Finding the Way Out of Dead Faith
Did you know Elvis Pressley memorized one thousand Bible verses?
Elvis likely does not come to mind when you think of Bible scholars, but it is true. He was offered money for each verse he committed to memory as a young man. This motivated him to cram his brain full of the Word. His ability to recite Scripture was impressive as result. There was a huge problem, though. Elvis’ life did not reflect this Bible knowledge. The input of the holy Word never bore holy fruit. Sadly, rote memorization did not save him from excess, addiction, and tragedy.
Why am I writing about Elvis? It is not for his music.
His life is a great example of what it looks like to not walk by faith, despite ample opportunity to do so. Elvis had everything he needed to boldly follow Jesus. Yet, he obviously chose his own way, again and again. He found his own life and dreams and therefore lost it. Sadly, he is not alone in choosing this dangerous path. There are too many people in our communities, churches, and even families making the same mistake. They know church, Christian culture, and Scripture. They can quote chapter and verse while explaining Biblical concepts…yet they suffer from the same problem that doomed Elvis. Their heart doesn’t match their words. Their lives look more like Elvis’ than Jesus’ and often end just as tragically.
The saddest part is this is a totally avoidable outcome. Jesus did not die to give you a lackluster Christian life! He did not die to leave people slaves to their sin. He promised torrents of living water not dry misery and quiet desperation.
Ok, enough with Elvis and the abstract. The real question is does this describe you?
If it does, I am sorry you are suffering, friend, but take heart! Jesus has not given up on you! He loves you too much to let you wander off and die. He goes after His sheep.
There is also great news. There is a simple way out of dry, lifeless Christianity. It is by truly walking by faith. If you chose to live step by step by faith it will change everything about your life.
Are you willing?
“What? That is it! That is not new or secret.”, you protest. “I know that verse already! I have tried to serve at church and have faith! It hasn’t worked.”
Elvis probably lodged the same protest. Yet, please remember that knowledge alone is not wisdom. Wisdom in Christ is not only having the information from God but understanding how to apply it in submission to Christ. The truth is if you are feeling cut off from the Lord then you have not been walking by faith. If you are not experiencing the joy of Jesus, then you are not walking by faith. If Jesus seems far off, there is a problem with your walking by faith.
You may not understand what it even means.
Total Victory is Complete Surrender
2 Corinthians 5:7 is such a quotable and awesome verse:
For we walk by faith, not by sight
Yet, you can have it on your coffee mug without it having practical impact on your life. You can miss the point entirely.
So what does it really mean?
Walking by faith is the complete surrender of your entire self to God. It is trusting God is more qualified to direct your life and relying on Him to do just that. It is desiring above anything that God be glorified and allowing that yearning to dictate how you feel about your circumstances.
Have you heard this before? You may have, but do you really get what it means?
Complete surrender is not just letting God get you to church. It is allowing your will, heart, plans, and goals to be completely consumed by God’s. Walking by faith is giving over all that you are, own, and think to Jesus to do with as He wishes…and knowing that it will be great because it is Jesus.
Easy to understand, right?
Well, maybe in concept, but do you really understand that “all of you” means “all”. It involves God dictating even how you think and process any situation. Your worldview must be completely transformed if you want to walk by faith. This means that whatever your overall way of looking at the world was before Jesus is no longer important in Christ. It must be replaced entirely by the lens of Jesus’s will.
Jesus is your all knowing and perfect Lord and King. You are His servant. A faithful servant’s entire life is to do his master’s will.
Understand now? It is so much more than praying when you get in trouble. It is a fundament paradigm shift.
Whose will have you been advancing? Whose plan are you following?
Not Your Will but Mine be Done, LORD?
If you are struggling with understanding the enormity of the ideas involved, Paul uses a word in another very familiar verse that may be helpful. Philippians 3:20 says:
For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,
The word translated as “citizenship” is the word from which you get the English words policy, politics, police, and polity (a group of people united around an idea or identity). Each of these words refer to ideas, motivations, rules, and agreed upon goals that define people. They are closely related to one’s identity. In your case, as a Christian, this indicates that your policies, politics, policing, and polity should all be that of heaven – not earth. They must all then be defined by the King of Heaven.
