“What do you mean by ‘have faith’?”

Erik Raymond —  May 7, 2014

shutterstock_190858196What does it mean to have faith? I have gotten this question numerous times as a pastor. Faith is a term that is vitally important but often also loosely defined or applied.

People speak of faith as if it is a “leap of faith.” In this way it sounds like an acceptable embracing of something that is irrational. The Bible does not present faith as irrational.

Others speak of faith as simply intellectual ascent. I believe the facts about God much like someone believes the facts about the life of George Washington. While facts are important there is more.

Still others will speak of the way they feel. God makes them happy when they should be sad. Emotion corresponds with faith but is not all that faith is.

Some even speak of faith in a reflexive way. They talk of “my faith” terms that don’t seem to get very far from themselves. It is a mantra to keep on believing–but in who? or what?

Biblical faith is outward, fixed upon God, due to who he is, what he has done, and his infinite value. Hebrews 11.6 famously says,

 “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6, ESV)

At Emmaus we often speak of faith in terms of “trusting and treasuring” God. We believe that God is who he said he is and as a result we believe (trust) him to do everything that he has promised. Further, because he is infinitely glorious, we treasure him above any and everything.

Trusting Christ
In order to be saved, to be in Christ, we must trust him. That is, we must come to the point where we see the futility of our works before God. We must see that we are altogether unclean, devoid of righteousness, and in fact unrighteous altogether before the unflinching bar of eternal justice (Is. 64.6Rom. 3.10-19). In this pride smashing, somewhat painful self-awareness we realize that we need righteousness (Rom. 3.19).

Jesus is the one who comes as God in the flesh (John 1.14) to save his people from their sins (Matt. 1.21). He lives the perfect life that I could and would not. He obeys the Law perfectly (Gal. 4.4), loving his Father and neighbor perfectly (John 8.29) and ultimately gives his life as the payment for sinners like me and you (2 Cor 5.21Gal. 3.13Phil. 2.3-11).

In Christ, God extends the perfect blood and righteousness of Jesus as the only suitable payment for our sin and standing place before him. So our believing is present tense (John 3.16). It is a whole-souled trust in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone  for us and our salvation.

Treasuring Christ
When God in Christ does this for a wretch like me how can I but praise him? How can he not be my heart’s chief treasure?!

To believe in Christ is to see him as our only hope in this life or the next, our soul’s chief delight, point of living, hope in dying, goal in everything! (Col. 3.1-4Col. 3.15-17). To believe upon Christ is to have our soul’s satisfied in him (John 6.35). To treasure Christ is to hear the Father say of his Son, “This is my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (Mark 1.11) and then repeat it back to him, “This is my beloved Savior, with him I am well-pleased!”

To combine trusting and treasuring I think we have the incorporation of our head, heart and will (or as the Puritans would say, “affections”). We see our brokenness, deficiency, and hopelessness without a mediator….then God graciously shows us Jesus. He is our life! By his dying and doing we are made alive, declared righteous, adopted, sanctified, kept, and will ultimately be presented as holy, blameless and beyond reproach before God almighty the righteous judge (Col. 1.21; Jude 24-25).

We can see both of these come together in many places in the Bible but let me take the 28th Psalm for example.

The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.” (Psalm 28:7)

Notice the Psalmist trusts in God and then he treasures him (exults). This exulting is worshipping, rejoicing, delighting, and being moved by the supremacy of God. This is why he continues on to brag upon the work of God in the life of his people:

 “The Lord is the strength of his people; he is the saving refuge of his anointed. Oh, save your people and bless your heritage! Be their shepherd and carry them forever.” (Psalm 28:8–9)

Biblical faith has always looked the same. We look away from ourselves and unto the God who has revealed himself, made promises, acted powerfully, showcased his supremacy, and won our loyalty. So we believe—we trust and treasure God!

(Lighthouse photo from Shutterstock.)

Erik Raymond

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Erik has been writing at Ordinary Pastor since 2006. He lives in Omaha with his wife and kids while pastoring at Emmaus Bible Church. Follow regular updates on Twitter at www.twitter.com/erikraymond

3 responses to “What do you mean by ‘have faith’?”

  1. Excellent summary, Erik! Triple Amen.

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