Summary: There are 3 types of faith. Knowing faith, Showing faith, adn saving faith. God desires for his children to have saving faith.
Have you noticed that we’re hearing a lot about faith these days? It all started when our faith was shaken by the events of 9/11, and then bolstered by our national response. There was a call for everyone to return to prayer. The media claimed that it was his faith that helped President Bush get re-elected and when a national tragedy “like the tsunami happens we begin the discussion of faith all over again.
Regardless of what you think of federal funding for religious social programs or who you voted for, or how deeply you were impacted by the events of 9-11, the war, or the tsunami, I’m glad we’re talking about faith.
If it is if anything at all, faith is an internal issue. Western culture in general and Western Christianity in particular tends to obsess on outward appearances rather than the things that go on inside of us. I guarantee you if you pick up a magazine today it is very unlikely that you will see an article dedicated to what Brittany Spears is thinking. If anything good can come from tragedies it is that we have become a more introspective people.
Since it’s in vogue to talk about faith in something more than a whisper these days, you and I should, well talk about it. We’re beginning a new nine-week series this morning called 3-ON-3 for three weeks we’ll focus on faith, for three, hope, and the last three weeks, we’ll take a look at love. Three weeks each on three internal issues that make a dramatic impact on how we live out our lives.
Today I want to go back to a text we used a few weeks ago, Turn to Matthew 15:21 - 28. We’ll hear the text, and then pray.
This story still disturbs me. Jesus essentially calling a distraught mother a dog? I think of the mother in Atlanta last September who placed her infant in the car seat of her van at Wal-Mart then walked a few feet away to replace her shopping cart. Someone snatched her baby and drove off with the frantic mother clinging to the side of the getaway car. The baby was later recovered, but think about that mother coming to Jesus, hysterical, hopeless, pleading, and Jesus calls her a dog. This story can really bother us when we visualize it like that.
Today I want you to notice the end of the story. The part where Jesus says, "Woman, you have great faith." The only other time He commends someone for having great faith is in Luke 7:9 Jesus heals the servant of a Roman officer. He says the officer has great faith.
What is faith, anyway?
What difference does it make?
How do we know when we’ve got it?
And if we have it, is it like the faith of this woman in Matthew 15? Is it great?
In the Bible, the word faith almost always means trust. Reliance. Confidence in someone or something, usually God. But that isn’t the only way the word is used.
At it’s most basic level there is what we might call knowing faith. Some call it intellectual faith, but the word "intellectual" leaves a bad taste for a lot of us. Sounds like you’d have to have a high IQ to possess something called intellectual faith. So let’s call it knowing faith.
Knowing faith is simply the mental assent that something is true. It is the intellectual acceptance that something is a fact.
When we say, "I believe Abraham Lincoln was the 16th president of the United States," we are practicing knowing faith. When we say, "I believe that gravity is the force that causes unsupported objects to fall," that’s knowing faith. "I believe there is a God. I believe that Jesus is his son. I believe the Holy Spirit dwells within Christians." Those are all statements of knowing faith.
We acquire knowing faith in basically three ways;
1) We accept the word of someone who is an authority on the subject,
2) We come to believe certain things to be fact based on experience,
3) Or we use our powers of reason.
I believe that George Bush is the current president of the United States. I believe that based on my experience of his presidency. I don’t need the testimony of an authority and I don’t need to use my powers of reason. I simply have to observe. I did not, however, experience Abraham Lincoln’s presidency. I accept the authority of experts in the field of history and the reliability of other evidence.
But there are some things that neither experience nor the word of an authority can prove. Think of a criminal trial, for example. A man stands accused of murder. No one saw him commit the murder, so there are no witnesses to say, "I saw him aim the gun, pull the trigger and murder the victim." There are, however, fingerprints on the weapon and both they and the weapon belong to the accused. The accused was heard to utter threats on the life of the victim in the days prior to the murder. The accused cannot account for his whereabouts during the time the murder was committed. The accused and the victim were seen together in a car leaving a restaurant one hour before the victim was killed. When the police came to question the accused, the first words out of his mouth were, "I didn’t do it."