What God Wishes Christians Knew About Christianity/Part 7
|By: Dr. John Ankerberg and Dr. Bill Gillham; ©2005|
|Do you come to God just for the good things you can get out of Him, or because you really love Him? Why is it crucial for Christians to have complete faith in God to guide their lives?|
What God Wishes Christians Knew About Christianity – Part 7
Do you come to God just for the good things you can get out of Him, or because you really love Him? Why is it crucial for Christians to have complete faith in God to guide their lives?
Dr. John Ankerberg: My guest, Dr. Bill Gillham has written a book called “What God Wishes Christians Knew About Christianity.” In this fascinating book he wrote a chapter entitled, “God Wishes Christians Knew That They Have All the Faith They Need.” What’s he talking about?
Dr. Bill Gillham: We’re going to talk about faith for a while. You know, all people on planet Earth walk by faith. It’s a fact of life on planet Earth. For example, you go to the grocery store and you have faith when you see the little seal on a packaged good that the U.S. Department of Agriculture guarantees you that this is fit for human consumption. You believe that, and so you eat the food and you don’t worry that it’s poison.
You whiz through a green light and you place your faith in a total stranger that he’s supposed to stop at that red light and that he’ll do it. Sometimes he lets you down, but you went through the green light “by faith.”
You place your faith in a pilot that he knows how to fly a plane.
You place your faith in the law of aerodynamics that makes that plane fly. Even though you don’t understand beans about the law of aerodynamics, you put your faith in that particular law. We walk by faith. It’s a way of life on planet Earth.
The atheist is a man or woman of faith. They have their faith in themselves that they are right — that there is no God. And bless their hearts, they’re going to get an awful culture shock when they eject from their earth suit.
Now, then, God says that He has given to each “the measure of faith.” And God also says there’s such a thing as “the gift of faith.” The gift of faith is different from the measure of faith. Plain vanilla Christians have the measure of faith. Certain selected Christians have the gift of faith. It’s very clear in Scripture the gift of faith is to be used to edify the Church.
Now, I think that there are certain well-meaning people — and I’ll give them credit for that — and they have the gift of faith. And whatever they believe God for, Bingo! It happens. And so they open up a ministry and they try to teach others that others need to have the same kind of faith that they’ve got. They think they’ve got just the measure of faith when, in fact, I think they’ve got the gift of faith. And gang, when well-meaning people come to you when you’ve got a real problem — like Annabelle and I have had a mentally retarded child, and well-meaning friends came to us and told us if we just believed God, He’ll heal that child. So you see, a normal son was just a faith away for us. And we agonized in prayer. We prayed. But it wasn’t in God’s will for Mase to live. Mase is with the Lord now and so he is healed, but he was healed by physical death rather than by a supernatural act of God of faith.
So when your faith fails in a situation like that, a lot of these well-meaning people will tell you, “Well, you just didn’t have enough faith. You just didn’t believe God strongly enough.”
Gang, try to get more faith by 10 o’clock the next morning and see how far you get with that one.
Or, they’ll tell you there’s hidden sin in your life. And if you’ll ferret out that sin, then God will heal or God will do this or that or the other. You see, that kind of theology, gang, puts you in control of God. You see, you’ve got His number figured out and you can punch His button and He’ll come through for you every time if you just have enough faith. Gang, I don’t believe that’s right.
Ankerberg: Now let me ask you this. Why do you think that God tells us that without faith it is impossible to please Him? Why are we told to trust God totally? As you’ll hear in a moment, it is because God is worthy of our faith; and second, it’s because God wants to have an intimate, personal relationship with you. You may say, “I don’t understand all that, John.” Well, if so, look carefully at what Bill Gillham says next about faith.
Gillham: Now, going on with faith, why does God say to us that, “Without faith it is impossible to be pleasing to God”? Why would He make that statement? Well, let’s go back in time, in the eons of time, and see if we can get a little insight into that. Now, if you were God, and you were the greatest lover that the universe will ever know, you would want some free moral agent love objects that you could shower your love on who could, in turn, love you back. But God had a problem — now, I realize God doesn’t have problems, but in a way, He had a problem — and that is, if you’re the richest man in town, you can never really know that anybody loves you. For example, Ted Turner, Bill Gates. They can never really know that any human loves them because, you see, people are suspect that they’re just hanging out around Ted and Bill just for what they can get out of them, just to curry their favor.
Now, God is kind of in that same boat, only He knows us. He knows everything about us. The problem is, I don’t know myself. I don’t know whether I’m “hanging out with God just for what I can get out of Him,” i.e., to go to Heaven when I die, or do I really love God? In other words, if He were poor and powerless, would I still love Him, would I still want Him as my best friend? I think that’s an important question for a Christian to come to grips with. And I think God has given us an understanding of that.
Now, God has a complex solution in order to enable us to come to grips with this question that I’ve raised. So He created the universe and then He created angels who are free moral agents. Oh yeah. Angels have a free will. They can rebel if they want to. And some of them chose to. You see, I agree with the scholars who say that Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 describe the fallen angel Lucifer who became Satan.
