Pastor's Heart

A blog of Lone Hill Church and Dr. Ray Stamps.

The Enemy of Faith (Part 3)

The Advantages of Doubt
     Scripture promises that for those who love God all things work together for good (Rom. 8:28), and we are to give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thess. 5:18). We must include even our doubts within these boundaries.

     Doubts serve a purpose in strengthening our faith, if they are used as a springboard for seeking out answers. As mentioned above we cannot always answer all the questions the skeptical mind may conjure, consequently, we must say from the outset that to the mind of faith doubts are never an end but only an impetus to search. Some doubts we will find through our searching are quite hollow, dismissed by solid answers of a broader knowledge and deeper understanding. They are like pebbles in our shoes which can be easily removed and should be removed making our way much easier and healthier.

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The Enemy of Faith (Part 2)

Doubt and its Accomplices: The Enemies of Jesus-like Faith
     Jesus defines in these verses the great enemy of faith as doubt. Such is self-evident when we define faith as an unquestioning, personal certitude or confidence. Obviously, any doubt of any kind weakens faith shredding its very core, certitude. Doubt causes faith to question, and in doing so robs it of its essential nature, confidence. How is faith fortified against the intrusion of any kind of doubt? How does faith seal itself off from the infiltration of doubt? One realization in attempting to answer this question is that doubt has many helpers. Fear is a repetitive assaulter of faith as is anxiety which is just another form of fear. Apathy, indolence, weariness and discouragements, and distraction come to the aid of doubt and tend to undo or at least weaken faith. Ignorance and nagging questions are kindling and fuel for the fires of doubt. All of these amass to attack faith and to aid and feed doubt.

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The Enemy of Faith (Part 1)

Our next lesson of faith addresses the great enemy of faith ─ doubt. Matthew compressed Mark’s Have faith in God to simply if you have faith, and he immediately added and do not doubt. Mark does not introduce the issue of doubt until the end of Jesus’ faith saying, does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass. Mark hears Jesus’ insight that doubt is an internal, spiritual, heart issue, and he hears that faith is declarative; it must confess what it believes, what he says will come to pass. Faith overcomes internal doubt by taking the external action of declaring and confessing itself. Faith refuses to be controlled by doubt. Matthew in a similar vain hears Jesus say that faith is disqualified as a Jesus-like faith by doubt, thus Matthew hears Jesus warn that doubt is the great enemy of faith. Matthew by setting doubt over against faith defines faith as an unassailable confidence which must be fortified against doubt, and Mark agrees but also emphasizes that faith conquers doubt by its action and behavior.

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Faith in the Gospels (Part 3)

Ultimate Reason for Miracles
     Lastly, we want to address two important features which are closely related and which must have reference for our understanding of Jesus’ words in Matthew 21:18-22 and Mark 11:12-14, 20-25. First, we must realize that the ultimate reason for miracles is the witness of God to the veracity of the Gospel of Jesus. We find this clearly stated in Hebrews 2, …how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will (vv.3-4). This is the ultimate reason for miracles, and we realize that there are secondary reasons as well; but this is the primary reason.

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Faith in the Gospels (Part 2)

    Responses to Miracle-Working Faith
But there is more to be said about faith than just this emphasis. In response to this miraculous faith, there have been several positions developed through the years. The first response is represented from the second century Montanists to the present-day Word of Faith movement. They find in these texts that a doubtless faith provides a warrant to work miracles and to receive any request prayed for with this kind of faith. They explain any failure to receive your request or failure to work such miracles as simply a lack of faith, doubting. The Word of Faith movement goes so far as to say that faith is an independent power which God uses, and we can use it if we simply will not doubt.

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Faith in the Gospels (Part 1)

Language of Faith
     The language and original words used for faith in Scripture have their background in human relationships. “They denoted originally the faithful relationship of partners in an agreement and the trustworthiness of their promises. In a broader sense, they came to denote the credibility of statements, reports and accounts in general, both sacred and secular.”  This teaches us a fundamental lesson about faith. It is not a unique experience, but an experience common to all of us. We express faith in our daily relationships. We trust, and we distrust. We trust those who have shown themselves faithful and trustworthy, or they present a believable credibility by their persuasion, knowledge, or credentials. From these relationships, we also learn that there is a risk in believing. Some are unscrupulous and untrustworthy; they are persuasive but do not deliver; so, we must be cautious in whom we trust by being judicious and discerning. When Scripture picks up the language of faith it is not something foreign to our minds and experiences but something very familiar.

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Growing in Faith (Part II)

Two Applications
    
D. E. Nineham points out an important insight to both Matthew and Mark account commenting on Mark’s account of the cursing of the fig tree. “St. Mark appears to have seen two meanings in it....the fate of the fig tree symbolizing the fate that awaited Jerusalem and the Jewish people and religion. Like the fig tree with its leaves, the Jewish people made a fine show with their numerous ceremonies and outward observances, but when the Messiah came looking for the fruit of righteousness he found none, and the result was condemnation and destruction for Judaism, as it was for the tree.” Secondly, Mark “apparently understood it as an example of faith and prayer.” We need to take a closer look at these.

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Growing in Faith (Part I)

The Unique Emphasis of the Synoptic Gospels on Faith
    
One of the pronounced uses of faith in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) is its association with and working of healings, exorcisms, and miracles. In the rest of the New Testament these extraordinary works of God are associated with spiritual gifts given by the Holy Spirit, rather than associated directly with the working of faith. Apart from the Synoptics faith is much more related to how one enters into salvation and how one lives as a follower of Jesus Christ. When we come to verses such as Matthew 21:20-22 and Mark 11:20-24 which suggest a sweeping promise that God will deliver anything we ask, if we ask with a doubtless faith, we have to ask, what exactly is this teaching us? The Synoptics make a specific emphasis about faith, and how it is essential for our interaction with God and He with us. What is Jesus teaching us in the Synoptics?

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The Gift of Faith

Two Sides of Faith: Subjective and Objective

There are two sides to faith. There is the side which we experience, and if we had only that experience to go by, then we would be forced to conclude that faith was all from us. Subjectively, we say, "I …believe." It is my decision, my assessment, my acknowledgement. Yes, if we were left to only our own experience of faith we would have to say it is all from us. But…we are not to be taught only by our own experience. In fact, we are instructed not to lean on our own understanding (Prov. 3:5). Rather, we must listen to God's Word.

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The Anatomy of Faith

​Since the Reformation faith has been recognized to have three parts: knowledge, assent, and trust. Let's take a few minutes to dig into these three essential elements of faith.

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Thinking about Faith

One of the greatest truths of the NT is that we are justified by faith. Of all the things which God could have required as a means of receiving His gift of salvation He profoundly and in all wisdom chose faith. Faith is both simple and powerful.

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