Weekly Devotionals by Pastor Steve Rowitt, Th.M., Ph.D.
December 2, 2012 – Walking in Faith that pleases God: Bearing the Burdens
In order to discern what it means to walk in faith that pleases God, we first must understand the principle of faith that pleases God. Before we can clearly understand this, we must first define what faith really is according to biblical revelation.
Faith is a very common term today and many people use it quite easily. We have heard some say that they have “faith in the criminal justice system” of the Bush administration’s Faith-based Initiatives. Dictionary.com defines faith in several ways:
confidence or trust in a person or thing: faith in another's ability.
belief that is not based on proof: He had faith that the hypothesis would be substantiated by fact.
belief in God or in the doctrines or teachings of religion: the firm faith of the Pilgrims.
belief in anything, as a code of ethics, standards of merit, etc.: to be of the same faith with someone concerning honesty.
a system of religious belief: the Christian faith; the Jewish faith.
the obligation of loyalty or fidelity to a person, promise, engagement, etc.: Failure to appear would be breaking faith, Staying loyal as in keeping the faith.
the observance of this obligation; fidelity to one's promise, oath, allegiance, etc.: He was the only one who proved his faith during our recent troubles.
Christian Theology. the trust in God and in His promises as made through Christ and the Scriptures by which humans are justified or saved.
While looking to the dictionary for a definition may give us some useful insight, the Bible is a unique and very special revelation. It is the literal Word of God and as such, we should allow the Bible to speak for itself. By comparing Scripture with Scripture, we are given a more complete, and biblically sound understanding of this special revelation. Faith, according to the Word of God is described for us by the author of Hebrews, Heb. 11:1. It is our faith in the risen Savior that causes us to enter into the New Covenant, Jer. 31:31-37; Ez. 36:26-27, John 3:3, and become new creatures in Christ, II Cor. 5:17.
Faith, according to the biblical definition, is a gift of God’s grace (unmerited favor) that allows the penitent sinner to believe the gospel, e.g. that the Messiah died for their sins and was raised from the dead on the 3rd day according to Scripture, I Cor. 15:3-4.
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God not of works, lest anyone should boast, Eph. 2:8-9.
December 9, 2012 – The Meaning of Biblical Faith in the New Testament
We can easily see from the secular definitions (see the previous week’s devotion) that this term covers a wide variety of subjects mostly associated with religion, but often defined in terms of faith in people, places and things, other than the Creator God.
The biblical definition is really the only definition that matters. Faith always requires an object. We place our faith into someone, something, etc. Many Christians find themselves exalting faith and striving to have faith in faith, rather than faith in the Holy One of Israel, Messiah Jesus.
Because the Bible is written by real people over centuries of time, the languages of the Bible reflect this truth. The original manuscripts that comprise the Older and Newer Testaments included several languages. The Older Testament, originally written in ancient Hebrew with some Aramaic, Dan. 6:25, was later translated into the Koine or ancient Hellenistic language of the day by the translators of the Septuagint (LXX). This undertaking began in the 3rd century BC and was completed in 132 AD initially in Alexandria by Jewish scholars. The New Testament was originally believed to be written in the Koine Greek, with the possible exception of the Gospel of Matthew which is though to have been originally written in Hebrew (the language of the Temple and the Synagogue among the Jews) or in Aramaic which was the language of the common people during the time of Jesus.
The biblical word for faith used in the faith chapter of Hebrews 11:1-40 is the Greek word pisteuo meaning to be persuaded, to put one’s reliance and confidence into. It comes from the root word pistis meaning to trust, to trust in God’s testimony, e.g. His Word. To trust in Jesus, specifically the gospel and the logos, e.g. the written Word of God. This word is found in Acts 9:42 speaking of the Jews who believed when Peter raised Tabitha from the dead in Joppa. It is used again when speaking about Timothy (half Jewish) and His Jewish mother when Timothy joined Paul and Silas on Paul’s second missionary journey. Acts 16:1.
When examining the concept of biblical or saving faith, the object of our faith should always be the Messiah, the living Word of God.
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God, Heb. 12:2.
December 16, 2012 – The Meaning of Biblical Faith in the Old Testament
This word in the Hebrew literally means to build up or support, to be firm, to be steadfast and true. The root word for “amen” (aw-main) meaning truly, faithfully, so be it, or the truth. Figuratively, it uses the right hand of God image for strength, firmness and faithfulness and is often understood as figuratively speaking of the King Messiah, Psalm 16:11, 18:35, 44:2-4, 45:3-5, 48:10, 60:5, 63:8, 80:17-18, 89:13, 91:7. When making an application to the entire Word of God, this word indicates that we are agreeing with the Word of God and the purposes of God. In every instance, the Word of God is “yes” by Him and should be “amen” or “so be it” by us.
