Series: Sword of the Spirit – Unit: Living faith
Lesson: What is Faith? – Topic 2: Believing and 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. Our topic is Living Faith—how to have a living and active faith in the living God. The Bible declares that God is not dead; He’s not just a figment of people’s imagination. He’s not just something that we decide to think about or to believe in. God exists. He is real. He’s alive. And the only response to Him that we can possibly make that in any way reflects who He is is that of living faith. But where does that faith come from and exactly what is faith? In the last program, I began to talk about living faith—what is it? It is a firm persuasion. The word ‘faith’ has its root meaning in being persuaded. And this tells us that faith is a foundation for our lives. It’s not just make believe. It’s not just some presupposition of the human mind. Faith is real. And when we have a real faith in the real God, that faith changes our lives. Now throughout this series, I’m going to be developing the theme of faith. What does it mean to believe in God? What does it mean to believe in Jesus Christ? What does it mean to be saved? And in the last program, I began to talk, in particular, about saving faith. A lot of people trust many things. They trust their friends, they trust their relatives, they trust information they read in the newspapers, they trust their own intellect, they trust that the food that they eat is going to nourish them, and all of these things are natural forms of faith. But when we talk about living faith, we talk about something totally different. It is an experience with God in which He, by His Spirit, persuades us deeply on the inside of our lives that He is real, that He exists, and that He rewards those who seek Him. And so faith is a way by which we seek God. But when we find Him and we discover who He is, that He is the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ; that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died for us on the cross—all these things are taught in the Bible and in the New Testament—when we find that, then we begin a life of living faith.
Now when we go deeper in our discovery of what the Bible teaches about faith, we know that faith has to do with facts. We must grasp this. Because today, there’s a lot of wooly understanding about faith. The world is speaking much much more about faith. They only used to speak about love—what the world needs is love. But now, it’s quite cool to believe. It’s quite cool to have some kind of religious belief. In fact, it’s so cool to have faith today that it doesn’t matter what you have faith in, so long as you have faith. And so they say it doesn’t matter what you believe so long as you do believe; so long as you’ve got faith. It doesn’t matter what you have faith in. now I want to show straight away that what you have faith in is very important. A nursing friend of my wife’s, when Amanda was working as a nurse, she was helping counsel somebody, a nurse, who in all good faith thought that she was putting the right eye drops into a baby’s eyes, they were the wrong eye drops, and the baby was blinded for life. And my wife was involved in trying to help and counsel in that situation. Now that nurse was not a bad lady. What she did was she believed that what she was putting in the baby’s eyes was the right concentration of medicine that would help that baby, but it was the wrong concentration. It was a poisonous concentration. Her belief was wrong. She put her faith in the wrong thing. So it can be very dangerous—extremely dangerous—to believe a lie and to believe the wrong thing. So faith, true biblical faith, has to do with facts. And this is underlined by the fact that many times, the verb ‘to believe’—pisteuo—is often followed by the word ‘that.’ To believe that, which shows that faith is concerned about the facts. John chapter 8 and verse 24 says, “Therefore, I said to you that you will all die in your sins. For if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” So Jesus is making it very, very clear that belief has content; it’s to do with facts. “You must believe that I am He.” He that believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God. So believing that certain things are true is a very important part of faith. But it’s also important to realize that faith involves more than believing that something is true. For example, in James chapter 2:19, it says, “You believe that there is one God,” and there are many people who believe that there is one God. Even the devil believes that. James says, “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble.” So in other words, it’s not enough just to believe that there is one God. If you truly believe that there is one God, you will want to know what that one God has said and what that one God has done, namely, that that one God has created the world and has sent Jesus Christ to redeem the world. And more than believing that Jesus came to save the world, you will then say, “I want to be part of that salvation. I want to put my faith and my trust in Jesus Christ.” now of course, it’s clear from these scriptures and other scriptures, that believing that certain things are true are a vital part of Christian faith. Let’s have a look at John chapter 5 verse 24. It’s a very, very strong statement in this regard. “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes in Him who sent me has everlasting life and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” Now some translations, including that translation itself, the New King James Version, translates it as ‘believing in’ or ‘believing on’ Him who sent me. But actually, the original Greek says it should be ‘believe Him who sent me.’ So let me read it again. “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes Him who sent me has everlasting life.” Which tells us that when Jesus spoke, it wasn’t His words so much as the Father’s words. And to believe the words of Jesus is to believe the Word of God. To believe Jesus is to believe God. To believe what Jesus says is to believe what God says. Now of course, if we believe what Jesus says, we will act on that belief. And faith does involve believing what God says and acting on that belief and believing in God as well. So I’m not splitting hairs here, I’m just simply saying it’s important to understand that faith has to do with facts. But it also has to do with action. And then there’s another Greek construction. Don’t be put off by all this Greek construction. If you’re new to it, it’s there in the manual for you and you can read it carefully and follow through. So it’s not complicated at all, but it’s important to dig a little deeper and to understand what is beneath the surface of even some of our English translations, to get the full richness of the Bible’s teaching about faith. So remember, I said when we talk about faith is involving facts, the construction was ‘believe that.’ Believe that. Now, faith in action also has a Greek basis to it, because very often, the construction is ‘pisteuo,’ to believe, followed by a preposition—a Greek preposition—‘eis.’ Or as some pronounce it, ice. Pisteuo eis. Let me just get rid of all this fear of Greek amongst you today, all right? Say after me, “Pisteuo eis.” There it is. You are sounding like Greek scholars. And those of you at home as well, watching, all are—you are Greek scholars. Congratulations. Now the reason why I draw attention to that, because it literally means, ‘believing into.’ Most often, unfortunately, it’s translated as ‘believing in.’ But the Greek preposition ‘eis’ suggests more than believing in. It’s believing into. Beleiving into. And that’s why many times in the Bible, believers are referred to as being ‘in Christ,’ because we’ve believed into Him. Now we have this English expression, which is a common expression these days. Have you heard it before? People say, “I would like to buy into that,” and they’re not even talking about investing. They’re not talking about, “Well, there’s a certain stock or share that’s come on the market and we’re going to buy into that; we’re going to invest in that.” That’s probably where the language comes from, but they’re talking about concepts and ideas. And it’s really quite a kind of hip way of talking—“Ha, ha, well, I’m not so sure I want to buy into that.” And what you’re talking about is committing yourself to that, because to buy into an idea means that you’re going to personally involve yourself into it. It’s not just going to be an intellectual thing that you’re going to hold in a passive way; it’s something you’re going to be active about. You’re going to hold to that. It’s going to affect you in some way. You’re going to enter into some kind of relationship with it. And so when we’re told to believe into Jesus, He is saying, “You must become part of me. You’re going to participate in me. Your faith is going to make you part of me, which means that I am going to be part of you.” and there are many parts of the Bible where this is very, very clear. So it means this is a living activity. This is why I’m calling this course Living Faith. ‘Cause it’s not just a mental thing. It’s not just a thought process thing. Neither is it some kind of positive thinking exercise. This is a relationship with Jesus Christ. You have a living faith in a living Savior because you are in living relationship—in vital union with Him through your faith. Your faith has placed you into vital contact with Jesus Christ. I like the way Jesus puts this in John chapter 15 and verse 4, showing that this living faith is something that is expressed by our active ongoing clinging to Christ. Even more than that, abiding in Christ with every bit of our being. John 15 verse 4 says, “Abide in me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.” So when we are believing like this, we are abiding in Christ and He abides in us. And so faith is not just accepting that certain facts are true, though it includes that. Faith is also trusting ourselves into Jesus. And thereby receiving the benefits of His life, His power, His authority, and oh, how I’d love to preach this right now—but I will get behind the podium again and remember that for today, I am a Bible teacher. Hallelujah. Anyway. now we’re going to come in a later session to find out how many verses in