FOLLOW THE MAP.
We all have to answer life's big questions, and the answers are not always easy. Faithmap is a tool to help us reflect on these questions and what they reveal about God.
Faithmap looks best on a smartphone in portrait orientation.
We all have to answer life's big questions, and the answers are not always easy. Faithmap is a tool to help us reflect on these questions and what they reveal about God.
Faithmap looks best on a smartphone in portrait orientation.
This is a major question. A few years ago, when the Matrix movies were released, people started talking about what it would be like if we realized nothing around us was real. What would happen if we found out that we were all just plugged into a computer program and none of this was really happening? Even though those movies have not been around for centuries, questions about our existence and knowledge have. Some of the world’s greatest thinkers and philosophers have pondered the question – Can I really know anything?
We certainly won’t be able to summarize all of their thoughts in a few paragraphs, but here is something to think about. We generally speak about knowledge in two different ways. Either we mention subjective knowledge (dependent on the subject) or objective knowledge (inherent in the object). My subjective knowledge is affected by my experiences, preferences, and opinions. I might say, “Broccoli is gross,” but that is a subjective statement. It is not true for everyone. You might like broccoli. If I take a plate of broccoli and drop it on the ground, I have displayed gravity, which is an objective reality. Gravity works for all of us, and our beliefs have no bearing on it. I can choose not to believe in gravity, and it will still exist. That is because it is an objective reality, not a subjective one.
No matter how easy it is for us to overlook it, our culture does recognize objective truth. There are some things that are objectively good and objectively bad, no matter what someone’s opinion might be. We base our lives on things we believe we can know. In fact, if you don’t believe it is possible to objectively know anything, how do you know that? Even if you are still unsure of this question, why not continue reading and see what you think when you are done looking through this “Faith Map.” We think you will be glad you did.
All of us put our faith in something. As Bob Dylan once sang, “You’re gonna have to serve somebody.” The same thing is true with our faith – we all live as if something is true. Think about your life; if someone observed your actions, where would they assume you were putting your faith?
William Kingdon Clifford, a British philosopher, once wrote, “It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone to believe anything on insufficient evidence.” This idea is alive and well today; people will often say they can’t believe anything that cannot be proven scientifically. That sounds appealing, but does it square with reality? For instance, consider the statement that it is wrong to believe anything on insufficient evidence. Where is the evidence to prove that statement? Do you make every decision in your life with that same requirement for evidence?
Imagine you landed on a deserted island, and you were desperately looking for help. You couldn’t find anyone, but you stumble upon a well-constructed hut with multiple rooms. There is a cot with a pillow and blanket, as well as a table with fresh-cut fruit on it. What would you assume? Wouldn’t you think there was a person who built the hut and provided the furniture? If we look at the world around us and see evidence of design, it is reasonable to believe there is a designer.
There are scriptures that describe the way our world reveals its Creator. Take a few minutes to read these passages and think about what they tell us about creation.
Psalm 8:3-4–3 - When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, 4 what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?
Psalm 19:1-3 – The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. 2 Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. 3 There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard.
Psalm 139:13-16 – For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. 14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.
Romans 1:20–20 For his (God’s) invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
While some have claimed that Jesus never existed, history has proved that statement wrong. For example, the Roman historian Tacitus (56 – 120 AD), described “Chrestus” (a misspelling of Christ), who was put to death by Pontius Pilate. Roman magistrate Pliny the Younger wrote that early Christians were singing hymns to Christ “as to a god.” Roman historian Suetonius recorded “Chrestus” (another way to spell Christus) who had influenced followers to the point that they were expelled from Rome. The Jewish historian Josephus stated that Jesus “was a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man,” and he described the crucifixion and the Christian’s belief Jesus rose from the dead. While that passage is contested, it is one of many historical indicators that Jesus really walked the earth.
Some might point to self-proclaimed “Messiahs” in recent years, who have been under the impression they were divine, only for others to determine they had mental issues. They would say that Jesus was delusional. Yet the teachings of Jesus in scripture display wisdom and thoughtfulness. As philosopher Peter Kreeft put it, “Jesus has in abundance precisely those three qualities that liars and lunatics most conspicuously lack: (1) his practical wisdom, his ability to read human hearts; (2) his deep and winning love, his passionate compassion, his ability to attract people and make them feel at home and forgiven, his authority, “not as the scribes”; (3) his ability to astonish, his unpredictability, his creativity. Liars and lunatics are all so dull and predictable! No one who knows both the Gospels and human beings can seriously entertain the possibility that Jesus was a liar or a lunatic, a bad man.”
Many today describe Jesus as merely a “good teacher.” Yet, in John 14:6, Jesus stated,
“I am the way, and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Jesus clearly described Himself as THE way to God. If Jesus was a good teacher, wouldn’t He have told the truth? And if He told the truth, how will I respond to His claim?
