The Bible makes it plain that all things are obtainable only by faith. It speaks of being "justified by faith"; "them that are sanctified by faith"; "purifying their hearts by faith"; "that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith"; "this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith"; combined with the chapter (Heb. 11) which attributes every mighty deed in Bible history to acts of faith.
Faith is the faculty by which, when we know we can have a thing and we want it, we can get it. Faith acts, and it acts on facts. That is why James so chastises theoretical faith. To believe a thing, he says, and do nothing about it, is not faith. Belief may be mere talk, but faith is action. The devils believe there is one God, and tremble. But there is no repentance, no turning back to God. What good is that? Contrast Abraham who acted on God’s word; and Rahab, and see what they got (James 2:14-26).
Faith does not vaguely desire a thing, it makes it its own. "Faith is the substance of things hoped for." To it the unsubstantial becomes substantial, and aspiration becomes realization. "Faith is the evidence of things not seen." To it the invisible becomes visible. In the natural realm, to have faith in a thing means that we already believe in it, and set about using it. We have an armchair in our room. We can argue till doomsday that it will or it won’t hold a person who sits on it. Either "belief" may be true, but quite useless. Then we sit on it. That is faith, and that ends all argument. Our faith makes our belief substantial. It does hold us and we know it. The chair was always a substantial fact, whether we believed it or not. But it was our faith that made it substantial to us. The chair was always capable of doing the job for which it was made, but it was only our faith which gave us personal evidence of that fact. So faith is not the fact in itself. Facts ARE, whether we accept them or not: but faith alone makes them facts in our personal experience, and therefore proven facts to us. We must use faith. We do use faith. No man has ever lived his life without it. Faith alone makes all the facts of life, known and unknown, facts of personal experience to each of us. We breathe by faith, and the air is ours: we eat by faith, and the food nourishes us. We marry by faith, we transact business by faith, we pioneer into unknown realms by faith: all these, and all else, only become personal realities to us because we first believe the relevant facts and then appropriate them to our personal use.
But if faith acts, it is desire that moves it to act. That is why the Bible traces faith back to the heart. "With the heart man believeth." We act because we want to act. Man is never controlled by his mind, though he likes to pretend he is. It suits his pride better to appear the calm thinker and thus actor, than to admit that he is really constrained by such an inscrutable and unpredictable, indeed not quite respectable, element as his heart! How penetrating are those words of the Psalmist, "The fool hath said in his heart there is no God." The atheist is an atheist because he does not want to believe in God with the self-surrender that accompanies such a faith.
It is important to get this clear. Faith by itself, unactivated by love, is like the engine of a car. There it is, dead, cold, still, setting nothing in motion, till the sparks from the dynamo and the explosions in the cylinders set the whole engine throbbing. This is the reason why there is so much dead faith in the churches. It is not correct to say that it is not belief. There are thousands who say they believe the truths of the gospel, and they are not liars: they do believe, but there is no faith in action, no faith set in motion by love. No man lives or moves without some faith "working by love", and folks who say they believe God but do nothing about it, have no active faith because there is no heart behind it. They surely have their active faith–where their heart is–in business, pleasure, society, politics, family interests, or what not. Their earthly loves must first be replaced by a hunger and thirst for God, before a Godward faith can go into action.
The fact is that the will (the heart) is almighty, for it is a spark out of the divine will, in the centre of God and man. But the will functions through the wisdom. As Jacob Boehme pointed out, the wisdom is like a mirror which reflects back all there is. In the beginning God saw Himself in all His potential wonders and glories, as He looked, as it were, into the mirror of His wisdom. This gave the desiring will its "imagination," the image-making faculty of the will, which is of great importance, for it is decisive; for as God saw Himself in the mirror of His wisdom and desired Himself in manifestation, so of His desiring will was begotten His beloved Son, the image and word of the Father: (though when speaking of God it must be understood that we have to speak of eternal things in a temporal manner, for our human thought can only see things in succession, in fragmentary, piecemeal fashion. As Boehme said, "I must speak in an earthly fashion with my half-dead understanding. I must set one thing after another, that thou mayest at last behold the whole.")
We see this same image-making power in fallen man in the phrase "the imaginations of the thoughts of their hearts" in Gen. 6:5. For through what the will sees in the mirror of its wisdom, it forms an image of what it desires to come into manifestation. What it desires is always what it sees itself to be in its mirror, or what it wants to become. This is a profound truth. We see an image when we look into a mirror. An image of what? Ourselves. When God in the beginning looked into the mirror of His wisdom, what did He see? Himself in all He could be, if all His power, wonder and beauty were brought into manifestation, as it was in Him who is the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person.
