Thursday, October 6, 2011

Word of Faith (Part 3)

Today my friend, Stephen Bean, will address "Faith and Confession."

The Power of Faith

Through our faith, God does incredible things. Miracles. Through faith the dead are raised. Through faith the blind see. Through faith chains are broken. There are many reasons to criticize the Word of Faith (WOF) movement, but one of them is not that the faith which they teach is too powerful. In fact, I would argue that the faith they present is weak.

There simply isn’t enough room here to have a full discussion of this issue. Volumes have been written on this subject. The question we need to ask is, what is faith? Is it the means by which we grant God access to work in our lives and the lives of others? That is what Gloria Copeland suggests in her article Understanding Faith - Part 1 – If God Can't Do Anything Without Faith…Neither Can We:

Everything that happens to us supernaturally happens by faith. Somewhere, somehow, someone has to release faith for the supernatural to happen in our lives…       
…So whether it’s getting us born again or getting us healed, whether it’s avoiding a financial disaster or avoiding a fatal car wreck, faith must be released. Someone’s faith must be in operation—and if it’s not our faith that gets us in the right place at the right time, then it’s somebody else’s that does.

A lot of this understanding of faith comes from passages like Mark 11:22-23:

And Jesus answered them, "Have faith in God. Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be taken up and thrown into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him.

This passage alone is enough to make one consider giving Mrs. Copeland and others a little more credibility. However, we must consider what Jesus is actually trying to teach here. As my favorite writer/speaker D.A. Carson is often fond of saying, “A text without a context is a pretext for a proof-text.” 

The immediate context of Jesus’ words here in Mark 11 is that the disciples discovered a tree- which Jesus had cursed - had “withered away to its roots.” Amazed that this happened, Peter says to Jesus “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” To which Jesus replied “Have faith in God…” We must be careful at this point in how we understand what Jesus is getting at. It seems that the Copelands of the world would like to understand Jesus as saying “if you want the power to curse trees and see them wither, have faith in God.” I guess that’s possible, but personally I wouldn’t put this in my top 10 list of Jesus’ miracles. Causing a bad tree to do what bad trees do faster than usual is certainly impressive, but it’s not on the list of things in his ministry that I aspire to emulate.

Instead, it seems that Jesus is teaching his disciples how not to be like the tree, namely, hypocritical. The tree had leaves well ahead of its scheduled time, but bore no fruit (11:12-14). Likewise, the Jewish leaders had plenty of “good” religious works to show for themselves, but they weren’t bearing the fruit of faith in God. It doesn’t matter that the Jews were a product of their own time, they were still hypocrites; so was the tree.

So Jesus tells his disciples to have faith in God, and then continues by explaining that there are no limits on their prayers. If you have faith in God, you can ask for the miraculous and receive it. However, if you are simply using language that gives the appearance of faith with motives that lack faith, you are more likely to wither like a bad tree than move a mountain.

Faith is something that God grants us, through which He blesses us with salvation and daily provision (Eph. 2:8). Christian, don’t be like the WOF who peddle a faith that is void of the power of God to save. Don’t be mesmerized by flashy promises of health, wealth, and prosperity. Put your hope in the gospel and be willing to suffer for righteousness.

Grace and Peace,

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