Monday, November 12, 2012

on faith

I've been thinking a lot about faith lately.  Maybe it's because my church is in a bit of upheaval, and maybe it's because Zeke has started asking questions.  Or maybe it's because of my academic nature, and maybe it's because life is hard and I want to know why, and maybe it's because so many people profess a faith which shares a name with mine, but which I don't recognize at all.

or maybe a bit of everything.

One thing I've thought about a lot, especially, is the idea of salvation.  Sometime I think we don't fully appreciate what a beautiful (and completely undeserved!) gift salvation is, because we don't fully appreciate what we've been saved from.  We used to be separated from God, only able to communicate with Him through intercessors, on certain days, atoning with literal, flesh-and-blood sacrifices every time; now we can talk with Him at any moment, in every moment, and we never have to be separated again.  Ever.

because Jesus stood in for all the sacrifices that would have been required.

But the thing I'm struggling with now is the idea of the "sinners' prayer".  From what I can figure, it's based on Romans 10:9, which says, "If you declare with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved" (NIV).  The Amplified Bible words it slightly differently: "Because if you acknowledge and confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and in your heart believe (adhere to, trust in, and rely on the truth) that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved."

So I get the concept of reciting a formal prayer to officially take the step of "declare and believe".


What about all the connotations of "believe"?  What about "adhere to, trust in, and rely on the truth"?

"Adhere to...the truth" implies action, which in my (admittedly novice) opinion is supported by:

John 15:14--
"You are my friends if you do what I command." (NIV)
"You are My friends if you keep on doing the things which I command you to do." (AMP)

and James 2:20--
"You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?" (NIV)
"Are you willing to be shown [proof], you foolish (unproductive, spiritually deficient) fellow, that faith apart from [good] works is inactive and ineffective and worthless?" (AMP)

Ours is not a merit-based faith but, rather, we are saved by the grace of God.  However, that doesn't give us license to sit around exclaiming about how much we love Him while ignoring the second of the greatest commandments (Mark 12:30-31).

Okay, that's all fine, but what does it mean to "rely on" the truth? "Rely on", how?  By doing what?  Same question for "trust in".  My teacher self wants to know how I can demonstrate reliance and trust, because the text leads me to believe these verbs are supposed to be active.  These are things we do.

I don't mean to question the sincerity of those who have prayed the "sinners' prayer", but I also think lots of us do so (in my case, when I was at camp the summer before 6th grade) because we're afraid of hell, not because we truly understand the nature of sin and how it utterly separates us from God.

And that's to say nothing about what happens after we pray.  What do we do then?  Are our churches and spiritual elders prepared to teach us how to walk in faith by shepherding us after we've made a commitment (1 Tim 5:17)?  Are they mature enough to hold us accountable for our speech and actions (Heb 13:17)?  Are they willing to step out of their comfort zones, even if doing so jeopardizes the church bureaucracy? Can they be examples in  showing us how faith is done (1 Cor 11:1)? 

All this to say, I just don't see how some formulaic prayer encompasses all the nuances of "declare and believe".

What if we've been doing this wrong for years?

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