A Biblical Definition of an Adventure of Faith 1

So, what is a God-composed journey of faith life-script, and equally important…what is it not?

I would start by saying that God Himself defines a walk of faith, a journey of faith, and an adventure of faith…in the narrative stories of faith in the Bible.

When God in the Old Testament spoke to Abraham: “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will show thee” (Gen. 12:1), from that moment forward God Himself is defining His true relationships with people through God-composed adventures of faith.  Here begins the intentional, divinely created invention of the blend of God’s sovereignty and mankind’s free-will choice, mysteriously combined within the dynamics of an individually tailored, God-composed life-script that requires subordination of our ways to God’s higher plans for our lives…entirely unique to the Bible.

In willingly choosing to obey God and step-out into an adventure of faith, some of Abraham’s self-in-charge nature was left behind…crucified, so to speak…as he headed off toward Canaan.  Abraham’s own plans, schemes, and ideas for his life were displaced by God’s plan that was much larger and grander than anything Abraham could have imagined.  With each step toward Canaan and away from Haran, Abraham left behind the other life he would have lived had he not met God, and walked toward a new life being offered to Abraham by God.  For this it is said of Abraham that “he believed in the Lord, and he counted it to him for righteousness” (Gen. 15:6; Rom. 4:3; Gal. 3:6).

The key point here is that Abraham cannot be in both places at once.  Abraham cannot be in Haran and Canaan, both physically…and spiritually…at the same time.

As Abraham walks toward Canaan he is choosing to exercise faith in God’s plans, over and above…and to the exclusion…of his own plans

This same theme is repeated in varied forms in every positive journey of faith in the Bible.  A God-crafted journey of faith as recorded in the narrative stories of the Bible completely displaces our ways with God’s higher ways.

A biblical journey of faith lies outside of our own making.  It is devoid of human contrivance, self-reliance, and self-realization by God’s purposeful design.  It stands outside of human literary invention, because the concept of the cross of Jesus Christ (Lk. 22:42) applied to our lives…the setting aside of our ways to be replaced by God’s higher ways…not only runs completely contrary to worldly acceptable, pride-filled thinking…but resides in a totally out-of-reach realm of unconventional options beyond our self-motivation to initiate and orchestrate (Isa. 55:8-9; Prov. 3:5-6).

This I believe is a biblical definition of a God-composed adventure of faith.  If we can see the cross of Christ in the life-scripts of the narrative stories of faith in the Bible…starting with Abraham…then we have solid scriptural ground to stand upon in understanding the cross applied to our own lives.

A Biblical Definition of Faith

Atheists are fundamentally wrong when they use the word “faith” generically in the broad sense to criticize religions such as “the Muslim faith,” or “the Hindu faith,” or “the Christian faith.”  Skeptical unbelief reduces all religions into the narrowly horizontal flat-line of man-made inventive nonsense…because the atheist’s starting premise is that God does not exist anywhere in reality and therefore all religions must be man-made fiction.

The loose and inaccurate use of the word “faith” to broadly describe and categorize religions, in my view represents universally shoddy, simplistic thinking.  Anyone carefully reading the narrative stories of faith recorded in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible will notice something extraordinarily unique…a dynamic interaction between God and people of faith.  Religious faith is correctly defined…exclusively in the Bible…within God-composed adventures of faith…within the living action of risky ventures that are scripted to produce the outcome of a personal bond between God and people.

Falling in love romantically carries risks.  An old adage applies here: “Faint heart never got the fair lady.”

Following God into a dynamic adventure of faith carries similar relational risks and rewards.  Faith and trust within a relationship between real people and the real God are the cornerstone reality of the biblical narrative stories of faith.  This paradigm of a personal relationship between people and God does not exist anywhere else in other religions, philosophies, or worldviews.  It is unique to the Bible.

It is arguably the most basic, important issue in all of reality.

“In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Prov. 3:6)…him, meaning the Lord God…is an outrageously bold and risky statement to make about the biblical God unless He does in fact exist and that He interacts in the affairs of mankind and in the personal lives of people of faith.  Many verses in the Bible describe an interactive, living faith that makes no sense without the existence of a real, participant God (Ps. 32:8; Isa. 30:21, 41:10, 44:8; Ezek. 36:26-29), who shows up on time and is fully engaged.

The broadly inaccurate use of the word “faith” to characterize all religions, in our politically correct culture of relative inclusiveness, would embrace as valid the false idol-worship of some of the Israelites that from time-to-time became apostate religious practice…yet the worship of dumb idols is the very antithesis of the intimate biblical adventure of faith between God and a person.  Religious practices and “faith” are terms that are not truly and accurately synonymous.

