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by Jacob Ninan
God is a Person to whom we can relate because He has made us in His image (Gen.1:27). In other words, His personality and ours have functional similarities, even though the scales are infinitely different. God is Spirit, and we function in ways that are similar to His in our thinking, feeling and choosing even though we function through our body, soul and spirit. We are different from animals in that God breathed into Adam as a special act of creation (2:7), creating in him a spirit that animals do not have. At the same time, we are not God, but only creatures with very limited abilities, and we do not ‘become’ God even after God adopts us as His children (Gal.4:5). Even when we exercise supernatural power in Jesus’ name, it is good to remember that it is His power and not ours to use as we like (Psa.62:11).
Unlike the concepts that come from some other religions, God is not some impersonal energy or force that can be manipulated by us to get the results we want. We cannot get God to a position where He has to do things for us, by following certain practices, methods or forms. Apparently due to strong influences on Christianity from some of the eastern mystical religions that teach indivisibility between God and His creation, some Christians seem to behave as if they are gods, seeking to exercise power through their words, declarations, etc. But a true relationship between God and man is one where man recognises God as God and submits to His power and wisdom.
Jesus tells us not to be troubled in our heart, but to trust in the Father and in Him (Jn.14:1). It is this faith in Him that gives us boldness in our relationship with Him and also in our day-to-day life here on earth. Our faith in God is our trust and confidence in Him as a Person. That comes from our knowledge of His nature and character, relating to Him personally, and then it grows as we have a closer relationship with Him. When we know God, we trust Him, His words, His descriptions about history and the future, His promises, His directions for our lives, etc. That is our faith in God.
It is through this faith that we relate to God and we receive our salvation which God offers to us by grace (Eph.2:8,9). It is impossible to relate to God or be pleasing to Him without this faith (Heb.11:6). One mark of knowing God is that we recognise we are sinners in His sight, repent, and rely entirely on His grace which He has demonstrated through His Son’s death in our place. Many people who merely know about God in their head, and imagine that they believe in Him because of that, have not come to know Him personally and practically in their lives.
A true faith in God is so precious to us people that the Devil has produced many types of counterfeits. We must not fall for those counterfeits, and so we must be able to identify them as soon as we encounter them. When police and bank personnel are taught to identify counterfeit currency notes, they do not do it by spending a lot of time looking at the counterfeits but looking at the original notes till they learn to recognise all its features. In a similar way, let us learn to have the true faith by looking more deeply at what it is.
It is when we get to know someone personally that we begin to believe in him. Then we trust that person. We realise that he is trustworthy and reliable and know that he will not fail us. We can also trust his words. That is the kind of faith that we should have in God. It is by getting to know God that we begin to trust in Him.
We get to know God first by hearing about Him from the Bible. Usually we hear about Him from others, and then as we read about Him ourselves we begin to know more and more about Him. If we believe in what we have heard about God, we put our trust in Him and choose to submit ourselves to Him. Then we begin a new life of walking with God daily, and getting to know Him more and more in experience also. In Romans chapter 10 verses 13 to 17, we notice a certain sequence. When someone preaches the word of God or we read it, that is when we ‘hear’ about God. When we hear it, if we ‘believe’ it we will get faith in God. We can know that we indeed believe it when we ‘take heed’ to it, or in other words, we take action based on what we have believed. This is sometimes referred to as saving faith or living faith.
What we hear about God from the Bible is what can inspire faith in our hearts. We know we can trust the One who created everything that exists (including us) in His infinite power and wisdom because He is still the same Person who can exercise that power and wisdom on our behalf. We can trust Him when we know how much He loves and cares for us because He let His Son suffer and die on the cross in order to save us from sin and its consequences. We know we have Someone who understands our situations, our weaknesses and our feelings and who is willing to help us in our times of need because He became a Man and lived among us. The more we get to know about God, and then experience Him in our personal lives, we become more and more willing to commit our lives into His hands and obey Him in everything.
The most common counterfeit is the ‘faith’ that remains merely at the intellectual level. This is very common among people who have been born in ‘Christian’ families. The advantage of such a birth is that they may get an opportunity to hear about God from their childhood. But it happens that many times this knowledge does not actually touch the hearts and lives of the people. One clear proof is that they do not see themselves as sinners who deserve punishment in hell just like everyone else. They assume they are already children of God because they accept God as true and Jesus as His Son who died on the cross. They participate in Christian activities such as reading the Bible and going to church to lesser or greater extent. But this ‘faith’ has not led them to repentance, and they have not been born again.
Sad to say, even many Bible scholars and graduates of Bible colleges are in this category, and when such people take on spiritual responsibilities in the church, the church itself suffers without a true relationship with God!
The Bible warns us that any ‘faith’ that does not produce works (action) as its result is only a ‘dead faith’ (Jas.2:14-26). This counterfeit faith that rests merely on knowledge of facts is something even the demons have! Since this knowledge of God has not even caused them to tremble thinking about their condition in God’s sight, it is just a dead faith.
Another major form of counterfeit faith is faith as a substance that we can accumulate and exchange with God to claim answers from God. Different people try to work up ‘faith’ in their minds by repeating certain verses from the Bible and rejecting thoughts of doubts from their mind and other people. At some point they assume that now they have enough faith to claim something from God. This kind of ‘faith’ becomes a matter of human effort and accomplishment, and something that people try to use to claim things from God, rather than faith in God.
It is unfortunate that many do not understand that when the King James Version of the Bible used the word ‘substance’ in Hebrews chapter 11 verse 1 it did not mean what we understand today. A modern translation from the original Greek would say, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” But many Christians seem to get the impression from the word ‘substance’ that faith is something that can be accumulated by our effort.
A counterfeit faith that has become very popular in recent times is called the ‘word of faith’. It originated from an improper interpretation of certain verses. This teaching implies that we can cause things to happen by declaring them with our lips. This seems to forget the exalted position that God has in relation to us and assume that we have become just like Him.
How good it is for us to maintain a childlike relationship with our Heavenly Father and trust Him! Such a simple faith will remain true to reality and exalt Him.
-- Editorial in the Light of Life magazine, December 2016
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