Likewise, when we in our fallen natures look into our mirror of wisdom, where all the passing scenes of this earth are portrayed to us, what attracts our attention? What do we see there? The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye and the pride of life. But what do we really see and choose? The reflection of ourself. We see our lust, our covetousness, our pride. We see what we are and what we want, and what we want is really more of ourselves. God wanted self-realization in His mirror of wisdom. So do we. That is all we ever do and can want.
And so we form images through our mirror. These clear images are formed in our hearts (our desiring wills). Clear objectives are before us and captivate us. We form them in our minds. We want them, we will them. Our hearts have become pregnant with the image. We will what we image. We are or become what we image or will. These are the arbiters of our temporal and eternal destiny. This is the full circle of our self-realization. "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he for out of it are the issues of life."
But to us who are being saved, the light of Christ is now being revealed to us in the mirror of our understanding. We can see Him in the glory of His grace, for in the infinity of that grace, in seeing Him we see our new selves, for He has become our Other Self, "not I that live, but Christ that liveth in me," "Christ who is our life."
We are now being "changed into the same image from glory to glory," until at last we shall be "conformed to the image of His Son." And how does this take place? By our desiring wills, our hearts, becoming impregnated ceaselessly and increasingly with the image of Jesus in all His perfection, where formerly the imaginations of the thoughts of our hearts were evil continually; in those days seeing and desiring the self-realization of our fallen selves, but now the self-realization of the indwelling Christ.
In the same way, the impregnated will sets faith in action in all the activities of the kingdom. As God’s plan is interpreted to us in our hearts by the Spirit, we see this or that which we desire for His glory–souls to be saved, believers to be filled with the Spirit, this or that practical need to be supplied. There is the image before us from the Spirit, the way by which Christ is revealing Himself to us in our calling of the moment. The "image" seizes our hearts, impregnates our wills, increases its hold on us, and thus sets faith into action. So guard the image-making faculty, and see that it is always the image of Christ.
Now let us apply this to ourselves, faith in action, which makes aspiration realization ("the substance of things hoped for"), and the invisible real ("the evidence of things not seen" (Heb. 11:1): faith set in motion by the desiring will ("faith that worketh by love"): the will impregnated by the imagination, the image-making faculty: in other words, faith which is the whole man in action.
In material things the way we act is obvious. We take with our hands, eat with our mouths, walk with our feet. But in immaterial things our first form of taking or acting by faith cannot be these. But God has laid down one form of action by faith which we can take. We are to speak "the word of faith" (Rom. 10:8-10). Having believed with the heart we are to "confess with the mouth." We want to know that we are crucified with Christ and that He lives in us. We want it to be no longer we that are living our own lives in our own way, but He living His own life in us and doing His will through us. We have our title to this in His written Word: we have our facts plain before us. We are thus in a condition to act in faith.
Then let us act. First, with heart and mind we believe that we are in this relationship with Christ which the Scriptures have revealed to us. We definitely believe in our crucifixion with Him, and our resurrection with Him, although in believing it we feel not one whit different and have no particular assurance in our hearts. It may appear to us just as a cold and quite nominal affirmation of certain facts given us in the Bible. But we believe them because we want to and are commanded to. We have taken the first step of faith-in-action.
Now we move forward again. Inner belief must be translated into outer action by "the word of faith." We confess with our mouth the Lord Jesus. We plainly and publicly state, as God leads on the suitable occasions, what is our new relationship in Christ. We give Him the glory by "the sacrifice of praise," that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name. It is a sacrifice of self to praise and testify to our death and resurrection with Him, when we may not feel any different!
Paul puts remarkable emphasis on what he calls this "word of faith." He makes it the central act of believing, for faith is a trinity of thought, word and deed. We first think a thing over and come to a conclusion about whether we believe it and want it. We then crystallize our thinking by a decisive "word." This is the central act of faith. We see it in the blueprint of the draughtsman, the plan of the architect, the orders of the commanding officer. In each case it is their "word of faith" which commits them. There is no going back now: it is the creative word, for as is the plan, so will be the house; as are the orders, so will be the battle. It is the one way of creation from eternity. The Father’s thought of faith predestinated us to the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself. The Son’s word of faith was expressed by becoming the Saviour. The Spirit’s work of faith is in building the body of Christ.
