, The Faith of Christ
Christianity is a God-based faith which asserts that God revealed Himself through Jesus Christ, a fully human and fully divine person. Looking at Him, we not only discover what God is like but also what it is like to be fully human, living intimately connected with the Father. In John 15:10, Jesus declared, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” (English Standard Version)
Abode is a slightly archaic word meaning the place we live, work, play, and rest. Our home is our abode because we live there. To abide in the Father is to make Him our abode, our living space and retreat in an otherwise turbulent life. Abiding in God’s love is to make the awareness of that love the center of all our being.
“Home is where the heart is,” the old saying goes. Christ made His home in His Father’s love, and He never strayed from it. It was His real home. Jesus never ventured out of His Father’s love. He carried it with Him wherever He went, because there was no place or circumstance where God’s love was not present.
This is what true faith means. It is the place where our heart lives, works, plays, loves, and rests. Our heart’s abode is the intangible truth where our soul is most comfortable and most at peace. In His humanity, Jesus made his heart’s home in the Father.
Because Jesus was human, he had faith. He had a place of rest deep inside of Him that was His spiritual center of operations. We can, therefore, speak not only of faith in Christ but the faith of Christ. His home was in the love of the Father because He lived there. Just as Christians are invited to live in Christ’s love, so Christ lived in His Father’s love.
The many points of connection to our central faith, our heart’s home, is what I have been calling the faith matrix. These points of connection – perception, action, identity, and time – are all seen in the Bible as being an aspect of Jesus’ relationship and service to the Father. These are like the rooms of His spiritual house and are how He came to experience and serve in His Father’s love.
Christ’s perception of the Father came in part from knowledge and passion. He acquired knowledge through life. In heaven, His knowledge was infinite. But on earth, he received it through the study of the Word and the world around Him. Being God, Jesus was in perfect connection with infinite knowledge, but His human brain could not contain all He knew, any more than our computer or handheld devices could hold all the knowledge available on the internet. He called upon it when needed, but He only possessed what had been downloaded or what the Father revealed. Like us, He used His logic and intellectual capacity to store and analyze the knowledge God showed him.
Christ studied the Scriptures diligently, so diligently that He was able to hold His own among the intellectuals of His day even at a very young age. He encouraged his disciples and His opponents to study the Scriptures, too. He debated and reasoned with His opponents through intelligent questions and arguments.
He also studied peoples’ hearts and behavior. Luke says of the young Jesus that He “grew in wisdom and in stature.” He was a student of nature. He paid attention to the birds of the air and the lilies of the field, and acquired information that He later used in teaching. He deduced the connections between human occupations such as farming, fishing, and shepherding and eternal truth. All truth was God’s truth to Him, and He sought all forms of knowledge hungrily.
Jesus didn’t merely accept what was told Him by the so-called “experts” but challenged authority with critical thinking. The Word of God was His final authority. He was not afraid to call others out when their arguments were illogical.
But knowledge and study of the Word was not the only way He perceived His Father’s love. Jesus relied on feelings and passion for guidance also. To Jesus, God was not only “Father,” but “Abba”—daddy. God’s love was not a distant abstract but a persistent feeling of God’s favor. Jesus used emotional words such as love, delight, rejoice, gladness, and peace to describe His inner feelings about God.
Jesus always lived with an inner perception of the presence of God. Only once did he not feel God’s presence, when He was on the cross, and the absence of that perception was the most significant pain Jesus felt. “My God, why have You forsaken me!” was His only complaint. God’s love was a real, passionate inner perception.
Jesus was just as passionate in His dealings with others. Jesus got emotional. He wept at Lazarus’ tomb, even though He knew He would raise him from the dead. He enjoyed His friends. He danced and drank at weddings. He got angry with injustice. Whenever hurting people came to Him, they saw compassion in His eyes. His empathy conveyed God more deeply than the sermons He preached.
Christ connected to the Father’s love through actions, through submission and good works. He submitted to the Father’s love with stillness and silence. He waited until the Father directed to begin His ministry, and did not preach until He was thirty. Before starting, He prayed and fasted for forty days in the wilderness. Jesus submitted to being baptized by His cousin, John the Baptist, even though He was more significant than John. He followed the Jewish calendar of holy days and feasts, even when involved deeply in ministry. For the most part, He submitted to the Jewish law, even when it was not necessary.
Jesus’ life shows no hint of the anxious hurrying and worrying that infects our existence. He did not force His way into religious leadership, but just went to worship where opportunities presented themselves. He went away by Himself to pray at least twice a day. At pivotal points in His ministry, Jesus would pray all night. Sometimes in the temple, He would just sit in silence and worship among the crowd. He regularly led His disciples in places of retreat to study and pray.
But when the time came to act, Jesus did not hesitate. He spoke out against injustice and hypocrisy. Risking His own life, He drove the moneychangers out of the temple. He had no fear of His enemies because He knew that God was with Him. He healed the sick, raised the dead, cast out demons, and performed miracles by the power of God. His activism caused Him to run afoul of the leaders of His day and eventually led to their rejection of Him.
The faith of Christ also formed His personal sense of identity. The Father’s love dictated His sense of self and community awareness. John’s gospel is full of statements that reveal His sense of self. “I am the door.” “I am the Good Shepherd.” “I am the Light of the World.” “I am the way, the truth, and the Life.” His self-identity as the Son of God sustained Jesus through the criticism and harsh judgment of others. He had a unique, favored relationship with the Father—so much so that Jesus said that by rejecting Him, people are rejecting the Father also.
This favored relationship extended to His disciples as well. John 14: 20-21, “On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.” (ESV)
Even so, Jesus knew that having a relationship to the Father alone was not enough. He had a human need for community. His disciples gave Him that community. They shared His passion for the Father. He took His disciples with Him everywhere. “Love one another,” He said. “By this will all people know you are my disciples.” John 13:34. On the night He suffered emotional agony in Gethsemane, He expressed a deep need for friendship with other people. Jesus did not call His disciples just students, He called them “friends.” He received God’s love through the friendship and companionship of others.
In the dimension of time, Jesus related to His Father’s love in the past, present, and future.
In the present, He practiced mindfulness; that is, He did not worry about tomorrow or fret about the past. Instead, He practiced awareness of His Father’s love in every moment of His life. “Take no thought of tomorrow,” He said in Matthew 6, “Tomorrow will take care of itself, but seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
But Jesus did not just look at this present moment. He was aware that He was part of the flow of time and that God had brought Him to this moment by the faithfulness of an ancient tradition. He was a Jew and the fulfillment of Jewish prophecy. As such, He celebrated the traditions of the past and saw how they connected with the Father. He told his disciples that He had come first to the House of Israel. He identified Himself with Abraham, David, Moses, and Jonah. He did not reject that tradition but built upon it, emphasizing the connections between His teaching and the tradition of the past.
Jesus looked forward in His faith through hope. He honored and respected the past, but He was not stuck in it. He was not afraid to change traditions when they needed to be replaced. One of His favorite phrases was, “You have heard it said. . . but I say…”
He encouraged His disciples to think of heaven, promising that He would be with them there. He had an optimistic view of the future and preached the coming of the Kingdom of God on earth. He spoke of His own resurrection and His triumphant return. His scattered and immature disciples who followed Him would become a force so strong that “the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.”
Christ’s life shows us that faith is not something we have in only one area of our lives. It involves all that we are, think, feel and do. To abide in Christ’s love is to seek to imitate Him and His love for the Father in all ways.
— Do you have the faith of Christ in your own life?
— Where do you see yourself falling short?
— Where else do we see Christ connecting with His Father in faith?