Brilliant antagonists have been attacking the Bible for hundreds of years.  Brilliant Christian apologists have been answering back with credible and compelling rebuttals as the facts come to light in the fields of history, archaeology, science, linguistics, philosophy, and theological research.

But the one unassailable…and as yet untouched…part of the Bible is the utter uniqueness of God-composed journey of faith life-scripts, because these fall inexplicably outside of anything even remotely close to humanistic explanation or fictional, imaginary invention.  This is the theme…a uniquely biblical danger zone of faith in the real, living God…outside of accepted, worldly conventional thinking…that I am attempting to articulate in this book.

Faith is not the same as religious practices, beliefs, and tradition.  Dynamic, action-packed, God-composed adventures of faith in the Bible transcend above bland, institutionalized, man-made religious practices.

A biblical-quality journey of faith life-script creates a challenging yet hope-filled, purposeful, and exhilarating reality of events and circumstances that we could not possibly self-manufacture, because the unconventionality of the way of the cross of Jesus Christ, skillfully interwoven into every God-composed storyline, rises far above worldly conventional wisdom.

The Christian Life in the Danger Zone

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith;                                                                                                (Hebrews 12:1-2)

It takes guts and courage to be a Christian.  The race that is set before us…following a life-script composed and managed by Jesus Christ the Creator of the universe, takes us to an innovative place…far outside of worldly conventional thinking.

Like the first-century dispute answered well by Jesus about the resurrection of the dead (Mk. 12:26-27)…in plain sight just below the surface within the discourse between God and Moses at the burning bush familiar to every Jew in that day (Ex. 3:6)…this simple truth about Christian guts and courage again is hiding right there in plain sight for us in the New Testament scriptures.

Conventional wisdom would strongly council Jesus to stay away from Jerusalem for several months or even years for His own safety (Jn. 11:8).

But Jesus is not living His life according to conventional wisdom.  Jesus is perfectly living a God-composed walk of faith as the Lamb of God Savior for mankind (Jn. 5:30).  Jesus goes back to Jerusalem the week of that fateful Passover, is crucified on Friday, and rises from the tomb on Sunday morning to become the author of salvation to all those who will place their faith in Him.

There is an exceptionally rare storyline going on here, soaring out of sight above horizontally conventional thinking (1 Cor. 1:25).  The life of Jesus, especially concerning the dramatic events leading up to Calvary, is as divergent from the worldly accepted expectations and aspirations of conventional normalcy as is possible.

It took the most sublime guts and courage, walking along the most unconventionally unimaginable life-path, to be the Savior of the world…to be Jesus Christ.  It takes a similar measure of guts and courage to likewise be a follower of Jesus Christ in the first-century and today.

Listen to the words spoken by Peter standing before the Sanhedrin council recorded in Acts 4:8-12:

8  Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel,

9  If we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made well;

10  Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole.

11  This is the stone which was set at naught of you builders, which is become the head of the corner.

12  Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

The underlying boldness and precision supporting these brilliantly concise words regarding the Person and resurrection of Jesus Christ were set in motion entirely through the supernatural works of God alone.  The adventure of faith ride that Peter and John are experiencing at this moment is engineered by God.  The events of the rejection, crucifixion, and resurrection that Peter is speaking about are…first and foremost…divinely crafted, shaped, and channeled by God (Isa. 53:3; Ps. 22:16; Ps. 16:10).

The entire scenario of the crippled man healed at the gate of the temple, leading to this momentous confrontation between the old and the new at the beginning of the new covenant Christian church in Jerusalem, is totally set up and manufactured by God.  Peter is not testifying here, before the Sanhedrin council in Jerusalem, about anything that he has done, using worldly wisdom or cleverly persuasive oratory.  The message, power of conviction, and clarity by which Peter speaks are inspired and energized by the Holy Spirit.

The transforming progression of the culminating events of Peter’s early discipleship phase, tell us about the perilous but liberating danger zone where the living God will take us if we will simply follow after Him in faith.

Peter’s denial of Christ in the courtyard (Lk. 22:61-62), his personal interview with the risen Jesus on resurrection morning (Lk 24:34), to “I go a fishing” (Jn. 21:3) and “Feed my sheep” (Jn. 21:16), the command to wait in Jerusalem (Acts 1:4), and the stupendous breakthrough on Pentecost (Acts 2), is the story of a God-made man.

