Pastor Randy’s Top 66 – Isaiah
“You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord, is the Rock Eternal.” Isaiah 26: 3-4
Once again – and I know that this will happen forty-three more times – it is hard to pick just ONE verse out of sixty-six chapters of Isaiah, because this Book from the seventh-century BC prophet Isaiah is non-stop incredible Words from the Lord. There are a lot of portions dedicated to prophecies concerning the Messiah Jesus – just read Isaiah 9 and 53, and you’ll be amazed at what is written there! But I decided to go the twenty-sixth chapter, which is rather messianic itself.
Our Christian faith is more than just simply ‘believing’ and ‘accepting’ some historic and spiritual facts about a God/man named Jesus who lived two thousand years ago. There are plenty of people worldwide, especially here in America, who know all “about” Jesus, or who “believe in” Jesus, but does that make them a Christian or Christ follower? Knowing “about” Abraham Lincoln and “believing in” him doesn’t make me a Republican, and it certainly doesn’t produce an internal, permanent, and God glorifying transformation in me, so what really matters?
The fourth-century Christian theologian and philosopher, Augustine of Hippo, wondered the same thing after he finally came to faith in Christ in 386 AD. He ‘confesses’ (his monumental ‘autobiography’ – maybe the first autobiography – is called “Confessions”) that having a Christian mother who constantly prayed for him and shared her faith with him certainly caused him to know ‘about’ Jesus and believe that he really was a historical figure, especially since it was less than four hundred ago that He lived, but Augustine still wasn’t a Christian at that point. I won’t go into his remarkable conversion, but afterwards he began to think about what was going on inside his head and spirit up to and at his conversion.
He used three Latin terms to help explain his spiritual journey, and knowing this will help us understand today’s verse from Isaiah. The first word is notitia. Notitia refers to the content of the faith, or those things that we believe. As Sgt. Joe Friday on the old TV show ‘Dragnet’ never said (he never really said this!) “Just the facts, ma’am”; and that’s what notitia ‘faith’ is, just the facts about something. The facts about Jesus would include: Born of a virgin in Bethlehem; Mary and Joseph are His parents; performed miracles; Son of God; had twelve disciples, and one of them – Judas – betrayed Him; died on a cross; rose from the dead; etc.
Knowing the facts about something or someone is certainly important, especially in regards to one’s spiritual salvation. Who would blindly believe in (salvation-wise) someone that you knew nothing about? Who am I kidding? People do that all the time with their strange and unsubstantiated beliefs. Anyway, you have to start with the ‘facts’ – notitia.
Next would come an “assensus” faith, which is our conviction that the content – the facts – of our faith is true. I can tell you all about the Greek and Roman gods – name them and tell you the legends behind them (that would be a ‘notitia’ faith in the Greek and Roman gods). To have an ‘assensus’ faith would be for me to say that I believe there really is a god named Poseidon that lives in the ocean carrying a big trident which stirs up the waves – but I don’t. BUT, if you asked me to list for you the historical ‘facts’ about Abraham Lincoln’s life, and then ask me if I believed those facts to be true, then I would say “Absolutely”. But believe it or not, knowing and believing in and about something still doesn’t spiritually transform or ‘save’ you from your sins. And a further note, both notitia and assensus faith are human abilities. We can teach a child the facts concerning Zeus, the Greek king of the gods, and then convince them that he really does exist, but that information, belief, or ‘faith’ still wouldn’t let the child tap into the supposed spiritual power of Zeus.
St. Augustine believed there had to be something more – something from God Himself that would transform sinners into true ‘believers’ – and that something is a ‘fiducia’ faith. We have a banking term ‘fiduciary’, which involves trust, especially with regard to the relationship between a trustee and a beneficiary. This kind of faith is the ‘God faith’ – it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8-9) that enables the spiritually dead sinner to become spiritually ‘alive’ and trust Christ.
The sinner knows the basic facts about Jesus; the sinner believes those facts to be true; and now by God’s grace and transforming Spirit, the Lord enables the sinner to trust their life, forgiveness, sanctification (spiritual maturity), their sonship (and daughtership), and eternal life in who Christ is, was, and always will be; in what He did on the cross, which paid the debt for our sins; and in His resurrection, which defeated death and granted us eternal life.
Fallen man – spiritually dead in their sin (Ephesians 2:1) – is not capable of coming to this saving/trusting faith on their own. It must be a gift from God through His undeserving grace, and when the Lord opens our eyes by speaking His life within us, we are then granted the ability to repent of our sins, and trust Christ with our life and eternity.
Now, I know that was a long introduction into a verse in Isaiah in which you might not initially believe has anything to do with St. Augustine and saving faith, but it actually has everything to do with it. Again, Isaiah 26:3-4 says, “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord, is the Rock Eternal.” The average Joe America, who has a notitia and assensus faith in God and Jesus (which is most Americans) would like to apply this verse to their own life and say that their mind is steadfast on ‘God’ and that they ‘trust’ Him, but their life, behavior, attitude, and dedication (or lack thereof) to the Lord, His people (the Church), and His work is nonexistent. I’m not their judge – I don’t have to judge them – their life and actions are self-evident.
But this verse is very comforting and encouraging to the Christ follower who, by God’s grace and Spirit alone, has come to the place of saving/trusting faith Now they CAN trust in the Lord forever, and since He is the Almighty and Sovereign God, they can be at peace because He is a God that CAN be trusted – can be counted on.
“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we TRUST in the name of the Lord our God”. Psalm 20:7
“But I trust in Your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in Your salvation”. Psalm 13:5
Yes, He is the Rock Eternal, and I can confidently lay my head down at night in peace because I know that through Christ, I am at peace with my Lord God, and His peace will always be with me and in me.