Now that we understand the biblical definition of this word, faith, we can better understand the full meaning of this word when seen in the context of God’s Word. Here are some translations of what biblical faith really is:
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. NIV
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. NASB & ASV
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. KJV & NKJV
NOW FAITH is the assurance (the confirmation, the title deed) of the things [we] hope for, being the proof of things [we] do not see and the conviction of their reality [faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses]. The Amplified Bible
Since “saving” faith is the gift of God’s grace (unmerited favor), we will always be asked to focus our faith on our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. When we realize that He is the most important personal relationship we have in our lives, we can understand the full import of the acronym:
December 23, 2012 – Exalting the Savior by Grace through Faith
As we approach the time of the year that is traditionally seen as the date of the Messiah’s virgin birth, Is. 7:14; those who have placed their faith in Jesus of Nazareth are mindful of the mystery of the incarnation.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God… And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth,
John 1:1-2 & 14.
As God’s beloved children, we should not spend the holiday correcting those who have not used the Bible to calculate the Messiah’s birth month (something that can be done by examining the account in Luke’s gospel, Luke 1:36-45), but rather understand the history of how Dec. 25th was adopted by the early Christians for the celebration of the birth of the Savior, Is. 9:6.
Dec. 25th was an important date in the pagan polytheistic religion of the Roman empire. It celebrated the supposed birth of the Roman god, Saturn ... at the Dies Natalis of Sol Invictus, the “Birthday of the Unconquerable Sun.” It was during this time that the Romans, and the peoples they conquered, would openly celebrate, rejoicing in this pagan holiday. This was a time when true believers, Jew and Gentile monotheists, who had placed their faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, could exalt and praise the Lord in public. They could praising the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob for the incarnation of their Lord and Savior, the Messiah, without fear of retribution.
In times past, and as it is today in Muslim and communist countries, being a believer in the God of Israel was a capital crime. So, as the rest of the world celebrates the holiday season, doing their very best in some instances to leave Christ out of Christmas, let’s use this time to share our faith in the Savior and point them to the reason for the season, Jesus of Nazareth, the King of Glory.
Lift up your heads, O you gates! And be lifted up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, The Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O you gates! Lift up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, He is the King of glory. Selah, Ps. 24:7-10.
December 30, 2012 – Bearing One Another’s Burdens is Faith That Pleases God
The end of another year approaches and we are one more year closer to the appearing of our great God and Savior, Messiah Jesus. As we count our blessings and take inventory of where we are and where we are going, it is important to remember what is important to God.
This month we have been looking into the subject of biblical faith. Faith, according to the Word of God, is the steadfast confidence we have in the risen Savior, demonstrated by our trust in Him personally. This kind of faith will be reflected in our obedience to His Word. It is understood often by the acronym: Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth or the BIBLE.
We demonstrate what we believe when we allow the Holy Spirit to minister through us to others. Our problem is that sometimes our carnal nature gets involved and many do not know the difference between ministry and manipulation. Codependency often looks like love outwardly; however, the inward motivation is not agape-love or God’s love, but rather a selfish need to control someone else, keeping them dependant with us (co-dependent) to get needs for security and significance met in our lives.
We are given instruction in Galatians 6:1-5 concerning the bearing of one another’s burdens. Interestingly, it is couched within a teaching of reconciliation and restoration. The Apostle Paul is teaching the believers at Galatia how to restore someone who has been acting out with “deeds of the flesh.” He uses the term, caught in a sin, someone who has been trapped into a sinful lifestyle and has separated him or herself from the body of believers. No matter how loving or accepting a body of believers might be, when our carnal tapes are running we willfully separate ourselves from fellowship and other things of the Lord.
Gal. 6:1 – Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted (no one has achieved spiritual perfection this side
of glory. Yes wearejustified or just as if we never sinned from God’s perspective, our carnal nature
is still capable of acting out in deeds of the flesh, Gal.5:19-21.) Gal. 6:2– Carry each other's burdens (specific tasks that we must accomplish), and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ (to love others with His love, Rom. 13:8). Gal. 6:3 – If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. (Self-deception takes place when we forget who we are in Christ and compare ourselves to anyone other than Jesus.) Gal. 6:4 – Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, (Examine your motives, the only difference between ministry
and manipulation is motive.) Gal. 6:5 –for each one should carry his own load. (Here the word for load or burden is ministry or service.)
Faith that pleases God will demonstrate His unconditional, sacrificial, and intelligent love, I Cor. 13:1-8, in every aspect of our lives. Let’s endeavor in the coming year to fulfill our calling as instructed by our Lord and Savor because love fulfills the law, Rom. 13:10.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another,” John 13:34-35.