The Bible describes Satan in those passages as superior to the other angels; perfect in beauty; full of wisdom; the anointed cherub; blameless in his ways. And he became proud. You see, gang, wisdom or beauty, either one of those things, will endanger you to become proud. And when you give one person both of those attributes, the threat to him of becoming proud becomes exponential in its intensity. And Lucifer bit the bullet and he became proud. And what he did was, he initiated a hostile overthrow in Heaven. He thought that he would make a better god than God, and so he tried to get a bunch of the angels to side in with him in order to make him God. There was rebellion in Heaven, the Scriptures say in Revelation 12:7-9, and Lucifer and a third of his angels were thrown out of Heaven and they were thrown to planet Earth.
Now then, God, after the war was over, created Adam and Eve and put them on planet Earth, knowing that they were going to fall. I mean, He’s God. It wasn’t any big shock when they blew it and sinned against God. He knew that ahead of time. And so they quickly, then, produced a race of people who were God’s enemies—humans who were enemies of God under the control of the first rebel, Lucifer.
Now then, at a point in time, God got into a tiny earth suit and called Himself Jesus. Jesus was God in an earth suit, and He came here to reveal God to mankind and to throw Himself in front of a freight train on your behalf, take the penalty hit for you so that you could come by faith and claim Christ as your Savior and Lord and life and be saved.
Now then, through this whole scenario the other two-thirds of the angels are left up in Heaven. They saw what happened to the rebels and they’re not about to rebel against God and try and take over Heaven like Lucifer and his crowd did. But the question remains, “Is God really worthy of all this praise I’m giving Him? Or is there someone else out there somewhere that I don’t know about who is worthier than God?” And what God is doing now is, He is allowing the angels to observe Him and humans to observe Him to see what a wonderful, generous, worthy person He really is. He did this through Jesus Christ and He continues to do it.
Now then, faith must have a time dimension in which to operate. A man named C. S. Lovett taught this to me, that without time there can be no faith. You’ve got to believe and then, tick, tick, tick, tick — then you see the result of your faith. One of these days time will be no more and faith will be no more because God will be finished with that project. Right now, though, we are locked into this time dimension and we have to operate by faith. It gives us the opportunity to relate to God and come to God and learn to just love Him for who He is rather than always trying to bug Him and extract our goodies out of Him and learn the magic formula for milking Him so we can become God and keep Him under our control. Many of us as Christians have God on a performance-based acceptance. As long as He does it our way, we’ll continue to “pay Him off” with our love on Sunday morning. Gang, that is a caricature of true Christianity. True Christianity is to put our trust in Him to supply all our needs through Christ while we relate to Him in an intimate manner and allow Him to express His life through us on planet Earth.
Ankerberg: All along, we have been trying to make the point that you cannot only trust Jesus Christ to forgive your sins and take you to Heaven, but you can trust Christ to enter your life and live His life through you. Many Christians have gotten saved but they haven’t quit trying to live the Christian life in their own strength. Bill is going to give us three illustrations to help us understand that our faith is only as valid as the object or person it is placed in. Here’s the first one.
Gillham: Well, let’s look at some examples of faith. Jim is a man who lives up in the North and he’s got a lake on his property. He inherited this property from his parents and he and his wife built a home out there overlooking the lake. So he loves ice-skating and it’s important to be first man in the county to skate on his pond each winter, each fall. And so it’s kind of early winter and he checks out the ice and to his surprise, “Why,” he says, “My soul! This ice is ready.”
And so he runs up to the house and gets his skates. His wife has gone to town for groceries, and he can hardly wait until she gets back so he can show her that the ice is ready. So he runs down and sits down on the dock that he built and he puts these ice skates on and hops out onto the ice and takes some swift strokes and is going around the perimeter down by the dam and all of a sudden, the ice gives way. Headfirst into the icy waters, underneath the ice, and as luck would have it, he was on the exhale stroke of his breathing and the weight of his soggy clothing, his skates, he chokes on the water and he’s gone. Just that quick. Now, question: What was the problem?
“Well, Jim just didn’t have enough faith. If he’d have had more faith, that wouldn’t have happened to him.”
Oh, now wait a minute. Jim had plenty of faith. He believed that the ice was going to hold him up. He had plenty of faith. He had faith enough to risk his life out there. But you see, it wasn’t his faith that let him down, it was the object of his faith that let him down. The ice wasn’t worthy of the trust that he placed in it. And, he also placed trust in his own ability to judge ice and that was a fallacy. But he had plenty of faith.
Ankerberg: Once again, let me say that most Christians believe Jesus is able to take them to Heaven, but after they are saved, they still try to live the Christian life in their own strength. When we do that, the problem is not that we don’t have enough faith, the problem is, we have placed our faith in the wrong person. The second illustration Bill is going to give illustrates how it will be helpful to us if we learn more about the Object of our faith, our wonderful Lord Jesus Christ.
