Believing The Promise

John Bunyan in his book Pilgrim’s Progress has a main character, Hopeful, say it this way:  

“He [Faithful, another character in the story] bid me go to him and see. Then I said it was presumption. He said, no, for I was invited to come. Then he gave me a book of Jesus’ inditing, to encourage me the more freely to come; and he said concerning that book, that every jot and tittle thereof stood firmer than heaven and earth. Then I asked him further how I must make my supplication to him; and he said, Go and thou shalt find him upon a mercy-seat, where he sits all year long to give pardon and forgiveness to them that come. I told him that I knew not what to say when I came; and he bid me say to this effect: God be merciful to me a sinner, and make me to know and believe in Jesus Christ; for I see, that if his righteousness had not been, or I have not faith in that righteousness, I am utterly cast away. Lord, I have heard that thou art a merciful God, and hast ordained that thy Son Jesus Christ should be the Savior of the world; and moreover, that thou art willing to bestow him upon a poor sinner as I am — and I am a sinner indeed. Lord, take therefore this opportunity and magnify thy grace in the salvation of my soul through thy Son Jesus Christ.”  

Bunyan says that Hopeful did not understand at once, but soon he did and said:  

“From all which, I gathered that I must look for righteousness in his person, and for satisfaction for my sins by his blood; that what he did in obedience to his Father’s law, and in submitting to the penalty thereof, was not for himself but for him that will accept it for his salvation, and be thankful.” 

This is what “believing on the Lord Jesus” means. If a man has believed in this way, he has God’s promise that he is a Christian. 

Thoughts developed and/or taken from the works of Dr. Francis A. Schaeffer, Trilogy – The God Who Is There 

A Promise That Lasts Forever

As a man is faced with God’s promises, Christian faith means bowing twice: Firstly, he needs to bow in the realm of Being (metaphysically) — that is, to acknowledge that he is a creature before the infinite-personal Creator who is there. Secondly, he needs to bow in the realm of morals — that is, to acknowledge that he has sinned and therefore that he has true guilt before the God who is there.  

If he has true moral guilt before an infinite God, he has the problem that he, as finite, has no way to remove such a guilt. Thus what he needs is a non-humanist solution. Now he is faced with God’s propositional promise, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved”  (Acts 16:31 ESV). What remains is the meaning of “believe in the Lord Jesus.” What does it mean to believe on, to cast oneself on, Christ?  

I would suggest there are four crucial aspects. More detail could be considered, but these are crucial. They are not slogans to be repeated by rote and they do not have to be said in these words, but the individual must have come to a positive conclusion and affirmation concerning them, if he is to believe in the biblical sense:  

  1. Do you believe that God exists and that He is a personal God, and that Jesus Christ is God — remembering that we are not talking of the word or idea god, but of the infinite-personal God who is there?  
  2. Do you acknowledge that you are guilty in the presence of this God — remembering that we are not talking about guilt-feelings, but true moral guilt?  
  3. Do you believe that Jesus Christ died in space and time, in history, on the cross, and that when He died His substitutional work of bearing God’s punishment against sin was fully accomplished and complete?  
  4. On the basis of God’s promises in His written communication to us, the Bible, do you (or have you) cast yourself on this Christ as your personal Savior — not trusting in anything you yourself have ever done or ever will do?
     

But note with care that God’s promise, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life” (John 3:36) rests upon: God’s being there; Christ being the Second Person of the Trinity whose death therefore has infinite value; my not coming presumptuously in thinking I can save myself, but casting myself on the finished work of Christ and the written promises of God.  

My faith is simply the empty hands by which I accept God’s free gift.  😊 

Thoughts developed and/or taken from the works of Dr. Francis A. Schaeffer, Trilogy – The God Who Is There 

Believe or Not Believe

The Bible is God’s communication to us in a historical narrative with propositional promises.  If we ‘believe’ God’s solution and accept it as our solution …then the reality of His propositional promises has become truly wonderful to us. For example, John 3:36 reads: Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”  

There is a strong antithesis here. The second part of the verse speaks of man’s present and future lostness; the first part of the verse gives God’s solution. The call to Christian believing rests on God’s propositional promises. We are to consider whether these things are true, but then we are faced with a choice — either we believe Him, or we don’t accept God’s word as being true and we walk away, unwilling to bow to Him. 

As for me… I am very proud to bow before the God who loves me and gave His life for me and promises me eternal life and escape from wrath.  I bow.  Every thought of it warms my heart and makes me smile.  Dear friend…choose the promise of forgiveness and eternal life…through the Son.  🙂

Seeing the Solution

Once the truth of God’s existence is known to us, and we know that we have true moral guilt before a holy God, then we should be glad to know the solution to our dilemma. The solution is from God’s side, not ours. 

