There’s much debate and confusion about what faith really is. Where faith comes from. How we exercise faith. Who has faith and who doesn’t. What saving faith is, versus ongoing faith, etc. Without going into seventeen different directions and chasing multiple rabbits, it’s difficult to fully ascertain faith. However, we are told in the bible about some who had faith and some who didn’t. Actually a lot is said about it in the New Testament by Jesus, the apostles, and the testimony of the Old Testament gives us a lot of insight into the dynamics and requirements of faith.
One day about 15 years ago I was sitting in a summer math class and we were studying geometry and Venn Diagrams. I actually like geometry so I was paying attention and enjoying it. Out of nowhere I saw the above diagram in my mind about 3-Part Faith. At the risk of boxing in the Holy Spirit I have developed the Well-Rounded Faith diagram to distinguish three parts that make up faith. There is obviously always more to a spiritual truth than a diagram can communicate, but it makes a lot of sense for us to mentally grasp spiritual truths through visual aids. Jesus was pretty great about doing that for us in the gospels. So here we go.
You can see by the diagram that there are three circles that make up the three biblical “parts” of faith. They are:
- Truth – the Holy Scriptures, the Spirit of Truth, God’s revelation (John 16:13, John 17:17, Psalm 119, Ephesians 1:17)
- Heart – our “belief mechanism” is described in the bible as what we believe “with.” “Where” we believe. (Romans 10:9, Romans 5:5, Hebrews 10:22)
- Action – Our personal and individual demonstration or expression of spiritual, heart-belief in the physical world. This must always be present, but it is always assessed by God, not man. (James 2:12,26, Ephesians 5:8)
When looking at the diagram you can see that there are three defined states of expression that are NOT faith, but are the incomplete experience involving two out of the three. I call them the “2/3 Almost But Not Quite.” Any of these three states are where many of us find ourselves as we process what God walks us through relationally. Very few times will you always have all three, all at once, immediately, and with no process. Those times are great, but not always our experience. We’re on a journey with God. A relational journey, the imperfect holding hands with the Perfect. So don’t be alarmed if you look at the diagram and say to yourself, “CRAP, I don’t have faith!!” It’s a process, a contrast, and a relationship with our Father. What helps is for us to recognize where our expression is incomplete, and ask God to bring us fullness in that area so we can express faith and watch our life change. Because as disastrous as it sounds, where there is no faith, there is no change. There is no power. There is little experience of just how awesome and ridiculously graceful God is to us. But where there is faith….WOW!
2/3 Almost But Not Quite Faith
- Deception – When we believe the Truth in our hearts, but there is no corresponding action to reflect that belief, we operate in a deception of sorts. James 2:12 and ongoing says that if we say we have faith but do not have “works” then that faith has no life in it. Now, we need to be VERY clear here on this point. The “works” the bible mentions here is absolutely NOT the kind of “works” that we are told in Romans 4:4-5 that bring us no justification, and we are to flee from. Because by the “works of the law” no one is justified. But by Faith. The “works” described here in the book of James that are necessary for faith is the Greek word that means “a corresponding action.” Because we as fallen human beings are so quick to “DO” and show something to be successful, I want to make sure we understand that the “corresponding action” that makes up faith can sometimes be waiting. Because doing nothing and “waiting” are two separate things.
- Legalism – When the scriptures are known and action is taken, but there is no humble relationship to the True One, Jesus, The Holy Spirit, Our Sovereign Father, then legalism becomes our state. This is the most disgusting to me of the 2/3 Almost But Not Quite states of faith, and I absolutely hate it when I find myself operating in this. Mostly because Jesus had nothing but kindness and gentleness and forgiveness and love for the sick, sinful, and twisted sinners of the world. But His most wrathful expressions he reserved for the religious pharisees. The legalists. The ones who set aside the truth of God for the traditional fear of man. The heartless pietists.
NOTE: If we are believers, we are children of God. All of the wrath of God our sins deserve was emptied out on Christ. But I will say this…God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Flee from legalism as if your life depended on it. Flee to God. Ask for help. He does not like this state. Even though He likes you very much.
- Presumption– When our hearts are open toward God and we are prone to act because acting feels better to our souls than not acting, but we ignore or are ignorant of the Truth, we don’t consult the full counsel of Scripture, we don’t ask God, and we don’t wait for Truth, then we operate in presumption. Presumption is an idea about God or life that is taken to be true, and often used as the basis for other ideas, although it is not known for certain whether or not it is Truth. This is similar to those Jesus spoke of who drifted from Truth because they “had no firm root of Truth in themselves, but were only temporary.”
The Good News about Faith:
So in summary, this is the good news. Jesus is the giver and grower of our faith. We’re on a journey that is mapped out by Him, sovereignly orchestrated and tailored by Him just for us. He knows our frame, and He is mindful that we are but dust (Psalm 103). If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself (2 Timothy 2:13). He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6). It is God who is in you to will and work for His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13).
By faith we can move mountains, receive promises, see into the mysteries of God, and most importantly, we can KNOW GOD as He really is. We are always being moved from faith to more faith by our Father. This three part faith diagram is not a tool to condemn yourself or others, it’s actually an encouraging spiritual thermometer to see where God may take us next. It’s a way to see there’s more of God to know, and we can smilingly ask for help because He is always smilingly willing to give it.