Faith and Fear - David Mitts
Click here to listen to "Faith and Fear"Last week we looked at the essential nature of the goodness of God and how an encounter with His goodness transforms us from glory to glory. His goodness is His Glory and any encounter with Him will be transformational in nature. Transformation is a state of being change. We are no longer the same person when we are transformed.
Transformation is fundamentally different than self-improvement. While self-improvement is certainly a worthwhile process, it is fundamentally different from what is available to us when we have a God-encounter. A God-encounter both kills and brings about new life. This process is called being crucified with Christ.
"I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. (Gal 2:20)
The “I” which Paul states “no longer lives” is the pre-transformation self. When the God-encounter happens, “Christ” lives in us. This is the seed of the new identity, the “word made flesh”. Like a caterpillar, our old man must die to the caterpillar reality. Then the new life is described by the phrase, “the faith of the Son of God”. This is the transformational power of God expressed by a new identity, birthed through the God-encounter.
The Apostle Paul also tells us that natural processes reveal the spiritual world.
The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. (1Co 15:46)
Natural procreation is a picture of spiritual birth. The God-seed is called Christ. He not only is the son of God but also the seed for all children of God.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. (Rom 8:28-30)
The seed of Christ, what we know as the indwelling Holy Spirit, not only transforms us at the new birth but lives in us to continually take us from breakthrough to breakthrough in quantum leaps, which are transformations. These are not self-improvement but radical transformations.
"Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?" Gal 3:3 (NASB)
These transformations require a catalyst, a God-encounter. There is this concept in Christianity that we mature as Christians like fruit on a tree. But I disagree. We are perfected by God-encounters. There is no other way!
This is described in 2 Corinthians 3:16-18:
Each God-encounter reveals more of who God is and as His children it also reveals more of who we are!
Since words frame our reality and since the words we have heard, have built the framework of faith that is the reality of our life, then what we have listened to in our heart is what is true substance of the framework of our lives.
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. (Rom 10:17)
The process of listening is more than sitting in a lecture or even one on one counseling. Listening is the programming language of the operating system of our hearts. Like computers have an OS, an operating system, windows, mac, chrome through which all other instructions are made possible, we also have a core OS. Broadly speaking this could be called our faith. Specifically, it is programmed by the listening of our hearts.
How we listen and to what we listen determines what is possible in our lives, what the Bible calls our belief.
And Jesus said to him, " 'If You can?' All things are possible to him who believes."(Mar 9:23)
How do we update our heart OS?, Our faith? Unlike the overlaying programs, our attitudes, our feelings, and even our thoughts, our core OS, our faith requires transformation. It is our identity and has to die to become a new one. This is what it means to take up our cross. Let me read this to you out of the Amplified Bible:
Then Jesus said to His disciples, If anyone desires to be My disciple, let him deny himself [disregard, lose sight of, and forget himself and his own interests] and take up his cross and follow Me cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying, also]. For whoever is bent on saving his [temporal] life [his comfort and security here] shall lose it [eternal life]; and whoever loses his life [his comfort and security here] for My sake shall find it [life everlasting]. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life [his blessed life in the kingdom of God]? Or what would a man give as an exchange for his [blessed] life [in the kingdom of God]? (Mat 16:24-26)
We all have a destiny in the kingdom of God. What frames that destiny is our faith, the OS of the kingdom. It doesn’t just overwrite our worldly OS. No! It transforms us. The cross is the master deletion step, the reformat of our heart.
Then the question is what draws us to that process? God’s goodness.
Repentance is a description not of change but of transformation. Repentance, as we mentioned last week, is in Greek from the word “metanoia” which shares the same prefix as metamorphosis which means transformation. The common understanding of metanoia is to change one’s mind about something. Yet metamorphosis gives us a clue that this is bigger than what we usually mean by “change”. Instead we are led to think about a new mind. Paul said it this way:
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, (Php 2:5)
This isn’t about a simple change of mind. The mind of Christ is not an improved version of the mind of man. No! It is an entirely new mind. It is a transformed mind. Listen to this description: 1 Cor 2:9-16:
However, as it is written: "What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived"-- the things God has prepared for those who love him-- these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person's thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, for, "Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?" But we have the mind of Christ. (1Co 2:9-16)
This is a description of true repentance, metanoia which comes as we have a God-encounter with goodness.
The Hebrew word for repentance gives us another piece. In Hebrew repentance is teshuvah. The core root of teshuvah is shev. Shev is the core of the number 7 sheva and of Shabbat. It also means to sit. It also is the core root of thinking and of thoughts “hoshev” and machshevot. So, from the Hebrew, we see a composite picture that repentance is the state of aligning our thoughts with God’s thoughts in such a way that we are transformed into a being that is at peace with God and restored to the oneness of Shabbat. This is a profound description of being one with the Holy Spirit of God.
As we meditate of the goodness of God which is by revelation of His love and perfect will towards us, we come into a state of awe. This is a very powerful state. The Hebrew word is the word yare. Yare also means fear. Now, this can be tricky territory spiritually. Fear is both a powerful transformational force and a limiting force. Many people have a fear of fear.
When we begin to realize that God’s goodness reveals His awesomeness then our fear becomes a transcendental reality leading us into realms of Glory! What does the fear of the Lord actually mean?
In the natural mind, fear teaches us to avoid what we fear. In the spiritual mind, the transformed mind fear draws us to what we fear. When we realize that God is to be feared, to hold in awe, life becomes transformed by that reality. There is nothing more powerful than the awe of God. We have been hungering for His awesomeness all of our lives.
We are so desperate for that encounter that we try, in vain to find awe in everything around us. In some ways, this is by divine plan. Learning to find awe in the creation will ultimately lead us to want to know the Creator. Yet it can also become an obsession and a distraction.
Where do we seek the awe in our lives? Is it in music, or in nature, in the miracle of the birth of a child, or in a radiant sunset? Do we look for awe in the genius of mathematics, or In the artist’s brushstrokes? Do we look for it in a smile or athletic performance?
We hunger for transcendent beauty, transcendent awe. We see the ravages of time, disease and death and want desperately to find goodness that is bigger and more permanent. This desire is at the heart of our respect and admiration for things that endure. We proclaim with pride how long we have been married or how long a structure has stood. We run around the globe admiring archaeological remnants of ancient civilizations, like the pyramids, or other ancient structures.
Yet at the core of all of this is the desire to find the one enduring eternal source of awe and goodness, our God. His fear, His awe lifts us up about our lives and draws us to be transformed. His fear liberates us from all of our other fears. Fearing Him draws us to His goodness and His goodness transforms us and our relationship to life. This is the foundation stone of our lives that transforms us from glory to glory.
This is what I believe the writer of Proverbs, Solomon meant when he said:
You see there is an enduring reality of being in awe of Him. It is called honor and it transforms your experience of life. This transformation aligns us with Him and enters us into Shabbat. We sit with Him in heavens and have His thoughts, His mind. This is the place of wisdom and the strategies for long and prosperous life.