The word “faith” can have a variety of meanings, and by that I don’t mean that you can just make the word mean whatever you want. Some people, when they go to the Bible they tend to read it the way they WANT it to be, and not what it actually is.
There are some words that just are what they are (a rose is a rose), but the word “faith” is used in different ways in your Bible. So with an article like this, entitled “What is my faith?” it is important for us to be on the same page when we use the word.
Faith can mean “the New Testament – the system of faith that we believe and obey.” That’s how Paul uses the word in Romans 6:17 when he says we “obey a pattern of teaching.” We have instructions for how to live and not live; we call that “the Christian faith.” That kind of faith is not personal, it’s universal.
On the other hand, there is the word “faith” that means “a person’s understanding that Jesus is the Son of God.” Implied in that usage of the word “faith” is the idea that we are to “trust and obey” Jesus because we recognize His Divine authority.
A third usage of the word refers not your belief in Jesus, nor to your obedience to the New Testament, but something that’s kind of a combination of both.
There’s a text in Philippians that is known to give people problems:
Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
The tough part in this verse is the expression “work out your own salvation.” What does that mean?
It doesn’t mean “work your way to heaven” because you can’t do that – you can never earn it or deserve it. It also doesn’t mean that you can have your way to be saved and I can have my way. That’s also balderdash; one God wrote one Bible and has one plan of salvation.
Basically what Paul is saying is, you need to take the bull by the horns. Don’t rely on someone else to drag you to Heaven. Work out your own salvation. In other words: Make sure your faith is YOUR faith.
To that we ask the question: What is my faith?
There are four possibilities…
IS MY FAITH
My faith is my mamas faith. Having said that, it’s almost unavoidable that we are who are because of our upbringing. Actually that’s one of the great debates among sociologists: Are the habits and things we do in life inherited or are they the product of our growing up around parents (or whomever) who did them first and in front of us?
I tend to think it’s the latter; I sometimes hear my dad in my voice, particularly when I get upset. I don’t think if I had been kept away from my family growing up that I would talk like that. Instead I think I talk like that sometimes for the same reason my kids talk with a southern accent and someone from Chicago talks like someone from Chicago. Why? Because their mama and daddy talked like that and they picked up.
Half the things a child learns, he learns without you intending him to.
Now when it comes to faith, when I say “is it inherited?” I don’t mean “are you who you are religiously because it was genetically passed on to you?” Mo, what I mean is “Was your faith passed down to you?” Was it given to you the way your southern accent is given to you. Was it given to you solely because someone said “this is the way our family does it” and that’s that.
Do you worship where you worship, why you worship and how you worship simply because that’s how you’ve “always worshiped”?
Do you worship wherever you do, because, well you’ve always worshiped there; your dad worshiped there, your grandma worshiped there so you worship there? That’s an inherited faith and it’s a dangerous idea.
Now there’s nothing wrong (in fact it’s encouraged) for us to teach our children about Christianity.
When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.
2 Timothy 1:5
Paul praises Timothy for his FAITH in Christ. Timothy had a personal faith but Paul recognizes that it came through the teaching of a faithful mother and grandmother. Still, Timothy’s faith wasn’t inherited. Timothy knew what he believed, he knew how to defend it and when the going got tough, he fought for it.
Why? Because it was HIS faith. He didn’t think and do what the did just because his mama did. He did what he did because he knew it was the right thing to do, and he was thankful for his mama for teaching it to him.
We need to be sure, as parents, that we are teaching our children how to develop their own faith, and not let them just piggyback on ours. If we’re not careful we’ll find ourselves forcing them to worship on Sunday, which only lasts until they move out. And when mom isn’t there to wake them up at 8am, they have no personal reason to, because they have no personal faith that is developed within them.
We need to avoid having an inherited faith; we need to work on having our own.
IS MY FAITH
Is my faith just whatever the preacher says? These are the ones who say “I don’t need to understand; my preacher said it, and that sounds about right.”
Ask a Bible question and you will hear “well I don’t know…I better ask my preacher.”
Now there’s nothing wrong with that, per say. Your preacher wants you to trust him, and he wants you to ask him. He studies the Bible, as a result of his profession, a lot. But no self-respecting preacher wants you to follow him; he wants you to follow Christ.
Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.
1 Corinthians 11:1
Never JUST trust your preacher. We can be wrong on occasion.
Paul, when he was Saul of Tarsus, was wrong:
And Paul, earnestly beholding the council, said, Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.
