Faith, Grace and Intellectualism

by | Jan 31, 2024 | Articles, Spiritual Reflections

We are to grow in grace throughout our walks as Christian’s.

Grace is the enabling gifts of God. We are to grow as Christian’s only by direct building of our hearts by God into Christlikeness. 2 Pet 3:18

We are to come to the fullness of faith, to the image of Christ. This can only be accomplished by faith in the working of the Holy Spirit who also perfected the humanity of Jesus of Nazareth. Eph 4:13
We are to grow from faith to faith. The building of God in us is the building of the believing we come to be fully convinced of as we ‘see’ the reality of who God is and how He works. Rom 1:17
The just shall live by faith (not by examining it) Rom 1:17

Our walk is therefore all about our moving up into Christlikeness by rising from one level of faith to another greater one and so on until we come to the fullness of the stature of Christ.
Some years ago, back in my mid thirties, I had some time on my hands on a weekly basis and so asked around if there were any courses at some Bible training institutes in the city I was working in I could take. Someone suggested to me that a course in Systematic Theology offered in a particular denominational pastor training school would present what I wanted and perhaps needed. So I enrolled and went. But only to three lectures.

The course I had decided to attend was taught by the senior lecturer of the school of the denomination and all of the pastors of that denomination were the products of that teaching.
In the first two lectures I met several of the other students and liked them. I talked briefly to the lecturer and saw his library. He seemed fine and I was excited to see what I could learn. The teaching was OK and I was just trying to get some perspective of what Systematic Theology was all about but the real definition of the subject wasn’t articulated till the third lecture. I left that lecture knowing I wouldn’t be coming back.

It was when the lecturer defined what Systematic Theology was that I realised that I didn’t want to learn anything of God from that perspective. You see this was his definition was.
“Systematic Theology is standing back from faith to examine intellectually what faith is”.

In other words it is examining the Bible intellectually looking for understanding or the books content using logic. It is looking for connections so as to build a logical and defendable structure of it’s writers beliefs so as to be able to communicate it’s purpose and to impart to others good reasoning for their believing in God. It can sound good but to me it was a total put off.

I have always had a good abilities in English and logic (Ioved maths at school) and all kinds of puzzles, riddles and games that pitted my intellect against problems. But the one problem that I couldn’t figure out as a young person is ‘what is the purpose of life’? I asked some older people that I knew thinking they could help me but they didn’t know either. None of them knew But I found the answer to that question when I prayed one evening and Jesus came into my heart. I had the faith that knew that Jesus was real and alive that day. It was when I saw the truth: God’s perspective is Truth, that I knew, by faith, that God is real and Jesus is His Son. It became as real to me; in fact more real to me than my own body. I knew the purpose to life as surely as I knew what the sunset is. It all came to me within hours of Jesus coming into my heart to lead me for the rest of my life. That is now over fifty years ago and the knowledge is stronger today than it ever has been.

So I knew that the real things of God are not able to be found, concluded, discovered, REALised by the minds ability. By intellectual examination and study. ‘You can’t find God with your mind’ a friend said to me one day. ‘You can only find Him with your knees’.

Many brighter people than I will ever be believe that God is a myth, a crutch for the weak, the product of the imaginations of those who are weak minded and want an easy way out, those able to be deluded, low intelligence people who can’t think well etc etc etc. So it was obvious to me that much of the knowledge that comes from such courses as Systematic Theology is to try to impress and perhaps convince the intellectuals of the non Christian mind. And I had found out that actually Christian life is centred on the heart not the mind.

However we all have minds and actually mine is not a bad one. I’m no genius but I’m rated to above one in two hundred people. Not that big an issue but not below average either. However I know that there are many people who walk in very close walks with God who have ratings way into the genius level. They have encountered all the ‘clever questions’ of the arrogant and ignorant and found the answers from their walks or faith in Jesus Christ. These people need to be given respect and listened to as they have the understanding and ‘sight’ of the great. The apostle Paul of the New Testament is foremost of them but these people have stood out down through the centuries and there are many of them here today. They are no fools. They’re not insecure. They know what even the great scientific minds of some atheists know and are not humbled by them.

However they are also not the ones whose faith has been something to be studied outside of faith.They are ones who have learned of God; His heart ways, motives, purposes, nature and works from inside their believing contact with Him.

To step aside from faith to examine faith is to step aside from God to think about who He is with a fallible mind that is only programmed with inadequate tools.

To walk with God inside faith is to discover from Him Himself, who He is! And here we will grow from one level of faith to more and more levels of faith until we ‘see’ as He sees, know what He knows, think as He thinks, walk as He walks, do what He does, and have all that He has.

Beware of any teachers or teaching that gives you greater understanding of scriptures but doesn’t make you closer to God in your heart. Beware of learning understandings of scripture

  • that don’t build you faith in God
  • that don’t open the greater love for God in your heart that causes spontaneous worship of Him in the privacy or your own aloneness
  • that don’t excite you with a temporary excitement that falls away in hours or days
  • but listen to those things which cause your heart to leap in joy for the rest of your life whenever you remember them.

Jesus said, ‘my words are life’, and He meant, His words will create His life in you, make your life feel as His life feels to Him. Full of peace, joy, contentment, patience, carefreeness , emotional security and stillness, obvious wisdom and understanding with a clarity of simple and submitted words that come from God.

And from these will come energy, purposeful ness, fearlessness, the courage of faith, boldness to speak when persecuted, quietness of heart when rejected and badly treated with an aggressive love that doesn’t hear the threats or feel the pain of those who don’t know, and you’ll become one who knows when to be a lamb in peace when being lead to the slaughter.

Who you listen to as a teacher, books you read, messages you watch or listen to online is very important. Always read your Bible often so you know the Spirit of it. Only then will you be able to discern what is God speaking to you and what are words from outside of faith. Look for those who have learned from God by the Spirit of what they say. Many say, God spoke to me this, I had this heavenly visitation and ‘saw’. An angel said to me etc etc. Don’t take anyone’s word for it. It might be true but don’t just take their word for it.

If you find yourself not so attracted to the Bible, especially the New Testament, as you are to preachers you have stepped aside of the path of God.

The proof that God is speaking is that it bears the fruit of growing faith, gifts of grace are imparted to you, all by the hearing of the words of God alone. (The Bible is the richest source of this!) If you are expected to need to respond in some way, or take action steps, make quality decisions after hearing the preacher or need someone to pray for you to receive what’s been said, be wary. Jesus said, ‘My sheep hear my voice’. If you know you are God’s sheep; that you have submitted your whole life and being to the Lordship of Christ, then He will cause you to hear when it is Him speaking. And only the words of God will build you into what God plans. Jesus said, ‘I will build my church’. You can’t add to that with your efforts. You can’t buy it with you works.

The responsibility of hearing from God is not yours. He will make it happen if you’re His sheep.

But maybe you’re a sheep of intellectualism. Maybe you’re a sheep of excitement. Maybe you’re a sheep of great musical enthusiasm. Well, then you will have many difficulties.

But I am speaking here to those who have one goal. To know the Lord, to dwell in the cleft of the rock, in His secret places of the stair, to ‘see’ Him with the eyes of their hearts, to love Him.

Don’t get drawn aside from this in to examining faith intellectually. Or examining some book of the Bible intellectually – especially the Book of Revelations. It draws away into the death of argument and faithlessness.

I am tempted to say what Paul once said to the Philippians in Phil 3:15

Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you.
But I’m not the man of God that Paul was when he wrote this and so I can’t say that……!?

Bless you all my friends.
James Jordan

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