The Normal Christian Birth (Part 2)

The second stage of the normal Christian birth is to believe. By believe, we are actually speaking about faith in God and in the Christ. The writer of Hebrews states that without faith it is impossible to please God, and those who come to Him must first believe.

Believe what?

First, we must believe that He is, or that He exists. Just believing that God exists is not good enough because even the demons believe that, and they tremble at the fact. Having done so, we must believe in Him.

Faith is Historical

Believe, or faith, must be based on facts, not feelings. Today’s Emergent Church emphasizes experience over truth. Dont get me wrong: it is good to have an experince of God. But while it builds up our faith, it should not be the basis of it. Paul, who met the Lord Jesus on the road to Damascus, never insisted that believers also have a similar encounter. He never suggested that they travel that same road more frequently so that their would also encounter Christ as he did. (There have been so many who have had divine encounters with God and then written books about them, not merely in a descriotive way but in a prescriptive way as well.) Instead he asks them to base their faith on what they have heard from him through the preaching of the gospel. After all, faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God, doesn’t it?

Take the Israelites for example. They have not had an experience of God for centuries while they were in Egypt. We know little about their lives during this period apart from the fact that they were subject to slave labor towards the end of it (Ex 1:8-11). But we can safely imagine that they gradually assimilated to their new home. They would have been immersed in Egyptian language, culture, and religion. There was no evidence from Genesis or Exodus that anyone was spiritually leading nascent Israel in remembering or worshiping the God of Abraham at this time. In fact, they worshiped the gods of Egypt and took them with them when they left Egypt for Canaan (Josh 24:14). By the end of Israel’s four-hundred-year sojourn in Egypt, they seem to know not known they had either a calling or a land of their own. They needed to be reconnected with their God and their land.

Now they are free and needs to be re-introduced to the God of their fathers. For this purpose, God instructed and inspired Moses to write the book of Genesis (and the other four books of the Torah).

In writing Genesis, chapter 1, in particular, Moses was starting with the Egyptian assumptions about creation, something Israel would have already accepted, to correct Israel’s theology of creation.

What does Genesis 1 reveal to Israel (and to us as well) about God?

The first few words of the chapter “In the beginning God” immediately introduces God as Eternal. Many are confused as to what it means when we say “God is Eternal”. They think that it means that God cannot die but lives forever. That’s wrong. An immortal being is someone who cannot die but lives forever. But an immortal has a birth date, a beginning. God doesn’t, and so He is Eternal, not immortal.

When we say that God is Eternal, it means that God is without time. He exists outside of the realm or dimension of time. As a matter fact, time did not exist in Genesis 1:1. God created it when He “separated the Light from the Darkness”, and ”
called the light Day, and the darkness (he called) Night(Gen 1:4-5).

While God is Eternal, Mankind and all of creation is not. We live within the dimension of time. For this reason, we typically represent the history of the world in the form of a timeline. But if God were to represent the history of Himself, He would have to do so with only a dot. On that small dot is everything past, present and future. In other words, for God, past is present, present is future, future is past, and so on. Put another way, God does not have a past or a future, only the present. This is what makes it possible for God to be unchanging but remain “the same yesterday, today and forever” (Heb 13:8). You could say that God does not have “time” to change. Not Himself or His mind. As such, His promises are trustworthy. God is not a man, who makes promise and then changes his mind about it. “When he says something, he will do it; when he makes a promise, he will fulfill it” (Num 23:19b CJB). 

The next thing we learn from Genesis 1 about God is that He is One. According to Egyptian cosmology (the study of the origins of the universe), the name of the creator god is Atum. But, at the same time, many other gods existed. Miller and Soden, authors of “In the Beginning…We Misunderstood”, says, “The universe was actually composed of thousands of gods.” In Deuteronomy 6:4, Moses told the people that their God is one.
And reminds them again later that “

He alone is your God, the only one who is worthy of your praise, the one who has done these mighty miracles that you have seen with your own eyes” (Deut 10:21). 

When reading the creation story written by Moses, the Israelites would also have seen that as God created Man and the animals, He also made provision for them. He was Jireh, the Provider. This assured the Israelites that since God created them (as a nation), He will also provide for them. And indeed He has: “a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey” (Ex 3:8).

But trusting in God’s provision is easier said than done. Once they had entered the land and possessed it, they began to go after the gods of the Canaanites and to worship them. One of them was Baal. The Canaanites worshiped Baal because they believed that he was the one who supplied rain for their crops.

And as Israel began to settle in the land and grow crops for themselves, they too trusted in Baal to supply the rain. It wasn’t until Elijah, who challenged the prophets of Baal, that the question of who supplies the rain was settled. The spectacular victory by Elijah, however, did not wipe out completely the Baal cult. Israel, even some of her kings, continued to worship him.

But God was more than just Israel’s Provider. By His own decree, Israel became God’s “firstborn son” (Ex 4:22). This was echoed by the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah (Isa 63:16 and Jer 3:4), and then by the greatest prophet of all, Jesus.

When Jesus came to the Earth, He reminded them that God was their Heavenly Father and that He knows what they need before they asked Him (Matt 6:8). And because He knows what they need, He has made provisions for all of it and it is being stored in His kingdom. Hence, Jesus invites His people to “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness” because when they do “all these things will be added” to them (Matt 6:33). The call to seek God’s kingdom, put another way, is actually a call to return to and recognize anew God as Father. This call is to Gentiles also. Judging from the number of and popularity of seminars on the subject of The Father Heart of God, we can see that know God as Father is a great among Christians.