Consider this quote by C.S. Lewis:
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with a man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
We live in a culture that often resists authority. We like to think that we make our own decisions and that no one else tells us what to do. Yet, all of us make choices and live our lives according to some source of authority. How do we choose what authority we will allow to guide our lives?
The Bible certainly claims to be a message directly from God, and scripture tells us it is more than just a collection of temporary suggestions. Even inspired authors of scripture realized when they had a message that was from God and not just from them.
1 Peter 1:22-25 - Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, 23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; 24 for "All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, 25 but the word of the Lord remains forever." And this word is the good news that was preached to you.
1 Thessalonians 2:13 – And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.
We have more manuscript evidence for the Bible than for any other ancient writing. For example, there are barely over 600 manuscripts of the Illiad, whereas there are approximately 25,000 manuscripts that attest the existence of scripture.
If our Creator gave a message to us, wouldn’t we expect it to have more manuscript evidence than any other? There is simply no other ancient document like it.
When we read the New Testament, which tells us about the beginning of the church, we get insight into how people become Christians. We see key elements in every case, and they provide a guide for people today who are considering what it means to follow Christ.
The process of conversion always begins with faith.
Abraham, the Old Testament follower of God, gives us a prime example of faith. He was faithful enough to follow God out of his home country and allow God to lead him (Genesis 12).
In the New Testament, Paul writes that Abraham was justified by faith, and we need faith if we want to be justified (Romans 5:1). In James 2, we are reminded that Abraham’s faith did not exist only in his mind – it was lived out in his actions. Faith prompts actions. In fact, James tells us that if we don’t have any actions, that is a sign we don’t have true faith.
Conversion also includes repentance.
If you have ever attended worship before, you know there are some terms used in scripture that we don’t use often today. Repentance is one of those words – we just don’t use it all that much anymore. The word for “repentance” in scripture has a sense of “turning back” to God. It isn’t just changing the way we think about something – it is changing the way we live because of our new thinking. A great modern word picture is a car making a u-turn. It isn’t just that we stop going one way, but we turn around and go another.
Repentance is something that was mentioned often by Jesus. When Jesus describes His ministry in Luke 5:32, He states that He has not come to call the righteous but the sinners to repentance. Later in that same book, Jesus describes His mission by saying that He came, died, and was raised so that both repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed (Luke 24:47). In Acts 2, which was also written by Luke, we see Peter preach in Acts 2 and state that people needed to repent and be baptized in order to receive forgiveness
Conversion includes confession.
When it comes to faith in Christ, faith demands expression, both spoken and lived. In the book of Romans, Paul is writing to Christians who lived in the Roman Empire, and he encourages them to remain faithful to Christ in a culture that worshipped many Gods. Paul writes in Romans 10:9 “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” This passage seems to have in mind a public confession.
Public confession might not be as big a deal today, but it is very important. We need to realize that confession is not just a one- time event. It needs to happen every day. Think about it this way – picture a married couple. What if every time the man left the house, he took his wedding ring off? How would the wife feel? Why would the husband be ashamed for people to know that he was married? In order for that to be a real, committed relationship, both would need to be willing to let everyone know about their dedication to each other. Why is confession so important? Because if I truly have faith in God, I will be willing to let everyone know about it.
Conversion includes baptism.
If we looked up the word “baptism” in a dictionary, we might end up with all kinds of meanings. Our question is what baptism meant in the New Testament. Remember, that is where we find our guidance, in God’s Word. The New Testament was written in the Greek language, and the term for baptism in Greek literally means “to immerse.” In fact, it would be fair to translate the term that way each time the word “baptism” is used in the New Testament. When baptism is described in Colossians 2:12, Paul says that those who are buried with Christ in baptism were also raised with him through faith. Romans 6:1-7 reminds us that baptism re-enacts the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. The Jewish people, living under the law in the Old Testament, knew about complete, bodily cleansings. Yet the baptism of Jesus is different. It is not something one does for himself or herself, it is a passive action. When we are immersed, we are following the Biblical model.
In Matthew 28, Jesus gives His apostles instructions about their ministry, telling them that they should baptize others. He gives them a specific way to do it – in the names of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. This reminds us that when we are baptized, we are participating in the work of God. When Peter preaches in Acts 2:38, he tells the crowd to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of you sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. We need to understand that both of these things happen when we become Christians. The only place I can find true forgiveness from sins is in Christ, and He tells me that the place where my sins are forgiven is baptism. This does not mean that the other elements are not as important, it just means that baptism is essential. We also receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, which Paul describes in Ephesians 1:14 as the promise of our eternal inheritance. The New Testament miracles were designed to confirm the message of God, and now that we have scripture, those miracles are no longer necessary. While we don’t receive miraculous Holy Spirit gifts, we do need to understand the gift of the Spirit, provided only in baptism.
