Topic

An overview of faith

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Series: Sword of the Spirit – Unit: Living faith
Lesson: What is faith? – Topic 3: An overview of faith
Teacher: Colin Dye

Announcer: Welcome to Sword of the Spirit, written and presented by Colin Dye, senior minister of Kensington Temple and leader of London City Church. Sword of the Spirit is a dynamic teaching series equipping the believers of today to build the disciples of tomorrow. We pray that you find these programs inspiring, and a catalyst in deepening your knowledge of God, your relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, and your intimacy with the Holy Spirit.

Colin Dye: Hello, and welcome to The Sword of the Spirit, a school of ministry in the Word and the Spirit. In this series, the topic we’re looking at is Living Faith—how to have a living faith in the living God. And we’ve already begun teaching on what is faith. It’s that firm persuasion. And I would say, supernatural persuasion that comes to our lives concerning who God is and what He’s done for us. And in particular, it centers on Jesus Christ. The New Testament always teaches that faith is in Jesus Christ. It is transferring our trust from ourselves, or the kind of things that we would naturally believe, to that supernatural position of trusting in Christ. The Bible says that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. And in particular, that is the proclamation concerning Jesus Christ. We’ve been looking at what is saving faith and how does that operate in our lives? What does it mean? It means, first of all, that we believe the facts of the gospel of Jesus Christ. That these aren’t just stories or myths or something that people have changed down through the years so that we have a different version of events. No, the gospel records correspond to the true record concerning who Jesus is. Then we put our faith and trust in Him, because the New Testament teaches us that Jesus Christ is Lord, that He died for our sins on the cross, and then we’re able to put our faith and our trust in Him. So in today’s teaching, we’re going to pick up at this point and see how faith operates in our lives in a practical way. Because it’s not about believing with your mind or even just believing in your heart. It’s more than that. This faith that God gives us begins to affect every part of our lives—how we live, how we go about our business every day, and most important of all, how we please God.

Hello, and welcome to the Living Faith in The Sword of the Spirit series. This manual, Living Faith, is very, very important because we come to grips with God’s Word in relation to the whole subject of faith. We’ve already seen in the first session, how important faith is—how central it is to our lives. In fact, Christians are called believers. We are to be believers—those who believe in Jesus. Now in the first session, I asked the question, ‘What is faith?’ And we began to look at some of the Bible words for ‘faith’ in the New Testament—pistis, pistos, pisteuo, and so forth. And there in the first session, we looked in Part One at what these words meant and saw how that faith has many aspects to it. It is believing in Jesus Christ personally. It is believing that He is who He claimed to be. It also means resting upon Him and trusting Him for our lives in every respect. And it’s absolutely central to the Bible’s revelation. Now also continuing in Part One, I’m going to bring you now to an overview of faith itself. And in many ways, this is a little bit of a taster of what’s going to come in the rest of the teaching, because we need to see from the beginning the whole process of faith as an overview before we come in and focus on any of its constituent parts. And because so much talk is in the direction of faith today—people are preaching about faith and many preachers are saying, “Where is your faith?” and urging people to believe, but that people believe that they somehow have to manufacture this kind of faith and supply it for the sake of the preacher. And we need to get the right balance here. Because when we see a biblical overview of faith, we realize how godly it really is. And by that I mean how God centered it really is. Faith is not the result of some kind of human effort or activity, some kind of mental, emotional or even physical activity. Faith always has its origin in God and Jesus is the author and finisher of faith, faith is from first to last. God is involving Himself in faith from the very beginning to the end. So let’s have a look at this overview of faith.

