Miraculous Faith

Dear Reader,

I ran across this article from CNN. It portrays one of the four kinds of faith we have been studying in James Beeke’s Theology for Younger Kids B in our homeschool (see my previous posts here and here).  This is miraculous faith. It is faith that looks for what God can do for us but falls away when we don’t get our way. It looks for miracles and signs but does not represent a genuine change of heart. I think this is a really, really easy kind of faith for us to fall into these days. Too often Christianity is marketed (and it is marketed; see this post on how we try and advertise the gospel) as a solution for our problems. And not our sin problem which is what it should be addressing, but so many other problems. Not successful? Need a better marriage? Better behaved kids? Be more faithful. Read these books. Pray more. Come to our church. Do this. Don’t do that. And God will bless you. He will prosper you in the ways you want.

Even in our church this past Sunday, the pastor was preaching on God’s provision of manna for the Israelites (Exodus 16), and he said that we come to God because He provides for us. And in a way, that is true. But we have to be careful how we say it. What we really need from God is forgiveness of sins and His imputed righteousness. And those are things He will give His people and that He only can give. And often He does give us many more blessings. He enjoys blessing His people. He wants us to ask Him for things. And so we ask Him for families and children and health and wealth and on and on and on. And often He gives us these things. But not always. And when He doesn’t, it is not necessarily because we lack faith or are engaged in sinful behaviors. Sometimes He just chooses not to. I do believe that there are some things God will always give if we ask, things like faith and wisdom. All the rest is bonuses. He does not promise them. The topic of the sermon being manna, our pastor talked a lot about God’s provision for our physical needs, especially His provision of food. Now I believe that what we have (and we have been blessed in this area) is by God’s provision. And I hope that if I didn’t know where tomorrow’s food would come from that I would not panic (hah!), but would trust God to provide. But I also believe that good, faithful Christian people can starve to death. I believe God can provide, but will He? Am I lacking faith or having wrong faith to say this? I am not sure, honestly. But I still believe Christians can starve to death. God could allow it to happen, and probably has  and probably will again.

To get back to my original topic and the CNN article, I don’t think we should be at all surprised that our people have this kind of miraculous faith that looks for what God can do for them. This is what we are preaching. This is how we lure people in. We promise them what they think they need. Maybe these things are good like happy families. Maybe they are necessary like food and shelter. But they are not the gospel. The gospel message should not meet the needs we know of but should show us the need we don’t want to admit–our need for salvation. And the it should tell us how God meets that need. Everything else is icing on the cake. When we let it rest at this level of felt needs and don’t make it about our need to be free of sin and death, we set ourselves up for failure. Some will come in for answers about how to save their marriage. If the church fails to provide that, they will leave. They may come in poor and looking for basic provisions, but if we don’t point them to their greater spiritual need, they will leave once they feel sated. Why are children leaving the church as they grow up? Because they are not feeling needy or they needs they feel they can meet other places. But if they see their true need, the need for cleansing from sin, the need to be sanctified, these needs can only be met by God through Jesus. If you want these needs met,there is only one place to turn.

Another article, this time from USA today, reminded me of how in grad school our Christian fellowship would always provide food for events. It is a great way to get grad students to come to something. And hopefully sometimes they heard something there that made them realize their greater needs. But too often I think if we lure people in with pizza, they will come for the pizza. And eventually the pizza will run out and they will leave or they will discover a better place to get pizza and go there instead. The church needs to be a place where our deepest spiritual needs are met. We need to go beyond miraculous faith and look for deeper things.



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