The Christian life requires living in faith. Baptism is the place where we come into contact with God’s forgiveness, but our journey doesn’t end there. In fact, that is just the starting line. One of the challenges in making any commitment is staying true to it. We have had our share of diets that were tried and abandoned, career possibilities that we decided against, etc. Even after the enthusiasm that comes from becoming a Christian, it can be challenging to deal with the difficulties that come with faithful living. I think that might be why so many books of the New Testament are written to Christians struggling to stay faithful. There are real difficulties that they were facing, and they needed encouragement. We want to encourage you, wherever you may be on your spiritual journey.
The New Testament is written in the Greek language, and the word translated “faith” is pistis (noun form) and pisteuo (verb form). In scripture, the term faith is concerned with the content of belief, but it is also connected with action. In scripture, faith is more than just intellectual assent, saying we believe in God. It is belief plus action.
One powerful passage about faith is found in Hebrews 11, where the actions of faithful people in scripture are found. Each statement begins this way, “By faith…,” and then lists an action of a faithful person. By faith, Noah built an ark as God instructed him. By faith, Abraham left his family’s home and followed God to a new land. By faith, Sarah believed God could give her a child in her advanced age. These are all concrete ways people showed their faith by how they lived.
We can look around us and see numerous religious groups, many of which have different standards for what counts as faithful Christian living. The only standard that should really matter to us is the one set by God in scripture. Here are some passages of scripture that show people of God living out their faith:
2 Corinthians 5:6-9 – So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.
Hebrews 10:23-25 – Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
1 John 1:5-9 - This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
It is clear from reading these passages that faithful Christian living requires hard work. Yet, is there anything that could be more rewarding?
You may have met a few people who said they were Christians but did not live like it. That can be discouraging, but it does not mean that God is not true to His Word. Romans 3:3-4 reminds us that even if everyone who lives is a liar, God will still be true.
If you are a Christian who has not been putting your faith into practice, why not find a congregation where you can serve and be encouraged by other Christians?
If you ever run in an organized race, whether a 5K fun run or a marathon, you know the starting line is one of the most exciting places on the course. You are surrounded by decorations, fellow runners, and a crowd cheering you on your way. As wonderful as the starting line is, we all know there is more to a race than the beginning. The same is true when we become Christians. Our baptism into Christ is the starting line of our new life, and we are surrounded by people who are encouraging us. The next question we face is an important one: will I continue to serve God?
It is important to be willing to say I believe in God, but it is also vital that I show my faith by the way I live. Here is how James describes the relationship between faith and action in James 1:22-25 –
But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; 24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. 25 But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.
If someone looked at your daily routine and weekly schedule, would they be able to see your faith in action? Why not make a list of all the talents and abilities you have been given, and then reflect on how you can use those to serve God?
You might be intimidated by an area of service, or maybe you worry about a lack of experience. Remember that none of us is ever fully prepared when we start serving God. The best way to start is just to start.
Sometimes physical challenges can keep us from doing everything we want to. Remember that God understands where you are, and there are likely some areas of service you may never have considered.
Here is a list of possible ways to serve, just to get you started:
Volunteer to help with a children’s Bible class in your congregation (teachers always need extra help).
Find a weekly activity where you can regularly help others. It may be a meals-on-wheels program, volunteering at a soup kitchen, or maybe just doing yard work for a neighbor who is unable to do it anymore.
Go on a mission trip – it is always great to get to know Christians in other places, and these trips encourage spiritual growth.
Invite a few people over for prayer or study time (and then maybe something to eat). When our relationships with other Christians are growing, it is easier for us to grow closer to God.
God bless you as you serve Him!
The last question focused on serving, and we included some ways for people to get started. But maybe your answer to that question is yes, you are a servant. The next question is this – Are you are involved in a maturing ministry?
The term “maturing ministry” simply refers to a regular area of service in your life that is causing spiritual growth for you and blessings for others. For instance, it is easy to start a new workout plan (thousands of people do every January), but it takes dedication to continue to that plan all year. It might be easy for us to find a few ways to serve here or there, but are we willing to dedicate ourselves to an area of service and pour our lives into it?
Think about the areas where God has given you extra abilities – would you be willing to commit to serving in that area for an extended period of time, like six months or a year? Chances are, the longer you serve, the more your efforts will mature, and the ministry will become increasingly effective.
One key ingredient for maturing as servants is that we are involved in a congregation of Christians. This does not necessarily mean that all our service has to be done through organized ministries of a congregation (though those are important), but it means that my relationship with brothers and sisters in Christ is important as I grow. In Acts 2, for example, we find out that the earliest Christians immediately regarded other Christians as their spiritual family, sharing food and money with anyone who needed it. God designed the church to be a special, irreplaceable, and necessary resource for Christians.
You may not currently be a member of a congregation, or you may have other questions. If someone shared this website with you, you may want to talk to them about their church family. If you are in the Columbia, TN area, we would love to talk more to you about any questions you may have. God bless you on your journey!