From the Beginning

A STORY OF "TIME" by Trevor Topsfield

FAITH

Faith is the reliance on an object selected for a purpose. It is chosen because we perceive it to be capable and reliable. In the course of our life we put our faith in many different objects to achieve the goals and wishes we desire.

Often there are things we can do for ourselves and then faith in ourselves to do this is quite legitimate, but we need to be careful to understand our own limitations, because over-confidence leads to pride.

We can have faith in all kinds of objects; in our car to get us from “A” to “B”, in a friend to bake the birthday cake and the list could go on and on.

With our knowledge and freewill we select the object we think is best suited to the situation. A good selection and all is well, but a bad choice can ruin whatever it is we are attempting.

Failures in life can occur for these two reasons;

  1. The object of our faith does not have the ability to perform to our expectations.
    1. We incorrectly apply the object and therefore cause it to fail, even though it is not lacking in any way.

The responsibility of making the right choice is ours and we will stand or fall on our decision, so finding the correct objects for our faith is essential. Throughout our life we build up a list of various objects that have proven to be satisfactory to our life style and we continue using them, while those that have proven unsatisfactory we generally discard.

When faith is mentioned in The Bible it usually refers to God being the object and according to Hebrews 11:1: -“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”  (NIV) With God as our object, our reliance on him (our faith) is our assurance of an eternal future and the certainty that there is another side of life we cannot see. The Bible is our only source of information concerning the things of God and therefore the source of faith in him; “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” (NIV)  Romans 10:17.

To learn about God from The Bible is no guarantee that we are learning the truth. Peter in his last words warns about this when talking of Paul’s letter.

“He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.” (NIV)  2 Peter 3: 16.

No one should accept anything on face value. we should take Paul’s advice to the Thessalonians seriously;

“Test everything. Hold on to the good” (NIV) 1 Thessalonians 5:21.

We need to confirm that all we are told is consistent with the truth, for we have been warned and we will be responsible for what we believe.

Accuracy is essential in our relationship with God and the truth has to be adhered to.

“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.” (NIV)  John 4:23.

Because there are pitfalls in the way The Bible is sometimes taught we need to “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles thee word of truth.” (NIV) 2 Timothy 2:25.

Faith in God begins with faith in Jesus Christ, as he himself said: “I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (NIV)  John 14:6.

Jesus is the truth; he is the reality, a fact of life and the way to God. While Jesus was here on earth he taught all that was required for mankind to be saved. To guarantee that accurate and relevant information continues to be available to the unbeliever, the Holy Spirit will make sure certain issues are clear.

Information is given to the unbeliever so he knows exactly what the truth of the situation is and what is likely to happen if he does not do the right thing given his circumstances.

“When he (the Holy Spirit) comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment;” (NIV) John 16:8.

“in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me.” (NIV)  John 16:9

“Sin”, comes from the Greek word hamartia (άμαρτια) and it refers to sin as a principle found in mankind. A sinful nature cannot produce righteousness; even if we desire to do so. Paul in Romans 7:15-19 explains it this way.

“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good but cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.” (NIV)

Everyone is guilty of being a sinner by nature and because of this we will bring about our own destruction as only perfection lasts forever.

The Holy Spirit convicts all unbelievers of this so that they might realise something has to be done. He does it because God is not willing that any should perish, but all should believe in Jesus Christ.

“in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer.” (NIV) John 16:10.

Jesus Christ in his person demonstrated the righteousness of God and because of it he went to the Father, but he is no longer here to make the point. With the departure of Jesus, the Holy Spirit now convicts the world of the righteousness we must attain if we too want to live forever. Because we all have fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) the unbeliever is convicted of being guilty of not having thee righteousness that will ensure his eternal life.

“and in  regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.”  (NIV) John 16:11

Mankind is convicted of his sinful nature and his failure to produce righteousness, but he is not the first to find himself in this position. The prince or ruler of the world was convicted of the same thing a very long time ago when an angel; Morning Star said in his heart;

“I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.”  (NIV)  Isaiah 14:13+14.

