Monday, January 25, 2010

What Is Faith?

A Case Study of Rahab the Harlot

By Pastor Larry DeBruyn

[Note: We interrupt this series on "Preparations for Sufferings" to bring you this timely article just written by Pastor Larry DeBruyn. This article does a good job of setting the stage for the next article in our series.]


Just believe! The faith of many within the contemporary pan-evangelical church is misplaced. For many, faith has become “faith in feelings.” As a friend of mine used to say, Christians these days seem to get all excited over excitements. But if individual and inner feelings are left to become the standard of faith, then such faith is placed ultimately within one’s feelings, and that is a miserable place for faith to reside. Faith may be “personal,” but that’s all it is. With an excess emphasis on internal emotionalism, faith is reduced to a romanticism. To encourage personal faith, one might as well read feel-good books, watch feel-good movies, or listen to feel-good songs.

One such song extols the magic of believing. The lyrics read: “I believe for every drop of rain that falls, a flower grows.” [1] While the lyrics sound upbeat and positive–words that positivity and possibility preachers might extol–they are essentially false. One drop of rain does not produce one equivalent flower. Flower lovers may wish it to be were so, but it is not. This is one example of a romantic but vacuous faith. But ultimate faith will rise no higher than the object into which it is placed, and biblical faith demands a subject who believes, and an object that is believed in. For an example, we turn to Rahab the Harlot.


Hebrews states: “By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace” (Hebrews 11:31). In light of the current confusion about faith, it behooves us to look at what characterized Rahab’s faith.

First, from the polytheism of her pagan Canaanite culture, Rahab came to believe in the one God of Israel, the Lord God Yahweh. As she confessed to the two spies, "the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath" (Joshua 2:11). Rahab renounced faith in the pagan territorial deities of the Canaanites and trusted in the solitary God of Israel, Yahweh (Deuteronomy 6:4). Rahab rejected polytheism and embraced monotheism. Putting all other religious options aside, Rahab put her faith in the one God of Israel. "And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is" (Hebrews 11:6). The faith the Father extols is belief that begins not with faith in faith, but with faith in the "God in heaven above and on earth beneath." Implicitly, faith believes in God’s PERSON.

Virtuous faith also believes in God’s PROMISES, or his Word. Rahab admitted to the spies, "I know that the Lord has given you the land" (Joshua 2:9). Whose land was she talking about? Answer: Her own. Imagine, she believed that God could give her land to someone else, to another nation of people (See Genesis 12:7; 13:14-18; 15:18-21; 17:6-8; 26:1-5; 28:1-4.). In a way of speaking, Rahab’s faith in the Lord’s Word caused her to waive her own property rights!

Even though the reports filtered down to her by word of mouth, Rahab also believed in the greatness of God’s POWER by which he redeemed Israel from Egypt. "For we have heard" she related to the spies, "how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea . . ." (Joshua 2:10). Some Christians think they can possess a faith stripped of the miraculous. But such a faith cannot save. For example, Christianity minus the miraculous time-matter-space resurrection of Jesus Christ is futile faith (See 1 Corinthians 15:12-19.). Saving faith confesses "Jesus as Lord" and heartily believes "that God raised Him from the dead" (Romans 10:9; Compare Romans 1:4.).

Finally, true faith demands PENITENCE. Matthew records that she repented of her harlotries (She is no longer named a harlot!), married Salmon, and together via their son’s birth (Boaz) became the great, great grandparents of King David, the royal family out of which Jesus the Messiah descended (Matthew 1:5). True faith renounces a former sinful lifestyle (See 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Ephesians 5:5.). In that many evangelicals reflect no change in lifestyle–according to researchers there is no difference in behavior between born-agains and non-born-agains–we can only deduce there is an absence of genuine faith.

True faith is not “faith in faith,” but believes in the person, promises and power of the one and only biblical God all the while exhibiting real change-of-life penitence for sin in the face of His holiness and righteousness.


ENDNOTE
[1] "I Believe!" Though performed by a number of artists, the author is unknown. Lyrics at: http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20060828114836AAFJA4W.

This article is used by permission. The original is posted at Pastor Larry DeBruyn's new website Guarding His Flock. See: http://guardinghisflock.com/?p=705#more-705

Pastor Larry DeBruyn is the author of the new book exposing the "quantum spirituality" emergent movement, UNSHACKLED: Breaking Away From Seductive Spirituality, available from Discernment Ministries 903-567-6423.