Only God has the capacity to create a God-made man.  Only God has the divine creative imagination and loving motivation to invent such a context of unconventional events and circumstances wherein changed people, having new spiritual hearts, can function and excel.  No humanistic program on earth could or would do this.

It takes real guts and courage to follow Jesus into a danger- zone adventure that is outside of worldly conventional normalcy.

If we could see Jesus present and looking on at the scene of Peter and John courageously defending the new gospel message before the Sanhedrin, we might see Him off to one side at “stage right” with the unmistakable look of loving pride and satisfaction on His face at the progress in character these two young men, starting out as mere fishermen, had made in so short a time.  Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Peter and John were stepping up into the role Jesus had trained them for, and the world would never be the same again.

This is what a biblical-quality journey of faith is designed to accomplish.  This is what The Christian Life in the Danger Zone can achieve, in world-shaking non-conformity, far above the horizontally safe expectations of worldly conventional mediocrity (Rom. 12:2; Acts 17:6).

A Partial Revelation 5

All of the truths and information about the upcoming end-times events are contained within the pages of the Bible that we hold in our hands and can study every day (excepting the upcoming Joel 2:28-29 dreams, visions, and prophecies).  Like the Jews of the first century leading up to the ministry of Jesus, the problem is that we do not yet fully understand the prophetic verses that point forward toward the future.

Mark 15:29-30 records the amazing (in hindsight) failure of the people to comprehend the meaning of what Jesus had said prior to His crucifixion:

29  And they that passed by railed at him, wagging their heads, and saying, Ah, thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days,

30  Save thyself, and come down from the cross.

Jesus was in the process of destroying the temple that was His body, at the precise moment these people were taunting Him, because they had no conception of what was happening.  They had no idea that when He referred to the destruction and rebuilding of the temple a few days previous to His crucifixion, that He was speaking about His own bodily death and resurrection.  The meaning of His words was locked up within an understanding of His fulfillment of age-old scriptures as the atoning Lamb of God sacrifice for sin.  It took people looking backward in hindsight, including the disciples, to get this right.  The same thing may be true in our day, as we attempt to look forward and figure out with precision the upcoming events of the last days.  We may not put all of the pieces perfectly together either as we attempt to construct a preview of end-of–time events.

Jeremiah 23:5-6 reads: “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the earth.  In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely; and this is his name whereby he shall be called, The Lord Our Righteousness.”  This important prophetic verse clearly applies to Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the Messiah and our Savior.  But it shows how mistaken we can be when we apply prophetic verses to the wrong time period.  Jesus did not “execute justice and righteousness in the earth” in the immediate political and social sense.  Jesus was crowned with thorns and crucified by the religious and civil authorities.

The timing of this verse is critical to its correct application.  This Jeremiah verse applies not to the first advent of Christ in the first century A.D., but to His second advent at the end of the ages.  How would anyone know this beforehand without further clarifying information?  We understand this verse today only through the benefit of hindsight.  Scholarly erudition before the actual events unfolded in first century Jerusalem tragically fell short of a clear understanding of these prophetic Jeremiah scriptures.

The themes contained within the biblical narrative stories of faith are not about worldly conventional pursuits of normalcy in full possession of all of the future facts upfront.  These narrative stories are risk-filled adventures into the partially unknown in tentative faith and trust in the competency and foresight of God, often in the middle of life-and-death circumstances balanced on the edge of a precipice.  The uniquely biblical “journey of faith” is a God-composed, divinely inspired enterprise aimed way above our individual self-interests involving self-sacrifice for the eventual good of others and ourselves beyond anything humans could or would invent.

It goes without saying that we are to study and become familiar with the end-times prophecies found in the Old Testament, in the gospels, in the epistles, and in the book of Revelation.  We are instructed by scripture to do this.  But we are also instructed by Jesus (Matthew 24:36-51, Mark 13:32-37, Luke 21:34-36), by Paul (1 Corinthians 1:7, 1 Thessalonians 5:4-6), by James (James 5:7-7-8), by Peter (2 Peter 3:11-14,), by John (1 John 3:2-3, Revelation 1:3), and by Jude (Jude 21), to watch and to pray always until the coming of Jesus Christ.  In addition to studying and knowing the scriptures, this admonition to watch and pray gives a dynamic, fluid, flexible, in-the-moment element to our eventual fuller understanding of the upcoming end-times events.