Morning Star in his pride perceived himself to be better than God and decided to challenge God for the ruler ship in heaven. In this case Morning Star’s perception of his ability was incorrect, for no one is superior to God. For the first time perfection was broken by pride. God could not let this act go unnoticed, or the eternal quality of heaven would have eventually been destroyed because of it.

God therefore judged Morning Star and hell was created for him and his angels. With no precedent concerning the judgment of sinfulness, Morning Star accused God of being unduly harsh. Morning Star’s name was changed to Satan, (for the Satan means “accuser”) and mankind was created so this dispute could be settled.

With Satan’s rejection of God’s position and authority he lost the perfection he was created with and became the very first sinner. He has gained control of the world and is endeavoring to prove that things will last forever even if they are not perfect by God’s definition. If Satan can maintain his dominion, then God was wrong to judge him as he did. God would be wrong to think Satan’s sinful nature; his lack of righteousness would make any difference to the eternal status of heaven.

We can see for ourselves the deterioration of the world and have to admit that under the present system it certainly will not last forever. The longer Satan rules, the greater is its deterioration.

God therefore was right to judge Satan as he did and if we do not do something about our sinful nature and about our lack of righteousness, we too will suffer the same fate.

Knowing his position, the unbeliever can decide for himself if he will accept or ignore the gospel of Jesus Christ, if he will rely on the death of Christ for his preservation, or have faith in something else.

As creator, God is responsible for the creation of his kingdom and the maintenance required to sustain it. The creation consists of other beings besides himself with their own volition and a place for all of them to live. God allows these creatures the freedom to express themselves in whatever way they want, so they can do and be whatever they like.

The only time God needs to take any action is when there is a threat to his creation, as happened when Morning Star first sinned and became a sinner. To sustain the creation every imperfection has to be dealt with when it happens.

As part of the day to day maintenance Moring Star had to be judged and his sin destroyed. Mankind too became sinner and so God had to do some more cleaning up. The difference between the angel Morning Star and mankind is that it was through the angel’s rejection of God that he sinned, while mankind became a sinful without such rejection, but because Satan deceived Eve into man’s first sin of eating the fruit of the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” which clearly was not perfect. Adam followed Eve and the rest of us were born in the likeness of our original parents.

Satan’s rejection of God was the limiting factor in his downfall. It was no fault of God. Satan had rejected all that God is when he considered himself to be like God and then because of his rejection, God was unable to help.

Mankind is under the same judgment as Satan. We were born sinners, but because we have not rejected God, he can help us if we accept the help he has offered.

Faith in Jesus Christ is the initial step in accepting God for what he is. We can see God’s ability to achieve our desires of living forever. But this is only the beginning, we need to also see God’s ability to sustain us forever, starting from the moment we are saved.

Faith in God requires;

An understanding of God; all that is, and all that he has done and can do.

We need to know objectively the sort of persons we are and to understand how God copes with our shortcomings.

We need to know what is happening in our environment; what is the purpose of it all and where we fit into the greater picture.

#1 An understanding of God.

God is;

Sovereign, the supreme ruler.

Eternal life, a superior life that lasts forever.

Righteous, perfection as an absolute.

            Love.

            Omnipotent, as there is nothing he can’t do.

Omniscience, as he knows all there is to know.

            Omnipresent, for he is everywhere.

            Truth, as he is reality.

Unchangeable, as he has never varied, nor will he.

            Justice, as every decision he make is perfectly fair.

God the Father, God the Holy Spirit and God the Son have all these attributes in the same proportions, so it is said that “God is One”. God therefore is a formidable force on a gigantic scale and each member of the “Godhead” is to be held in awe because of it.

When God demonstrates something of his power, we have generally been unimpressed. One such time was when God delivered his people from Egypt and said to Moses as he was preparing to bring them out.

“Then the Lord said to Moses. ‘Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh; Because of my mighty hand he will let them go; because of my mighty hand he will drive them out of his country.’” (NIV) Exodus 6:1

Part of the plan was for Moses to be God to Pharaoh, so Moses would have God’s power at his fingertips. “Then the Lord said to Moses. ‘See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron will be your prophet.’”  (NIV)  Exodus 7:1.

