In Lecture One of his series, A New Foundation To Build On, Lewis Benson explores the Problem of Being Human. In this lecture he draws the distinction between being a "man of religion" and a "man of faith." The inhabitants of Ur typify homo-religiosus; Abraham, who hears and obeys the voice of God, the man of faith. What does it take to be a "man of faith," a true human?
First, let's define faith. There is a widespread tendency to label "faith" anything I may come to believe in. Faith and belief come to be synonymous where belief is an intellectual acceptance of something as fact. The Bible does not support this view. The writer of Hebrews stated that "faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." (Heb. 11:1) "Substance" and "evidence" are not matters of the intellect. They are perceptions of something originating outside ourselves. Hebrews 12:2 states that our faith has an author and a finisher. And Paul, in Ephesians 2:8, states that faith is the gift of God. First comes the writing of faith upon the heart by Jesus, the author and finisher. This is the gift of God to all who will receive it. Then there is substance within and evidence within. Then there is harmony with the purpose of God within and in the world. These are they who stand in the counsel of the Lord, who perceive and hear/obey his word. This is the man of faith. How do we get there?
The book of John begins with the phrase "In the beginning was the Word" and goes on to relate how the Word--the revelation, the expression of the God who speaks to his people--was the creator of all things. Travel back with me through time to the beginning. The physical universe sprang into being by an infusion of energy. Energy became matter. Matter coalesced into suns and planets. Matter was converted to energy in the suns and radiated to the planets. And the Word declared it to be good. The creation story tells how God formed man, male and female, from earth. So here we are, lumps of clay, but no being. So God breathed the breath of life into these human shaped lumps and they became living beings. In the Word, that creational breath becomes an intelligible expression. And in this intelligible expression we have life. "In him was the life and the life was the light of man." You obtain being by living by this light, loving its reproofs as well as its guidance.
So, we have being.
Isaiah stated: "woe to the disobedient children who take counsel, but not of me; who cover themselves with a covering but not with my breath." (Isaiah 30:1) This is a statement that takes us back to the experience in the Garden of Eden. Beyond being, we need covering and counsel. When Adam and Eve refused the counsel of the Word, they lost the covering and found themselves naked. Before disregarding the counsel of the Creator, they were not naked, they were clothed with the breath of life--a covering that removes nakedness rather than hiding it.
The Word, whose name is Wonderful Counselor, gives breath to us without measure. Jesus stated, "The flesh profits nothing. It is the breath that gives life. The words I am speaking to you, these are breath, these are life" (John 6:63) This counsel, coming from the Word, removes the nakedness of being lifeless by filling us to overflowing with life.
Now, we have being, counsel, and covering. What about food?
The Good Shepherd, of John 10, leads his sheep into the pastures of life where they may safely feed under the watchful eye of the Shepherd. Here we feed on every word proceeding from the mouth of God. Moses spoke of a prophet whom God would raise up, in whose mouth he would place his words. This prophet would then speak the words of God to the people. All who refused to listen and give heed to the words spoken by this prophet would have to answer for their negligence. Jesus repeatedly stated that he spoke the words taught him by the Father. Isaiah, chapter 55, invites us to incline our ear, to listen that our souls may live, to delight ourselves in fatness of listening. Are you listening?
Now, having being, clothing, counsel, and food; where are we to dwell?
"If you would truly be my disciples," said Jesus, "abide in my teaching," take up your habitation in my teaching, make my speaking to you your residence. (See John 8:31 and following) These words were spoken during the Festival of Tabernacles, a celebration of the Exodus. Celebrants were to build temporary shelters to live in during the time of the Festival, signifying their temporary existence on the way to the promised land that was to be their permanent dwelling. Jesus' "abide in my teaching" indicates that this is our permanent abode, the land of promise. There we shall know the truth and the truth will make us free of all that has enslaved the human spirit. Where do you live?
Finally, what about purpose. Life without purpose becomes unendurable. Jesus told his disciples "go make disciples of all nations. Immerse them in the essence, in the authority, in the character of the Word who is one with the Father of spirits.
You are imbued with an energy--the Word is speaking. Just as the physical universe began with an infusion of energy that now is radiated throughout, so you also must radiate this life that has its foundation in being, clothing, dwelling, counsel, food, and purpose. You are to be the city set on a hill that can't be hidden. No enemy can storm that city. You are to be the candle that gives light to the whole house. No darkness can snuff that light. It comes from the Word and shines through you.
Thomas Loe, an early Quaker minister, preached a sermon in which he stated there is a faith that overcomes the world and there is a faith that is overcome by the world. The faith that overcomes is built on the foundation of being, counsel, covering, food, dwelling, and purpose. The faith that is overcome is built on what we can see. So we have two designations: those who walk by faith and those who walk by sight. The outcomes are drastically different. Humans of faith accomplish the will of the Father. Humans of sight accomplish the will of the serpent.