Month 5:22, Week 3:7 (Shibi'i/Sukkot), Year:Day 5940:137 AM|
2Exodus 3/40, Yovel - Year 50/50
Gregorian Calendar: Wednesday 24 August 2016
Futile Religion VII
Faith is Not a Quantity
Continued from Part 6
Shabbat shalom kol beit Yisra'el and mishpachah and welcome back to the sermon series on Futile Religion which had to be interrupted for nearly two months last July because of festivals and unforeseen circumstances. We continue from Righting False Perceptions of Elohim (God) caused by the internal erection of false idols, themselves the result of false imaging by fathers and mothers. You may remember that so much of our atheism stems from our projecting our painful experiences with our earthly fathers onto our Heavenly Father. Our anger with Elohim (God) is simply our anger with our failed earthly fathers.
Struggling With Faith
How many of you struggle with emunah (faith)? I do, we all do, and a reason we struggle is we are so busy quantifying it. We think we don't have enough emunah (faith) so we go looking for more. "If only I had just that little bit extra, it might be all I need to tip the scale into victorious living." Or so we think. Faith is a strange creature precisely because you can't divide it into fractions. If I were to tell you that you only have 25 per cent faith, you'd laugh me out of this meeting room, because how can you put a number onto faith? Yet that's exactly what you do when you tell yourself you don't have quite enough faith.
Faith is Binary
Faith is not like a jug of water which is either empty, partially filled, or full. Faith is like a light being on or off, a car whose motor is either started or not started. You either have it, or you don't. You either believe in Elohim (God), or you don't. Faith is not like a kettle that has to come to the boil in order for it to work. It's a choice - yes or no, plus or minus, on or off. If I prophesy saying that you will get a gift of a very large sum of money tomorrow from a complete stranger, you either say, 'Yes, I believe you' or 'No, I don't believe you.' You don't say, 'I only half beleive you.' If you only 'half believe', you're not really believing at all.
No Pressure to Perform
The issue, brethren and sisters, is emunah (faith) itself, not a 'quantity of faith'. This is important to understand. Very important indeed. Because once you have understood that it's an absolute and not a quantity to be measured, that immediately takes the pressure off us to perform in order to please Yahweh. Faith takes the emphasis off ourselves and places it on Elohim (God).
I love this illustration about an incident in Abraham's life. When he was told that his wife Sarah was going to have a baby in her old age, Abraham immediately looked at himself - at his situation - and said, 'I can't father a baby - I'm past it!' Then he looked over at his wife and thought to himself, 'I know she can't have a baby - I mean, her womb is all shrivveled up and dead!' And then what did he do? He looked up at Yahweh and said, 'When are we having the baby?' 
How Much 'Faithing' Can You Manage?
This is so typical of human beings. We all go through the same sequence of thought. When it comes to the promises of Elohim (God), we first look at ourselves and say, 'Nah, that's impossible!' Then we look around us at other people and wonder if they can help us attain those promises. And, of course, we soon realise that's impossible too. (What human being, after all, has ever delivered Utopia?) If I can't bring about Yahweh's promises, then others made of the same stuff as I am can't possibly do so either. Which brings us to the third stage, when human agents clearly can't do the job, bringing us emunah (faith) - we look to Yahweh and thank Him that His promises are true and so leave the matter with Him. That is emunah (faith) - that is trusting. And since it's not a quantitative thing, we don't worry about whether we have done enough 'faith-ing' or not. Clearly the whole idea that we could do increase our faith-ing is absurd.
Illustrating With a Promise
Yahweh said, through the apostle Peter, that we are "a chosen people...a kingdom of cohenim (priests), Elohim's (God) qadosh (holy, set-apart) nation, His very own possession" (1 Pet.2:9, NLT). Who was Peter talking to? Believers - believers of all sorts, young and old, male anmd female, immature and mature, leaders and laity. In fact, he starts off his letter by addressing "Elohim's (God's) chosen people who are living as foreigners in the lands of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia..." (1 Pet.1:1, NLT) just as He is talking to believers here in Sweden, there in South Africa, Myanmar, the United States, New Zealand or wherever you might be. He doesn't categorise the believers. He's speaking to all of them. In fact, Peter said:
Evidencing Who You Are
"Elohim (God) the Father chose you long ago" (1 Pet.1:2a, NLT).
Do you believe that? Yes? OK. As believers who are holding onto Messiah, choosing not to let go of Him, you are evidencing that 'long ago' calling - that choosing, that volition. (I am not witnessing of 'Once Saved, Always Saved' here). Peter says:
The Switched-On Ones
"...the Ruach (Spirit) has made you qadosh (holy, set-apart). As a result, you have obeyed Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) and are cleansed by His blood. May you have more and more of Elohim's (God's) special favour and wonderful shalom (peace)" (1 Pet.1:2b, NLT).