First of all, faith has a source. Faith has a source outside of itself. Faith has a source outside of ourselves. It’s not faith in faith, it’s not faith in ourselves, it’s faith in God. But that faith—the faith in God—has in itself a divine origin. Remember this. It’s so important. You’re not responsible somehow to muster up faith in your own strength and energy. We are responsible to believe, yes? Our responsibility is to believe. But faith comes from God. Hebrews 12 verse 2, I’ve already quoted it, refers to Jesus as the author and finisher of faith. In most translations it says, “the author and finisher of our faith.” But the word ‘our’ is missing in the Greek. It’s, “He is the author and finisher of faith.” Now the word ‘author,’ ‘archegos,’ is translated as ‘founder,’ as ‘author,’ ‘prince’ or ‘captain.’ And it refers to anyone who takes the lead in anything or somebody who provides the first occasion for something—the initiator. The archegos of faith is Jesus and He takes the lead in faith. All faith looks to Him and to His faith, which draws inspiration and strength from Him. And so when we walk in faith, our faith is inspired by Him. But He’s also called the finisher—‘teleiotes.’ And it’s translated ‘finisher,’ ‘perfecter.’ It means ‘the one who perfects or who completes something.’ Jesus, as the finisher of our faith, is the perfect example of how faith brings something to completion. Jesus is the greatest example of a person of faith. And how Jesus Himself in His own person brings faith to completion. Now this means we do not believe in a vacuum. Instead, we follow the faith footsteps of our leader, Jesus Christ. We look to Him, to His dynamic faith, as a model—an external model and an inward dynamic too, so this is not just like saying we must follow and do what Jesus did and copy Him. This is not just an external model. That same faith of Jesus that He exercised is living in you and He is exercising His faith in you and through you. Now I see this is a strange concept to some of you and we’re going to be coming back to it and build on it. It’s a very important matter. Now as we go on believing in Jesus, then He brings us to the fulfillment of faith that He Himself has reached. So we’re going to look at that later on in other sections when we talk about the faith of Jesus Christ. But let’s look right now at Galatians 2 verse 20 and help you to understand exactly what I’m talking about here. Now here is a revelatory concept. And I know I haven’t any chance of communicating this with you or communicating this to you without you having a revelation of God. And I encourage you to take this course and to take these notes and to take your Bible and to pray and seek God until you have exactly the same revelation of faith that Paul had. Galatians 2 verse 20, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” So faith and following Jesus seem to be the same—two ways of expressing the same thing. He says, “I’m crucified with Christ; nevertheless, I live. Yet not I, but Christ lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh,” or in the body, “I live by faith in,” and here’s one of those translations where it should read, “by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” I’ve been crucified, but Christ lives in me and how He lives in me is by exercising His faith through me. So it is Christ’s faith in me, not my faith in Christ so much, as that my faith in Christ depends upon His faith working in me. Christ lives in me. He’s in me, helping me to live, helping me to love, helping me to believe, helping me to do the things that please Him. I told you you needed a revelation on it. Because a revelation of this will transform your life. That’s what faith is all about. Remember believing into Jesus so that His life becomes your life? So faith comes from Jesus, who is the author and finisher of faith. He who has authored His faith in you will finish His faith in you. And I want to tell you something, my friends. I’m going to nail my colors to the mast. Listen to me, my friends. What Jesus starts He finishes. He is the author and the finisher of your faith. If it, as I say, we shouldn’t even say ‘of your faith,’ because Hebrews 12:2 says He is the author and finisher of faith. It’s not your faith. It’s not your ability to believe. It’s what Jesus is authoring in you. It’s what He is perfecting in you. There’s assurance here. How do we know we’re going to make it to the end? Well Jesus isn’t just the author; He is not just the initiator, He’s the completer, He’s the perfecter, He’s the finisher of faith. Grasp that. Have confidence in it. Faith comes from Jesus, the author of it and finisher of it. Faith also is a gift of God’s grace. Now many people know that faith and grace are both necessary for salvation. But some people teach that grace is God’s responsibility and faith is our responsibility. God’s done His bit, now it’s up to you to do your bit. Now it’s true, it’s true, faith is our responsibility, but we need to understand that faith is as much a gift of God as grace and salvation. Ephesians 2 verses 8 and 9 explain to us that we are saved by grace through faith. That’s what it says. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And that not of yourselves. It’s the gift of God.” What is the gift of God? Faith. What is not of ourselves? Faith. So the faith we have and the faith we exercise in Jesus has come from Him. It’s His gift. It’s the result of the work of the Holy Spirit in you. Some people argue and say, “No, it’s grace that is the gift.” You don’t need to say grace is a gift. Grace carries its own meaning. You don’t have to qualify it. Of course grace is a gift. Grace is free. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And that is not of yourselves. That faith is not of yourselves. It’s the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. Now listen to this. This is so important because if we get this wrong in relation to our faith for salvation, we’re going to get this wrong for the lesser things, which is faith for healing or faith for finances. Faith is not of works. If it were something that we produced, it could no longer be faith. It could no longer be grace. It would be works. That’s why it’s so important to see that salvation comes by faith and faith alone. And the very faith we have in which we call upon God for salvation is God’s gracious provision for our lives. Otherwise, people could say—in heaven—“Oh, I see you got here.” “Yes, I believed.” “You believed?” “I believed, not like Johnny down there. He didn’t believe.” As if it was your faith that got you to heaven. Some people have made faith a work and that’s why people are struggling and striving in their Christian lives. Because faith has become a kind of a work—a mechanical work—human effort. No, no, no, no. Faith is divine, it’s supernatural; it’s not of yourself, it’s the gift of God.  Romans 4 verse 16, “Therefore, it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed; not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.” Quite clearly, faith and grace go together. Faith and works are opposite. What we deserve has to do with what we’ve earned. If salvation’s free, we’ve never earned it. Not even by that little bit of saying, “I know, I said ‘yes’ to Jesus, that’s why I’m in heaven.” You’re in heaven by His grace. Well, you will be. Not in heaven yet, but then you are, because you’re seated with Christ in heavenly places. Look at this one. Philippians 1 verse 29, “For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” It has been granted for you to believe, and with that comes persecutions. But it has been granted for you to believe. Did you know that? Now, it’s so important. You say, “Well, why do you stress that? Surely it’s our responsibility to believe.” Yes, it is. But I want to tell you, responsibility means, in my definition, response to His ability. Salvation is entirely the work of God. Entirely. There’s nothing we can do to save ourselves; not even to make the tiniest contribution to our salvation. Oh yes, we were the ones who believed. We made that contribution. It was all right; we just had to believe. It was a tiny, tiny little thing we did, but we still did it. No, no, no. That’s pride. That’s works. So faith comes from Jesus. Faith is a gift from God.

