Don’t put faith in your faith!

I’ve been working through the Heidelberg Catechism with a friend over the last few months and we’ve been enjoying the waffle-beating clarity with which it presents the bible’s teaching.

All too often Christians are simply unaware of what they are meant to believe and why they should believe it. Faith is too often portrayed as ‘blind’ and sadly that is the attitude that many folks carry. Paying close attention to the words of something so succinct and well-established as the Heidelberg Catechism will pay dividends. A catechism is simply a tool used to define and learn biblical teaching through a series of questions and answers.

One statement hit me hard:

Question 61: Why do you say you are righteous by faith alone?

Answer: Not because I please God by the worthiness of my faith, but only because the satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ are my righteousness before God, and because I can receive it and make it my own in no other way than by faith alone.

This really hits the nail on the head when it comes to our misunderstanding around the subject of faith. An unfortunate trait of evangelical Christianity is that of paying too much attention to the experiential aspect of our faith to the detriment of focusing on the object of our faith.

And there is good reason for this. Evangelicalism began as a movement in the eighteenth century that sought to recover the necessity of personal faith in Christ, emphasising spiritual conversion of an individual, thus challenging the prevailing view that one is simply born Christian by virtue of their parentage or nationality. This is a good focus that we want to emphasise.

However, the correctives of one generation may become the excesses of another. And so we have today too great a focus on the experiential aspect of faith.

Why is that a problem?

When the focus is on your faith rather than the one whom you have faith in, you’ll get stuck.

What if you feel far from God? What if he doesn’t appear to be answering prayer? What if we feel angry, guilty, dirty, hardened towards God? Where does that leave your faith?

That’s when this part of the catechism is so helpful. It’s not about the worthiness of your faith. That is, the strength, feeling, closeness of your faith isn’t what’s of primary importance. The point is that your faith is in a person…someone who himself had complete faith on your behalf.

No matter how good or bad things are, faith is in a person – Jesus of Nazareth – who he is, what he’s done, and what he will do. And as the catechism rightly puts it – it’s Jesus that allows you to be righteous and holy before God.

Not your faith, but Jesus!

Faith is important – let’s be clear about that. Faith is required to receive the benefits of Jesus and make it our own. But the point is, it is all about Jesus.
Don’t put faith in your faith – faith is in a person called Jesus.