When Moses confronted Pharaoh, Pharaoh demanded a miracle. As God to Pharaoh, it was a simple matter to perform one, so Moses threw down his staff and it became a snake. Pharaoh not to be out-done summoned his wise men and sorcerers and they did the same. Of course God’s miracle was superior as the snake of Moses swallowed up all the others, but Pharaoh was not impressed and would not let God’s people go.

The next miracle was to turn the water of the Nile into blood and the Egyptians matched this by turning all the other rivers into blood. While turning the Nile back to water would have been the smart thing to do, the Egyptians were so intent on matching God they compounded their problems. After all this happened, Pharaoh returned to his palace and ignored the whole incident.

The first nine miracles or plaques demonstrated in increasing degree the power of God, but the miracles did not impress the Egyptians. All they wanted was the pain of the plagues to go away. When they stopped hurting, they forgot all about letting God’s people go.

The tenth they remembered, for this one would have terrible and lasting effect. An angel called the Angel of Death was sent by God to go throughout the land and kill the firstborn of man and beast.

According to Deuteronomy 21:17; the first born is the first sign of his father’s strength and the all the firstborn put together represented the strength and pride of the nation. Each time the Egyptians survived a plague from God their pride increased and they began to think God could not really harm them.

Everyone in Egypt had two options;

They could ignore the show of God’s strength, they could rely on the strength of their sinful natures, but their faith in themselves would cause them to suffer a terrible consequences.

“OR”

2    They could kill a lamb and sprinkle its blood around the doors of their house. If they chose the latter the Angel of Death would pass over their house without any harm done.

The lamb that was killed for its blood was symbolic for the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world. Jesus Christ the firstborn of God, the sign of God’s strength. To kill a lamb was to indicate faith in God’s ability to do this.

On the one hand God demonstrated his wrath against pride in whatever form it was found. It is faith in ourselves which brings about our downfall.

On the other hand, his strength is seen in the plan of salvation, which is ours for the taking.

The Jews had 400 years of slavery to the Egyptians and they had the advantage of understanding what it was like to have no other option than to be a slave. They knew the limitations of the sinful nature, for they had lived under it for so long. Therefore when Moses came along with the message that God was going to free them from this situation, they were more than happy to accept.

This gave God’s people freedom from their sinful nature, freedom to function from the righteousness of God. This righteousness was not found in their own strength, but was theirs because of the sacrificial death of the lamb.

Even though they were free to function as God’s people, they still had the ability and freedom to function from their sinful natures.

After salvation a person’s faith needs to be updated. As an unbeliever faith is centered on the saving work of Jesus Christ as depicted through the death of the lamb. But as a believer we need to know the different ways God is able to care for us, so we can rest in him from the that moment on.

It was at this point the Jews failed. While they had demonstrated their faith in the saving work of the coming Messiah by the blood around their doors, they did not apply any more faith in God. This generation became the example of unbelieving believers.

The writer of Hebrews takes up the story as a warning for believers of any day;

“So as the Holy Spirit says: ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden you hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the desert, where your fathers tested and tried me and for forty years saw what I did.’

That is why I was angry with that generation, and I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray. and they have not known my ways’. So I declared on oath in my anger. ‘They shall never enter my rest’”. (NIV)  Hebrews 3:7-11.

With two notable exceptions, none of that generation entered into the Promised Land, a land of milk and honey, a land where the people could rest in God through faith in him.

For forty years they saw the ability of God to care for them in the desert, after they had seen the tremendous display of his power to get them there in the first place.

For forty years God wanted them to enter into his rest, to take advantage of all he had done and was prepared to do for them. But would they learn of him, not likely, so they perished in the desert, never experiencing God’s love for them here on earth after they were saved.

The exceptions prove the rule and there were two wonderful exceptions; Caleb and Joshua. It was Caleb and Joshua who wanted the people to enter the Promised Land soon after they left Egypt, for they had this to say about it;

“We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here are its fruit. But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there. The Amalikites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan.” (NIV)  Numbers 13:27-29

Life in the Promised Land was obviously not going to be easy, but that was never part of the promise. The promise was a place of rest in God’s ability regardless of the environment.