In Luke 21:7, the disciples ask Jesus what everyone today wants to know: “when will these things be?” and “what sign will there be?” before these things happen.  Jesus does not answer these questions directly.  Instead, Jesus tells us what we actually need to know, and by doing so, He indirectly implies that the main Christian church will be on the earth for some of the tribulation period and the reign of the Antichrist.

“Take heed that ye be not deceived” (Luke 21:8), for example, has no special relevance or application to the uniqueness of the last days, unless the entire church is still on the earth.  There has always been some form of deception on earth threatening the Christian church starting from the first century onward.  This particular warning relates to the end-times, because Luke 21:8 above includes the statement by the false deceivers, claiming to be Christ, that: “the time draweth near.”  If the main church is raptured before this, who is Jesus addressing this critical statement to…some “left behind” group of tribulation saints?  The gravity and magnitude of this warning implies that it is intended for the worldwide Christian church, Gentile believers and Messianic Jews as a whole.

A Partial Revelation 3

The resurrected Jesus could have walked down the main streets of Jerusalem and right into the Temple, removing any doubt as to His true identity and nature.  But that would have upset the delicate balance between the virtue of faith…and the freedom to remain in unbelief.  It would be giving away too much information.

The finely balanced spiritual equation of repentance, faith, and righteousness within the context of this broken world does not always include a full revelation of all pertinent information upfront (Exodus 4:1-17; 1 Corinthians 13:12).

Absolutely no one ahead of time understood the upcoming resurrection of Jesus …which was to occur three days after His crucifixion.

Luke 22:49 records the disciples asking Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane whether they should “smite with the sword” to defend Him.  Peter weeps bitterly after failing to stand by Jesus at His trial.  The disciples scatter for their lives after the arrest of Jesus, not realizing their temporary situation was secure until the disposition of Jesus of Nazareth was finally decided.

The religious leaders think that by killing Jesus they will be rid of Him and His movement.

Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus wrap the dead body of Jesus in linen strips according to the Jewish custom for permanent burial.  The women come to the tomb early Sunday morning to anoint the body of Jesus with spices for permanent burial.

The disciples initially reject the first reports of the resurrection of Jesus.  The two men walking with the resurrected Jesus toward the town of Emmaus are sad… because they still do not have any idea that Jesus through the cross and the resurrection has purchased for them their eternal salvation…that very day.

All of this, even though Jesus told people ahead of time that He would rise from the dead (Mark 9:31-32; Matthew 27:63).  People at the time missed the upcoming resurrection of Jesus because they were stuck in horizontally conventional thinking.

Consider the Apostle Paul as he travels toward Jerusalem for the last time.

Paul is surrounded by Spirit-filled men, even the acknowledged Jerusalem prophet Agabus…all beseeching Paul not to proceed forward into the personal threat he faces at Jerusalem.

After the tumult in Jerusalem, as Paul sits in the prison at Caesarea, these same Spirit-filled Christian companions could have said to Paul in hindsight “we told you so.”

Yet only God could see that He was changing the ministry of Paul from a church planting evangelist to a writer of the final four “prison” epistles, within a quiet time for reflection and under the physical protection afforded a prisoner of the Roman Empire.

Everyone missed this ahead of time as God worked out His higher purposes in the midst of incredibly tight circumstances that characterize the narrow gate for a person following Jesus Christ in faith and without care for their own personal safety (Acts 21:13).

A Partial Revelation 2

A second component of this idea of purposely incomplete prophetic revelation is the good wisdom of God in not revealing all of the fine details of His plans to the opposition upfront.  Telling Lucifer and the other fallen angels all of God’s strategic plans ahead of time, within the end-of-time prophetic scriptures contained in the Bible would be counterproductive in the extreme.  This interpretation is consistent with the approach that God has taken with all Bible prophecy.  Some element of hindsight is usually involved in putting all of the prophetic pieces of the puzzle together after-the-fact.  Once the fulfillment of a particular biblical prophecy has been locked into historical place by the occurrence of the actual events themselves in time, then the opportunity for spiritual opposition to fully anticipate the prophecy ahead of time and possibly adversely alter the God-intended outcome has safely passed.

For example, the Psalms 22 prophecies regarding the crucifixion were just vague and obscure enough so that the religious rulers in Jerusalem did not connect them in advance to Jesus of Nazareth, yet precise and specific enough to be clear in hindsight.  Psalms 22:16 reads: “…they pierced my hands and my feet.”  If God had given away more detailed information in this prophecy, such as the shape of a wooden cross, the use of five to seven inch long metal spikes, and the piercing of the hands and feet as a slow and tortuous method of execution causing weakness through blood loss leading eventually to asphyxiation, then everyone would have been forewarned centuries beforehand of the divine intention hidden within this prophecy, through the well-known and widespread practice of Roman crucifixion.

