Thursday, 20 August 2015

Faith Bubble - An Unhealthy Substitute for Foundational Faith

Faith is a wondrous thing.  Some people are gifted with it and have a propensity to move mountains. Others are not, and struggle to move the covers off themselves so they can get out of bed.  My mother is a creature of pure faith.  She doesn’t know much about science and isn’t particularly well read historically.  Yet when the antagonists of God berate her, their faulty conjectures strike her as hollow plenitudes: They have no more substance than the breath that carries them.  She isn’t trained in a particular academic field and as such, capable of correcting their folly by referencing publications and learned men.  No, that is not within her scope.  But what she does have is an innate God given PhD In faith; Such that, their attempts to rattle her are futile.  And her exemplified relationship with God rattles them.

We can’t all have my mother’s faith (or a gifting of faith).  And neither do we need it.  Paul instructs us that that which we believe is rational, and he is correct.  What he means is, we can see and affirm many things about God and Christianity without faith - and that this in turn, builds our personal faith. God is evident in His creation, and this insight is unmistakable to many by simple observation, and to others by study.  This does not negate faith.  There are areas where faith is required.  This is God’s intent and prerogative.  Many wonder why He wouldn’t simply reveal Himself to the degree that we could not deny Him.  How could you not believe in Him if He shook the earth from a pillar of flame and commanded us to listen?  Or, wouldn’t it be easier to evangelize the world if Noah’s ark was perched in plain site, and all we had to do was point at it?

Perhaps.  But I surmise we would be pointing people to Noah’s ark and not to God.  When God is so evident in our surrounding world, would Noah’s ark really make any difference?  God’s wonders are saturated within the world around us, and form a more substantial beacon to His existence than any boat on an hill.  People will choose to reject God irrespective of any evidence presented to them, because they want what they want, and not what God wants.  Even if bonafide, verified miracles were preformed for their benefit,  many would not believe.  We see this in the parable of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:19-31 NKJV).

19 “There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. 20 But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, 21 desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell[a] from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.

24 “Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented. 26 And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’

27 “Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, 28 for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ 29 Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’”

‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’  So, even if God does incredible miracles or gives undeniable signs, they will not believe.  He is not a circus performer for their entertainment.  He has already revealed Himself to us, and aside from forcing us to believe grudgingly, He wishes for us to accept Him lovingly.  We are not robots that He programs to obey, or slaves He whips into compliance.  We are His children and He loves us, and His desire is for us is to reciprocate that love.

But the `rich man’s brothers’ (from the parable) are not the type for whom I write about faith.  They are at enmity with God.  I write for the seekers and the established; for those who know God’s love, and for those who sense it and are attracted to it.  More specifically, I write for the seed scattered, and am fearful of infertile ground, miring weeds, and demonic birds (Mat 13, NKJV).

3 Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: “Behold, a sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. 5 Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. 6 But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. 7 And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. 8 But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9 He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”

You see, some believe without substance.  They have faith without understanding.  I’m not talking about the Godly faith of my mother, she understands and can move mountains.  Hebrews 11:1 says,

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

Her faith has substance.  She sees God plainly, daily, and everywhere.  Not academically, but personally.  But some lack substance.  They form a faith bubble:  a weakly veiled membrane overinflated with a faith that’s not supported by anything, which inevitably will pop, leaving them faithless.  There are many once purported believers who now adhere to atheism or agnosticism.  They litter the spiritual battle field.  Perhaps some are merely like the rich man’s brothers, who appeared more interested in the carnal than the sacred.  Others may have sought God’s presence for haughty personal gain, as did Simon Magus (Acts 8:9-24, NKJV).

9 But there was a certain man called Simon, who previously practiced sorcery in the city and astonished the people of Samaria, claiming that he was someone great, 10 to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, “This man is the great power of God.” 11 And they heeded him because he had astonished them with his sorceries for a long time. 12 But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized. 13 Then Simon himself also believed; and when he was baptized he continued with Philip, and was amazed, seeing the miracles and signs which were done.

14 Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, 15 who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. 16 For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. 

18 And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, 19 saying, “Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”  

20 But Peter said to him, “Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! 21 You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God.22 Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.”

But there are those that genuinely stumble that appeared sincere in their desire to meet their loving Creator.  They hear of a loving God, and accept it, as a child a colorful balloon.  But life’s circumstance intervenes to hinder them: or put another way, the birds sought them out and took their seed.  Whatever the reason, they seem to have believed without substance, forming a faith as hollow as a bubble;  And it popped.  Why is that?

