Are you settling for salvation?
This interesting phrase is one I’ve heard used by the Rabbi in my local Messianic congregation to describe those who accept Jesus as their savior and then don’t really pursue a deeper relationship with Him. Maybe they go to church most weeks and go through the motions of being a “good Christian,” but they don’t tap-in to the fullness and depth of their faith.
Shallow faith has been a problem throughout God’s history with His people. Evidently it will be a problem to the end, for Jesus questions if He’ll really “find faith on the earth” when He returns (Luke 18:8). But we want to be found faithful. I don’t think any Christian would say they don’t want to know Jesus better or strengthen their faith (and if they would we should pray for them!). So how do we get to deeper faith?
The Problem of Inconsistent Faith
For many of us, our faith waxes and wanes. We’re excited about God when we first meet Him and we turn to Him when things get bad, but the rest of the time it’s easy to become complacent. In a sense, we set Him on a shelf until we want/need Him.
Come! Let’s return to Yahweh; for he has torn us to pieces, and he will heal us; he has injured us, and he will bind up our wounds. … Let’s acknowledge Yahweh. Let’s press on to know Yahweh. As surely as the sun rises, Yahweh will appear. He will come to us like the rain, like the spring rain that waters the earth.” (Hosea 6:1, 3, WEB)
Hosea records these as Israel’s words when they turned back to God once again after a season of punishment. This was a cycle for them — they’d fall away from God, bad things would happen, they’d turn back to God, and then the whole thing would repeat. God forgave each time they repented, but He got tired of the cycle.
“Ephraim, what shall I do to you? Judah, what shall I do to you? For your love is like a morning cloud, and like the dew that disappears early. … For I desire mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings. But they, like Adam, have broken the covenant. They were unfaithful to me, there.” (Hosea 6:4, 6-7, WEB)
Israel was on the right track when they said, “Let us press on to know Yahweh” because He desires “the knowledge of God” in His people. But they weren’t consistent. They didn’t stay faithful to the covenant any longer than morning dew stays on the grass.
Covenant on a Deeper Level
Part of this problem had to do with the way human beings interacted with the first covenant. God was faithful to the covenant, but the people broke it and all the animal sacrifices in the world couldn’t permanently mend that breach. That’s where Jesus comes in to mediate “a better covenant, which was established upon better promises” (Heb. 8:6, KJV, see also Hebrews 9).
For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. For finding fault with them, he said, “Behold, the days come”, says the Lord, “that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers, in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; for they didn’t continue in my covenant, and I disregarded them,” says the Lord. (Heb. 8:7-9, WEB)
Faith must involve an inner transformation if it’s going to last. It is shallow faith that gets uprooted and distracted, not the kind that deeply penetrates the heart. Though God always wanted a heart-to-heart relationship with His people, that was difficult under the Old Covenant since Jesus had not yet come as Messiah and Redeemer to reconcile mankind to God. Under the New Covenant, though, God is working in each of our hearts on a deeper level.
“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel. After those days,” says the Lord; “I will put my laws into their mind, I will also write them on their heart. I will be their God, and they will be my people. They will not teach every man his fellow citizen, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for all will know me, from their least to their greatest. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness. I will remember their sins and lawless deeds no more.” (Heb. 8:10-12, WEB)
Because of the new relationship God has with us under the New Covenant, a change is taking place in our hearts. Now if we say, as Israel did, “Let us press on to know the Lord” we really can know Him. But we have to press on. The transformation inside us is participatory, not passive. Yes, God is the only one who can make this change happen, but if we’re not involved then growth will stagnate.
So then, my beloved, even as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who works in you both to will and to work, for his good pleasure. (Phil. 2:12-13, WEB)
Paul talks about what this “pressing on” involved for him later in this same letter. He writes of losing his former life along with his status and legalistic righteousness — “I suffered the loss of all things, and count them nothing but refuse, that I may gain Christ and be found in him … that I may know Him” (Phil. 3:7-10). Walking with Christ and coming to know Him was a constant thing for Paul that involved absolute commitment.
We may not have to sacrifice as much as Paul did to follow Christ, but we should develop the same level of commitment. We dare not settle for shallow faith, not when we have the opportunity to press on and know the Father and Jesus more fully. The rewards of such a deep relationship resonate through this life and on into the next for eternity. So let us each commit to pressing on and knowing the Lord.
Featured image credit: Pearl via Lightstock