The Faith Shaped Life
The Christian life is a faith-shaped life. Faith is the instrument that unites us to Christ, but it is also the reality that shapes show we live in union with Christ. From beginning to end the Christian lives by faith.
The life of faith is not easy. The Christian is engaged in an unrelenting warfare with the world, the flesh and the devil. Every step forward will be contested. The one thing that will keep the believer on track and pressing on is moment by moment trust in God, in his word, in the goodness and perfection of his purposes, and in his exceedingly great and precious promises. ‘This is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith’ (1 John 5:4).
About the Author
Ian Hamilton is the pastor of Cambridge Presbyterian Church, England. He is the author of Let’s Study the Letters of John which is also published by the Trust.
A Review by John Hooper:
What is it that shapes our lives? Is it the all-pervasive influence and philosophy of this world? Is it our own fallen natures? Or is it our faith?
What do we mean by faith? These are days when it can no longer be safely assumed that the language used for centuries will be understood. So even the word ‘faith’ needs to be explained. More often than not it is treated as a synonym for ‘religion’ or ‘belief system’ as in, for example, ‘faith schools’ and ‘Inter-Faith Week’. It doesn’t really matter what you have faith in, it would seem, as long as you have faith in something.
That is not how the Bible uses the word faith. When the Scriptures tell us that ‘the just shall live by faith’ (Hab. 2:4; Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11; Heb. 10:38), they are not talking about a man-made and man-centred belief system; they are pointing us to the Lord Jesus Christ. A faith-shaped life is a life that is moulded, influenced and shaped by Christ – and that is what this first-rate little book1 is all about. ‘Faith’s first glance is to Christ’, the author writes, ‘But no less are faith’s continuing glances focused on Christ too’ (pp. 15-16). The Lord Jesus Christ is ‘Faith’s Obsession’ (Ch. 38).
A Life Anchored in Justification by Faith Alone
What then will such a faith-shaped life look like? Well, among many other things it will be a life that is anchored in justification by faith alone, nourished by the sweet assurance of the good providence of God, labouring in prayer, enjoying the greatest privilege this side of heaven – communion with God, a life which does not compromise with the ethics and standards of this world but dares to be different, and whose supreme interest is the care of the flock of God. Of course the life of faith has many other characteristics and Ian Hamilton has written about no fewer than forty-three, one chapter for each. Inevitably there is some overlap, and no doubt each of us could draw up his own list of forty-three and they would not be the same as Hamilton’s, but that only goes to show the multi-faceted nature of faith in Christ.
Faith’s Great Comfort
Under the heading ‘Faith’s Great Comfort’ Hamilton reminds us that days come when joy evades us and we need the solace and consolation that only the doctrine of the sovereignty of God can give. Our God really does reign and in the face of dark providences the faith-shaped life will humbly submit and place all its trust in him (Cf. Ch. 29, ‘Faith’s Submissiveness’ and Ch. 41, ‘Faith’s Assurance’).
A chapter that I especially warmed to appears very early in the book, and that no doubt because of the importance Hamilton himself places upon it. It is headed ‘The Holy Trinity: Faith’s Constant Delight’. I wonder how many of us would have included this among our forty-three? If we were honest, the trinity is probably not a doctrine that we would immediately identify as faith’s constant delight, but Hamilton underlines it as ‘the fundamental doctrine of the Christian faith’ and challenges us to give much more time and thought to it. Then perhaps we would be able to concur with Calvin that the doctrine of the trinity ‘vastly delights’ us.
Hamilton clearly has a great affection for this doctrine and confesses, ‘We could go on at length.’ I, for one, wish that he had done so for there is much in this doctrine to thrill the soul, but clearly this is not the book for it. Perhaps we have here a hint of another to come, in which case I look forward to it.