Foundations of Faith…
Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it.
1 Peter 3:15 (NLT)
Are we ready to defend our faith? We can be much more prepared if we know the foundations on which it is built… read on!
Note from Kip…
No peeking forward!
Right now, stop! I want you to focus and ask yourself, what is the most fundamental causation for your faith in Jesus Christ as Lord, Master, Redeemer, Friend, and Brother. No, I’m serous. I want you to do this now for later reference.
Exercise: Jot down mentally or for those of you who are like me and forget what they are looking for when they shift their attention from the cell phone to the computer, write it on a piece of paper, in as few words as you possibly can.
We will come back to this in a bit.
Peter makes a great call here. When people ask us why we put our hope and trust in Jesus, we really need to have a response for them that makes some sense to someone who hasn’t been given the gift of the Holy Spirit to teach them the Word of God.
They don’t understand the truth of the scriptures and their closest link to a connection to God may be us. This places on us a massive responsibility to be prepared to respond in a manner that is understandable to them.
So when someone asks you point blank, “Why do you believe in that God stuff anyway?“, what are you going to respond with?
Now the Holy Spirit, if you are allowing Him to work in you, may save you and provide the words needed to defend your faith. However, a good and faithful messenger will prepare in advance, the responses to the obvious challenges to our faith in Jesus Christ for our salvation that will be presented to us.
What we are going to talk about today will not give you everything you need to defend your faith, but it will provide you with a basis, a foundation from which our faith is built. If we have this tucked away in the back of our minds then it makes it much simpler to from there go on to more complex spiritual truths.
When we first started, what did you jot down regarding what did you say was the most fundamental cause for your faith in Jesus?
If you made it down to one word, ‘love’, then you nailed it!
If you required any more than that one word then you might need to examine further the ultimate source of our faith.
If you cheated and modified your answer or didn’t make a mental note, or write down your answer in advance, consider just how Love can be the foundation for faith.
Even if you got it right, consider that too, because we can often say something is so without really understanding why it is so. Therefore, if we are laying our a clear understanding of the foundation for our faith, it serves us well to consider just how Love is that foundation.
It might help us a bit if we understand what kind of love we are talking about and that is agape love or God Love. We call it that because agape love is sacrificial love. It is relentless, and has little regard for self and the highest regard for it’s focus.
We will develop this foundation more as we go, but the basic premise behind it is the fact, that ‘God = Love’. We’ve all said it I think. We certainly hear it enough. Those outside of grace may challenge us on this fact, but its a basic truth. God is many things due to just how awesome He is, but the basic premise is that God is Love.
The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his one and only Son into the world so that we might live through him.
Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.
1 John 4:8-10 (CSB)
Perhaps a better way to express this is to say that God is synonymous with Love. In other words, if we say Love we should identify that with God and if we say God we should identify that with Love. You simply can’t have one without the other. Love and God are the same.
What perhaps confuses this fact for some is that God possesses so many other attributes that we can’t see the forest for all these trees. At the core, all of those other wonderful features are subject to His Love. And yes, even Justice which ultimately comes down to punishment for acting outside of God’s Grace.
If there were no justice there would be no reason to respond to God’s love. Justice puts consequences in place should we choose not to respond to God’s love. God isn’t just because of love. He is just because He is just. In the same way He is love because He is love.
The fact that God is, tells us a lot about God. When He says “I am the great I AM” and we understand that God is, simply because He is, we can come to a clear image of presence of these attributes of God.
Similarly, just as God and Love are equivalent, Jesus and God are as well.
“My sheep hear my voice, I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all. No one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”
John 10:27-30 (CSB)
Jesus comes right out and states that God the Father and He are the same. So much so, that when Jesus says that no one will snatch His sheep, us; He follows up by saying immediately thereafter, “No one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”
Jesus isn’t repeating Himself, He is making a point that there is no daylight between Him and the Father. They are in fact, one in the same.
Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who lives in me does his works.
John 14:10 (CSB)
Some will attempt to describe the relationship between God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit as being ‘symbiotic’ in nature. But this is inaccurate, All three are not living inside each other. They are all one and all individual, but the thing that really should be noted is that they are all God and incidentally God IS Love!
Symbiosis doesn’t work here. We really don’t have a word that fully defines this relationship, which is why our triune God is referred to as the Trinity. The persona’s of the Trinity are distinct and separate, while at the same time they are unified as one. We simply can’t fathom this concept because we are limited by the properties of this space-time. Boundaries established by the Creator. There for the only frame of reference we have for the Trinity is the Trinity Himself.