The question can be asked, what would be the motivation for God to give away too much overly specific information in this prophecy?  God would then have had to come up with another means for sacrificial atonement other than the cross of Christ, for mankind’s sins.  Jesus Christ shed His blood while hanging on a wooden cross in sin atonement as the sacrificial Lamb of God after the ancient pattern of the blood atonement given by God to the Levitical priesthood.  Too much information given away in Psalm 22:16 would have tipped-off the religious and civil authorities ahead of time, and spoiled Roman crucifixion as God’s totally unanticipated and unexpected method for Christ’s substitutional atonement.  God reveals just the right amount of information in Psalms 22:16 to accomplish His purposes.  One of the true marvels of Psalm twenty-two is that David heard God’s voice accurately, and got the wording of each of these critical prophecies just right.

Micah 5:2 reads: “But thou, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel, whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.”  Hosea 11:1 reads: “When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.”  Isaiah 11:1 reads: “And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots.”  The Apostle Matthew included in his gospel that Jesus was born in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:1), returned to Israel from Egypt as a small child (Matthew 2:15), and grew up in Nazareth (Matthew 2:23).  Matthew obtained this information from only three probable first-hand sources…Mary the mother of Jesus, or Jesus Himself after His resurrection, or James the half-brother of Jesus.

The chief priests and Pharisees prided themselves in knowing the prophetic scriptures pertaining to the Messiah, as witnessed by their indignant response to Nicodemus who had suggested to his colleagues that they give Jesus a fair-minded hearing: “…Art thou also of Galilee?  Search, and look; for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet” (John 7:52).  Yet, all these priests and Pharisees had to do to resolve this question of the birthplace of Jesus was to simply ask Mary the mother of Jesus, or to ask Jesus Himself.  They did not ask this direct question because they had already made up their minds that Jesus was an unsuitable candidate according to their preconceived idea of what the promised Messiah would be like.

Again, these prophecies regarding the origin of Jesus Christ, authenticating His claim to be the Messiah, were just vague and obscure enough so that the religious rulers did not connect them to Jesus of Nazareth, yet precise and specific enough to be crystal clear in hindsight as given to us by Matthew.  God did not foretell through a singular, composite verse in the Old Testament that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem and come out of Egypt and be called a Nazarene (as Matthew interpreted the prophet Isaiah’s 11:1 verse).  God did not combine these three verses together neatly in one location in the sacred text for the convenience and illumination of the readers.  Thus combined they would have unmistakably pointed to Jesus of Nazareth as the only possible Messiah.  God kept these verses separated in the Old Testament, so as to be purposely obscure to the religious leaders in Jerusalem in the first century, yet crystal clear in hindsight when put together after-the-fact by Matthew.

A Partial Revelation 1

“And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions;  And, also, upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my Spirit.”   (Joel 2:28-29)

A biblically accurate starting premise in approaching the study of end-of-time prophetic future events is to recognize that God has purposely kept some portion of the information incomplete and obscure.  A thoughtful Bible student can approach this admittedly difficult subject of end-times prophecy with the beginning assumption that no person has it all figured out to the last detail, because no one can figure it all out, by God’s purposeful intention.

Even as Jesus is explaining in clear language His upcoming crucifixion and resurrection to the disciples, as fulfillment of Old Testament messianic prophecies, Jesus knows they are not completely getting it.  Yet there is no record in the gospels of Jesus going back over this critical subject repeatedly four or five times, until the disciples understand perfectly.  Jesus knows it will all make sense later in hindsight.  An argument can be made that the crucifixion itself is a product of the Pharisees and scribes tragically misreading the messianic prophecies as a direct result of faulty living, adversely fulfilling the very prophecies they thought they completely understood upfront.  If the messianic prophecies were crystal clear no one would have made the tragic mistake of crucifying Jesus of Nazareth.

God indeed has everything in the last-days planned out to the smallest detail.  But by not revealing all of it for the present time, God keeps us engaged and in a state of watchfulness.  Our personal relationship with Jesus Christ is always the underlying theme behind all of the works of God, including the subject of end-times prophecy in the Bible.  The amount and specificity of information that God reveals in scripture is always a function of what He is attempting to accomplish in dividing truth from error for us through real-life experiences in the present-moment.  Some of the end-times biblical prophecies will only become clear after all of the events are over.