With this report the people obviously became agitated, but Caleb silenced the people and said;

“We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.”

Caleb was beginning to understand the power of God and he perceived that God was able to procure the land and keep it for them. In fact Caleb and Joshua said to the people;

“The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them.”(NIV)  Numbers 14:7-9.

There were twelve spies who went into the land and saw what it was like. The other ten saw the same thing, but without faith in God, came back with this report;

“The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.”(NIV)  Numbers 13:32+33

The “ten” having no perception of the power or willingness of God to give this place of rest, regardless of the apparent problems associated in doing so, gave their report to the people. The people who also had no faith in God listened to them, rather than too Caleb and Joshua.

With this demonstration of a complete lack of faith in God, it was impossible for them to enter the land, as without faith in God there is no rest.

A total lack of faith from the majority did not mean that God was not able to do what he had promised for Caleb and Joshua. After everyone else of that faithless generation had died in the desert, Joshua led the next generation in. Caleb too was there and when the fighting had died down he sought the rest God had promised him so long ago.

“Now the men of Judah approached Joshua at Gilgal, and Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him. ‘You know what the Lord said to Moses the man of God at Kadesh Barnea about you and me. I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh Barnea to explore the land. And I brought him back a report according to my convictions, but my brothers who went up with me made the hearts of the people melt with fear.

I, however, followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly. So on that day Moses swore to me. ‘The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance and that of your children forever, because you have followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly’.

“Now then, just as the Lord promise, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said to Moses while Israel moved about in the desert. So here I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go and do battle now as I was then. Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day.” (NIV) Joshua 14:6-12

Caleb was absolutely convinced of God’s ability to give the rest he had promised and went for the hill country, not that which was easy, but that which was the best.

Hebron stands as a monument to Caleb’s faith;

“Then Joshua blessed Caleb son of Jephunneh and gave him Hebron as his inheritance. So Hebron has belonged to Caleb son of Jephunneh the  Kenizzite ever since because he followed the Lord the God of Israel , wholeheartedly.” (NIV)  Joshua 14:13+14

So much for an understanding of God, so now we need to move onto what sort of a person we are.

 #2 What sort of people we are; 

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (NIV) 1 John 1:8.

At the moment of our salvation we receive the righteousness of God, but this does not mean we have lost our sinful nature. What it does mean is that we are no longer slaves to it, as we now have a choice. We can function under the filling of the Holy Spirit and use the righteousness of God, or continue as we were functioning through our sinful nature which was once our only option.

While under the control of our sinful nature we will produce sins, imperfections that vary from very good to downright terrible. Therefore sometimes it is difficult to tell if our production is from our sinful nature, or of the Spirit. But sooner or later we will commit a sin bad enough if we are operating from our sin natures that will prove we are not filled with the Spirit and then we will know for sure.

When we realise we are functioning from our sinful natures we can go back to the cross where Christ died for them and;

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”  (NIV)  1 John 1:9.

When we confess, we demonstrate our faith in God to have taken care of our sin natures or sinfulness. Therefore God is faithful (he will do it every time), and just (because our sin natures were judged on the cross) to forgive us our sinfulness and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Now that we are purified the Holy Spirit can once more take control of our lives and through him produce the righteous of God.

If we add anything to our confession, such as promising to make it up to God, doing penance, or promising never to do it again we demonstrate our lack of faith in God. By adding to our confession we think we can assist God in solving the problems associated with our sinful nature. Every time we attempt to help God we are saying in effect that the death of Christ did not completely take care of our sins and we need to add something to make sure of it.

Mankind has serious limitations; he cannot from his sinful nature do anything that will assist God in any way at all. God cannot and will not condone anything unless it is absolutely perfect. Therefore the only way we can have any impact at all is when we are filled with the Holy Spirit, for it is only then that we produce the standard required.

#3  What is happening in the world and why.

 Life on earth has a purpose. It is designed to prove a point. God and Satan are at loggerheads.

God maintains he had no other option than to judge Satan as he did when through his pride Satan sinned. God contends that only he can rule forever, as only he has the power and the perfection to do so.