Thirdly, faith is the work of the Holy Spirit. So important to understand this. In the Sword of the Spirit series, throughout it, we’re calling it a school of ministry in the Word and the Spirit. And it’s easy, in some of the courses like Ministry in the Spirit, to talk a lot about the Holy Spirit. And now when we’re talking about faith, it’s easy to concentrate on the Word because the Word is crucial to faith. But it’s not just the Word being crucial to faith; the Spirit is crucial to faith. Did you know that? We’re going to see how the Word brings faith. Later on, we’re going to spend a lot of time on it. That’s why I’m emphasizing now the role of the Spirit in faith. 2 Corinthians 4 and verse 13, “And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, ‘I believed and therefore I spoke,’ we also believe and therefore speak.” All of these concepts are clustered together here. “According to what is written,” that’s the Word of God; “we speak,” that’s confession; how—“by the spirit of faith.” That’s where faith comes from. Faith comes from the Holy Spirit. It’s the Holy Spirit operating in you that enables you to have faith. Notice that when you do have faith, you believe and you speak. It’s very important. Faith has to do with confession. In fact, faith always leads to speaking, and that’s entirely consistent with what we understand about how the Holy Spirit works. When the Spirit comes upon you, you speak. I believe, therefore I speak, because I’m speaking by the spirit of faith. Whenever the Spirit comes upon you, there is a verbal utterance. On the Day of Pentecost, when the Spirit came upon them, they spoke with tongues—they prophesied. That’s what Joel said. “In the last days, I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh.” [Joel 2:28] Joel’s prophecy makes it clear. What will happen? “Your sons and daughters will prophesy.” When the Spirit comes upon you, you speak. And when you speak words of faith, it’s because the spirit of faith is upon you and the spirit of faith is in you—working in you. This is the prophetic nature. We also understand in 1 Corinthians 12 verse 9 that there is an anointing of faith, a manifestation of faith, the gift of faith. Faith, as a spiritual gift, comes from the Holy Spirit, but all faith has its source in the Holy Spirit. Always.

