Thursday, January 22, 2009

CHAPTER 3: True Faith Brings the Miracle

The scriptures are full of examples of those who had great faith in Jesus and in His plan of redemption. We know that, through faith, great miracles, signs, and wonders are brought forth. It is by faith that mysteries are revealed and angels appear. The Apostle Paul teaches us that by faith, "the worlds were framed by the word of God," and that, "... without faith it is impossible to please him ..." (Heb. 11:3, 6.) Indeed, there isn’t anything we can do without faith, but with faith we can do marvelous things. The late Ezra Taft Benson, gave us some important insights into the principle of faith. In one of his inspirational books we read, "Faith in Jesus Christ consists of complete reliance on Him. As God, He has infinite power, intelligence, and love. There is no human problem beyond His capacity to solve. Faith in Him means believing that even though we do not understand all things, He does." (Come Unto Christ, p. 132.)

"Complete reliance!" That is what we need to prove—to prove if we will depend completely on God for all our needs, and upon the mercy and grace of Jesus Christ. We can believe and trust that He has all power, all intelligence, all love, and that He can solve our problems. We do not need to run off and seek the wisdom of men for help, knowledge or affection, and to assist us in finding solutions to our predicaments. We have Jesus. He has all the answers.

Faith Unto Repentance
In Acts 20:21 Paul testifies that we are to have "... repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ." And to the Hebrews he wrote, "... let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith towards God." (Heb. 6:1.) As we read other scriptures pertaining to the topic at hand, we find that there is a close link between both of the principles of faith and repentance. Actually, for repentance to be truly effective and complete, faith must come first.

Those who have learned how the mind works know that two opposing ideas cannot exist in the mind at the same time. This is true when it comes to repentance. When we repent, we have to turn from the things we need to change and go in the other direction. When we give something up it leaves a vacuum, and the space that is empty cannot stay in that condition; something must rush into that void to fill it. If the void is not filled with something positive, we might slip back into our old ways, and maybe deeper the next time. Therefore, we must replace the "sin repented of" with something more appropriate. This is where the Savior comes in. Jesus has the power to do that—to fill the void in our lives with something better than that which we gave up. Some of those things that may need to be replaced could be particular attitudes, possessions, behaviors, or habits. Even some personal relationships might need to be repented of and removed from our lives—particularly if those relationships are not in harmony with one another in God.

When we have a broken-down car in a one-car garage, it doesn’t leave room for a better car, does it? We must remove the old car first to make room for a better one. When our minds are full of evil and unrighteous thoughts, we must empty our minds of those thinking patterns to make room for more appropriate and righteous thoughts. Likewise, we cannot have two opposite behavior patterns at the same time. When we behave in righteous ways, it doesn’t leave room for unrighteous behavior. Therefore, we can always think good thoughts, be engaged in good causes, be in proper surroundings, and always associate with appropriate people, unless we are otherwise sent to teach. When something of little value is taking up a given space, there is no room left for anything better that could occupy that same space. When we mentally, emotionally, and spiritually release those things that need releasing, it leaves room for something better to enter our lives.

Likewise, we cannot throw something away and wish we still had it; that is a false faith. We cannot stop smoking, for example, and inwardly still wish for a cigarette. We also cannot give up an inappropriate relationship with someone and expect a better relationship to come along, especially if we still desire the companionship of that inappropriate person. When there is no room to receive, nothing better will be coming. We must repent, release, make room for the future good, and have faith that it is coming. Will it come? Yes, it will. It will when we truly have the faith to repent, and have the faith that Jesus will make up the difference. Then, and only then, does the Lord know we are sincere in needing something better in our lives. He then can, and will, provide that better thing.

True faith is when we really believe that the grace of Christ fills that emptiness for us. To come to such a personal resolve and make such critical choices takes faith. It may be a challenge to get our life spiritually right with God, but we can do it. The Savior needs to know that our repentance is genuine and comes from within, not just from without, and so do we. Therefore, we can have faith to let things go that clutter up our spiritual lives, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant they may appear. We can have faith that God has the knowledge and power to put something better in the place of what we have given up, or released. The words of the resurrected Christ to Thomas can apply to all of us in this effort: "Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed." (John 20:29.) Then, and only then, can we truly repent, have hope, be blessed, and healed, for such is the promise of Jesus.