Gillham: I’ve got another ice illustration. Back around 1800 a man and his wife, Sam and Betsy, were living in a cabin beside a river, about a half-mile wide, and the trading post was across the river. In pleasant weather they would get in a boat to go over there and get their supplies. In the wintertime, they’d walk across the ice. Now, back in that day people were very hospitable and a stranger came by and needed a place to spend the night. And so they invited him to sleep with them. And so he did that.
And unknown to either the stranger or Betsy and Sam, the stranger left a present for Betsy — a wasting disease that would kill her within a couple of weeks. She came down with this disease about three weeks after the guy left. Now, Sam knew that there was medicine across the street at the trading center. But times were tough and he cursed himself because he didn’t have any on hand, but he just didn’t have the bucks to do it.
Now the problem was that the ice wasn’t thick enough to support his weight. But it was too thick for him to row the boat across. And so he decided that he would rather risk his life, knowing that he would never see his wife again, but rather than life alone without Betsy, he chose to get out on that ice, fully believing that he couldn’t make it. So he had practically no faith.
So he kissed his wife on the forehead, went down to the river. He got a board and scooted it out on the ice to kind of distribute his weight and he started scooting and the ice started groaning. Scooting, groaning. Scooting, groaning. When he was halfway across, here came this crashing roar which was the ice breaking up and so he knew that he was gone. But he remained dry and the noise intensified. He looked back over his shoulder and a wagon and a team were roaring across the river. And they came right by him and the wagon disappeared across the river and up the bank on the other side. And the guy jumped off the wagon and ran into the trading post. He was after medicine also.
So Sam jumps up in the air and throws his hands up in the air and hollers, “Praise the Lord! “ And he runs across the ice, slipping and sliding and falling, gets the medicine, hitches a ride back to his cabin, gives the medicine to Betsy, and they live happily ever after.
Now then, down the river a couple of miles John and Nancy are living in a cabin on the same side of the river with the trading post. And John has got his binoculars out. He’s looking out the window and watching this scene.
And as he’s looking, he sees Sam scooting across the ice and his wife, Nancy, calls him and distracts him and he misses the wagon going across. So when he comes back to the window and looks again, he sees Sam jumping up and down waving his arms and running and slipping and sliding. And so John comes to this conclusion: “Why, Sam all of a sudden got more faith.”
No. That’s not what happened at all. You see, what happened was, Sam had practically no faith at the first. But when the wagon came by, Sam got more understanding of the object of his faith — the ice was thick enough to support a wagon and team. And so when he got a better understanding of the object of his faith, that’s what prompted him to start running across the ice.
My brother and my sister, you and I really don’t need more faith. We need to get to know the Object of our faith, Jesus Christ; our Heavenly Dad, God the Father; the precious Holy Spirit who indwells us as our teacher and our power source. We need to know the Object of our faith.
Ankerberg: Bill Gillham is a former university professor, and when he came to Christ as an adult, he certainly didn’t know the Lord Jesus in the intimate fashion that he does today. I asked him to describe for us what it’s like for him now to walk with the Lord, to deny himself and let Christ live through his life. He admits he doesn’t do it perfectly yet; he is still learning. But Jesus offers you this same kind of intimate relationship.
Gillham: Folks, Jesus Christ is our Source and we need to bond to Him. Now, the way you bond with somebody is by spending time with them. And Christ wants to bond with you; your spiritual Dad wants to bond with you. And you do this by being together, by working together. Jesus and I mow my lawn together. I have a great time mowing the lawn just being with Him. I ride with Him in the automobile and we can go for 30 minutes and not talk to each other, just enjoy being together. I love to brag on Him when I see a beautiful sunrise or sunset, or hear a thunder clap. I love storms — not those that kill me but I love thunderstorms and a lot of time I’ll shout, “Way to go!” when He really lets loose with a big boomer. And I receive all these things as just special love gifts from Jesus to me. I receive wild flowers. I don’t just say, “Oh, what pretty wild flowers.” If I want to pick one, I’m free to do that and just say, “Thank you, Lord. This little memento just shows me that you’re always thinking about me. Thank you for that.” I receive my favorite bird, a Cardinal bird or Mockingbird, I receive them as they fly across my bow out in my backyard and I say, “Oh, thank you, Jesus. You’re just so special to me. I love you, too. Thank you for making that little critter fly by me. You are something else, Lord. You’re absolutely something else.”
And so as we walk together, through thick, through thin, in sickness and in health, for richer, for poorer, or whatever, I learn about the Object of my faith. I learn how worthy He is and I can praise Him, either by myself or praise Him in the assembly. And by doing so, I affirm Him to the angels and to other people that as far as I’m concerned, there is no one like my God. My God is worthy to be called God and to be obeyed and to be revered. And I want to spend my time on Earth, lifting my voice praising God before the angels and affirming to everyone, as far as I’m concerned, there is nobody like my God.