All I am trying to say is that if your emunah (faith, trusting) is switched on, you are "chosen", "cohenim (priests)", the "qadosh (holy, set-apart) nation [of Messianic Israel]" and Yahweh's "very own possession". You're His, safe and secure. Once you stop believing, you are none of these things. It's as simple as that.
Relying on Messiah
If this is true - and Scripture testifies that it is - then emunah (faith) is simply receiving what Yahweh desires to do for you in your life. You don't have to worry any more about it. It's securely in His hands to bring to pass, so long as you are relying on Messiah. Whatever He has for you will happen. Just trust. Just rely on Him.
The Separated Branch
Have you ever cut off a branch from a tree and put it into a vase or a bucket of water, and seen it slowly die? Imagine you're that branch becauser that's you when you cease to exercise emunah (faith). Little by little you die each day. It doesn't mattew how much you strain or struggle, the leaves keep falling off the branch, the petals off the flowers. And that's because they have no chayim (life) within them. You have no chayim (life) within yourself. But just before the branch dies - just before you die - you, the branch, are grafted into a living tree that possess all the chayim (life) that you need. Then you spring back into life, you stop dying.
Consequences of Imagining the Opposite of Truth
Imagine, if you will, that you, for some reason, come to believe that the chayim (life) coming from the tree is actually some terrible toxin. The thought so frightens you that you conclude that that chayim (life) will actually kill you. What will you do? You will naturally try everything you can to keep that chayim (life) out of you, even as you continue to die.
The Poisoned Image
The same is exactly true in our spiritual lives. Many have a concept - a picture - of Elohim (God) that is toxic...poisoned. They do not know who He is, and even though they're dying, they refuse to let His chayim (life) enter into themselves.
The Dark Room
Every one of us has our emunah (faith) tested at some point. Michael Wells asks us to picture the following:
"Imagine walking into a room when Yah'shua (Jesus) Himself steps in behind you, turns out the lights, closes the door and locks it, and then completely removes from you the awareness of His nearness, emotional responses to Him, and the consciousness that He hears you! You are to work as hard as you can to regain these; there is, however, one major perplexity. As long as you work to experience His presence, you extend your time in the darkened room, because its purpose is to teach you to walk by faith, not by sight or by feelings. Oh, yes, there is one other thing. When you have tried almost everything to regain emotional awareness, the enemy slips in and says things like, 'If only you had not done such and such, Elohim (God) would be nearer you. 'If only you had moved to such and such a place, He would be with you now.' 'If only you had married another person, everything would be much better'. 'If only you had not failed the Master, He would be pleased to be near you now'. 'If only you had prayed more and memorised more Scriptures, you would sense the Master's presence'" .
The Slippery Road to Works-Based Salvation
And whilst the enemy is feeding all these lies into your head and causing you to doubt, you might even come to question that you were ever born again. So you ask Yah'shua (Jesus) to come into your life again. You look for signs or anything that will give you the assurance you crave. You repent of every sin you can dream up and punish yourself with the most sever forms of guilt. What are you doing? Without realising it, you have started to perform to get Yahweh's acceptance. You have started seeking to be saved by your own works.
The Strongest Also Pass Through the Darkness
People who have exercised great emunah (faith) in the past, and have experienced great miracles, are often defeated when they are put to the test by Elohim (God) in this way. There is nothing they can do to experience Yah's presence and assurance, and so they face a solitary choice: to exercise eumunah (faith) or to disbelieve. How long can a man walk in darkness and not stumble and be overcome, broken and humbled? Yes, believers do, at various times in their lives, walk in such darkness, and so thick is it that it can even be felt (Ex.10:21,23), the darkness that Job knew only too well when he cried out:
The Procedures That Fail
"He has blocked my way so I cannot pass; He has shrouded my paths in darkness" (Job 19:8, NIV).
"Yet when I hoped for good, evil came; when I looked for light, then came darkness" (Job 30:26, NIV).
I have been there many, many times, as I know most of you have. This kind of interminable darkness (as it seems to be at the time) tests us and reveals any unbelief we may have. The longer the period of darkness and absence of emotion, the more will be revealed. Then what do we do? Well, we try all of those 'procedures' - again - to regain our emotional standing, and this will reveal what it is we really trust in our daily lives to bring contentment. And, of course, Yahweh doesn't allow any of these 'procedures' to succeed! In the midat of this darkness we face that radical choice - do I continue to believe, and remain a talmid (disciple), or do I walk away and become an unbeliever - an atheist. It happens. It happens all the time. I have seen once strong and fearless men and women reduced to trembling wrecks as they are tried. Some stay true others turn around and walk away from the Master of Light into Satan's darkness and are swallowed up in it.
