The idea of faith is one that gets caricatured in the modern world. In part, that stems from misunderstanding. What happens behind that word “faith” is not easily explained to our liking. Ed Hurst writes on the starting point of faith, laying a foundation of understanding.
We are moving away from Darkness, toward the Light. This lifelong journey starts where you are. It matters not how good and moral your life may be, for as long as Christ has not touched you, your spirit is dead. Paul characterized the change most clearly:
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I alone living, but Christ lives in me. This new life I live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who gave Himself up for me. (Galatians 2:20)
That word “faith” means commitment. We give up our lives because Jesus gave up His. He now owns your life; He is Lord. All the things in your world are now subject to His review. Inevitably, that means some things have to go, and some new things have to be added. However, this is not a simple matter of performance, nor even knowledge. It requires shifting your entire frame of reference to that new faculty, that ability now living in a newborn spirit.
The spirit newborn in your soul is hardly in any position to do much of anything, at first. It must grow and develop. It is impossible to explain the whole thing in concrete language, or in clinical terms. Things of the Spirit are eternal, defying all the normal human abilities to grasp it fully. Jesus discussed this issue with His disciples, telling them He would have to use parables to explain the Kingdom of Heaven. While the term “parable” includes the ideas of metaphor, allegory, and illustration, none of those quite qualify as synonyms. Parables are images drawn from things known, which serve to indicate something which cannot be known, as it were. The faculty of the spirit can absorb and use the meaning of a parable, but the conscious mind will miss at least some of it. The purpose of parable is to empower the spirit to grow and develop until it can rule the decisions we make.
The above quote from Paul is parabolic. You should realize the Cross no longer exists in a physical form, and Christ is no longer there in a physical form. Rather, the passage draws an image of our dying, though not literally. Rather, it is our old existence which dies, the old self with the dead spirit. While Paul skips over the term “resurrection,” he implies visually a new life after rising from the death experience of the Cross. Christ has passed through human death, and we follow Him there, according to this parable. On the other side of that passage, we live the new life of His resurrection. It's all clearly symbolic speech, some of which is hardly new to us in the English language.
Quite literally, though, is the statement we share our bodies with another living being. The difficulty is we have no language to explain a second personality living inside. It might be easy enough for a clinical examination to determine psychologically there has been a radical change, but there is nothing in science to explain the nature of that change. So Paul uses the word “faith” to describe a sense of commitment, but even there the word fails to carry the full meaning. Holding ourselves responsible for pleasing this other Being inside our very souls is pretty hard to describe. Whole libraries have been written trying to do so, but it remains just human words, grappling with something no man transmit on a purely intellectual level. If you and I share the living spiritual faculty, we can share something in our words which the words themselves cannot transmit to someone who lacks that faculty.
Jesus chose for this very reason to stick with parables, because there were in His audience those who had, or would receive, a living spirit to receive His words. And while the spirit received the message perfectly, the connection between spirit and conscious mind might be pretty weak at first. Jesus often had to break it down somewhat for His disciples, but they still had trouble making spiritual decisions based on His explanations. Their human minds were not yet yielded to the Spirit, and resisted some of the message. You can see in the Gospels how they never quite grasped Jesus' intention to die. Even bluntly stating that intent did not break through their minds, which had been so thoroughly conditioned not to grasp the imperatives of the Kingdom of Light.
We begin pretty much where the disciples were, in that sense. We have been chosen by Christ, and our spirits have been born, but we have trouble acting on what our spirits know. Our minds are simply unable yet to conceive of actions for which the Spirit calls.
Ed Hurst is Associate Editor of Open for Business.