And we read Paul’s words in I Thessalonians 1:9,
“and how you turned from idols to serve a
LIVING and true God.”
But really now, that almost sounds redundant doesn’t it? Surely He would not be God if He was dead or subject to death. That would make Him mortal, and God must be immortal. Thus Paul writes to Timothy in I Timothy 1:17,
“Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise
God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen”
And again in I Timothy 6:16,
“Who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable
light; which no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor
and eternal dominion! Amen“
Shouldn’t we simply be able to assume that because He is God, surely He is living! The LIVING GOD! THE INCAPABLE OF DEATH GOD! It is only because of that fact that we believe Matthew and not Marx! It is only because of that fact that Christianity is a daily headline and not an obituary.
In a way, the Bible writers almost sound childish here in stating that He is the LIVING GOD, for children do have the unique ability to state the obvious. It would be something that Peter would say, but not Paul. Wrong, Paul excitedly affirms again and again the same confession. In fact, that truth is repeated over and over by the apostles and the prophets. We must be on to something here!
We must not be too hasty or snide in our comments. First of all, THE LIVING GOD is making sure that He is never placed as an entry in the dead religions and mythical gods of the ancient Greeks and Romans. He is the EVER LIVING GOD. If there is anything that must infuriate God, it is to be included as but one in the pantheon of mythical gods in a course on COMPARATIVE RELIGION in a liberal arts college. THE LIVING GOD cuts the bottom out of history bag of dead god as THE LIVING GOD to end all gods.
Secondly, because of the practice of idol worship which constantly raised its wooden head in Israel, and has been and continues to be rampant throughout history, He is also demanding that we never picture Him in our minds or sculpture Him in our churches or in our heads as a god of wood or stone or stained glass. He must never become a painting or a crucifix around our necks. He is THE LIVING GOD.
Third, and most important of all, Christians BELIEVE IN THE LIVING GOD. And because we believe in THE LIVING GOD:
BUT VERY LIVELY AS WELL.”
LIVES, LIFELESS PRAYERS, AND DEAD WORSHIP SERVICES.”
“A DEAD TREE BRANCH WILL NOT SUPPORT THE WEIGHT
THAT A LIVING AND LIVELY BRANCH CAN.”
“FAITH IS THE SPIRITUAL NERVE FASTENING US TO OUR
SPIRITUAL HEAD, AND MAKES US PARTAKERS OF ALL
OF CHRIST’S ENLIVENING, EMPOWERING AND
We read the well known “Evangel” of Jesus Christ in John 3:16,
that whosoever BELIEVES IN HIM should not perish but
have everlasting life.”
Summarizing this introduction:
GOD WHO ENERGIZES OUR FAITH.”
Oh how cars can accumulate rust over time like whales can accumulate barnacles. So too with the great spiritual truths of Christianity, how they can be defaced, distorted and deformed over the years by picking up all sorts of flopsam and jepsam. That too is the history of the church.
And why not? Since man is so easily deceived, as was obvious from the beginning in the Garden of Eden, nothing is so consistent and reoccuring to humanity as mistakes and misconceptions. But that is tricky part of truth and falsehood:
“WHILE TRUTH WILL NEVER SHOW ITSELF AS FALSEHOOD,
FALSEHOOD WILL ALWAYS SHOW ITSELF AS TRUTH.”
“DISTORTED FAITH PRODUCES DISILLUSIONED PEOPLE.”
If you will:
HAVE A COMPLETE MISUNDERSTANDING OF FAITH.”
“THEY HAVE BEEN SET UP FOR DISILLUSIONMENT BY
AN ILLUSIONARY FAITH.”
SOMETHING FROM GOD .”
GET ANYTHING THEY WANT FROM GOD.”
OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD.”
Then of course, when faith fails to be the big producer or purchaser as it was hyped up to be, people become disillusioned with God, the church, and the whole faith/religious scene!I have seen entire churches, families and individuals thrown into chaos and on life-support because of this distorted concept of faith.
A college student who was home from school came to his pastor for counseling. As he sat down in the minister’s office, he said, “I have lost my faith.” The pastor asked him why he thought this happened. The student told him that he was being taught things in the university that had destroyed his faith. The pastor asked, “Things like what?” “Well” he said, “you know, like how can there be a loving God when there is so much suffering in the world? And, how can there be a God who most times is totally deaf to our prayers?” The pastor said, “Son, it is a good thing that your faith failed. You have the wrong kind of faith. You have a FAITH FOR and not the FAITH IN. Your faith was rooted in results, while true faith is rooted IN GOD ALONE.”
