Faith off

I’ve been on holiday this week, and one of the things I do when I’m on holiday is to spend lots of time reading my Bible (which I thoroughly recommend for those who are so inclined)- I often find that when I do this, the word opens up and usually, a theme or line of teaching appears and I follow it.

This week hasn’t been different, and largely thanks to the study we did on Tuesday night, I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea that salvation is only possible through Jesus- and that we are utterly dependent on him for everything.

Reading through the Genesis narrative, it’s clear that many of the characters are looking to places other than God for their redemption (not necessarily from sin, just that one thing that will make their life perfect)- and not finding it (I don’t have time to elaborate on these in great detail but will do so later, hopefully), until God provides it for them: Lot’s daughters through Lot; Sarah through Ishmael; Isaac through Esau; Esau through his birthright; Jacob through Rachel; Rachel and Leah through childbearing; and Joseph through the cupbearer.

Tim Keller did a sermon called “The Girl Nobody Wanted” relating to Jacob’s marriage fiasco in which he pointed out that this narrative was essentially a way of making the reader acknowledge that yes, humanity has a problem, and something ought to be done about it- hence  the law to shine a light on our sin.

On Tuesday night, we studied Romans 1:18-3:20 which expounded on this. God is angry with us for not honouring him as we ought. So he caused our desires are distorted, perverted even, and so even though we disapprove of immoral behaviour, we practice it ourselves. Therefore we can’t even live up to our own moral standards, and so how can we live up to God’s? Self-salvation is therefore impossible. Paul’s point is that we need the gospel. Your salvation is dependent on Jesus, who himself says in John 14:6 that he is the way, the truth, and the life.

But it’s not just salvation: I read the story of Jesus healing the demon-possessed deaf and mute boy in Mark 9:14-29. It’s the story of a desperate father who comes to Jesus’ disciples (Jesus at that point is being transfigured) for healing: however they find they are unable to do it. Jesus diagnoses their problem: a lack of faith. The father acknowledges that he has doubts about Jesus’ ability to heal but cries out to heal him anyway. Jesus obliges and later tells his disciples, who can’t understand why they couldn’t heal him that “this kind [of demon] can only come out by prayer and fasting.” That is, bringing the issue to God and acknowledging that he is sovereign over it. It can probably be read into this that perhaps the disciples were perhaps not bringing the issue to God and attempting to heal him themselves. The father demonstrates true saving faith: he has only a modicum of faith in Jesus, and he has many doubts, but he reaches out to Jesus who shows him that this faith is enough to link him to his saving power. Perhaps the disciples didn’t consider Jesus and were simply going through the motions.

In any case Jesus’ message is unequivocal: it is only through faith in him that salvation comes. Only through him will there be life and ultimate satisfaction.

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