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Chapter 3. Nature of God- Faith
Premise: I realized that on the cross Jesus didn’t say “into My faith I commend My spirit.” He said “into Your (God’s) hands I commend My spirit.” I then realized I was looking at faith as up to me rather than up to God.
Jesus had learned to not put His trust in His faith but in God’s nature, i.e., that God can do what the Bible says He can do. This hit me like a thunderbolt.
The ramifications for faith have been far reaching:
-our faith is not dependent on our ability to have faith, but on God’s ability to be who He says He is;
-to increase your faith, increase your understanding of God’s nature;
-the goal of faith is to learn through tests and trials to lean on God’s nature instead of standing on “your” faith.
It has set me free to be able to trust God’s nature instead of my faith, which I didn’t have total faith in. I no longer doubt my salvation or fear the future. Anytime I have negative thoughts or emotions, I just focus on God’s nature instead of trying to summon up faith in my faith. I believe depression, anxiety and fears cannot exist the more we learn to lean on God’s nature. (See "A Christian Approach to Mental Health" in the Addendum section for more on mental health.)
There is an interesting analogy in Song of Solomon 8:5 of the maiden (the church) coming from the wilderness (trials and tests) leaning on her beloved (Jesus). This is the goal of our faith, to learn through trials and tests to totally lean on God and His nature. This defines how we should view life. We should be more concerned with what we are to learn about God’s nature during a trial rather than trying to use “our” faith to get through the trial. God doesn't want you to try to stand by faith when you are feeling crushed. He wants you to acknowledge that you can't do it and that you are leaning on Him and letting His strength carry the load. I need to add a caveat here. Leaning implies you must be willing to let God, not you, determine how your situation turns out. You are relinquishing your will into God's hands.
We learn God’s nature by meditating on what the Bible says about Him and by how we let Him take us through trials and tests. Also, we learn God's nature by meditating on Jesus and His actions while on earth since Jesus told His disciples that if they knew Him they would know the Father (God). The reference above to leaning can form a powerful mental picture. Whenever I feel attacked by negative thoughts or feelings, I form this mental picture of myself leaning on Jesus and God and God’s nature. This approach can be a life-changer. It will set you free in all areas of your life.
[TOOL] To those struggling with worry, depression, anxiety, or fear:
Meditate on the nature of God until the worry, depression, anxiety or fear is replaced by the certainty that you can trust God no matter what happens. (This last part is very important. You must relinquish your right to outcomes.)
[TOOL] Also practice what I call “recognize and refuse.” The devil will keep trying to present a wrong image of yourself. Until your thinking can be washed by God’s true image of you, recognize when you have the wrong image and refuse it. Do it over and over. This is stiff medicine and has to be taken every day, especially on the bad days. God knows how to deal with your situation.
To help get started with how to meditate on God's nature, I will list some names of God that are in the Old Testament. This should not replace serious Bible study, however.
-Lord God Almighty
-The Most High God
-The Lord My Banner
-The Lord My Shepherd
-The Lord That Heals
-The Lord is There
-The Lord Our Righteousness
-The Lord Who Sanctifies You
-The Everlasting God
-The Lord will Provide
-The Lord is Peace
-The Lord of Hosts
-Our Father (New Testament)
Note: Israel in the Old Testament basically did not have the concept of God as Father. Jesus changed that. Through His blood we are now children of God. That makes God our Heavenly Father. (See Note 4.)
-Psalm 23 is great for seeing God's nature in action
[TOOL] Meditate on whichever name is suitable for the type situation you may need help with.
[TOOL] Two Christian meditations I have found to be extremely effective:
1. Meditation for lonesomeness and feelings of isolation:
When you are born again, you are born into God’s kingdom. You are a child of God. You are a part of His family. He will never disown you, no matter what you do or how you feel. God loves His children and watches over them. He is always near you.
2. Meditation for negative feelings such as anger, depression, anxiety, fear, worry or suicidal thoughts:
When Adam disobeyed God, sin and death entered. Satan took control of the earth. They held you in their power. They had a legal right to own you. Jesus broke that legal hold. He paid the price to set you free. Negative feelings have no legal right or power over you if you are born again. You meditate on this until the negative feelings and emotions are gone, even if it takes hours and hours. And you do it again if they try to return. The truth will set you free but you have to keep letting it wash your mind.
[TOOL] Sometimes there is just so much oppression on you that it’s hard to deal with very much at a time. If that’s the case, just let these few truths wash through your mind until you start to believe them in your heart and not just in your mind: I will let God determine who I am. God says I am His child. God loves all His children. I will always put how God sees me over any negative thoughts or emotions.
Note 1: We first have faith IN Jesus for salvation, then we are to have the faith OF Jesus for our Christian walk after salvation. The faith OF Jesus is one based on God's nature, as the scripture quoted at the beginning of this chapter showed.
