Summary: Part 1 of 10 in a series dedicated to debunking commonly held myths that we think are in the Bible but really aren't, myths that can and often do have devastating effects on our faith.
INTRODUCTION: Over the past several years one of my favorite television shows has been “mythbusters” on the discovery channel. The show uses elements of the scientific method to test the validity of rumors, myths, movie scenes, adages, internet videos, and news stories. And why do I like the show so much… it’s simple – they blow things up! The show also gives us some striking commentary on the world in which we live; simply stated… there is great power in myths.
BACKGROUND: People don’t set out to build their faith on myths, but somehow falsehoods keep showing up in the way many Christians think about life and God. These beliefs are assumed by millions to be rock-solid truth straight from God that is until life and the Bible prove otherwise. The sad result of such a realization is often a spiritual disaster; at the least there are feelings of confusion, betrayal and a distrust of Scripture, at worst a loss of faith and anger toward both God and His church.
This morning we begin a new series looking at some of these myths, each one of them is a bit like fools gold, it looks good at first but once tested it proves “foolish” or in modern terms “dumb”. We begin with the crazy idea that “faith can fix anything!” It must also be pointed out that “dumb” relates to the idea being held to, not the individual who may hold such ideas!
WHAT FAITH IS
• To begin any discussion concerning faith we must begin at the beginning, by defining the term, what exactly is “faith”
• It has been suggested and I would agree that “faith” is the most misunderstood word in our theological lexicon
• Believe it or not much of the confusion about faith comes from a miss-definition of the concept
• We begin with probably the most well-known passage about faith; Hebrews 11:1
• We start here because part of the problem with the myth we’re dealing with finds is genesis with this verse, not so much with what it is, but what it isn’t…
• Hebrews 11:1 is not a definition of what faith “is”, rather it’s an example of what faith “does”
• We might offer as the definition of faith the one suggested by E.J. Carnell – “Faith is whole-souled trust in God’s Word as true because of the sufficiency of the evidence”
• It’s the assurance that God will indeed do that which He has promised
• In both the OT and NT, faith in its purest form is man’s “reaction” to God’s “action” (TDNT VI.182)
WHAT FAITH ISN’T
• It’s a commonly accepted idea, both in the church and society that faith is a potent mixture of intellectual and emotional self-control that when properly harnessed can literally “fix” outcomes
• This kind of “pie in the sky” hopeful thinking is more about “faith-in-faith,” than “faith-in-God”
• We often make faith about us and what “we do” when it reality it’s about God and what “He does”
• We’ve been told that for those who can muster up enough positive thoughts and an all-doubts-removed, count-it-as-done mindset, such a faith can and will fix anything – it’s God’s magic potion
• In some Christian circles, this type of faith is said to be able to “manipulate” the hand of God – that God “must” answer unwavering prayers in our favor, as if He has no choice in the matter
• This is what is often referred to as the “health, wealth, and prosperity gospel”
SO HOW DID WE GET OURSELVES INTO THIS MESS?
• The simplest answer is that the original meaning of “faith” got lost in translation
• I’m not saying that our bible translators were derelict or somehow incompetent, or that we shouldn’t trust our English translations it’s just that some words have many ancillary meanings that are present in one language but not the other
• Here’s a short word study that’s at the heart of the issue at hand – three English words
• FAITH – it’s the image of confidence, the opposite of fear and doubt (Hebrews 11:1)
• BELIEF – it’s the image of intellectual assent, because we “think” something is true (John 3:16)
• Note: This one gets us in trouble when it comes to evangelism – we tell the story of Jesus and then ask if people “believe” it, and if they say yes we pronounce them “saved” without giving consideration to the other qualifiers beyond mental assent that scripture requires for salvation, i.e. repentance, confession, and baptism – assent alone doesn’t save!
• TRUST – it’s the image of accompanying action, it’s our response to faith and belief (John 14:1)
• Clearly each of these words carry a very different meaning in the English language