It is Jesus, therefore, who makes the rules, defines the goals, calls the fouls, and shapes your viewpoints…not you, your culture, your parents, or your political party.
In other words, Jesus is not your co-pilot as the old bumper sticker claimed. He is the pilot, navigator, steward, mechanic, and owner of the airline. You are along for the ride. You must let go of your own standards for judging your life and plans. You should not even tell whether something is good or bad on your own. Rather, walking by faith is applying God’s judgment to make these calls on His terms and having your judgment and emotions follow along.
Who is on Your Throne?
Are you getting the revolutionary change that is truly walking by faith?
It is having God as the source of how you think, what you want, what makes you happy or sad, and of your greatest hopes and dreams. It is learning to not trust your own view to life but replace it with Jesus’.
Failure in the Garden
Want to see a great example of walking by faith? Great, then don’t look at the actions of Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane. Cause, he blew it completely that night! But his failure is still incredibly helpful. It is a great example of what not to do, what not walking by faith looks like.
Think of the night of Jesus’ arrest. Jesus told Peter that He would betrayed and handed over to His enemies. Jesus spoke of His body broken and blood spilled as part of the New Covenant just hours before Gethsemane. Jesus even warned Peter of his specific denial.
Then Jesus said to them, “All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written:
‘I will strike the Shepherd,
And the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’
But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee.”
Peter answered and said to Him, “Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble.”
Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you that this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.”
The Lord prayed for Peter not to be sifted like wheat. Yet, when the guards came to arrest Jesus, Peter ignored all of this and failed miserably. He had the information to make a good decision, yet, he did almost exactly the opposite of what he should. Why?
Peter walked by sight.
Peter saw the scary guards with his own eyes. Peter reasoned with his own judgment it meant failure. Jesus’ arrest conflicted with Peter’s plans for Jesus and for himself. Peter reached a reasonable conclusion based on Peter’s expectation and knowledge. It all clearly added up to one conclusion: Peter must fight! Peter then whipped out his weapon, a sword…and made a mess.
You and I may sympathize with Peter. I know I want to fight for Jesus too. Yet, what was Peter really doing that night? It was not Jesus he fought for, really. Peter fought for Peter’s will to be done. Jesus was on the way to the Cross. Peter tried to stop Him. He opposed God’s way of salvation and completely ignored Jesus in the process.
Jesus previously addressed Peter’s similar behavior:
Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!”
But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”
Jesus is the Way
Peter’s mind was filled with the things of a man, him, rather that those of God. I am not picking on Peter. Every one of the disciples of Jesus failed that evening 2000 years ago. You and I would have too back then. Yet, God put this account in the Bible for a reason. It is a warning to you. Following you rather than God leads away from Jesus. It always ends in pain, heartache, and isolation.
There is also great news. You don’t need to fail like Peter did. This is not because you are better than Peter. Rather, since you have the awesome gift of the Holy Spirit in you and were adopted as a child of God, you have the power to walk by faith every moment of every day. This is where you find peace, joy, rest, and fountains of living water. You don’t have to spend your Christian life flailing about trying to do your own will. It just takes is one simple decision:
Submit it all to Jesus – He is the Way!
Learn from Peter’s missed opportunity in Gethsemane as well.
Peter could have remembered the words of Jesus as he faced the guards. He could have looked to the Master for His reaction. He would have had a front row seat to watch Jesus live out His perfect trust in the Father. He could have watched Jesus model for us exactly how to walk by faith.
Can you imagine all of the pain Peter could have spared himself by asking simple questions:
“Jesus, what do you want me to do?”
“Lord, how should I respond to this?”
“Master, what is your will?”
Instead, Peter chose the hard way to learn. It took betrayal, pain, and bitter tears before Peter submitted his will to Jesus. It was then he discovered this was what Jesus had been saying all along:
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 25 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. 26 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. Matthew 16
Have you admitted that you are not in charge of any part of your life?
Do you understand that your judgment of circumstances, plans, and life in general is terribly flawed when compared to God’s?
Do you seek after your will being done or God’s?
Do you understand that you were bought with a price and this means all that you are?
For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.
This is not just an abstract concept. It is a concrete reality. Living this out is walking by faith. Whoever loses his life in Jesus, finds it truly for the first time!