The day he’s talking about is what he spoke of in Acts 22, when he was describing the details of his conversion. Saul was a man educated by Gamaliel. He was educated to the 10th degree. He was a Pharisee with perhaps a genius level understanding of the Law. He was absolutely sure he was doing right by bringing the Christians to justice. He was, in his own words, living in all good conscious. Imagine the number of people who looked to him, trusted him, and never questioned him…and he was flat wrong!
Apollos was wrong:
And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus.
This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John.
And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.
Here’s a man described as eloquent and wise in the Scriptures. This guy knew his Bible. He could quote Scripture and write sermons. People trusted him (Paul met some of them in the next chapter)…but he was wrong. It took two Christians – Aquila and Priscilla — to pull him aside and teach him in what way he was wrong.
The Pharisees were wrong:
Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying?
But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.
Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.
These were the religious leaders of the people. These were the so-called scholars who constantly butted heads with Jesus. They would misapply the Law and twist the Scripture to suit their own ends. Meanwhile the entire nation looked to them to explain the Will of God, and they were, as Jesus said “blind leading the blind.” They didn’t know half of what they thought they did. Pity the poor people who follow them blindly, Jesus says. Pity the ones who have an indoctrinated faith.
Don’t let that be your faith: not inherited, not indoctrinated.
IS MY FAITH
This is the person who says “My faith is uncertain; I’m seeking it…”
Now this is the right attitude to have. This is a person who is looking. And those people need to be told that if you keep your eyes open you will find what you’re looking for. God wants you to find the truth. Having said that, if you’re faith is a questioning one, let me give three words of advice:
Be careful not to settle for the easy answer.
Too many people settle for what is convenient. They succumb to spiritual laziness. “Well lets just do this” they say. “I’m tired of arguing about it” is another common refrain. “this is as good as any other” they sigh. The Devil is more than happy to provide the easy (wrong) answers. Jesus, however, says there is a way and the way is hard…but the way leads to life (Matthew 7:14). So question, yes, but don’t give up and just settle for the easy answer.
If you have a questioning faith…be careful not to settle for the rebelling answer.
This goes back to our first point, about the person who has been piggy backing on his parent’s faith. Sometimes people just run in the other direction just for the sake of doing so (we call that being a teenager). In such cases they settle for whatever is most unlike their parents. And this isn’t a problem exclusive to religion. It happens in all aspects of culture and life. Is it petty and childish? Yes. That’s part of the maturation process. Teenagers who do so will try to excuse their behavior as simply “questioning what I’ve always been taught.” Again, there’s nothing wrong with questioning and seeking, but be carful that your motive isn’t just to rebel. That’s how you find the wrong answers.
if you have a questioning faith…be careful not to settle for conforming answer.
When you decide to take the bull by the horns you are making, by nature, a solitary decision. This is YOU doing this. When you do it, you almost isolate yourself by default. The temptation becomes, after a while, to just do what everyone else is doing. You get tired of going alone, and you just want to blend in. A lot of people rebel against the faith they grew up with and associate themselves with other religions under the guise of “going on my own.” But that’s not really true; you’re not going alone, you’re just choosing a different crowd to go with. Your seeking a different faith just to be different.
I think some have the idea that the words “MY faith” means “I can do whatever I want with it.” No: “my faith” means “the relationship between God and me is not tethered to anyone or anything else.” My faith is not tied to my parents or friends, or where I live, etc. Instead it is between me and God.
Nevertheless, God still calls the shots. So question and make sure your faith is right, but don’t conform, don’t rebel, don’t take the easy way out.
IS MY FAITH
This is the kind of faith we should end up with.
This is the kind of faith, about which we can say “It’s mine because I ‘worked it out’ (Philippians 2:12-13).”
It is OWNED…so it can stand up to troubled times.
When I’m on my own and not able to rely on a parent or guardian to lead me around and help me, I have my faith. When I’m on my own and things get rough I have my faith in the Lord. My faith is not inherited; it belongs to me.
It is OWNED…so it can stand up to false teachers.
When I hear something that I don’t know if its right in line with the Bible, I have my faith and I can learn for myself what is right and wrong. That way I don’t have to stand on the judgment day and see the person I trusted more than my Bible being condemned (and me being condemned right after). My faith is not indoctrinated; it belongs to me.
It is OWNED…so it can stand up to my own occasional doubts.
When I wonder if I’m doing things right, in the right way, or for the right reasons; whenever I start to question…I have my faith and my relationship with God. I have His Word that pulls me through and helps me fight off doubts that creep in. My faith answers the questions that crop up and puts me at ease once more.
So what is your faith?
If its not YOUR faith and if it is not right in line with the Bible, make it right. Study with people and learn from them, but trust the Bible–not a man–to tell you what is right.
Think about it,
have a great day!