Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Faith Is . . . the Evidence of Things Not Seen

     In my ponderings and prayers this day, as I wrestled with God over matters of what He has declared and how these declarations are to be rightly understood, something quite wonderful became clear.

     The things over which I pondered and pressed the Lord for answers were not new for me.  I have wrestled with these matters many times, and perhaps even continually.  It is not as though the Lord has not spoken clearly concerning these matters, but in a fallen world where I continually am bombarded with the weaknesses of the flesh and the sinful nature, accepting what I know to be true is impossible without the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit.  And so, I ask.

     The answers are always given in the same way.  The Holy Spirit directs my spirit, heart, mind, and soul to various Scriptures that provide the answers.  My response when I hear is, “Oh.  Of course.”

     The ongoing thoughts and questions that were on my heart again today are with regard to the clear statements concerning the true Church being the saints who are gathered to the pure Word and Sacraments, while yet I daily encounter people not of the true Church according to this Scriptural definition who nevertheless seem to be displaying genuine desire to be near to God and to know Him, truly expressing evidences of faith in Him, or at least the evidences of faith being worked in them.

     My ceaseless desire and concern is that all people hear the Truth so that they may have the true Faith generated in them and receive the manifold blessings that God desires for them to receive and enjoy.  This most especially includes being made to be members of God’s Holy Communion and heirs of everlasting life through the forgiveness of sins and the generation of the new creation within.

     As I pondered God’s clearly expressed desire that all men be saved, the vastness of His grace was yet again in my mind.  I was reminded of the fact that people are saved by God’s grace and not by their believing.  I remembered that God’s grace is that which works salvation and that faith is the gift by which His grace is known and seen.  Suddenly the clarity shone forth as I said:

     Grace is what works the salvation and faith is the evidence of that grace at work.

     This was the “Ah ha!” moment.  This was when I thought: “Of course!”

     “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”  (Hebrews 11:1)

     No one can see God’s grace.  We can only see what it works.  Faith is the evidence of the unseen grace of God.  Faith is the substance that grace produces.  While we cannot see God’s grace, we can see the effects of His grace.  Faith is the evidence of things not seen.  When a person is regenerated so that an unbeliever is reborn as a believer, we see that God’s grace has worked a mighty miracle.  God’s grace changes the heart so that faith is born in it and that person’s heart is made anew.  The entire person is changed.

     What the person does after this determines whether or not the person continues in God’s grace, or turns again to one’s own reason and strength. The Church is the gathering of the regenerated who continue in God’s grace, heeding the Holy Spirit’s tireless urgings to be gathered as one to the pure Word and Sacraments.  In this Church God’s grace is poured out continually through the means of grace and the saints are preserved in the one true faith forevermore.

     The Lord Jesus shared the parable of the Sower who broadcasts His Seed everywhere, letting it fall in every place.  Some Seed falls on good soil and grows and flourishes.  This is the true Church, the body of Christ, where those who receive the Word are nurtured and preserved.

     Everyplace else the Seed is trampled or gobbled up or choked out or dies.

     This is why Christ and His apostles preached so sternly regarding the necessity of pure doctrine and practice in the Church, even saying that those who oppose it must be informed that they have excluded themselves.  Those who would change the preaching of God’s pure grace back into the preaching of meriting grace through works of any kind, even the falsely imagined good work of believing, have rejected God’s grace, which is the one and only cause of salvation.

     This cannot be tolerated.  Love will not allow it.

     Faith is not something that a person does for oneself.  It is not a work of the believer.  Faith is the evidence of God’s grace worked by Him through His ordained means.

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