Have you ever thought, like I have, that someone should publish a list of the meaningless terms being compiled and thrown around in this country every day? Having a handy reference guide could be very helpful when “woke” politicians and their media mouthpieces start dishing out another barrage of syllables without substance. In today’s culture of fraudulent communication and linguistic abuse, it’s hard to keep up with all the words and phrases that have been stripped of reliable and consistent definitions. We often hear familiar, recognizable terminology, but if we try to interpret what they’re saying the way we would have back when words actually meant something, it can get really confusing. There’s no shortage of examples, but there’s one phrase in particular that captivates my attention because of its fundamental and inexorable association with Christianity.
A Search for Meaning ~
Whenever I hear someone referred to as a “person of faith,” my first reaction is to ask, “What are they really saying?” “Faith” is a simple, one syllable word, but arriving at a definition doesn’t seem to be simple at all. Historically, the word is associated with religious convictions, but that doesn’t really tell us much. There isn’t a set of religious beliefs and practices on earth, including Satanism, that doesn’t adopt, promote, and utilize the idea of faith. But the term is also used to describe personality characteristics like self-confidence or trustworthiness. Beyond that, we see people with thoroughly secular worldviews exercising religious-like zeal and the elements of “faith” every day. They devote their time, energy, money, and other resources in the service of things like “climate change” or similar politically motivated causes. If “faith” simply means to believe strongly in something, then everybody has some version of it. And if it can refer to almost anything, then to claim that someone has it reveals little to nothing about them.
Thankfully, when the living God speaks, His words mean something. He isn’t throwing us a can of verbal Play Doh, and the terms He chooses aren’t delivered in a “twist-and-shape-as-needed” format. God’s words come with eternal significance and in our quest to understand what He is really saying to us, it’s vital that we exercise diligence. The greater the significance of the term, the greater the importance of understanding what God meant by it – and faith is one of those foundational concepts we must not treat lightly.
A Distinctive Difference ~
While the overall concept of faith doesn’t change, there is a distinctive difference in how God applied the term that we must not miss. The addition of a simple little definite article makes a profound difference. When the Word of God refers to “the faith,” the definition is vastly different than what is meant when the reference is to “our faith” or “your faith.” In describing the basic difference, it’s helpful to take a broad look at the nature of God and His intent regarding our relationship to Him. God revealed a key to that in a passage the Jews have used as a prayer for thousands of years. It simply says:
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. (Deuteronomy 6:4–5 NKJV)
The implications in the fact that God is “one” are extensive, and the importance of understanding that cannot be overstated. A primary place to recognize that is in our approach to the Bible. The Bible is not a collection of 66 different stories written over hundreds of years about 66 different things. The Bible from Genesis to Revelation is one story and the subject is God, not you and me. It has at least 40 human writers but the living God Himself is its only author. He gave us a divine autobiography, as it were, in order to reveal Himself and to show how His redemptive plan unfolded over time and how it will conclude.
A Comprehensive Story ~
It is that composite story that comprises the unshakeable truth that holds the key to our current and eternal welfare. It is the story of how the “shalom” of God established in Eden was destroyed and how He will eventually restore all that was lost. It is the story of what God had to endure to bring us the “Good News” of salvation and to secure a place for us in His Kingdom. It is our allegiance to the veracity of that composite story that is affirmed with the designation, “the faith”. Here are a few examples:
Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. (Jude 3 NKJV)
O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge—by professing it, some have strayed concerning the faith. (1 Timothy 6:20–21 NKJV)
Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron. (1 Timothy 4:1–2 NKJV)
That distinction becomes vitally important if we consider “faith” to be a term we can apply to any deeply held personal belief. In that case, we can apply it to things that are separate from, or even contradictory to, the truth revealed in God’s Word. For instance, we might reject the Bible altogether and embrace the writings of some other so-called “holy book”. We could also decide to dissect the Word of God and selectively exclude those passages that don’t happen to suit our preferences and believe those that do. Some seem to envision themselves as divine editors. They take pen in hand, as it were, and set out to create a revised, culturally-approved version they find easier to believe. Those efforts only succeed in fulfilling Paul’s dire prophecy about those who “stray” or “depart from” the faith.
Making it Personal ~
Of course, that is not to say that personal faith is irrelevant, quite the contrary. The Word of God makes it clear that faith also describes belief that is personal and individual. In that sense, the word “faith” is usually preceded by a personal pronoun as we see in these examples:
Then He [Jesus] touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith let it be to you.” (Matthew 9:29 NKJV)
But He [Jesus] said to them, “Where is your faith?” (Luke 8:25 NKJV)
…receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:9 NKJV)
It isn’t our belief in some abstract idea we call faith that saves us. When God uses the term, its meaning is spectacularly clear. Faith means exercising our capacity to believe and directing it toward the record God has given and faithfully preserved for us. Faith means we’ve responded to His offer to give us life instead of death, hope instead of despair, and freedom instead of bondage. Faith means that the living God has made us part of the eternal, unifying “one” He declares Himself to be. In Jesus Christ, we are made living members of an everlasting family, living organisms in a glorious body, and living stones in a holy temple.