True Christian faith rests on content. It is not a vague thing which takes the place of real understanding, nor is it the strength of belief which is of value. The true basis for faith is not the faith itself, but the work which Christ finished on the cross. My believing is not the basis for being saved — the basis is the work of Christ. Christian faith is turned outward to an objective person: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.” (Acts 16:31)

Thoughts developed and/or taken from the works of Dr. Francis A. Schaeffer, Trilogy – The God Who Is There 

No Excuse

In our most recent posts, we have tried to present God’s answer to our dilemma as beginning and ending with Christ.  It is in and through the person of God-the-Son-Jesus Christ that God’s resolution as a system is referred to by mankind as ‘Christianity’.   

As we have prior presented, Christianity is based on the existence of the infinite-personal God, man’s creation in His image, and a space-time Fall.  Man is separated from God. God provides a solution and answer in and through His son. 

I suggest that a serious question has to be faced as to whether the reason why modern men reject the Christian answer, or why they often do not even consider it, is because they have already accepted the presupposition of the uniformity of natural causes in a closed system…which says… ‘God created an impersonal universe in which He does not work at all within the universe. He merely lets it be to do its own work.’ 

This does not mean that the Christian answer should be accepted for pragmatic reasons, but it does mean that the solution given in the Bible answers the problem of the universe and man, and nothing else does. 

A Christian, after he becomes a Christian, accumulates additional experiential evidence that is realized by living with his Christian faith.  This ‘realization’ of evidence could be added to the primary reasons as stated in the second paragraph of this post. But we may stop at the same place as Paul does in Romans, chapter 1, by saying that the existence of the external universe and its form and the “mannishness” of man demonstrate the truth of the historic Christian position.  

Paul does not in Romans 1 go on to appeal to the Christian’s experience. He simply says … 

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. (the mannishness of man) 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, (existence of the universe) in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.  Romans 1:18-21 ESV   

Thoughts developed and/or taken from the works of Dr. Francis A. Schaeffer, Trilogy – The God Who Is There 

God’s Answer to Man’s Dilemma

The Christian answer begins by saying that man is a moral creature made in the image of the Creator; that there is a law in the universe which, if broken, means that man is culpable. In this view, man is morally significant both as far as God is concerned and as far as his fellowmen are concerned.  

The modern non-Christian answer denies the legitimacy of moral absolutes, refuses to make any kind of final moral comment on man’s actions, and thus reduces cruel and non-cruel acts to the same level. With this answer not only is the concept of sin reduced to less than the biblical concept, but man is reduced to less than the biblical concept of guilty man. If the modern explanation is accepted, then there ceases to be an answer to man’s dilemma — man is as he was in the beginning and ever will be. 

With the moral (in contrast to the metaphysical) explanation of man’s position in the universe and his consequent dilemma following the Fall, there is a possible solution. If there is true moral guilt in the presence of a personal God (rather than a metaphysical intrinsic situation of what is and always has been), then perhaps there will be a solution from God’s side.  

And God says to man that there is a solution. That solution rests upon God saying that He is holy and He is love, and in His love He has loved the world, and He sent His Son. Now in history, there on Calvary’s cross, in space and time, Jesus died. And we should never speak of Jesus’ death without linking it to His person. This is the eternal Second Person of the Trinity. When He died, with the division that man has caused by his revolt now carried up into the Trinity itself, there in expiation, in propitiation and substitution, the true moral guilt is met by the infinite value of Jesus’ death. Thus, Jesus says: “It is finished.” 

Thoughts developed and/or taken from the works of Dr. Francis A. Schaeffer, Trilogy – The God Who Is There 

The Standard for Morality

With the Christian answer it is now possible to understand that there are true moral absolutes. There is no law behind God, because the furthest thing back is God. The moral absolutes rest upon God’s character.  

The creation as He originally made it conformed to His character. The moral commands He has given to men are an expression of His character. Men as created in His image are to live by choice on the basis of what God is.  

The standards of morality are determined by what conforms to His character, while those things which do not conform are immoral. God can know about things that are not actualized. For example, he knew all about Eve, but she was not actualized until He made her. The same thing can be true in the area of morals. When man sins, he brings forth what is contrary to the moral law of the universe and as a result he is morally and legally guilty. Because man is guilty before the Lawgiver of the universe, doing what is contrary to His character, his sin is significant and he is morally significant in a significant history. Man has true moral guilt.  

This is entirely different from the conception of modern thought, which states that actions do not lead to guilt — a view within which actions thus become morally meaningless. Even the most degraded actions of sin have no final moral meaning. Ultimately “good” and “bad” actions alike are zero. This is an important factor in modern man seeing man as zero. 