This is why the disillusioned often end up concluding that they have been royally ripped off by God when He doesn’t come through FOR THEM, rather than having faith IN HIM no matter what. Then whenever they get into trouble or they are having a tough time, they send up their faith signal to God, and if the FAITH-FOR SIGNAL is strong enough, like Superman, if God is anywhere in the area within earth’s atmosphere, He will come to their rescue. But what if SUPERGOD does not show up in time? Then what? There is the rub.
When all the while, faith-books should be found in the,
section of the bookstores as in Mark 11:22,
“AS LONG AS WE BELIEVE HARD ENOUGH AND STRONG ENOUGH,
THEN WE CAN BELIEVE FOR AND GET FROM GOD WHATEVER
WE WANT, i.e. RICHES, POSSESSIONS, POWER.
YOU JSUT NAME IT AND CLAIM IT BY FAITH.”
The power of FAITH FOR then becomes the focus and not FAITH IN the all-powerful God. Right here is where faith has become totally distorted in the religious world. The results of this distortion are many, far reaching and disastrous.
Rather, it is:
As we shall see in a moment or two:
IN A BIG GOD.”
If you will:
ARM RATHER THAN TRUST TO TAKE HIS HAND.”
So we must repeat, faith must not be essentially or foundationally understood as the ability to get something from God. Nor, as the Kingdom currency with which to purchase His blessings as is so pandemic today! God forgive us for such gross distortions of Biblical faith and for the defacing pseudo-faith barnacles that we have allowed to grow on the Body of Christ.
It is so hard for young and old alike to have that true faith which wraps them up in God and God alone. I mean, who wants to get stuck with only God. A young boy grew up in a military family. His father would often regale him with tales of military triumphs. One day in Sunday school, the boy’s teacher gave a graphic account of Christ’s death on the cross. The boy listened in astonishment. During a pause, the lad shouted, “Well, what I want to know is, where were the Marines?” Do we realize any more than he did that IN GOD is all we need?
THE RESPONSE OF FAITH
The question then is:
Again He says in John 14:1-2,
Now then, take another look at the overly familiar John 3:16,
Son, that whoever BELIEVES IN HIM should not perish,
but have eternal life.”
Then this in turn leads to aother all-important principle, and that is:
UNFAITH IS OUR NEGATIVE RESPONSE TO GOD.”
Faith is response to God! Now then, read carefully:
-Faith does not ‘initiate’ something!
-Faith does not ‘acquire’ something!
-Faith does not ‘merit’ something!
-Faith does not ‘cause’ something!
-Faith does not ‘create’ something!
Faith For strongly conveys the erroneous thought that faith is the initiating source in the Christian life for all of God’s blessings. Nothing, and I say nothing could be further from the truth of God’s Word. Faith For is not a Biblical phrase or concept. Rather, it is just another verbal-hype-phrase, of which modern religion is full today, which psyches people into thinking that there faith makes them loaded-for-bear in any and every situation. It takes their spiritual eyes off from God, and on to their faith. If you will:
“THEY END UP WITH A FAITH-CONSCIOUSNESS
RATHER THAN A GOD-CONSCIOUSNESS.”
Be warned about something else here:
“FAITH FOR CONFESSES THAT FAITH IS SOVEREIGN, BUT
More than this:
“FAITH FOR IS RELIGIOUS HUMANISIM WHILE FAITH IN
GOD IS BIBLICAL CHRISTIANITY.”
“NEVER INVITE PEOPLE TO A SPIRITUAL CONFERENCE URGING
THEM TO COME WITH FAITH FOR INSTEAD OF URGING
THEM TO COME WITH FAITH IN GOD.”
Why? First of all because it is a bogus invitation. Secondly, it puts faith in a dangerous and unsustainable position. Thirdly, it is an offense to God.
-Faith believes in the God Who loves us!
-Faith believes in the God Who gave us His Son!
-Faith believes in the Jesus Who accomplished our salvation!
-Faith believes in the Christ and His work on the cross
GIVEN TO MANKIND. SALVATION WAS NOT A REWARD
GIVEN TO FAITH, BUT A GIFT ACCEPTED BY FAITH
AS ARE ALL OF GOD’S GRACE GIFTS.”
If you will:
SINNER JUMPING INTO THE ALREADY EXTENDED
ARMS OF HIS LOVING LORD AND SAVIOR
“You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons
also believe and shudder.”