Now referring to the Trinity with a gender isn’t all that accurate either. God created Adam and Eve, male and female. These two were both made in God’s image. God is referenced as Father, Son, and even Mother. God transcends gender. For God always was and always is, which again, is something our little minds have a really difficult time adopting.
Since I really don’t wish to refer to God as ‘it’, I simply used a male pronoun.
While we pretty much fail at providing a full and accurate description of the relationship within the trinity, we do have a word that describes the individual persona’s, tantamount. They are virtually the same person, while being separate.
Christ Jesus loves to use analogous structures to bring the point home to us. Above He references you and I as His sheep.
In a similar manner he uses the vine to describe how we are to be like him in every way possible.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.
Every branch in me that does not produce fruit he removes, and he prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.
Remain in me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me.”
John 15:1-4 (CSB)
Now our transformation to be like Jesus isn’t completed in this life. That’s going to require a new body for us, because as long as we exist in the flesh, we are in constant battle with the corruption that is inherent in the flesh.
Dear friends, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when he appears, we will be like him because we will see him as he is.
1 John 3:2 (CSB)
A transformation takes place and our fleshly bodies are discarded and we are equipped with new heavenly bodies.
We all, with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 3:18 (CSB)
At this point this transformation that is taking place right now, is completed. No we don’t become part of the Trinity itself but we are fashioned in as close of an image of Christ Jesus as possible.
Back to Love
We spent some time exploring God’s make up and yes one very significant part of that is love. Let us remember that there is an equivalence at play between God and Love.
But we haven’t really gotten into why love is the foundation of our faith.
At the crux of this are the attributes of God, this is why we spent some time exploring God’s relationship to love, the Trinity, and us. There is a distinct thread that is woven from God’s heart to our redemption.
From our perspective we have a difficult time realizing that Jesus and his sacrifice for us on the Cross wasn’t God’s reaction to our sin. Let me repeat that in a different way. While Jesus provided a means of us being purged of the stain sin placed on us, He didn’t suffer the cross because he wanted us free of sin’s grasp. He wanted us free of sin’s grasp so that He could redeem us for His own. Why? Because of His relentless, unstoppable, immeasurable love for us.
But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8 (CSB)
God want’s a relationship with us, driven by His Love for us. If it were not for that love, Christ wouldn’t have found it necessary to die for us. But now consider the attributes of God.
Specifically I want to focus in on His ability to know all things for all time. We view time as a linear thing which starts at one point and goes to another point on an invisible line. God created time. God created space. He created all things visible and invisible. From God’s perspective, He can observe all that we have done, all that we will do along that invisible line. The line isn’t invisible to Him. Time is a property of His creation.
Because of this, before He considered creation He was able to reflect on the love He has for us before He ever spoke the universe into existence. The fact that He created us with free will wasn’t a flaw in His design, it was a critical component of what He desired.
He loved us prior to creation, and because of that love and what that love requires, we needed to be able to make our own choice to return His love back to Him. We couldn’t simply be directed to love Him, that wouldn’t exhibit the love He desired to be returned to Him.
Because of the ‘Free Will’ feature of our engineering, he also was fully aware that this very feature of our design, would result in Adam and Eve’s disobedience.
I’m sure you recall Jesus saying this.
If you love me, you will keep my commands.
John 14:15 (CSB)
He was saying the exact same thing to Adam and Eve when He created them.
He placed a tree in the garden that they could not eat from. The tree of knowledge of good and evil.
but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die.
Genesis 2:17 (CSB)
Being that we are flesh and our bodies temporal, we think of reference to death as being this physical body. But it was both the spiritual death that was referenced here along with a physical death.
If it were not for that original sin of defiance to God’s command, Adam and Eve had the potential to live forever.
But the architect of the universe knew that they would betray Him. In His design driven by this relentless love, death being introduced to the world was a necessity, along with the cross and Jesus coming to be our sacrifice.
All of this was visible to God prior to the first star being placed in the sky. But due to His love for us, He pulled the trigger, He created as He loved. He commanded as He loved. He disciplined as He loved. He established covenants with His people because He loved. He came to suffer the cross as He pursued His love for us.
Love is the foundation of our faith, because our faith is in that sacrifice that Jesus made in order to redeem us for His own.
God is Love. Love is God. The Father is in Jesus. Jesus is in the Father. They both are in the Spirit and the Spirit in them. And the love of God is in all.
That love sacrificial, relentless, and without measure, determined to provide a means by which we could share in His divine nature and return His love back to Him.
The Foundation of Faith!