But we mustn’t forget, of course—number four—that faith is our responsibility. It’s not good enough to say, “Oh well, if it’s up to God, then when He wants me to believe, He will make me a believer.” No. faith is our responsibility. That doesn’t mean to say that it is because of our effort we believe. We see the responsibility of faith in Hebrews 3 verse 12. “Beware, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God.” It’s quite clear where God lays the responsibility. It’s right at our doorstep. He speaks about an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God, meaning you have a responsibility to believe. Hebrews 11 verse 6, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for  he who comes to God must believe,” must believe, “that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” He that comes to God must believe. Without faith you cannot please God, because faith is to do with pleasing God; with bringing Him glory. And that’s our responsibility. So we can put it this way—it’s our responsibility to exercise faith, but it’s not our responsibility to create faith. We cannot create faith. God can create faith in us, but it’s our responsibility to believe it and to live it and to exercise it. So we’re called to be an active, believing, confessing and doing church. A doing people of God. We’ve received from God; we don’t summon up all our willpower and bring faith into being out of nothing. Now this should encourage you, because have you ever come to a place where you know there’s a crisis in your life and you know you ought to believe in God, but somehow faith just doesn’t seem to be there. And try as hard as you can to muster it up, “I’m going to try to believe.” It doesn’t work. Doesn’t work when you try to believe. But when you understand that faith has its source in the Holy Spirit and you open your heart to the spirit of faith, the Spirit comes along and takes the promises of God and begins to work on the inside of you and begins to say, “What about that verse? Isn’t that a fantastic verse?” “Yeah.” “And it applies to you.” “It applies to me?” “Yes, to you.” “To me?” “Yes, to you.” “To me?” “Yes, to you.” “Hallelujah. I believe.” It’s supernatural. The only thing you should be worried about is being worried that you’re not worried. And even that’s not worth worrying about. Okay? Now when we’re talking about living faith, we have living faith because we have a living God. That’s what I’m trying to say. Faith is glorifying God. Faith is seeing God. When you have a living God, you have a living faith, because God lives in you. now the phrase, ‘living God,’ is found in the Bible in—almost always exclusively in the context of what God is doing, miraculous deliverance, of God speaking, of God acting. We see it in all the scriptures that we have there for you. Deuteronomy 5 verse 26, “For who is there of all flesh who has heard the voice of the living God speaking from the midst of the fire as we have done?” In every one of those verses there, it is God intervening—the living God. It’s the living God who touches David when he opposes Goliath. “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine who defies the armies of the living God?” [1 Samuel 17:26] You belong to a nation of dead gods; our God’s alive. That’s what David said. “Our God’s alive. My God’s alive. My God’s going to have you for breakfast.” Where was his confidence? In a living God. Where was his faith? Living God. You can believe in God and have faith, because God’s a living God. He’s alive in your circumstances. He’s not going to let you down. Peter’s identification of Jesus in Matthew 16 verse 16, [complete reference is Matt. 16:15-16]  “’Who do you say that I am?’” Peter says, “’You are the Christ; the Son of the living God.’” So unbelief is departing from the living God. We saw that in Hebrews, didn’t we? Faith is embracing the living God. To describe God as a living God means that aspect of God which speaks and acts and delivers. That’s what it means to have a living God. It means He speaks to you; not like these dumb, dead idols who can’t speak, who’ve no eyes to see, no mouth to speak, no ears to hear, no legs to walk, no hands to help. No, so our calling in life is not to muster up some kind of amazing level of human faith. No. it’s to acknowledge the amazing God who is alive and to confess that faith and act on that faith. So the kind of faith we’re talking about in Living Faith is God’s faith working in you. Not self-confidence, but trusting in the living God’s confidence.

Required reading

Dye, Colin. Living Faith
Kensington Temple, 2007

Price, Frederick K. C. Faith, Foolishness, or Presumption?
Harrison House, 1979

Hagin, Kenneth E. Bible Faith Study Course
Faith Library Publications, 1992

Recommended reading

Dye, Colin. Breakthrough Faith: Power in an Uncertain World
Hodder & Stoughton, 1998

Prince, Derek. Faith to live by
Whitaker House, 1998