Demons shudder in their knowledge of God! Of course they do! Don’t ever let yourself get the idea that Satan and his demons are so huge and powerful that they even impress God. No, not even a little bit! How does little ole’ me feel when I stand on the brink of Grand Canyon or at the foot of Mt. Rushmore? Very tiny and insignificant I tell you! Multiply that by zillions when Satan and his cronies stand before the “Almighty, Holy, Holy, Holy God.” That is why their belief makes them shudder in their demon boots and wet their demon pants.
“What have we to do with You, Son of God?”
“THEY CANNOT AND DO NOT POSTIVELY RESPOND AND THEREFORE
THEIR BELIEF IN THE FINAL ANALYSIS IS UNBELIEF.”
“DEMONS BELIEVE THAT BUT DO NOT BELIEVE IN!”
If you will:
“DEMONS BELIEVE THAT GOD EXISTS BUT THEY DO
BELIEVE IN GOD.”
Furthermore, think about it, when the true believer positively responds and receives the gift of salvation in Jesus Christ, He is delivered from both the guilt and the power of sin. Now he lives a free and righteous life. We therefore know that the demon’s faith is not true faith, because:
NO LONGER LIVES LIKE AND FOR HELL.”
If you will:
BAD LIFE CONTINUES.”
Therefore we know that the demon’s faith is not true saving faith, because even though they believe they continue to live like the devil and raise hell on earth!
Well then, whether it is BELIEVE FOR or BELIEVE THAT, each of them falls far short of the true faith that BELIEVES IN GOD AND IN HIS SON JESUS CHRIST. But when you BELIEVE IN GOD and BELIEVE IN HIS SON JESUS CHRIST, now you are really in God, in Christ and in the Christian life where for and that will never bring you. You can believe for and believe that, and yet never believe in!
When you really come to think about it, as children we have faith that dad is our dad, a lot of faith for things that dad can and should give us, but very little faith in dad as truly our father who knows best in every situation. You see, dad has all of that money and power to be able to make every day an orgy of delight. It saddens and makes us angry as children to think of all the toys he could buy for us but doesn’t. How tragic that our millionaire dads make us dress in last years rags and moms make us die of starvation by forcing us to eat last night’s leftovers. Hear me:
“FAITH THAT AND FAITH FOR ARE THE TYPICAL CHARACTERISTICS
OF IMMATURITY, BUT FAITH IN IS THE BEGINNING OF OUR
GROWING UP IN GOD.”
THE FAILING OF FAITH
The prophet Habakkuk’s world was falling apart around him. It was a world much like today, a world of violence, lawlessness and corruption. As our world today is bleeding and dying under the devilish siege of Moslem terrorists, the terrorists of Habakkuk’s day were the bloodthirsty, power-hungry Chaldeans/Assyrians. Their huge, bestial armies were advancing across and devouring the earth. And next in line was Habakkuk’s beloved Israel.
Habakkuk was going through a time in which not only was the world around him in free fall, but his faith seemed to be falling and failing too. We all have had times like this, in fact perhaps very recently. The world’s condition is failing around us spiritually, morally, politically, judicially, economically and in every way. The chilling winds of decline and uncertainty blow over us as we lay in bed at night with the evening news replaying itself in our heads. A number of scenarios unfold before us, all as uninvited as was 9/11.
We don’t want to transmit our anxiety to others, for we are Christians after all. But even then, we try to avoid eye contact with a bleak appearing future. As the enemies of the free world intensify and increase, the entire earth now strangely and in an unprecedented way somehow resembles a battlefield. From horizon to horizon there is no hiding place. We catch ourselves even having second thoughts about God, thereby heaping guilt upon our angst.
-“How long, O Lord, will I cry for help?”
-“I cry to thee, ‘Violence.’”
-“Yet Thou dost not save.”
-“Why dost Thou make me see iniquity?”
-“And cause me to look on wickedness?”
-“Yes, destruction and violence are before me;”
-“Strife exists and contention arises.”
-“Therefore the law is ignored.”
-“And justice is never upheld.”
-“For the wicked surround the righteous.”
-“Therefore, justice comes out perverted.”
Dear Lord, is the prophet Habakkuk writing about his times, or prophetically about ours? I am convinced that it is both. Habbakuk’s world seemed to be spinning out of control, much like our world today! He no doubt felt at the time that the half had not been told to him, and that the untold half no doubt would be the worst half.
