Pastor John makes a comment in the second lecture that he thinks Calvinists have not spent enough time and effort exploring why it is that the new birth leads to a change in a person’s life. I’d like to offer some thoughts on why this is the case.
Faith is of it very essence a form of trust. The article on faith from the 1689 London Baptist Confession discusses faith as follows:
By faith a Christian believes everything to be true that is made known in the Word, in which God speaks authoritatively. He also perceives in the Word a degree of excellence superior to all other writings, indeed to all things that the world contains. The Word shows the glory of God as seen in His various attributes, the excellence of Christ in His nature and in the offices He bears, and the power and perfection of the Holy Spirit in all the works in which He is engaged. In this way the Christian is enabled to trust himself implicitly to the truth thus believed, and to render service according to the different requirements of the various parts of Scripture. To the commands he yields obedience; when he hears threatenings he trembles; as for the divine promises concerning this life and that which is to come, he embraces them. But the principal acts of saving faith relate in the first instance to Christ as the
believer accepts, receives and rests upon Him alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life; and all by virtue of the covenant of grace.
To have faith in Christ is to trust Him and what He did to pay the penalty for our sin and provide a righteousness we can be credited with. But I propose that faith involves more.
If we are to trust Christ when He tells us how to get to heaven, we should also trust what He says about how to live our lives here on earth (John 3:12). We don’t get to pick and choose what we trust Christ on. This trust results in a changed attitude.
What do we need to have this kind of trust? We first need to believe certain facts about Christ. Among them: that He was God come to earth and that He died on the cross for our sins. (The exact minimum knowledge required for a person to come to saving faith is a worthy topic of discussion, and I defer to R. C. Sproul in his book The Truth of the Cross.)
But saving faith moves beyond this intellectual assent to facts. It moves into the area of trust. The old illustration about a chair is a good one. There is a chair setting in the room with me as I type this. It looks like a strong chair. It is not bent or damaged. I have seen other people sit in it. I have no reason to believe it will not hold me up. But it is not holding me up right now for a very simple reason: I am not sitting in it. For the chair to hold me I have to make a decision to sit in it, walk across the room, and actually put myself into the seat. I have not trusted the chair until I have sat in it.
Saving faith is like that. I rest all of my hope for friendship and fellowship with God in this life and the next in Christ and what He did for me. The old acrostic is a good one:
FAITH – forsaking all I trust Him. I stop trusting in what I have done, my “good” works, to earn my way into heaven. I begin to trust Christ.
Wrapped up in this trust in a confidence in what He said about how to live life (John 3:12). This trust will result in a change in our behavior. We are transformed by the “renewing of our mind” (Romans 12:1-2). Our change in attitude toward our sin results in a change in the way we live our lives. Our minds are set on things above (Col. 3:1-17), and we live where our minds are set (Romans 6:1-12, 8:1-11).
Saving faith carries within itself the seed of repentance. Confident trust in Christ leads to a change in the way we live. Not perfection. We always find that the good we want to do, we do and the evil we do not want to do we do (Ro. 7:7-25). But we begin to live lives of repentance, keeping short accounts with God and confessing the sin His Spirit brings to our minds. We continue to trust that Christ’s sacrifice pays for our sins.
Of course, Piper is right we he says that we begin to desire Christ above all else and treasure Him above all things. We do find our joy in Him. We are not trusting a set of facts; we are trusting a person. It is impossible to truly trust a person we do not respect and admire. It is not easy to trust a person whose company we do not enjoy, and to trust a person with all of our lives is the most difficult type of trust to have. We find our delight in Christ because of His winsomeness and uniqueness. We are awakened to Christ’s attraction by a decisive work of the Holy Spirit.
Is this a good way to see saving faith? Does this cover the bases? Is it amateurish exegesis? I’d like to get some other opinions on this.
I’d also like to ask if this kind of faith is a faith that you posses. Do you trust Christ with your life? If not, why not? What stands in the way?