Our Responses to Adversity Are Our Own
In in such times we discover, unpleasantly and painfully, what our idols actually are, those things that give us a small amount of comfort for a short time (Is.42:7). Maybe we trust in brothers and sisters in the Besorah (Gospel), or friends, whom we convince ourselves can get us out of spiritual trouble (Jer.9:4; Mic.7:5), but they can't and never could. What then? We may start blaming others for our misery, shifting responsibility. It's easily and commonly done. But we are ourselves responsible for our responsiveness in whatever situation we may find ourselves in. Others cannot make us choose how to react. We alone choose whether to continue trusting in Yahweh - as Job did - or not.
I don't know what idols you turn to in such situations, there are so many. We may turn to some pet doctrines and when they don't supply us with what we want, we may conclude they were false and we were deceived (Jer.28:15). We blame the teachers instead of our uncritical and ill-advised faith. There will always become something or someone to blame other than ourselves. Blame-shifting is the response of the cowardly. Appealing to our achievements and to the good things we have done in the past won't work because Yahweh will not cease the test us and exposing our idolatries in order to praise us and give us recognition (Jer.48:7). You'd be surprised how many believers discover that they have been trusting in fame in order to continue living the abundant life (Ezek.16:15).
The Judgment of Believers
My brethren and sisters, I have been telling you for some time now that the Body of Messiah is coming under jugdment along with the world. That is why so many of you are finding yourselves suddenly thrust into the dark room fumbling around for a measure of comfort and assurance. You already have the assurance of the Davar (Word) that Yahweh is there, that He will never forsake you, so what will you trust? Your finite senses or His infallible Davar (Word)? Is it not written:
Initiation into Adulthood
"Your Davar (Word) is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path" (Ps.119:105, NIV).
I saw a beautiful video clip the other day. Some of you may know of it. It tells the story of a father initiating his son into manhood. The fathers tells him that to become an adult, the boy must sit blindfold the whole night on a tree stump in the middle of a forest and remain there until daybreak. Only when he detects the dawn light will he be allwoed to remove the blindfold. So he sits there the whole night, his eyes, covered, surrounded by strange and frightening sounds and feeling the wind blowing on him. The longer he remains alone, the more frightened he gets as the sounds get closer and more menacing. He longs for the dawn. As the first rays of sunlight hit his face he removes his blindfold. And there, sitting next to him on an adjacent stump, is his father - he has been silently there the whole night with him!
That, my friends, is the reality of the believer too in the night of his dark testing. Yahweh is there with him even though he doesn't hear, see or feel any heart-connection. To accept that requires emunah (faith) - faith in His Word:
When Idols Fail to Deliver
"I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you" (Josh.1:5, NIV).
When our idols fail us, we begin to complain and make a fundamental mistake: in the midst of misfortune we do not simply remain silent and wait but start blaming Yahweh for the whole situation. We imitate Job and you know where that got him. We curse the day we were born and accuse Him of making a grave mistake in creating us. We can get angry with Him, charging Him with not caring and in doing nothing, just as the Judahites did:
Blind, Irrational and Hopeless
"You have said, 'It is futile to serve Elohim (God). What did we gain by carrying out His requirements and going about like mourners before Yahweh Almighty?" (Mal.3:14, NIV).
We at length become sick of the whole situation - blind, irrational and devoid of hope - and can no longer see the hand of Elohim (God) in the process. That's when we need our eyes opening to reality.
You Need Drastic Action
You probably don't believe, because of your pride and vanity, that you don't need such drastic treatment in order to see your idols, but I promise you, you do. Are you or I better than Job? We are all "righteous in [our] own eyes" (Job 32:1, NIV), it would seem, and that requires a major character correction.
Purpose in the Bad Times
The darkness we are permitted to pass through is only for the purpose of:
Renouncing the Idols
- 1. Revealing our idols; and
- 2. Presenting us with a choice to believe or cease believing.
The one who continues believing, as Job did, will repent and renounce his idols, as Job did, saying:
A Time to Be Silent Before Yahweh
"Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes" (Job 42:6, NIV).
Such as do cease their protestations and excuses and self-justifications:
"I am nothing...I will put my hand over my mouth in silence. I have said too much already. I have nothing more to say" (Job 40:3-5, NLT)
I have more to say about emunah (faith) next week, Yah willing. My prayer is, if you are in a dark time - and even if you are not (as it is better not to be compelled) - that you be honest with yourself, face your idols, admit them, repent of them and keep trusting Yahweh. Hold on! Stay true and faithful, loyal and obedient, and reap the reward of the faithful. Yet, sadly, the emunah (faith) of many believers will fail in what they are about to face. Do not be one of them. And may His grace be yours abundantly, until next week, is my prayer in Yah'shua' (Jesus') Name. Amen.
Continued in Part 8
 Michael Wells, Sidetracked in the Wilderness: Find the Way Back to a Victorious, Abundant Life (Devotional Life Press, Littleton, Colorado: 1991), pp.67-68
 Ibid., p.69