Okay here goes. Are you ready? Have a pencil handy?
Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24)
The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” (Luke 17:5)
I believe; help my unbelief! Increase my faith!
Insufficient you say? More detail required? Perhaps you’re right. Here’s some more then –
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.(Heb. 11:1)
Now faith is the assurance (substance, foundation) of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
What – no mention of the divine inspiration of Scripture, the triune nature of divinity, salvation by grace, baptism, the Lord’s supper, the afterlife of the saved and the damned?
Strange isn’t it friends, how such things work. At the risk of offending some folks, I dare say that the church in this hour appears, by all accounts, to have elevated doctrine to the same level that the Jews elevated the law. And when the Holy One, the Son of God, the Divine Man, The Alpha and the Omega, actually stood before them in the flesh, living and breathing, and showing forth the very power and wisdom and love of the Father, they did what? I can just picture some of them scrambling for their scrolls, fingering chapter and verse in the Torah, trying to make sense of the wonder that stood before them.
“Could this be the Christ?” some little ones asked.
Could the law answer that question then my friends? And can doctrine answer it for us now? Perhaps a word from T. Austin-Sparks –
The only knowledge of God which is of spiritual value for ourselves, or for others by our ministry, is that which we have by revelation of the Holy Spirit within our own spirits. God never—in the first instance—explains Himself to man’s reason, and man can never know God—in the first instance—by reason. Christianity is a revelation or it is nothing, and it has to be that in the case of every new child of God; otherwise faith will be resting upon a foundation which will not stand in the day of the ordeal.
‘The Christian Faith’ embraced as a religion, a philosophy, or as a system of truth, a moral or ethical doctrine, may carry the temporary stimulus of a great ideal; but this will not result in the regeneration of the life, or the new birth of the spirit. There are multitudes of such ‘Christians’ in the world today, but their spiritual effectiveness is nil. (from What is Man?)
Now please don’t misunderstand; I am in no way disparaging or belittling the sacred truths of the Word of God, and I suppose I do have something of a list written in my heart, of things I believe. (there is also perhaps a bigger list of things I used to believe but have since discarded, but that’s another matter altogether). Yet it is not a rigid theological box that defines me, or a set of unbroken lines and limits that prevent me from following the free-flowing, revelation of the Spirit, wherever He leads (Romans 8:13-14). If it were, then I dare say that my precious Lord would be little more than some two dimensional, cardboard cut-out savior, who moves only 90 degrees on a grid, forward and back, left and right, up and down.
“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life… “For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. “But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?” (John 5:39-47)
Could it be that doctrine is yet another one of those things we have made an end, when it was always intended to be a means of help to us who believe? Have we raised it beyond the height of God Himself, such as the Pharisees did the law? Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that maybe we really haven’t yet discovered the true position or intent of doctrine in the grand scheme of things, as intended by the God of All Truth and Life!
Something to think about certainly. And no, I do not believe the Holy Spirit would lead us to behave contrary to the very Word He inspired. This wouldn’t really make much sense would it? In fact the spiritual life represents a law unto itself, as Watchman Nee points out –
“The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and of death” (Rom. 8:2). But why is this law of the Spirit of life ineffectual in certain people? Again we read: “The righteous requirement of, the law should be fulfilled in us who walk according to Spirit” (Rom. 8:4). In other words, the law of the Spirit of life works effectively only for those who are spiritual, i.e., those who mind the things of the Spirit. Who are these ? Those who do not mind the things of the flesh. “Mind” can also be translated “to be intent upon, to be attentive to.”
Indeed, by walking most completely in the spirit and abiding in Christ Jesus, we cannot but fulfill all law and all doctrine, for it is the very Life of God being expressed in us. Does this make sense? I know it may seem contrary to much of what is being taught out there, where attention to law and doctrine, to rules and methods, is in the ascendancy. But don’t you see that this preoccupation and devotion to ordinances (even though they may be inherently good or innocuous) relies so very much on the outward man – the soul with all its intelligence and human energy – and they can never fulfill the spiritual purpose for which we were redeemed and enlivened. Again, we turn to Austin-Sparks for insight –
Thus, a rich knowledge of the Scriptures, an accurate technical grasp of Christian doctrine, a doing of Christian work by all the resources of men’s natural wisdom or ability, a clever manipulation and interesting presentation of Bible content and themes, may get not one whit beyond the natural life of men, and still remain within the realm of spiritual death. Men cannot be argued, reasoned, fascinated, interested, ‘emotioned’, willed, enthused, impassioned, into the kingdom of the heavens; they can only be born; and that is by spiritual quickening. The new birth brings with it new capacities of every kind; and amongst these, the most vital is a new and different faculty of Divine knowledge, understanding and apprehension. As we have said earlier, the human brain is not ruled out, but is secondary, not primary. The function of the human intellect is to give spiritual things intelligent form for ourselves and for others. (from What is Man?)
