith!

It’s not gonna grow when we won’t act on it.

As I’ve written multiple times, authentic faith is not the magic power to believe ridiculous things. It’s “the proof of actions we’ve not seen,” He 11.1 KWL stuff we believe even though we haven’t seen it for ourselves, because we trust those who told us this stuff. Because they’re trustworthy. (And they’d better be trustworthy.)

More than that: It’s when we act on this stuff. Fr’instance your friend told you a certain movie was good. You heard it wasn’t, but you have faith in your friend—specifically, his judgment about movies—so you ignore what everyone else told you, and go see the movie for yourself. And either your faith in your friend is proven, ’cause the movie was good… or it was broken, ’cause it sucked. Either way, you acted on faith.

Yes, that’s faith. I know; the way people commonly define faith, it sounds more like you go to see a movie regardless of what anyone tells you, because you want so badly for it to be good, and are hoping it’ll be good if you wished hard enough. Again, that’s not faith. That’s self-delusion, and those who try to swap self-delusion for faith have either been tricked by con artists, or are seriously trying to delude themselves. Faith is based on something or someone solid. Like Jesus.

So when you want to grow in faith, you don’t have to believe so hard something snaps in your brain. That’s how you lose your grip on reality; how you lose your mind. That’s not at all what Jesus calls us to do when he wants us to grow in faith. You know how you really grow in faith? You take leaps of faith: You trust God enough to actually do as he tells us.

See, Christians who lack faith, haven’t trusted God this far. They claim they believe, but they’ve never done anything. Never put themselves in situations where they had to; they deliberately avoided such things. They never tested their own faith. That’s why, the moment something shows up which does test their faith, they break.

You wanna break at the first sign of stress? Be like them. But if you wanna grow as a Christian, and develop faith that doesn’t shake as easily as grass in the wind, start testing your own faith. Get off your duff and act on what you claim to believe. Find out, once and for all, whether you really do believe it.

The unproven Christian.

Because so many people claim “faith” is the power to believe goofy nonsense, tons of Christians claim they have faith. ’Cause they do believe goofy nonsense. (You realize how many pyramid schemes only stay afloat because Christians keep joining ’em?)

Deep down, they know this faith is unsubstantial and kinda useless. That’s why they’re hoping it never, ever gets tested. Because they’re only one simple test away from quitting Jesus. If their loved ones die, if they lose their possessions, if their health takes a turn for the worse, if their reputation falls apart—basically if anything happens to them like it did Job—they’re so outa here. They’ll curse God and die, just like Job’s faithless wife recommended. Jb 2.9

Yeah. What kind of “faith” is it when you never, ever want to see it shaken? Because it will be shaken. Guaranteed. No matter how much you’re hoping to avoid it. Bad stuff happens in this life, and you will experience some of it. Everybody does. So… what kind of “faith” is it that lasts only as long as we needn’t ever really put all our faith in God?

For these folks who fear tribulation and hope to avoid it at all costs, the only thing they truly put their faith in—and they point to it quite a lot—is that God’ll let ’em into heaven. They put a boatload of hope on it. They may not expect God to do jack squat for them on earth, but they do expect he’ll guarantee a really good spot for them in haven, ’cause they’re good people and said the sinner’s prayer. They also believe quite strongly in heaven, and that they and their loved ones are definitely going there.

Well, until they’re dying. Then they lose their tiny minds with fear.

But otherwise they believe, really hard, they’re going to heaven. They quote the bible verses which tell us all we need do to be saved is believe Jesus Ac 16.31 and confess him as Lord, Ro 10.9 and we’ll become one of the “whosoevers” who get everlasting life. Jn 3.16 They don’t have any personal God-experiences to fall back on, so the best substitute they can think of are bible verses.

Here’s the problem: God wants us to have the personal God-experiences.

Seriously. Jesus told us we can do everything he could, and more. Jn 14.12 If we believe; if we put our faith in him. We don’t act because we don’t have the faith. We trust our bible verses more than we trust Jesus.

Proof texts only prove these ideas are taught in the bible, and therefore we can make teachings and doctrines out of them. They’re a good starting point. Now we’re supposed to act on them, and actually do stuff, actually follow Jesus. Not just sit back and believe really hard in their potential.