It has to do with perspective, or a lack of it.  When the enemy coddles you into a situation where he defines reality (or some twisted aberration of it), you are forced to concede defeat.  And your faith diminishes.  Without a compass, you will find that your feet frequently lead you into these virtual spheres of death.   Do not be quick to rush into the enemies den.  For your overestimation of yourself and your intelligence, without training and maturity, will diminish the Spirit’s voice within.  The training and maturity isn’t necessarily intellectual.  It also involves a building of trust between you and your Creator.  And a building of obedience.  An individuals attraction to the Gospel does not mean they still don’t have an attraction to this world:  whether it be money, power, or physical gratification(s).  We are fallen creatures and we have vices.  And this creates a power play for which desire we will seek out primarily.  An early infatuation with the Gospel does not mean we have lost our lust for materialism.  The two, or whatever the vices maybe, can not co-exist forever.  One will emerge as the dominant player in your life.  And it will occur at the diminishment of the other.  If the seeds of the Gospel root and mature, we call this sanctification.  But if the seeds of self gratification grow, they will inevitably kill the Lord’s work in our lives.  And this process is reflected in our faith.

Let me illustrate:

Faith is like a man walking along a sunny path, with nature abloom, and life abundant.  But when the man-in-black sees the man, he tells him that life is better in a cave.  Curious, the man enters a cave and sees that it was a lie.  But the man-in-black tells him that he must go deeper within.  Curious, he goes deeper within, and sees it was a lie.  Again, the man-in black tells him that he must go deeper within.  Curious, he complies and ventures still deeper.  With each step, the man moves farther away from his source of faith and remembers it less.  This continues until the man is confused from whence he came.  With time, he forgets the sunny path, and the abundant life.  All he sees is the dark, dank cavern.  He is lost and in the dark.

The man was not prepared for the enemies lies.  And he did not know that he could become lost.

Inversely, a man is lost in a dark cave.  And a kind man finds him in the pit of black.  The kind man has a rope tied around his waist which leads to the caves exit and the sunny world outside, a place where nature is abloom, and life is abundant.  The kind man had heard a whimper and had compassion.  He told his Father who instructed him wisely.  And this council he obeyed.  The kind man tied a rope around a tree and ventured within.  A man-in-black met him within the dark cave, and told him he didn’t need the rope, and that he personally knew the cave and could guide him safely.  The kind man trusted his Father’s advice and declined the man-in-blacks proposal.  The kind man followed the whimper sounds until he found the lost man in the cave.  The kind man told him he could lead him out of the dark, dank cave.  That he had a rope that would lead to a sunny path, with nature abloom, and life abundant.

What does the lost man do?  Does he scoff at the kind man?  And tell him he doesn’t believe in his fairy tales of warm sunlight and abundant life?  Some do.  Others wish to debate the kind man, and try to convince him to stay, with them, in the dark, dank cave.  But the kind man remembers his Father’s council, and he remembers the warm light outside of the cold darkness.  If the lost do not follow, he returns to the light, and the warm path which leads to his Father’s house.

Some who are lost grudgingly follow the kind man.  But more so to break the tedious pattern of their meaningless lives.  Quickly they complain that their feet hurt, or that they are tired, and that they wish to rest.  Many of these  give up, happier to occupy themselves in the dark, than to seek out the light.  But some do venture on, and they eventually escape the cave.  With guidance and encouragement from the kind man, their faith builds, their resolve toughens, and their fortitude grows.  These follow the kind man in the dark, until they can see a dim light from the cave’s exit for themselves.  One that grows brighter and warmer as you walk towards it.

The man-in-black is never far.  He tells them not to walk to the light.  He tells them not to believe the kind man.  He tells them lies.  Some listen, and return with him into the darkness.  Others do not. And continue onward until they exit into the light.

Be prepared and tether yourself to the Lord with a cord of scripture.  Seek out a kind man to be your friend, who’s life and words will edify, convict and guide.  Learn to recognize the man-in-black, and to flee from him, for he wishes you harm.  Walk on the path abundant, to the Father’s house, and you will hear His voice and feel His warmth.  Trust Him and not yourself.  Seek His company, and He will give it to you.

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