“for we walk by faith and not by sight.”
What assaults our senses these days through the graphic media has the power to cause FAITH FAILURE.
Follow me now. When we live by sight:
“WE WILL HOPE AND FEAR ONLY AS FAR AS WE CAN SEE.”
And in the life of trying to live by faith and by sight, let me tell you that sight will trump faith every time. So what we end up with is this:
AND NO FURTHER.”
And be sure of this:
BRIEF, LIMITED AND FAILING FAITH.”
“TRUE LOVE IS BLIND.”
It is as true if not truer to say:
We cannot simply take the Lord’s words about BLIND FAITH with a grain of salt. Or again the definition of faith found in Hebrews 11:1,
The words of II Corinthians 5:7 and Hebrews 11:1, like so many well known phrases, have become trite clichés when they are in fact the essence of faith and the key to living the victorious life. We read in I John 5:4,
world – our faith.”
However to live by sight results in this equally powerful fact:
“And this is the victory that overcometh the
faith – our world.”
“…The Lord is the defense of my life; whom shall I dread?”
“When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh, my
adversaries and my enemies, they stumbled and fell.”
“Though a host encamp against me, my heart will not
fear; though war arise against me, in spite of this
I shall be confident.”
“GOD HAS MORE POWER AND MORE WAYS TO DELIVER US
THAN THERE ARE POWERFUL ENEMIES TO
BE DELIVERED FROM.”
THE CONFIDENCE OF FAITH
If you will:
In others words:
Faith is not only our response to God’s accomplishment and gift, but:
IN THE CHARACTER OF GOD.”
We must get a hold of this and it must get a hold of us, and then realize:
IN THE MIDST OF WHAT APPEARED TO BE A
TOTALLY FAILING WORLD.”
It wasn’t easy. It never is for creatures of five senses and limited brains. It is really something how God began to deal with Habakkuk and bring him to an unfailing faith in the midst of his failing world.
Habakkuk was shaking in his prophetic robe and sandals concerning the bloodthirsty and power-mad Assyrians. Then on top of it all, God whips out His “Divine Tazer Gun” and stuns him into shocked and painful paralysis. God said to Habakkuk in Habakkuk 1:5,6,9-11,
-“Look among the nations! Observe!”
-“Be astonished! Wonder!”
-“Because I am doing something in your days,”
-“You would not believe it if you were told.”
-“FOR BEHOLD I AM RAISING UP THE CHALDEANS,
-“that fierce and impetuous people”
-“who march throughout the earth”
-“to seize dwelling places which are not theirs.”
I am sure that this did not make any good sense to Habakkuk, just bad nonsense, as God tells him that the WICKED Chaldeans are in His employ and service, and in this case to punish the sinful and idolatrous Israelites. I think that Habakkuk may even have scratched his head real hard a time or two, even to the point of drawing blood, when God told him that He was using the Assyrians for His holy purposes.
That is all he needed when already he had not experienced an undisturbed night of sleep in months. Already bleary-eyed and now this! I mean, the true prophets of God must have mental toughness, but this is pushing the envelope too far. This for Habakkuk was like receiving a head wound at Pearl Harbor. It was like a bomb being dropped on him without warning.
“GOD MAY AND DOES ORDER AND EMPLOY WHAT AND WHO
HE DOES NOT IN THE LEAST BIT APPROVE, AND USE
THE WICKEDNESS OF MEN WHICH HE ABHORS.”
OF MEN, WHETHER HITLER OR MOTHER TERESA, TO FULFILL
HIS RIGHTEOUS ENDS.”
How does all of that grab you? That my friend is walking by faith. If we don’t believe that, then all of the faith talk that goes around these days is only blowing smoke. That is because we are failing to recognize a third faith principle which states:
TO GUIDE AND INFORM OUR FAITH, AND HE HAS LEFT
US IN JUST ENOUGH DARKNESS SO THAT WE MUST
INDEED EXERCISE OUR FAITH.”
Habakkuk rebuked God for this. He was angry at God for these very principles and for God acting this way. So if this ticks you off too, don’t get angry at me, as least have the honesty to get ticked off at God. And when you do, remember that you are not all that original and creative when you cry out with him in Habakkuk 1:13,
“Why does Thou look with favor on those who
“Why art Thou silent when the wicked swallow up those
more righteous than they?”
IS UNDER THE CONTROLLING HAND OF GOD.”