The results will follow. With Christ believed, acknowledged and confessed as in us, and we as dead and risen in Him, the witnessing and working Spirit will give the substance to the faith. Faith has its twofold results: inner assurance and outer manifestations. It produces within us an easy, natural certainty of that which we have believed. "He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself." We don’t strive to know. We just know it. Nothing can shake that knowledge. It is something imparted to us in the depths of our being, causing us to know the unknowable, see the invisible, touch the intangible, just as surely as with our outer senses we know the reality of the things around us. It is not feeling, it is knowledge. We don’t feel we are alive, we know we are alive however bad or good our feelings at the moment may be. So we know we are in Christ, and He in us, down in our spirits which are ourselves, although our feelings in the outer garment of our soul or emotional life may vary. Such knowledge is beyond knowledge, beyond feeling.
That is faith perfected, by which we become "fully assured." But note that often in our first steps in to a new position of faith, our believing is opaque. The windows of our spirits are still fogged with passing mists of unbelief: "I do believe you, Lord; but when I look away at myself and my failures, honestly, I don’t believe." We say with that honest father of the demon-possessed boy, "Lord, I believe; help thou my unbelief." As a result the pure light of the certainties of the Spirit cannot yet shine into our hearts. But the full assurance will come.
It is at this point that we must not give up. We must "labour to enter into that rest." Through faith and patience we inherit the promises. By every means in his power Satan will seek to cut the lifeline of our still flimsy faith. He will trip us into sudden sin and then mock our newly-made confessions of identification with Christ. He will lie to us that we are not different. He will tempt us through all our appetites and faculties, and then tell us to stop talking such foolishness as that we died with Christ. He will play upon our feelings to try and persuade us that the idea of an indwelling Christ is a phantasy. But we must learn to "walk by faith." Not just to take the first step of faith, but to take a million steps, and then another million! For faith, as we have already pointed out, is a God-given natural faculty. Just as every natural action is taken by faith, so every human attainment is gained by faith, but only gained painfully and slowly. The first steps in learning a trade or a language are very hesitating. Often it seems to us we shall never get hold of it. The thread of our faith often wears very thin, but it must not snap. If it does, we give up. If it doesn’t, we crawl on, until, almost unrealized by ourselves, a natural miracle has taken place. What we were seeking to get hold of has got hold of us! We just know it. We are at home in it. Effort and strain have disappeared. A long series of separate efforts have changed into a natural habit. That is the process of faith. So if we gain human attainments by faith, constrained by human incentives, how much more our heavenly goal by the constraint of the Spirit and the authority of the Word. Persevere, and we shall find, who can tell when or how, that what we seek to know of unbroken union with Christ, what we perhaps strain and strive to maintain by repeated acts of faith, what we may almost despair of finding in fullness, finds us! He will reveal Himself to us by the Spirit: we identified with Him, He in us, as clearly and certainly and unchangeably as He has already come to us with forgiveness of sin and adoption into the family of God.
This is the crisis of union. There are many points to examine about the daily walk which follows, but the road is not firm beneath our feet, "the highway . . . called the way of holiness," unless there is the realized union. Romans 6 brings it to a head for us. No longer coming to an outward Saviour, but joined Spirit with spirit to Him in spiritual death and resurrection, we in Him dead and risen, He is us as our life. We are back now in the central meaning of our creation, in the mystery Paul said had been hid from ages and generations, but is now revealed to His saints, which is "Christ in you, the hope of glory." We are freed in Calvary from Satan and sin, flesh and world, the same feeble little creatures to the outward eye, but within princes with God, with One for ever dwelling in us, of whom it is said, "Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world."
Let us stop here a moment. Is this relationship an actual experience to us? Don’t let us be side-tracked with specious arguments about it being our theoretical standing in Christ in the sight of God, but not our actual state on earth. No honest readers of Scriptures such as Rom. 6; Gal. 2:20; Col. 2:10-15; 3:3, 4; Eph. 2:4-6, can doubt that these are a living experience. It must be so, for this is our faith position in Christ, and faith is experience. We repeat again, "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen"; and "he that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself." With living faith comes actual inner knowledge: we see, we know, by the inner eye and in the inner mind. So be sure you have pressed in and possessed your possessions in the obedience of faith, and are not among those who believe not God, and therefore make Him a liar. Romans 6 tells us to know, reckon, yield, act on this fact of our union with Him. These pages have been to help us to know. Reckoning is the crisis act of faith, accompanied by the word of faith. Yielding is the acknowledgment that our old man (our former self) was crucified with Him, that our bodies should no longer be the possession of sin (6:6), and that now we give ourselves over to Him and our bodies as instruments of righteousness unto God. Action is moving out into active service for Him, as workers who have come under new management (6:16-18). As we take these steps and persist in them, the Spirit Himself will bear plain witness with our spirit that we are in the Vine-branch relationship.
The Liberating Secret