Archive for the 'Faith and the Church' Category

Faith and the Church

Sunday, August 27th, 2006

What began as an extraordinary, shattering life-changing experience for a group of men who beheld and grew to desperately love the most remarkable man to ever walk the planet has denigrated into a belief system.

What began with a group of fishermen leaving behind their livelihoods in a sense of wonderment and urgency to follow a powerfully disturbing enigmatic stranger has become a ritualistic utterance of formulaic doctrine to gain entrance into a privileged club.

What began with the birth of a morality so pure that people feared the power emanating from the transformed first apostles has become a refuge for every scoundrel and confidence trickster who has ever mockingly held their hands together in prayer.

Who can claim that the faith revealed in the life of the early church is the same faith that is proclaimed today in what is loosely called the church?

Something has happened, something has changed, something has gone wrong. Let us take a look then at this faith. Let us examine the faith, which is the life of the church, in the hope that we might live!

When I say that faith is the life of the church I mean that the very glue that holds the church together is supposedly the love that flows as an outcome of the individual faith of its members. If the church is not bearing the fruits of Christlike love then it can only be that their faith is at fault.

Faith, as taught by the Church today, is a once and for all acceptance of Christ as Saviour. A transaction is done, you believe and He saves, and everything is done once and for all. All subsequent Christian theology is filtered through this belief, and everything contrary is considered doctrinally unsound or heresy. But the faith that Jesus taught is not of this nature.

The faith that He teaches is one of a relationship rather than a transaction. An understanding of faith then, in the theological sense, is alien to Christ. If you put your faith in Him and remain steadfast, the day will one day dawn, when you will know who He really is, the power of His love and all the wisdom and insight that resides in his breast.

Faith will have its fulfilment. No one can take this faith from you, for if you are loved and have come to know the full depth of that love and have truly put your faith in that love, then you will walk and grow and live in that love until you reach the maturity of faith which is the full witness of Christ.

When Jesus walked on earth the disciples were often challenged in their understanding by the witness of Christ, both His words and work, and their stumbling revealed that their faith, and hence their comprehension, was lacking; even as He walked among them. But once He went to the Father and sent the Holy Spirit in power their joy was made the more full and their understanding was enlightened by the fullness of His presence. That had not happened previously, not because He wasn’t available to them in fullness before then, but because the actual work of Christ’s life and death had to have its affect upon their lives to the extent that they were open to fully receive.

In other words it was not merely the atoning work of Christ in His death that was their salvation. But the act of putting their faith in Him, trusting Him, needing Him, loving Him, listening to Him, being shattered in this faith through His death until, in the agony of this brokenness, they had been emptied of all other gods (i.e. reasons for living other than love of Christ), and had their faith in Him completely rewarded through His resurrection so that they were able to receive His Spirit in all of its fullness, for they could no longer live for anything else

Unless we too go through a similar schooling, a trusting, a walking, a shattering travail, a dying to ourselves, a being brought to know our absolute dependence and need and love and thirst for Him, then our faith is counterfeit and our understanding of salvation a fallacy.

While His disciples walked with Jesus in the flesh, we must have this work done in us through the Spirit. The Lord has to do a work in us, of the same magnitude, as the one He wrought in His disciples. This is why Peter says “don’t be surprised at the fiery ordeals that come upon you for your testing as though some strange thing were happening to you, but to the degree that you share in the suffering of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation”. Later he also writes “…you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place until the day star arises in your heart”.

Now if those whom he writes to were complete in their salvation and understood what they believed there would be no need for him to write, “until the day star arises in your hearts”. For if they had heard the gospel – which they had – what need did they have for a star to arise in their hearts? Weren’t they already trusting? Didn’t they know the Lord? The answer is apparently not really, or fully, there was, according to Peter, a need for them to yet have their faith perfected into union with Christ as he, Peter, had already received.

This then is the faith that is a relationship. The faith that deepens and grows, that endures through trials and tribulations. A faith that is stretched to the point of breaking, only to be deepened and renewed until it is at last steadfast and secure and complete. The faith that David wrote of in the Psalm, “My soul is like a weaned child within me.” At last at rest upon the steadfast bosom of God, the breast of Christ, alive to the fire of His love, so deeply and completely, that the day star shines in your heart – the mirror of the fullness of His love.

If this faith were the faith that filled the life of the individual members of the church then the church would be a completely different body to the one we see today.