Thoughts developed and/or taken from the works of Dr. Francis A. Schaeffer, Trilogy – The God Who Is There 

It’s Not Normal

If one begins to consider the Christian system as a total system, one must begin with the infinite-personal triune God who is there, and who was communicating and loving before anything else was. If one begins to consider how sinful man can return to fellowship with God, one must begin with Christ, His person and work. But if one begins to consider the differences between Christianity and rationalistic philosophy’s answers, one must begin by understanding that man and history are now abnormal. It is not that philosophy and Christianity deal with completely different questions, but that historic Christianity and rationalistic philosophy differ in their answers — including the important point as to whether man and history are now normal or abnormal. They also differ in that rationalistic thinking starts with only the knowledge finite man can glean for himself.  

Christianity says man is now abnormal — he is separated from his Creator, who is his only sufficient reference point — not by a metaphysical limitation, but by true moral guilt. As a result, he is now also separated from his fellowmen, and from himself. Therefore, when he is involved in cruelty, he is not being true to what he was initially created to be. Cruelty is a symptom of abnormality and a result of a moral, historic, space-time Fall. 

What does a historic space-time Fall involve? It means that there was a period before man fell; that if you had been there, you could have seen Adam before he fell; that at the point when he revolted against God by making a free choice to disobey God’s commandment, there was a tick of the clock. Take away the first three chapters of Genesis, and you cannot maintain a true Christian position nor give Christianity’s answers.

 Thoughts developed and/or taken from the works of Dr. Francis A. Schaeffer, Trilogy – The God Who Is There 

Historic Christianity and Man’s Dilemma

The historic Christian position is that man’s dilemma has a moral cause. God, being nondetermined, created man as a nondetermined person.  (determined/nondetermined is explained as we continue).  This is a difficult idea for anyone thinking in twentieth-century terms because most twentieth-century thinking sees man as determined. He is determined either by chemical factors, or by psychological factors, as Freud and others have suggested, or by sociological factors. In these cases, or as a result of a fusion of them, man is considered to be programmed. If this is the case, then man is not the tremendous thing the Bible says he is, made in the image of God as a personality who can make a free first choice.  

Because God created a true universe outside of Himself (not as an extension of His essence), there is a true history which exists. Man as created in God’s image is therefore a significant man in a significant history, who can choose to obey the commandment of God and love Him, or revolt against Him. This is the wonder of man and the wonder of history.  

It is the very opposite of the Zen-Buddhist statement which says, “The mind of man is like the wind in a pine tree in a Chinese ink drawing.” In this, man is killed twice. He is only the wind in the pine tree, and even then only in a drawing.  

Christianity teaches the very reverse of what the Eastern thinker says. Man can understand and respond to the One who, having made him and communicated with him, called upon him to show that he loved Him by simple command: “Don’t do this.” The test could have been something else. No act of primitive magic is involved here. This is the infinite-personal God calling on personal man to act by choice. And it was a motivated command, “… for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die”(Genesis 2:17), which would make no sense if man is only a machine. He could so act by choice because he was created to be different from the animal, the plant and the machine.  

To ask that man should have been made so that he was not able to revolt is to ask that God’s creation should have ceased after He created plants and animals. It is to ask that man should be reduced to machine programming. It is to ask that man as man should not exist. 

Thoughts developed and/or taken from the works of Dr. Francis A. Schaeffer, Trilogy – The God Who Is There 

The Question of Man and His Dilemma

Anyone with sensitivity and concern for the world can see that pain, suffering, cruelty, injustice, and immorality are active in humanity.  Man is able both to rise to great heights and to sink to great depths of cruelty and tragedy.   This is the great dilemma of mankind.  All of us find ourselves seeking answers and resolution to this dilemma. 

Of course, it is possible to try not to get involved in man’s dilemma; but the only way not to get involved in the dilemma of man is by being young enough, well enough, having money enough, and being egotistic enough to care nothing about other human beings.  

As we consider this question of man and his dilemma, only two possible explanations can be given. The first explanation suggests a metaphysical cause. This says, in effect, that man’s problem is that he is too small, too finite to wrestle with the factors that confront him. The second explanation is quite different; it puts man’s dilemma down to a moral cause.  

If the first explanation is right, then one is bound to conclude that man has always been in the same dilemma. Thus, for example, a lot of the ideas in modern thinking and philosophy say that man has always been fallen man. This also means that there is no moral answer to the problem of evil and cruelty. Because man, whether somehow created by a curious thing called god or kicked up out of the slime by chance, has always been in this dilemma, the dilemma is part of what being “man” is.  

But the Bible says that this is not the situation.  We will post more on this tomorrow… 

Thoughts developed and/or taken from the works of Dr. Francis A. Schaeffer, Trilogy – The God Who Is There