Faith and Repentance (Part 1)

6 May

Perhaps one of the most important truths that Christians must cling to is a thorough understanding of what true, biblical faith and repentance means.  Greg Gilbert, in his extremely practical and simple book titled What Is the Gospel? explains just that.  For the next few entries, I will be sharing some excerpts from the book.  Here’s the first:

Faith Is Reliance

Faith is one of those words that’s been misused for so long that most people have no idea what it really means.  Ask someone on the street to describe faith, and while you might get some respectful-sounding words, the heart of the matter will most likely be that faith is belief in the ridiculous against all evidence.

It’s a charade, a fun and comforting game that people are free to engage in if they wish, but with no real connection to the actual world.  Children believe in Santa Claus and the Easter bunny.  Mystics believe in the power of stones and crystals.  Crazy people believe in fairies.  And Christians, well, they believe in Jesus.

Read the Bible, though, and you’ll find that faith is nothing like that caricature.  Faith is not believing in something you can’t prove, as so many people define it.  It is, biblically speaking, RELIANCE.  A rock-solid, truth-grounded, promise-founded trust in the risen Jesus to save you from sin.

Paul tells us about the nature of faith in Romans 4, in his discussion about Abraham.  here’s how he describes Abraham’s faith:

18In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” 19He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. 20No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. (Romans 4:18-21)

Despite all that was working against God’s promise – Abraham’s age, his wife’s age and barrenness – Abraham believed what God had said.  He trusted in God without wavering and relied on him to accomplish his promises.  Abraham’s was not a perfect faith, of course; Ishmael’s birth to Hagar proves that Abraham at first tried to RELY on his own schemes to fulfill God’s promises.  But having repented of that sin, Abraham in the end put his faith in God.  He RELIED on him, as Paul says, “fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.”

The gospel of Jesus Christ calls us to do the very same thing – to put our faith in Jesus, RELY on him, and trust him to do what he has promised to do.

So this is what faith is biblically.  Tomorrow, we’ll go into further detail about exactly what we are to be RELYING on Jesus for.  But for the meantime, some questions to think through for yourself:

  1. What was your understanding of faith prior to reading this?  Was your “faith” in Jesus, as Gilbert puts it, like believing in the Easter bunny, Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, etc? If not, then what was it?
  2. How does Gilbert’s explanation of faith as RELIANCE on something differ from this notion of faith as casually believing in Santa Claus, the Easter bunny, etc.?
  3. What or who are you practically RELYING on in your life currently?  That is to say, what or who, if it was not in your life right now, would you feel as if something important was missing? (i.e. friends, money, reputation, intellect, God? Bible? Affection for Christ?)
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