Until we do, our faith is unproven. Untested. And, as Jesus’s brother James put it, dead. Jm 2.17

If it’s not growing, it’s probably dead.

Certain Christians worry there’s a contradiction between these two ideas:

  • We’re saved by faith, not works.
  • Faith without works is dead.

Unfortunately, how they deal with this contradiction is to embrace “We’re saved by faith” and ignore, or at least dodge, anything James said about faithless works.

Yeah, it’s a contradiction. But that’s because the first premise is wrong: We’re not saved by faith! We’re saved by grace. Ep 2.8 God doesn’t save us because we believe in him really hard, or believe all the right things. Otherwise we’d be able to boast about it, Ep 2.9 like so many Christians do when they get hung up on having all the “right doctrines.”

We’re not saved by faith; we’re justified by faith. When we trust God to save us, he approves of this trust we put in him, grants us his grace, and does indeed save us. He appreciates our faith, but he does all the saving. Not us, and not our faith.

Thing is, if our “faith” is the imaginary sort, the kind which doesn’t actually do anything because we never act upon it, is that the sort of faith God approves of? Does it prove we have a relationship with God? Does it prove anything at all?

Those who have that relationship are gonna do the good works God set up for us to do. Ep 2.10 Those who don’t, don’t have that relationship. Don’t have that kind of faith. Their faith is dead.

Anybody can believe orthodox things. Even devils do. Jm 2.19 But when faith leads people to act, like when Abraham trusted God so much he was willing to sacrifice Isaac to him, Jm 2.21-24 that’s the type of faith the writers of the scriptures meant. It’s dynamic, living, and miraculous.

It’s the result of lazy, faithless Christians that this powerful faith, which God so greatly approves of, has been reduced in so many Christians’ minds to nothing more than happy wishes. Not only is it dead faith; it kinda deserves to die.

Of course this dead faith won’t grow. If we wanna grow faith, we gotta stop thinking of it as happy wishes. Faith must be demonstrated and proven. If we can’t point to a single Christian faith-filled act we’ve performed, and truthfully say we did it because we trusted God, of course we lack real faith. It’s not growing. Might not even be there.

So wake it up. Do something.

Active lives of faith.

I challenge you to go to your bible, flip to Matthew 5-7—the three chapters we call Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount—pick any of Jesus’s instructions, and do it for the next several weeks.

Don’t pick one that’s so easy, you can do it without thinking. Fr’instance if you never get into fights, don’t pick “turn the other cheek.” This is a challenge, not a way to make you feel self-righteously good about yourself because of how easy it is to follow Jesus. It gets easier, but you want to start by picking a goal you need to achieve, and not just picking up all the closest Easter eggs.

Don’t interpret it literally when Jesus was obviously speaking in hyperbole. Don’t pretend his metaphors aren’t metaphors. Don’t go saying, “This week, I’m not gonna fling any of my jewelry at pigs.” Follow what Jesus actually means by that verse: Stop trying to fix people who mock your advice. (While you’re at it, stop trying to fix people.)

The challenge is to actually go and do and obey. Whether you understand it or not, whether you get Jesus’s reasoning behind it or not, whether you wanna do it or not. And bonus points for picking one which really goes against your grain.

This is how faith is built.

We grow in faith by learning, through experience, through truly trusting and following Jesus. We learn we can truly trust him. The reason so many Christians have so little faith is because they never bother to do this. They think Jesus’s teachings are great ideals, but not reasonable. They assume Jesus’s teachings are all about the future, after he returns; not today. So they do none of them. Consequently God never seems to do anything in their lives—and they expect he won’t, so they don’t sweat it. And their Christianity sucks for it.

Now, this is no small challenge. This is a big frickin’ deal. This is gonna have profound results when we do it right. And sometimes these profound results include looking dumb, or even getting punched in the head. (Especially if you think “turn the other cheek” doesn’t also apply to sarcasm and snide remarks. Follow the spirit of Jesus’s commands, not just the letters.)

If you’ve been having trouble writing your testimony, after this little experiment you oughta have some amazing testimonies. Just like the folks in the bible. He 11 Maybe even better.