Saturday, 30 August 2008

The crucial difference between faith and opinion

I dipped into a book by John Owen this week called "A Declaration of the Glorious Mystery of The Person of Christ - God and Man."  It won't win any awards for a catchy title and only after reading some paragraphs 5 times do I get what they are saying.  (Not only are there words I have never seen before, some of the words I think I know turn out to have had different meanings back then making it all very confusing!)  So why on earth go through the struggle of trying to understand it all?  Because there are some diamonds waiting to be unearthed...

He was talking about how Israel had had such clear revelation about the person and work of Messiah through the Old Testament, yet when he arrived on the scene, they not only did not recognize him, they crucified him!

He makes the distinction between faith and opinion.  The first is something in one's spirit, the second, however strong is in one's mind only.  The generation of Israelites that entered and took possession of the Promised Land experienced mighty acts of God and exhibited great faith.  But one generation later it had all gone wrong.  The new generation had the culture and opinion of its parents but not its faith.  So when the temptation to follow after other gods was put in front of them, they soon wandered away from the Living God to serve blocks of wood! (!?!)

Many people think they are Christian because they have Christian opinions or have grown up in a Christian culture or family, but it's all guff and wind.

So the question I found myself asking was: How do you avoid dynamic faith decaying into mere culture or opinion?  The best answer I have come up with so far is private personal prayer/time alone with God.  We can surf on the wave of other people's faith when we are at meetings.  (And don't get me wrong I have times in my life when I need that just to hang in there!)  But the measure of a man in God's eyes is not when the man has an audience of many, but when he has an audience of one.  

(Not that we earn God's favour, but now that through the Cross we have God's favour, how much do we prize it?)

So how is your level of faith?  How much are you taking time out alone with God?  Have you fallen into the trap of thinking that drinking deep of your church culture is just as good as having  that spiritual life which Jesus offers springing forth from within a person?  Those of us who are seeking to witness, how are we doing at leading our friends/colleagues/children to dynamic faith in Christ and not just into a christian lifestyle culture?

Let us press on together, but let us also press on in the secret place alone with God into eternal life, that is personal, intimate friendship with God.

When he knows he has our full and undivided attention, he will do even more than we have yet dreamed possible.

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