The Positive Concept of Repentance
The bible reveals that, "... all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." (Rom. 3:23.) Therefore, all of us must repent. When we are keeping the commandments and honoring our covenants, there is little left of which to repent. However, there is still sin because we are not perfect. When it is discovered that there needs to be repentance, we turn altogether from the sin, still looking upward with a hope in Christ. We repent with remorse because of true sorrow, with a broken heart and a contrite spirit.

Repentance has a very positive application in our lives when we sincerely desire to come unto Jesus Christ. For the sincere disciple of Christ, repentance is a temporary process, not an ongoing one. The righteous will repent then turn their energies to keeping the commandments and honoring the covenants they made with God. They will not dwell on their past sins, causing themselves to slip back into those old ones. They look forward and upward not backwards and downward.

We can look at keeping the commandments and repenting in two different lights: (1) We keep commandments because of love, repent because of love, and look forward to the promise. (2) We keep commandments because of fear, repent because of fear, being fearful of condemnation. Keeping the commandments and repenting, because of love, is a positive force that brings spiritual and temporal gains of great eternal significance. Keeping the commandments and repenting, because of fear, is negative and little is gained of eternal value, if anything is gained at all.

Just repenting is not enough, for the atheist, pagan, infidel, or the heathen can repent from doing wrong, but does that mean he has turned his life over to Christ? No, for the devils have their religion too, and we can be assured they are quite active in it, and, of course, they have not turned to Christ.

There are also those who do not truly want to repent, and so may only show outward signs of repentance. For such people a renewed activity in church, or the attendance at a counseling session, serves them very well, but that doesn’t mean they have taken Christ into their lives. Repentance is a negative when performed by those who feign Christianity, but still cleave to their desires while pretending to repent. They repent with reluctance because, deep within, they still wish for the old ways and lack the faith to trust in Christ to provide a better way through grace. When this occurs, the individual is always in the process of having to repent because he has not learned to keep the commandments with love. His life is an ongoing struggle against itself.

The loving disciple, on the other hand, will not worry about repenting because he is too busy keeping covenants; he keeps his covenants, he doesn’t keep repenting. Though there may be need for repentance, his life is devoted to obedience instead of fear and regret. Knowing that Jesus paid the price, he has no need to punish himself for his past misdeeds. He doesn’t have to keep beating himself. Trusting that the debt is satisfied in Jesus, he moves forward toward the Divine Light. He trusts that Jesus will make up any difference that may be lacking in his life. Thus, being full of faith, or faith-full in Christ, he moves upward and onward.

The Lack of Faith Is Sin
If we really examine the word faith we find it means "trust." We simply trust what the Lord has said. That’s it! He says it, and we trust Him because He cannot lie. It’s as simple as that.

A very powerful and straightforward statement about faith can be found in the words of Paul. To the Romans he said, "... for whatsoever is not of faith is sin." (Rom. 14:23.) What this is telling us is that if we do not have faith in Jesus Christ, or trust Him, we are sinful. In other words, if faith is not found in us, then sin is found in us. This is in harmony with the concept that two opposing ideas cannot exist in the mind at the same time.

We know that down through history many faithful followers of God have turned their lives over to His care and keeping. One of the first we read about is Abel. Making reference to this faithful son of Adam, Paul wrote, "By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts ..." (Heb. 11:4.) Abel was found to have faith in God. Cain, on the other hand, exhibited no faith, or had a faith based on false principles. Consequently, Abel received a testimony that he was found "righteous," while Cain received only a cursing. Through faith Abel sacrificed his will to that of the Father, believing that through the coming Messiah he would obtain eternal life. Cain could not show faith in God because he did not possess such faith. Sin, therefore, was found in Cain because proper faith did not exist. Cain was sinful, or full of sin.

Faith is what we hope for but do not see at that moment, and we usually do not get a witness until after our faith has been tried. We all go through the trial of faith until we arrive at that point at which we have the power of God in our prayers. Therefore, we do not doubt just because we have not seen the miracle first. The miracle is there, but just hasn’t been manifest yet.