There is no power in the world that is not ultimately controlled by the Living God. Things are not what they appear! That is the world of faith! It seemed to be the astute and fierce military prowess of the Assyrians that had brought them to ascendancy. But it was not so at all. For God has raised them up.
GOD IS THE LORD OF HISTORY. He is seated in the Heavens, and the nations to Him are as grasshoppers. (Isaiah 40:22) They are as drops in a bucket. (Isaiah 40:15) They are as the small dust in the balance. (Isaiah 40:15) Remember all of that when like a fearful flier you look around for bombers and highjackers on the airplane, and you take out the pictures of your spouse and children just to see them one last time just in case.
The Bible asserts again and again:
ALL OF IT, AND HE IS GOING TO END IT.”
That too is our faith-confidence – Hebrews 11:1,
THE KNOWLEDGE OF FAITH
The Apostle Paul cried out in Philippians 3:10,
“THAT I MIGHT KNOW HIM….”
The Apostle Peter greets the Christians of the dispersion in II Peter 1:1-2,
“Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,
to those who have received a faith the same as ours…”
“Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge
GOD WITH A SELF-IMPOSED IGNORANCE OF GOD.”
BE ABLE TO TRUST GOD.”
WILL BE ABLE TO HAVE AND IMPART AN UNFAILING
FAITH IN THE GOD OF THE WORD.”
Then came the moment for Habakkuk when his doubts, arguments, and anger were replaced by faith’s sure confidence in THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD’S CHARACTER. Habakkuk says to God in Habakkuk 3:1-2,
“Lord, I have heard the report about Thee and I fear….”
Habakkuk recalls what he had heard from his parents, and what he had been taught about how GOD THE HOLY ONE had dealt fearfully and miraculously with His people in the wilderness all the way from Sinai to Canaan (Teman to Paran)! His faith is revived by recalling what He had learned, namely that God is THE HOLY ONE. Which meant for Habakkuk that there is only ONE HOLY ONE. When it comes to gods, the Holy One is not multiple choice. He is the Holy God to end all unholy gods. All wonderings, doubts and grumblings meet there match right here. They all must stop here! Listen:
“THE HOLY ONE IS INCAPABLE OF UNHOLY ACTIONS, EVEN
IF HE IS USING UNHOLY PEOPLE TO FULFULL HIS
“GOD IS IN ANOTHER WORLD ALL BY HIMSELF, TOO HIGH FOR
HUMAN SPECULATION, TOO WISE FOR HUMAN UNDER-
STANDING, TOO RIGHTEOUS FOR HUMAN
JUDGMENT, AND TOO POWERFUL
Habakkuk who before was seeing only a blood stained and violent earth, now hears that same earth praising THE HOLY ONE. We go on to read in Habakkuk 3:3,
“His splendor covers the heavens, and the earth is
full of His praise.”
“THE MORE WE COME TO KNOW GOD, THE MORE
YOU ARE NO LONGER INTIMIDATED BY THE
UNHOLY TEMPORAL ONES.”
So Habakkuk expresses so beautifully his UNFAILING FAITH IN GOD in the midst of a FAILING WORLD. He says in Habakkuk 3:17-18,
-“Though the fig tree should not blossom,”
-“And there be no fruit on the vines,”
-“Though the yield of the olive should fail,”
-“And the fields produce no food,”
-“Though the flock should be cut off from the fold,
-“And there be no cattle in the stalls,”
-“Yet I will exult in the Lord,”
-“I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.”
That is Biblical Faith:
“TRUSTING IN GOD’S CHARACTER EVEN WHEN WHAT IS
HAPPENING AND WHAT GOD IS DOING IN IT
CANNOT BE UNDERSTOOD.”
We know that the Bible tells us that God is love. (I John 4:8 and 16) We know that God works all things together for good to those who love Him. (Romans 8:28) However, remember this:
“WHEN A MAN BELIEVES FOR AND NOT IN THE GOD OF
LOVE, MORE OFTEN THAN NOT HE WILL END UP
NOT LOVING OR EVEN LIKING THE GOD
THAT HE BELIEVES IN.”
BY AN ANGEL?”
SLEEPING GUARDS, OR TO FACE EXECUTION
FOR CHRIST’S SAKE?”
Have faith in God means that:
INFINITE WISDOM, AND INFINITE GOODNESS, AND
ALL OF THAT AGAINST THE EVIDENCE OF OUR
SENSES, AND THE UNANSWERED QUERIES
OF OUR MINDS.”
Then and then alone can we find: