The Basics of Christianity
If you had to define your faith with one sentence, what would your definition include?
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines faith as a "strong belief or trust in someone or something." The Bible defines faith as "the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1)
Isn't it interesting how both of those definitions don't reference God in their initial description of what faith is or what faith does?
Now, ultimately, both of those sources end up associating faith with a belief in God. In its secondary definition, Merriam-Webster explains that faith is a "belief in the existence of God [or] strong religious feelings." Hebrews 11 goes on to reference God multiple times in the Bible's famous chapter on faith.
But here's the point I'm trying to make – every human being lives by faith, with or without God.
Christians believe, by faith, that there is a God and that eternity exists. Simultaneously, those who deny the existence of God and the reality of eternity do so by faith, too. Two totally contradicting messages, both derived from faith.
You may know atheists and agnostics, but you've never met a "faithless" person in your life. Every human being lives by a set of convictions and with a mentality of hope, despite a lack of factual and tangible evidence.
Regardless of religion profession, we all interpret what we see through the vehicle of the "unseen." It's impossible to exist in this life without faith of some capacity and variety.
THE BASICS OF CHRISTIANITY
If every person lives by faith, what makes the Christian unique? Here it is: Christians are different, not because they live by faith, but because of the object of their faith.
Naturally, the next question becomes: Who is the object of the Christian faith? The answer, of course, is God. Christians live by faith in the existence of God. But what does that mean, and what does that look like?
With this Article, I'm going to try to define the basics of the Christian faith with one sentence. I’m going to leave Hebrews 11, the quintessential definition of Biblical faith, and use Scripture to interpret Scripture. My definition comes from Acts 17:22-31, when the Apostle Paul addresses the Areopagus.
So, fasten your seat belts - here's my sentence-long definition: true, biblical faith believes in the existence of God as Creator, Sovereign, and Savior, and results in a lifestyle of worshipful obedience, confident peace, and humble repentance.
Let me break down those six elements for you:
Creator / Worshipful Obedience
"The God who made the world and everything in it…" (v. 24)
Our world operates under a very simple organizational chart - God is Creator, and we are creatures. That means we belong to God, and whatever created things we've been given also belong to him. We don't get to define how life operates, because he designed life from the beginning!
True, biblical faith believes that God is Creator, so true, biblical faith never allows us to take life in our own hands. Faith won't allow us to treat people and possessions as if they belong to us. Faith won't allow us to believe we're smarter than God. True, biblical faith recognizes the organizational structure of the universe and allows us to obediently rest within God's wise boundaries as his creatures.
Sovereign / Confident Peace
"Having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place…" (v. 26)
Our world doesn't operate by fate or chance. On the contrary, Acts 17 teaches that a sovereign God rules this world with specificity. He's intimately and personally ruling the very details of your everyday life.
True, biblical faith believes that God is Sovereign, so true, biblical faith never allows us to panic and try to re-write our story. Faith won't allow us to be hyper-vigilant and controlling over the details of our everyday life. Faith won't allow us to be dominated by fear and worry and fret. True, biblical faith recognizes the sovereignty of a careful, wise, and holy God and allows us to rest peacefully in his authorship.
Savior / Humble Repentance
"But now he commands all people everywhere to repent…" (v. 30)
Our world doesn't operate the way it was intended to operate because it's populated with sinners. We want to think that we're the good guys, and that it's always someone else's fault, but the Bible teaches that our greatest problem exists inside of us, not outside of us. That means you and I are counted in that census of "all people everywhere."
True, biblical faith believes that God is Savior, so true, biblical faith never allows us to shift the blame. Faith won't allow us to point the finger and say it wasn't our sin that caused our response. Faith won't allow us to take an arrogant, self-righteous stance. Yet simultaneously, faith won't allow us to be swallowed up by guilt and remorse. True, biblical faith recognizes with humility our need for daily grace while allowing us to rest in the finished work of Christ on our behalf.
I need to conclude this Article with a confession -- I don't always live by true, biblical faith.
I don't always recognize God as Creator. I look at my possessions and the hard work I've invested to earn those, and I treat them as if they're mine. I treat the people God has entrusted to me as pieces to my perfect life puzzle. I think I'm smarter than God and push the boundaries of his Word.
I don't always recognize God as Sovereign. If a slight wrinkle appears in my schedule, I get immediately irritated. When suffering enters my door, I doubt his wisdom, protection, and love for me. I'm hyper-vigilant over the details of my life and try to control things so I won't have to face the unknown.
I don't always recognize God as Savior. Sure, I'll admit that I'm a sinner, but I often don't see my specific sin. When I'm confronted, I struggle to accept it with humility. I'm quick to shift the blame and point the finger.
So how does my lack of true, biblical faith affect my relationship with God? Well, this the most encouraging news ever: our acceptance with God is based on his faithfulness towards us, not our faithfulness towards him! A lifestyle of true, biblical faith is not the grounds on which I'm accepted, but an invitation to a much better way of living!
Where the rubber hits the road in your everyday life, won't you accept that invitation and live with day-to-day faith in God as Creator, Sovereign, and Savior?