Like I have said earlier, the first chapter of Genesis was written specifically for the Israelites who had just left Egypt. It was God’s way of introducing Himself to His own people. But God did not stop revealing Himself after Genesis 1. He continues to reveal Himself, even today.

At the time of their departure from Egypt,  God had only revealed Himself to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as El-Shaddai – God Almighty. Thus that was the extent of their knowledge of God. And to Moses, God admits: ”
but I did not reveal my name, Yahweh, to them” (Ex 6:3 NLT). What this tells us is that unless God reveals Himself to Man, no one will be able to know Him. Because God had not revealed His name Yahweh to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, they could only know Him as El-Shaddai. But now, God was ready to reveal His personal name to His people, indicating that He was hoping to have a more personal and intimate relationship with them.

Think of yourself as a new employee in a company. On your first day of work, your boss shakes your hand and says, “Welcome. I am the manager of this department. You can call me sir or boss.” What does that tell you about the kind of relationship that he wants to have with you. Clearly, he wants to keep the relationship formal and official, and not informal or personal.

God not only wants us to know Him, Hr also wants us to know His Son. To this end He reveals Him to us as the second Moses, the deliverer of our souls, the propitiation of our sins and bearer of the New Covenant.

In the same way that our faith in god yad to be historial, based on facts, our faith in the Son must also be based on facts. God Newhaminducing him to the world through the prophets. The four gospel writers bear witness to His existence. His life. His ministry. His death and resurrection and Ascension.

Faith is Personal

If faith stopped at the historical dimension it would turn faith into a credal confession, an intellectual acceptance. Creeds were composed to safeguard the vital historical element (both the facts and their meaning)for future generations. Yet it is possible to recite Creeds with sincerity and even conviction without that relationship and commitment which are essential for saving grace. Creeds begin in a personal way (“I believe. ..”) but they often aren’t applied in a personal way. To say”i believe that is true”is not the same as saying”That’s true for me”. To believe that Jesus is the Savior of the world is not the same as believing that he is my Saviour.

Christian faith is not believing in a series of propositions but in a single person. It is not believing that Jesus died and Rose again (this is believing with the Mind);  it is believing in the Jesus who died and rose again (this is believing with the heart).

It is interesting that the New Testament writers prefer the verb ‘believe’ to the noun ‘faith’, indicating that it is something you do than something you have.

Faith is Verbal

In the words of Jesus., “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks”. Thus,  when the heart is full of faith in God the mouth can’t help but speak faith filled words. Yet it does not speak to itself -this would mean the person is mad- but to God who hears his call and saves him. “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”(Joel 2:32, Acts 2:21). This calling on the name of the Lord is not a mere mentioning of the name ‘Jesus’ for it is unlikely that liturgical recitations qualifies as a ‘word of faith’. It is a loud address that expresses belief in his presence. A classic case is the blind man who refused to keep quiet until Jesus heard him (Mark 10:46-52).

Paul also stated that faith must be verbalised. “If you comes with your mouth”Jesus is Lord” and believe with your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved”(Rom 10:9-10).

To whom do we confess?  Most Christians have too readily assumed that it is to men that this confession must be made. But in fact it is to the Lord that we must confess our faith in Him. However the two are not mutually exclusive. To confess Jesus as Lord to His face needs to be followed by the same confession in the face of others, especially those who do not believe it yet.

Faith is Practical

When you have believed with your heart, you must then demonstrate it with action. The most common display of faith in the Bible by the early believers was that of baptism. Look at the following verses:

Acts 2:41 those who gladly received his word were baptized…

Acts 8:38 so he commanded the chariot to stand still, and both Philip and the eunuch went down…

Acts 22:16 now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sin, calling on the name of the Lord.

They all did this because of what Mark 16:16 says. “he who believes and is baptized will be saved…”

Faith is Continual

It is not enough to have believed in God and Christ just once – on the day you were converted. The word believe in John 3:16 is in the present tense, which renders it “whosoever keeps on believing will not perish but have everlasting life”.

Take the Israelites leaving Egypt for example. They demonstrated faith when they slaughtered the animal on the night of the Passover. They need faith when the passed through the waters of the Red Sea. They lacked faith while they were in the wilderness (and tested the Lord ten times) and look where they ended up.

Conclusion

The second stage of the normal Christian birth is believe. Your faith must be historical,  personal, verbal, practical, and continual.

How can this be applied to our lives?

Having this renewed  understanding of what faith is you are now better able to play the role of a spiritual midwife and bring a new soul into the Kingdom of God. You will be more mindful about the religious background of the convert which affects how he thinks about God. He ir she could be a polytheist, believing there are many gods. For him to have saving faith his mind must be renewed. He must be introduced to the God of heaven and earth and given time to become acquainted with Him.

Then he must be helped to move from believing about God to believing in God. It is only when he had the conviction that can only be produced by the Holy Spirit that he will be able to confess “Jesus is (my) Saviour and Lord! “. After all, no one can say that words apart from the Holy Spirit.

Following his confession,  he must be led to make his faith practical by being baptised with water. We will discuss the significance of Water Baptism in the next three lessons but suffice it to say now that through watery Baptism he identifies himself with Christ in His death and resurrection,  and partakes of their benefits.p

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