Why do I find myself always thinking I know what’s best, not only for me but for everyone else as well, and then being so reluctant to face the results of those decisions? Because I am still a selfish sinner who has not yet learned to consistently, as Jesus admonished me to do, “deny yourself, take up your cross daily, and follow Me,” i.e., “walk by faith.” I am still trapped in an unredeemed, corrupt body that still makes me want to live by the law, think I am always right and can independently “decide for myself what’s right.” I do not want to consistently face myself and repent, which, as we have discussed, constitutes my first step in that walk of faith.
For my first 40 years as a Christian minister, actively seeking to “serve the Lord,” “spread the gospel,” and “build the church,” I was totally oblivious to the reality of the previous paragraph. “Walking by faith” was a phrase that was just words on a Bible page to me. Of course I walked by faith. I had faith in Jesus that He had saved me as I lived every day, didn’t I? I had been a theoretical, theological “sinner” (nothing major) before I had a genuine experience with Him in college, but I believed I was saved now. I am actively involved in growing by getting better and better, and I am in “the ministry,” for goodness sake! I must be walking by faith!
So, as a totally unaware, certified, card-carrying Pharisee, I would have said “What sin?” if the topic of daily, besetting sin ever arose. I unconsciously covered and hid from myself my insistence on being right on every issue and the arrogance that comes from thinking I always am. The desire to control, not only my circumstances, but that of those around me, and thinking I knew better than they did about what “God wants you to do” was my constant, unconscious silent companion.
When Jill and I were about 60 years old, God graciously began to reveal to us present day reality of these and other sins in our lives and what it means to “walk by faith.” He began to show us, gradually, lovingly and patiently, how we had left a string of broken relationships behind us over 40 years of ministry because of our blindness to our own sin. He brought many of those we had sinned against miraculously back into our lives so we could repent to them. Relationships were restored, and love flowed between parties who had literally hated each other before. It was, and continues to be, an incredible experience as God relentlessly peels off the onion skins of our hidden sins of which we have been totally unaware.
After God has opened our eyes to our own sin, and we have eagerly repented to God and those we have sinned against, we have discovered that there remains a final step involved in beginning the walk of faith.
This final step is believing or knowing in my heart, that I am totally forgiven by a loving Heavenly Father I can trust explicitly with my life. The Bible tells me that He is a Father who, even while I am committing my persistent, besetting sins, never wavers in His love for me.
No matter what I do or don’t do, say or don’t say, think or don’t think, His love needle does not move. He always sees me already the person He is making me to be in experience, whether I can see any progress in that process or not. He thinks I am, right now, precious, adorable and irreplaceable! This is the foundation that He lays in our lives upon which the loving discipline He will surely bring is built. This discipline is always redemptive and for our benefit and never punitive; it is always ultimately to build us up.
However, that may entail some initial tearing down of the wood, hay and stubble we have erected in our futile attempts to do God’s work for Him, both in our lives and ministries. But the end result is always the same—to gradually change us in this life to be and live more and more like Jesus Christ, to “bear His image.”
This is why we were created—to fill the whole earth with creatures who all look like He looks, say what He said, and do what He did. We are, completely without any effort whatsoever, naturally, spontaneously and unconsciously establishing in experience every day the kingdom Jesus established in fact at the cross. In our families, at our jobs, indeed, wherever we go and whatever we do as we walk by faith, we are ruling over the earth for Him!
When we see and embrace those daily, besetting sins, and then repent for them, believing we are completely forgiven by a God who loves us and thinks we are adorable, a new world opens up to us. We can then throw open the screen door every morning and attack the world, we are dangerous! The mighty Spirit of God is released in us by faith because we believe that He has already been released! That is walking by faith. When we are living like that, we are walking, talking, atomic bombs. Believe it, because it is true, and there is nothing we must do to make it so.
Hebrews 11:1 gives us the biblical definition of this kind of faith: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hope is for the future; I have hope that all God’s promises will be fulfilled. Faith is for the present; I believe God’s promises are already fulfilled! This is exactly what the Hebrews author is telling us in this verse: Faith “substantiates,” or makes real in experience “the hope” (the promises of God)! I see myself right now as already loved by God unconditionally (even in the midst of my constant sin), already completely forgiven, already filled with the Holy Spirit, and ruling right now over the responsibilities He has given me on the earth. It is that faith, believing that God’s promises are already done deals, that makes us dangerous. It is finished. All of it. Believe it.