Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Faith Illustration

This illustration is designed to show that faith is not a work. It helps me to think about the relation of grace and faith, as in Eph 2:8,9.

Think of a milkshake. God graciously gives the milkshake. We didn't provide the resources, or make it. God did. But we are supposed to drink it.

Some people would say that our faith-response to God's gracious gift is the straw through which we suck up the milkshake. But I don't think so. God gives the straw as well.

So then faith must be our ability to suck the shake up the straw to ourselves. But I don't think that is right either. We can't even suck without God giving the ability, and even then, I don't think that is where faith comes in.

I think faith is more like God doing everything, providing the ingredients, making the shake, giving the straw, drawing the shake to our mouths, and the response of faith is merely savoring what God has done.

I think that is what faith is. It is realizing that without God, we can not be saved, and that we cannot contribute to the process. Faith is savoring, appreciating, and valuing what God has done in Christ. Faith is savoring Christ. Is it essential to salvation? Yes. But it does not place our actions at the center. God through Christ is at the center.


Ben said...

Since I'm back in the US for a few weeks, I'm enjoying being able to, first read your blog, and second, comment on it.
I would like to humbly disagree with the bulk of this entry, but perhaps my disagreements are because of a misunderstanding of your statements, so I will try to clearly state my thinking on this issue, and my interpretation of what you have written. First, I get the feeling from this that you are clearly distinguishing an initial faith in Christ and the faith of the Christian life, the faith of following him. Certainly, Ephesians 2:8-9 is talking specifically about salvation, but I would not separate the faith required of salvation and the faith required to live the Christian life. Certainly they are both the same word in Scripture and the same concept.
I cringe at the statement that faith is not a work. Yes, the verses say that we are saved by faith and not by works, but that doesn't suggest that faith is not active, or rather, does not require any activity from us (which is how i would interpret the statement "faith is not a work"). Romans 10:9 would seem to posit that confessing with your mouth is required for salvation, along with belief in your heart. Now i would say that confession with my mouth is something that I did, certainly through the power of Christ, but something that i have done. Would I call that a work that led to salvation? It seems to me that here you are arguing that it would be (or else something that is completely of the Lord in order to keep it from being a work). All that to say, i do believe that salvation in Christ, certainly coming to us because of God's grace and not because of anything we/I have done to deserve it, but that it does require that I have faith in Him. Is this faith just savoring what he has done for me? well, i think that is part of it, but to say that is all that faith is would be to sell faith short. To say that having a faith in Christ, which, in the case of a Tibetan Buddhist, or a Cambodian for that matter (which both say to be Cambodian/Tibetan is to be Buddhist), would be denying your identity to its very core and rejecting everything that anyone has ever taught you, rejecting those that love you and their wishes for you, is not work seems insulting. Faith in Christ certainly does involve savoring the work of Christ, and yes, it does not come to us because of anything that we have done of ourselves, but taking those steps of faith, and living a life of faith, certainly does require something more than savoring.
Again, I would also take issue with the whole use of a milkshake as an example...yes, the work and grace of Christ is sweet, but the cost of discipleship is incredibly high (Lk. 9:23-27).
Now, I know that you are not saying that the Christian life is easy or anything like that, but this illustration would lead me down that path of thinking.
I guess how I would sum it all up is as follows. Faith is essential to our Salvation, yes. I am saved because of the grace of God, and not by anything that I have done to deserve such salvation, but my faith is required for salvation. Is that something to brag about? of course not, but rather, it is necessary to follow Christ. And, because I do follow Christ and have faith in Him, my life will be changed, which is evident in the things (works) that I do (see James).

swayz said...

Ben - nice to hear from you

A couple of things. I am definitely reacting to a Western view of faith, which consistently divorces human expressions of faith from faith's proper object, which is Christ, the Faithful One. "So all you have to do is believe, and if you believe enough, you can do anything." And this happens in church all the time - Christless faith - which is just another form of religiosity, like "the works of the law," with which true saving faith is consistently contrasted in Galatians.

I struggle to put this into words. No, faith is not passive. And a passive view of faith is a terrible problem in the States, if not everywhere. But the strength of the Christian life is not in an active faith, but in the faithfulness of Christ. It is not faith that accomplishes great things, but Christ, in whom my faith rests. "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Paul's statement is clearly a statement of faith, but the faith is not the focus - Christ is.

Where I see that "faith as a work, or performance" is in a kind of distorted Christianity where the Christian is at the center, and Christ at the periphery. And I think the Bible has a hard time admitting that there is such a thing as a self-centered Christian.

Somehow, and, again, I struggle with these concepts, a Christian of great faith is a Christian with an appreciation and expectation of a great Savior. And he will follow that Savior anywhere, no matter how dark or difficult, because of the worth of knowing the Savior, of savoring the Savior, if you will. I don't think that is passive.

I'm reacting, I'm sure, against many super-confident, home-run hitter types who set out to accomplish great feats of faith, though the content of their plans are their own imaginations and dreams and not the will of God or the mission of Christ. Many of these are merely human ambition, under the guise of religion, and are no different than "the works of the Law" condemned by Paul, and I resent the confusion that is introduced when they anoint their self-made plans with the word "faith."

Great to hear from you.

Ben said...

Ok, reading on further in your blog (back to last February), you made an entry about what does it mean to "have faith" and that we could look at faith's friends to understand it a bit better. While quite useful in understanding, I feel like this is still complicating it a bit. I prefer to understand through stories of what faith is and is not. Luke 7:1-10 shows the faith of the Centurian who believed, without doubt that God would heal his servant just by saying the word (not even by having to go visit him). Contrast that by what faith is not in Luke 9:37-43 where people still came to Christ for the healing of a demon-possessed man. He still heals him, and they still come to Him for healing, but he rebukes them. Why? because they question Him saying "What can we do Lord?"
Let me give a more personal example of a good friend...when I told her of the pregnancy of a loved one that we were a bit worried about because of potential complications from a disease, she said hmm, then asked, "is she a child of God?" when i said yes, she simply said, don't worry. God chose to bless her with a child, and you don't need to worry. He is in control of her. Another situation, same woman. a relative of her had hemophilia...they (her church) prayed for him, and God told them He would be healed, and they believed. No need to go to the doctor, just faith that God had done it. Even if he was not healed now, he would be healed.

This, I would say, is faith, and it is the very same faith, that through the grace of God and the blood of Christ, brings redemption and salvation in Him.

Ben said... you know, i hadn't read your response to my comment when i posted my second comment. Now that i have read it, I would definitely agree...that our strength is in the faithfulness of Christ, and he just wants us to trust in Him and in that goodness. But that goodness does not always show itself in the way that we might want it manifested...if we abide in Him, he will answer our prayers, but if we are truly abiding in Him, we will be asking for things that are of him and not of ourselves. aye...there's the rub. :-)

swayz said...

There's something special about this milkshake. When you savor it, it changes you. It changes your view of God, of yourself, and of the world. And that is what faith does. But the effective force for the "opening of the eyes" (to mix metaphors) is not the faith, but the work of Christ. Christ's work needs no further work added on.

So when faced with danger or death, I can rest in God, and face, with extra-ordinary strength, the tests of life, because of Christ who has done the performing already, and I simply walk in his shadow, though not perfectly at all, trusting, obeying - in a world that will not appreciate such an attitude, and in fact will hate and persecute it.

But it's worth it - the shake is really out of this world.