In another article (065) we raised several questions about the identity and function of faith. Most folks are aware that without faith it is impossible to please God and that the really critical issue between man and God is this issue of faith. But, because it is the critical issue, it is also the most confused issue in the minds of men. Myriads of churches exist today--each claiming that their faith is the proper one. Obviously they cannot all be right. So the cruciality of faith remains. We will address ourselves to some of its issues in this article and in the articles to come.
What is faith from a biblical perspective? To answer, we must be aware that the Bible uses the term in different ways just as we do today. When a church claims that its faith is the proper one, it uses the term faith to mean a body of teachings which the members subscribe to in order to become members. The Bible uses the term faith in this way. It calls the body of teaching found in its pages the faith. But this is faith as the object of belief. As such it is a figure of speech in which faith's function of trust is exchanged for faith's object of trust. So the faith is what is supposed to be believed, whereas faith is believing.
Then, faith is also used in the Bible to signify what a person says forms his real world view. James uses the word this way when he says that "he that says he has faith" is merely giving lip service to a doctrinal concept. This kind of faith is simply a professing to believe. Whether faith is present or not is not germane to the profession. It is supposed to be present, but it may not be. People profess to believe many things that do not have any impact on their behavior. Such faith is not what the Bible says will please God.
Thirdly, faith in the Bible is an attitude of mind that describes the real way the person sees life. If a person sees life as fundamentally a futile striving with the wind, then that person believes that life is a futility. If a person sees life as fundamentally a staging ground for eternity, then that person believes that life is preparation for eternity. If a person sees heaven as the result of diligent effort in behaving a certain way, then that person believes God will reward the good and punish the bad. If a person sees heaven as a gracious gift extended to people on the basis of true confidence, then that person believes that God will permit people to enter heaven who trusted in Him. This means that the faith that pleases God is really a gut-level way of looking at life. It is not a vacillating on-again-off-again claim to faith. It is a belief that the thing believed is actually the way reality is. This is why so many people strive over doctrines: if those doctrines are believed to describe reality, the conflict is over views of reality.
This raises a basic question: what is your real life-view of God and eternity? Does He exist? Are heaven and hell real? Did Jesus Christ come in the flesh? Did He die in order to make heaven accessible to us? Is that accessibility based upon how we act, or what we depend upon? Your answers to these questions will determine whether God accepts you into His heaven.