To receive the gift of hope a price must be paid. That price is the trial or test of faith. A skeptic says, "I’ll believe it when I see it." The optimist says, "I’ll see it when I believe it." The skeptic has it backwards: he is not willing to pay the price before receiving the merchandise. The believer, on the other hand, knows that belief and obedience precede the miracle of the blessing.

Having Faith In Christ
Peter, head of the Church in ancient times, adds his words: "Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you." (1 Pet. 5:6-7.) The Psalmist wrote, "Trust in the Lord, and do good ... and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart ... trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass ... And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday." (Psalm 37:3-6.)

I want to share a true story with you of a man named Bob who had a wife and three children. There was a time when they wanted to move to another part of the country. After making arrangements as to where they would go, and involving other people on the other end, they were informed by God that they were to stay where they were to serve Him in a special way. This they happily did without complaint.

Three years went by, and now Bob had another addition to the family. Bob also worked for a very large corporation that had offices in every state. While visiting the area where they previously were planning to move, he thought he would put in an application for transfer. Upon praying about it he received a witness, a strong and sure voice to his mind that said, "Don’t worry about moving. Don’t worry about where you will work. Don’t worry about where you will live. All the doors will be opened up to you." A warm and peaceful feeling flowed down over him from head to foot, and tears of joy gently trickled down his cheeks as he gratefully received the message.

The next day Bob thought, "Was that from God, or was that just a figment of my imagination?" So he prayed about it again. This time he received the same response from that still small, but sure, voice: "Don’t worry about moving. Don’t worry about where you will work. Don’t worry about where you will live. All the doors will be opened up to you." The same warm and peaceful feeling flowed down over him from head to foot, and tears of joy gently trickled down his cheeks as before.

The day following Bob said to himself, "Wow! That was wonderful. I want to ask that question again. So he did. And as the same warm and peaceful feeling flowed down over him from head to foot, and tears of joy gently trickled down his cheeks, the same Voice said, "Why do you keep asking, I’ve told you twice." Bob never asked again, for he got the message. When he arrived home he told his wife that they were moving.

"Moving to where?" she asked.

Bob said, "I don’t know."

"But where will you work, and where will we live?" she asked again.

"All I know," Bob replied, "is that God promised that He will open up the doors and make a way.

Bob put in for a transfer. A month later he received a reply from the office where they wanted to move that said there were no vacancies, but also said, "Good luck in finding a transfer to another office." Bob decided that God wasn’t through with them where they were, but he was puzzled about the spiritual response he received saying that all doors would be opened for a move.

A month later his supervisor called him and told him that his transfer had come through, and that he had two and a half weeks to get things in order and move two thousand miles across country to start work in the office to which he applied.

Two days after arriving in their new town they found a house that had been empty for three months because the seller could not find the right buyer for it. The seller said he knew it was for someone special. He told Bob, "When I first saw you, I knew you were the one for which God was saving the house.

Time and space don’t permit the telling of the miracle after miracle that transpired as the Lord opened up the doors, one after another, for Bob and his family as He promised.

Bob wanted to know why the Lord had blessed them as He did. It was revealed to him that, even though they wanted to move three years earlier, it was because they were willing to stay where they were and graciously serve when called that they were blessed.

Many do not have the faith that God will bless them, so they try and bless themselves. Such self-blessings are always short lived, and not everlasting. We must repent and have the faith to give up that which holds us back—doubt. We don’t need to flounder around in life, as some do, because we can have the faith to call upon the name of Jesus for a blessing, and, therefore, have hope in Christ. Paul tells the Galatians that the promises of Jesus only come through faith in Him. He said, "... the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe." (Gal. 3:22.)

What is this "promise by faith" given to those who believe? We know from scripture that all of us are sinful. Jesus, however, has promised us Eternal Life when we believe in Him and exercise faith in His ability to save us from our sins. To exercise faith sufficient to bring salvation requires obedience to His commandments, total submission to His will, and the trust to give Him control of our lives. His promise comes only through the exercising of proper and sufficient faith in His ability to bless and save. Of all mankind, Jesus displayed the supreme example of humility, meekness and confidence. It is Jesus Christ who is the focus of our faith, our trust, our love, and our complete devotion.

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