the Bible speak about our faith in Jesus and what that means, but let me just bring to you a very important point right now, because when we are in a vital connection with Jesus, it’s almost as if we can’t any longer speak about our faith, but His faith. It’s quite a deep point I want to make right now. We’re going to come back to it. Because when we are in vital connection with Jesus, His life becomes our life. And our faith is not really our faith. It’s more like His faith operating through us. now very often, in fact, forty four—in sixty verses in the New Testament, the word ‘faith’ is followed by a construction which naturally is translated ‘the faith of’ someone. ‘The faith of,’ okay? And in forty-four out of those sixty times, it describes the faith of a person. ‘The faith of Abraham,’ etc. etc…. And so the vast majority, it’s very clear that it’s talking about the faith of somebody, but when we look closely at the rest of them, some of them are talking about the faith of God and the faith of Jesus. And you could translate it as ‘faith in God’ or ‘God’s faith;’ ‘faith in Jesus’ or ‘Jesus’ faith.’ And to sow that seed is very, very important. As a general rule, when we’re reading the Bible, where it says ‘believing in’ Jesus, it should be ‘believing into’ Jesus. Just remember that as a general rule. Not true in every instance, but as a general rule. And if you remember that, when you read ‘believing in Jesus,’ when you read that phrase in the New Testament, it will encourage you to realize that it’s actually entering deeply into some spiritual relationship which will transform you and put you in touch with everything that God has for you. And then when we read ‘faith in Jesus,’ as a general rule, as a general rule, it means the faith of Jesus. Now I sow that seed now and we’ll come back to it. It’s a very, very important point that we’ll find later on in our study.
Now faith and foundation. Faith is a fact, faith is an act—it’s action—but also it involves this concept of foundation. And again, we have another Greek construction—pisteuo, followed by epi, which means ‘upon.’ Epi, meaning ‘upon.’ Your faith is upon something. Your faith is resting upon something or someone, as we shall see—Jesus Christ Himself. This shows that faith has a solid base. In Acts chapter 9 verse 42 we have the construction, “And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed on the Lord.” You’ve heard that expression before—believing upon the Lord—when Tabitha was resuscitated, “and they believed upon the Lord because of what they’d seen and heard.” “And they rested their faith upon Him.” The same idea is apparent in Romans chapter 4 and verse 24, “But also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe upon Him.” New King James Version says, ‘in Him,’ but it’s ‘upon Him’ in the original. ‘Who believed upon Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead.’ Don’t be worried that some of the translators don’t pick this up, because to believe upon Him is the same as to say ‘to believe in Him.’ You know, it means the same thing. But I’m emphasizing it because I think the distinctions are important because it draws this picture that there’s something solid that you can rest on; something solid that you can stand on. That God will support you. And that is a very significant thing. When we look at everything to do with faith, it’s to do with walking upon something solid. It’s finding a firm place for you to stand. I would not be standing before you on this platform today if the platform couldn’t hold my weight or if I didn’t believe the platform was strong enough. I’d get down on terra firma where you are standing, not being up here six feet above contradiction. I’d be right down there amongst the people on the firm ground. But it’s firm. It’s supporting me. And you need to know, very strongly, that when you read these verses for yourself, that it’s talking about God saying, “You can depend upon me.”
Let me summarize what I’ve said so far. Belief that—that’s telling us that faith has to do with facts; faith has to do with truth. And the other words there are the word ‘notional.’ Yes, it has something to do with notional belief and understanding. ‘Propositional.’ There are certain propositions, statements, and great doctrinal statements. We speak of the creeds. “I believe in God the Father almighty.” That is a creed. That is a propositional statement. Faith is not something wishy washy; you can actually speak about faith statements and propositions and understand that—a very important element of faith. But we need to go deeper. Faith also is belief in. that means believing into a person—Jesus Christ. It’s relational. It’s personal. It has to do with my personal belief, my personal commitment, my personal relationship to Jesus Christ. And then also, it has to do with belief upon. That’s something foundational—something fundamental. It has to do with substance. So faith has to do with truth, it has to do with a relationship, it has to do with substance. I’m building up very important building blocks, which we will come back to, as we shall see a little later on in this section and also in the sections that are to come.