Note 2: Jesus is our example, our “template,” the firstborn from the dead, and the head of the church. We model our Christian walk after Him, i.e., die to self, guided by the Holy Spirit, and one with the Father. As Jesus did during His earthly ministry, we tell others about the Kingdom of God, which for us equates to telling others about Jesus. We witness for Jesus by what we say and how we live. He is our bridegroom, which for a man is a somewhat difficult role to imagine, but we do our best. We are to be constantly aware that it is because of Jesus and the power of His name that we walk in the presence and fullness of God. It has nothing to do with us. So when we use the name of Jesus, it is not as a sword but as a covering of our frail human nature. And all this is why we love Him so.
Note 3: Unfortunately, our thoughts often dwell on worst-case scenarios when we are in the midst of a situation. And while I don’t think it’s healthy to dwell on them, we need to address how to approach them because: 1) the devil uses them to attack us, and 2) they can happen even though they usually don’t. Worst-case scenario thinking needs to be countered with worst-case scenario faith. We need to get to the point where we can trust God and His nature even if the worst case happens. This is the kind of faith that allowed Jesus to face the Cross, the three Israelites to face Nebuchadnezzar’s furnace, and Paul to face all the dangers he had to endure. I can’t guarantee that you will never have to face a worst-case scenario, but I can guarantee that it is possible to have worst-case scenario faith, as the examples above show. I encourage you to face your worst-case scenario demons and come to a place where you know you could endure them with faith, faith in God’s nature to handle even these. God doesn’t cause worst-case scenarios to happen. Sin does.
Note 4: Before Jesus, the Israelites did not have a concept of God as father. This may explain something that has puzzled me for a long time. What did the disciples see in Jesus that made them ask Jesus to teach them how to pray? Perhaps it was seeing Jesus praying to God as if God were His father, which in fact He was. This was totally unknown before Jesus. Interesting to note that Jesus' response to the disciples was the prayer that starts: "Our Father, which art in Heaven..."
[TOOL] I have found that meditating on the fact that you are God's child and a member of His "family" is very powerful, because we know what it means to be a part of an earthly family and the security of knowing regardless of circumstances that we will always be a part of that family. God feels that way about you as a member of His family, only more so.
When I wrote Part I above I didn’t realize that when I said we are to first have faith IN Jesus for salvation but then have the faith OF Jesus for our Christian walk that that was touching on a centuries-old debate. Many scholars say there is no difference between faith IN Jesus and faith OF Jesus. At this point in my understanding, I believe they are different, but I think God can minister to you whichever you believe. Paul uses “faith OF Christ” as much or more than “faith IN Christ” in his epistles. In the chapter on mercy and grace (Chapter 6), I said I believe it helps us know God’s nature better if there really is a difference between mercy and grace. I feel the same about faith IN Jesus and faith OF Jesus. (I will no longer capitalize “in” or “of”.)
My premise is that faith must have a focal point, a basis, a foundation that we can pin our hope upon. “Faith is the substance of things hoped for… .” So the clearer we can see the basis, the greater our hope and faith. Obviously the basis for “faith in Christ” is Jesus and His death and resurrection. We see that clearly. But I propose that the basis for “faith of Christ” is God and His nature, as I explained in Part I. In addition to my reasoning in Part I, the following is also why I believe as I do:
1. Hebrews 11 lists many Old Testament figures of faith. The basis of their faith couldn’t have been Jesus since they were before Jesus’ death and resurrection. I believe the basis of their faith had to be God and His nature.
2. Hebrews 6:1 has long puzzled me: “Therefore, leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity…”. This verse makes sense if it means we should not stop at the point of our salvation which required faith in Christ, but rather go on to the things that require the faith of Christ, which are the things that mature us.
3. When Jesus came to Earth, He emptied Himself of His divinity. Thus He couldn’t have faith in Himself so it had to be in God that allowed Him to perform His father's will.
4. I end with Galatians 2:20: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (This is the original King James version. Many other versions say “…faith in the Son of God…”, but after looking at it in the Greek, I feel the King James version is the more accurate translation.) To me this verse is saying that through faith in Jesus we can now live the way Jesus did: by the faith of the Son of God. And what faith was that? Faith in God and His nature. Faith in Jesus is the door into the faith of Jesus.
So take this to God and let Him speak to you. It has really helped my faith to believe that the faith of Jesus rested on God and His nature, and that once we are saved, so, too, should ours.
Addendum: Upon reflection, I think the best way to approach faith in Jesus vs. faith of Jesus is to picture them as working in tandem. When we are standing on the faith of Jesus which is based on God and His nature, we always should realize that we are also standing on our faith in Jesus, which is based on Jesus as the cornerstone and foundation of our faith. I want to emphasize that when I theorize about faith in Christ vs. faith of Christ, in no way am I implying that Jesus is less than God. While hard to understand, the Trinity to me means God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are all fully God.
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