Question:

Question

Answer:

How can I test my faith to change my inherited faith from my parents to a faith of my own?


"Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? -- unless indeed you are disqualified" (II Corinthians 13:5).

The Bible uses the word "faith" in two different senses. First, there is "the faith," the system of doctrine that a person can accept. "And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight -- if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister" (Colossians 1:21-23). "The faith" is what is taught in the Scriptures. It is "the" faith because only one legitimate system of doctrine is exists. "There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all" (Ephesians 4:4-6).

As your parents raised you, they passed on their knowledge of the faith to you. "And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4). But like any teacher of God's word, your parents can give you a knowledge of God's word, but they can't directly impart their personal faith in that word. That personal faith must develop within each individual. "Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase" (I Corinthians 3:5-7). Faith develops in response to the written word of God. "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17). It is the message and not the messenger that causes faith to grow in an individual.

The Bible defines personal faith as, "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1). The word "substance" means a foundation or something that gives confidence. Faith is the foundation on which the rest of Christianity is build. Faith allows us to act as if things are so. You might have been to Sidney, Australia, but you could plan a trip there, confident that such a place exists. Faith is what allows Christians to act in confidence without having personally seen God, angels, or heaven. It becomes the foundation of our hope for future salvation. "Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance" (Romans 8:23-25).

But the Hebrew writer tells us that faith is also "the evidence of things not seen." In other words, faith is being convinced by arguments in regards to things you have not witnessed. When all the evidence is weighed and you conclude that it cannot be anything else but that one conclusion, the you are stating your faith in that conclusion. Faith cannot be based on what you have seen. If you had seen it, then it would be a fact. "For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord" (II Corinthians 5:4-8). Faith is our confidence to act on what we did not see. It is much like a jury. The jury listens to the evidence of a case and draws a conclusion as to the guilt or innocence of the person charged with a crime. They did not witness the crime, but their confidence in the conclusion drawn allows them to pass sentence on the person charged.

Hence, do you hold to Christianity simply because this is what your parents have accepted, or are you personally convinced that it is the one and only truth? I fear far too many blindly follow Jesus. They have not personally looked at the evidence and convinced themselves that this is the way it must be. When Jesus discussed with the Jews about whether he was the Messiah, he pointed them to the evidence available: the testimony of Jesus, John, God through the miracles accomplished, and the Scriptures. "If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true. There is another who bears witness of Me, and I know that the witness which He witnesses of Me is true. You have sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. Yet I do not receive testimony from man, but I say these things that you may be saved. He was the burning and shining lamp, and you were willing for a time to rejoice in his light. But I have a greater witness than John's; for the works which the Father has given Me to finish--the very works that I do--bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me. And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form. But you do not have His word abiding in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe. You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life. I do not receive honor from men. But I know you, that you do not have the love of God in you. I have come in My Father's name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive. How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God? Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you--Moses, in whom you trust. 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 5:31-47). Jesus went so far as tell his audience not to believe if there was no evidence. "Do you say of Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, 'You are blaspheming,' because I said, 'I am the Son of God'? If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him" (John 10:36-38).

Since faith is what allows us to act without direct knowledge, faith is displayed in how we behave. "But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works" (James 2:18). Here, then, is how we can examine our faith -- by seeing if we are obedient to the commands of God. "If you love Me, keep My commandments" (John 14:15). When we speak of the faith of Abraham, we talk about Abraham's willingness to leave his home for a place God would show him later or about his willingness to offer up Isaac to God. Abraham demonstrated his trust in God by obeying the things God asked of him. "Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." And he was called the friend of God" (James 2:21-23). Look through the examples of faith found in Hebrews 11. Each example given is of a faith demonstrated by the actions of the faithful.

So, how do you test your faith? Do you follow God's commands? "By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome" (I John 5:2-3). "Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, "I know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked" (I John 2:3-6).

Do you follow God because there is nothing better that you want to do at the moment? Is your religion one of convenience only? When life becomes difficult, do you put God first, or is He moved aside. When life becomes easy, does God remain first, or is He forgotten since you have no immediate need of Him?

If you really believed there is a God and that there is an eternity of heaven or hell awaiting you, how would that effect your decisions? If you really believed that adulterers are going to Hell, would you consider cheating on your spouse? If you really believe that life in this world in only transient, would you stay home and watch the baseball game instead of going to worship services?

How you behave demonstrates how you believe.


See also:

Questions and Answers regarding Faith
Questions and Answers regarding Obedience

March 15, 2005