Now sometimes, the Bible uses the word ‘faith’ in a kind of absolute sense—a general sense. Let me explain what I mean. In John chapter 4 verse 41, for example, it says there that the Samaritans, many of them, believed. They believed because of Jesus’ word. They believed. It doesn’t say ‘believing in,’ it doesn’t say ‘believing that,’ it doesn’t say ‘believing upon’ It simply says ‘believed.’ Now what do I make of this? Well, what I make of this is every time we see the word ‘faith’ or ‘believe,’ we are expected to understand that when they believed, they believed that, they believed into, they believed in, and they believed upon. So faith involves those three elements. And even if they’re not mentioned, they’re implied. You understand that? So to say that they believed doesn’t say what they believed. Well, they believed the testimony about Jesus, they believed Jesus Himself, but they were believers. So when we describe ourselves as believers, we are saying we believe that certain things are true. We believe into Jesus Christ. We are in a relationship with Him; it’s a relationship that we have. And also, we are standing upon Him. We have substance. And then you begin to see how rich this word ‘faith’ really is. and something that we took for granted at the beginning of this course, something that we thought was just easy—well, it’s still easy; I’m not, hopefully, not overcomplicating it, making it difficult—but to go deeper into this, we’re finding some richness about it and we will be strengthened in our faith as a result. And so now faith is so central and so fundamental to Christianity, that the New Testament constantly refers to believing without defining the belief, and to believers without clarifying the beliefs. So in other words, it’s so fundamental, so basic, that we acknowledge who we are by simply saying ‘we are believers.’ And we introduce people like that. “I’d like to introduce” such and such a person. “They’re a believer.” They are believers. And that implies how important it is for us to understand faith. It’s so central.
Now before we end this session, I want to come to the title of this course, Living Faith. Living Faith. Now when we’ve seen this overview of how the Bible uses the Greek word ‘pistis’ and all its related words—pisteuo, pistos—we can see there are four main human elements, or four main elements. They’re not human, they’re from God, but four elements to our faith and our believing. First of all, there is a firm conviction based on hearing. A firm conviction based on hearing. Secondly, there’s a full confession of that revelation and truth. Very important when we come to see this later on. There is full confession of God’s revelation and truth. Thirdly, there is a personal surrender to Christ. Faith is personal. There’s a personal surrender. It touches you on the inside. And then we also see that there is an action—an action inspired by that surrender. Now we can see all of these elements in John chapter 1 and verse 12. “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God.” As many as received Him. Receiving Him is receiving and acknowledging who He is. What does it mean to receive Him? Does it mean they just fed Him in their homes? Did they just—no, it meant that they received the testimony about Him. So that’s the firm conviction based on hearing. Secondly, there was a confession of God’s revelation and truth. Because to receive Him was something active. To say ‘we believe you,’ ‘to accept you as you are,’ is to confess Him as He is and confess the revelation and truth about Him. Also, there was personal surrender, because to receive Him implies that they yielded to Him. And then an action inspired by that surrender, and the very action, of course, would be the action of themselves accepting Christ. But in their ongoing relationship with Him and partnership with Him, that would be very, very clearly developed. 2 Thessalonians 2 verses 11-12, “And for this reason, God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” Now here is a negative example of those who reject. They reject the testimony, they don’t make confession, they deny as opposed to confess. They don’t surrender to Christ personally, and they’re not inspired in that surrender to live for Jesus Christ. So we have both the positive and negative here—those who believe and those who don’t believe. And right now, as we finish this session, that’s how God looks upon every person in the whole world. You are either a believer or an unbeliever. You are a believer if you accept the testimony concerning Jesus, confess that testimony, enter a relationship with Him, and submit and surrender to Him a life of faith. You are an unbeliever if you don’t do these things. So that’s the difference between being a believer and unbeliever, and living faith is what enables you to lay hold of who Jesus is for you in your life. God bless you. That’s the end of this session. We’ll see you in the very next session where we’re going to go on in this series on living faith.