And here’s something else to consider. According to my understanding of the life and word of the Lord Jesus Christ, the two essential ideals to be wrought through abiding in Him fully are –
Love and Wisdom!
Here are the weighty matters of the law indeed! Here is where the rubber meets the road of our walking in Him and deriving every good and precious promise from He who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Here is the source and flow of all obedience, truth, faithfulness, fruitfulness, and everything pleasing to the Heavenly Father! Here lies the answer to all the weighty questions we should be asking in this hour – the how, the why, the when, the who, the what of this newness of life in Christ Jesus. Here is where it all leads in the end, as all things are summed up in He who is the fullness of the Life and Glory and Majesty of the Most High!
OK, here is your homework for tomorrow then. I would like you to chart or graph all of the places that both love and wisdom intersect with the law and doctrine. Maybe use some of those neat little lines with arrow heads to show all of the correlations and derivations and so forth. Then I would like you to study the lives of all the prophets in the Old Testament, all of the strange things they did, how they lived, what they ate, what they wore, who they married (and divorced), then chart all of this according to how closely it conforms to the Law of Moses and the Deuteronomic Code.
Incidentally, I can almost picture Ahab asking Elijah for his statement of faith, or Zedekiah asking Jeremiah if he believed in sprinkling or immersion. Well not really, but you get the idea. Is not our God a god of strange and mysterious ways? Is He so limited and confined by our meager understanding of His most perfect Word? I say not.
For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts. (Isa. 55:8-9)
Wouldn’t it be so convenient, brethren, if merely visiting a church’s website and scrolling through their bulleted Statement of Beliefs, would provide some accurate indication that the Lord of all Life was actually present and active there? If only it were so easy. If only there was a way of knowing that these heavenly sentiments were written on the very hearts of the people inside, and especially the man at the front doing all the preaching. Indeed!
“Behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. “They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the LORD, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” (Jer. 31:31-34)
Now lest you think I am a heretic or worse, I encourage you to deeply and spiritually reflect on this brethren, and pray over what is being conveyed in this passage. Here are the laws of God written on the heart and the mind, not on sheets of paper, stone tablets or a hypertext web page. And the end result is a people (Israel) who henceforth “know the Lord”, and He claims them as His own.
“I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the LORD; and they will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart.” (Jer. 24:7)
Dear brethren, my statement of faith is that I would have such a heart as this; and that I would know the Lord God as He intended from the beginning. My statement of faith is that the often divided and spotted heart currently within me would be made miraculously and supernaturally clean and whole, that I would love Him with all that I am and nothing held back!.
Now I have obviously employed exaggeration in this piece for effect, that we might put things – even good and helpful things – in their proper place, for this too is wisdom. What we believe is important, and the content of our faith, rooted and flowing from the Living and written Word, must certainly have its place.
Yet to have a heart and a hunger to know Him – that is what we should be after isn’t it? Sure you can check the boxes next to the doctrines one subscribes to and somehow think that such a heart and such a hunger exists. But this is not always so. That is the point being made here, for both churches and individuals. I hope and pray it has been made. And if not, the fault (as always) lies with me alone and not the Spirit whose work it is to convey the deep and heavenly things of God to our inner man.
If for whatever reason today, you find yourself estranged from the One who very much wants you to know Him and to love Him with a pure and whole heart, then I encourage you to return to Him now. For He is faithful and merciful and ever so kind to us who are ever so weak and wandering.
If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself. (2 Tim. 2:13)
Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. (Deut 31:6)
No brethren; He who is abundantly and inherently faithful will not fail us, nor forsake us. He is a Good Shepherd after all, and He is God. May it be that we come to Him and rest in Him most completely, and learn the secret of the vine and the branches, that we are one with Him, and He cannot deny Himself. May we learn that piled up for us, in the vast storehouse of His heart, is a vast and wondrous supply of grace ready to replenish our every need in this dread hour at the close of this age. May we rise up beyond the weakness of our proud flesh in all the power and vitality of His risen and glorious Life! And may we walk only in Him whom we have received. Oh Father, we believe, but help us dear Lord to move from faith onward to more faith, only in Your most precious and beloved Son. Amen –
I believe; help my unbelief!
Well there you have it – My Statement of Faith. I am sorry if it was less than you had hoped for.