Satan disagrees, maintaining that he is able to be like God.

To resolve the conflict God created another creature that had free will. Man was created and could be influenced by both God and Satan and choose whom he pleases. While God always stays within his perfect standard, Satan uses both good and evil to influence man so that his objectives might be achieved.

Satan while indwelling a serpent deceived Eve into eating the fruit of his tree, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. When Eve ate from the it she knew for the first time that there was a standard other than the perfection both she and Adam was created with, and by eating the fruit of the Tree of Good and Evil she was forced to function under Satan’s system . She gave some of the fruit to Adam and when he ate it they were both in the same situation.

Because they had sinned they both lost their perfection, they were forced to live by Satan’s standards, under the control of their sinful natures. Satan could then control the lives of Adam and Eve and therefore gain control of the world which God had given to man. Satan using his standard of good and evil has ruled the world ever since.

It must be remembered that Satan has already seen just how well God rules heaven and supports and cares for the angels who have remained loyal to him. Satan knows exactly what is required if he is to prove his case before God.

Satan has, by comparison a very serious disability for the only resources he can call on are;

Himself and all that he is.

The angels who were prepared to follow him.

Mankind who is born into his kingdom.

The earth and all the resources found here.

Try as he might, using everything at his disposal, Satan is clearly losing the battle. He has failed to provide for man, as very poor standards of living are found all over the world.

He has failed to control the sinfulness of mankind for terrible acts by men are constantly being reported from all points of the globe.

He has failed to maintain the stability of the world itself, as time is running out in so many areas;

The greenhouse effect is a worry.

Over population appears to be an unsolvable problem.

The destruction of the world through warfare is always a possibility and a real threat.

The list can go on and of course there organisations set up to try and solve these problems. But if God is right and Satan wrong, they will never go away while Satan is in control.

On a personal level Satan too has failed, he has not been able to provide any security for man although there have been billions of dollars spent in the attempt. For all our welfare payouts the poor are still poor and we all run the risk of being killed one way or another. Anyone can die from one of hundreds of accidents, any illness or murder and if nothing seriously untoward happens to us, we will die of old age in the end anyway.

The world “must” get worse or God was wrong to judge Satan as he did. Things “must” deteriorate if the conflict between God and Satan is to come to a satisfactory conclusion.

The only security open to mankind is that which is supplied by God which is through faith in Jesus Christ. The only hope for mankind in Satan’s world is faith in God, for he has the ability to provide for us even when the ruler of our environment is failing in all directions.

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,

he restores my soul.

He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.

You anoint my heard with oil; my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (NIV)  Psalm 23.

It is our faith that destroys Satan’s appeal, for as our faith can see past of what we know here on earth to a far better way.

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (NIV) Hebrews 11:1.

Man on earth, as opposed to angels in heaven can have the assurance of an eternal future and comprehend that there are places we cannot see. We can understand the ongoing conflict between God and Satan and can make well informed judgments concerning our own situation.

We are mere mortals on earth, in contrast to the angels in heaven who saw exactly what happened when it happened. If we can make the correct decision, surely Satan then has no other option than to conclude that it was his pride that blinded him from seeing things as they really were. It was his pride that caused him to make a terrible mistake and that he should have recognised God for what his is, as  he was in the midst of it all the time.

The faith of Caleb has glorified God, for this has enabled God to demonstrate his ability to do whatever is required in any situation. Therefore Satan has only himself to blame for the predicament he finds himself in and no fault can be attributed to God whatsoever.

Every time a person trusts in God and God always helps them, is proof positive that if Satan had trusted in God rather than trying to take over from him, God would have helped him also, God is willing and able to do so.

As individuals, we too can take an active part in the greater scheme of things. We too can have a role in the resolving of the conflict between God and Satan. Through the study of The Bible we can develop our faith in God, so that God can use us as his illustration, he can demonstrate to Satan and his angels that if he can take care of one of us, he can take care of us all.

God will prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the judgment he passed down to Satan was the only thing he could do. Now it is up to us as individuals to decide if we want to be involved or not.

Trevor Topsfield

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®

Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

 

 

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