Being a “person of faith” in those terms isn’t confusing at all.
“TWEETABLES” ~ Click to tweet and share from the pull quotes below. Each one links directly back to this article through Twitter.
- “Arriving at a definition doesn’t seem to be simple at all. If faith simply means to believe strongly in something, then everyone has some version of it. If it can refer to almost anything, then to claim that someone has it reveals little to nothing about them.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “When the living God speaks, His words mean something & come w/eternal significance. The greater the significance of the term, faith, the greater the importance of understanding what He meant by it. It’s one of those foundational concepts we mustn’t treat lightly.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “The Bible from Genesis to Revelation is one story and the subject is God, not you and me. The living God Himself gave us a divine autobiography, as it were, in order to reveal Himself and to show how His redemptive plan unfolded over time and how it will conclude.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “The composite story of the Bible comprises the unshakeable truth that holds the key to our current and eternal welfare. It is the story of how the “shalom” of God established in Eden was destroyed and how He will eventually restore all that was lost.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “Faith means exercising our capacity to believe and directing it toward the record God has given and faithfully preserved for us. It means we’ve responded to His offer to give us life instead of death, hope instead of despair, freedom instead of bondage.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
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© 2023 Gallagher’s Pen, Ronald L. Gallagher, Ed.S. All rights reserved.
Reading your post, my mind considered so many words that have been usurped, twisted, and reversed in these latter times. I thought about how in the same times we’ve seen Satan do the very same with our language, even the language of Christ’s church, that he has done throughout time. He has twisted, convoluted, and faked everything to the point that many who do not hold a true faith in God is deceived. I read a study earlier this year that suggested that less than 40 percent of pastors in Christian churches hold a true biblical worldview. That’s the very definition of an effective indoctrination/re-education campaign. I’ve used the phrase, “having faith” in” or “NOT having faith in” people, and suspect we’ve all said this, but as you point out, what are we really saying. In my case, I want to believe that I have held them against the righteous standard of God’s Word and find them in alignment with it. For example, I have faith in Mr. Ron Gallagher that he will speak God’s truth as he knows and understands it. I don’t, and can’t expect that he is perfect like God because he’s not God, but flawed man, as all of us are. What he is NOT, however, is a deceived man. He has proven himself to be trustworthy, reliable, and God-fearing. My reasoning. If God trusts this man to carry out His great commission, then I too can trust him. I trust him because I know that his faith is in God. You see, it’s in where we place our trust, and our faith. I thought of a term I like to use, “little ‘g’ gods”, and lots of folks place their faith in little ‘g’ gods like status, money, title, fame, etc. But like God Himself, there is but one true God, only one deserving of that title. All others are fakes, duplicates, knock-offs; like the $5 Rolexes you find in NYC, NY or Beijing, China’s silk market. Oh, they look as shiny and bright (and expensive) as the real thing until you look inside. When you take a deeper look, you find they’re cheap imitations that have zero chance of living up to the original.
Another great post sir. Thank you for having the courage to speak truth and point out the cheap imitations of Satan that deceive so many. Another of those words that stir up my bile is “Spiritual.” I cry inside every time I hear someone tell me, “Oh, but I’m very spiritual.” I want to shout, “I’m sure you are, but it sure ain’t the Holy One.” Keep the faith my friend, and I’ll endeavor to do the same. Perhaps together, we can move just one to God. It will have been worth our labors. God’s blessings and I hope you and your Ms. Diane are doing well. You’ve been in my prayers this week.
Being on the same page with you is always a source of encouragement for me, and your response is another welcome example of it. Listening to the litany of empty verbal noise being thrown at us daily is maddening to me. They take wonderful, powerful words like “justice” and turn them into empty, meaningless “woke” buzzwords and talking points. And I have the same response as you with that whole “spiritual” or “spirituality” nonsense people talk about. We have allowed the godless crowd to hijack our dictionaries and suck the meaning out of some of the richest language ever penned. As a culture, we have fostered ignorance in the things that matter and introduced our kids to “doctrines of demons.” Like you, I am appalled at how many pastors of so-called “churches” don’t believe the Bible is the Word of God and encourage acceptance of lifestyles and behaviors that God expressly condemned. Your analogy of the knock-off watches and phony “silk” garments is a perfect illustration of the garbage that is dished out to us every day, and has crept into more churches than we would have ever imagined.
But God has never been intimidated by an oppositional majority, and He has shown us again and again that He can bring victory in ways we never expected. Our prayer is that we might live to see another example of that in the country we both love. Thank you again for making our day here in Middle Tennessee, and may God bless you and your precious wife as you work together to demonstrate what following Jesus looks like.