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October 2012


“Pat, where is your faith?!” The exclamation came from a lady in our congregation just after my wife had shared her concern about the church finances. I had left a secure and well paid executive job in a major bank just months before to pastor a very small but growing church. A flu epidemic was sweeping our area and Pat had said something like, “If everyone is sick and they don’t come to church then how are we going to make ends meet?” It was in the days when most people used cheques or cash, and so non-attendance usually meant non-giving. Despite our concerns, everything worked out just fine and has continued to do so till this day, but I wonder what the lady meant by her question. Today when I hear people talking about faith I still question what they mean when they use the word.

To some people faith equates to ‘standing on the promises of God’. By this they usually mean all the general promises of scripture irrespective of when or to whom they were originally given. Some take this even further by constantly reminding God what He has promised in the Bible. Some even claim the promises as their right and confess that God is bound by His Word to fulfil them all. Is this Biblical faith? I don’t think it is, in fact it sounds more like presumption to me. I have serious reservations about placing unqualified trust and dependence on generalised biblical statements such as ‘”I will restore you to health and heal your wounds” declares the Lord’ (Jeremiah 30:17).  Surely I cannot ‘claim’ this promise in my current circumstance irrespective of context, time, and purpose, simply because it is stated in the Bible as a promise to ancient Israel? 

Some folk believe that faith is a force that can be used to achieve what we want. They base this on the King James Version of Hebrews 11:1, ‘now faith is the substance of the things hoped for…’ A dictionary definition of ‘substance’ includes the idea of something tangible, like electricity, so accordingly ‘faith’ is something tangible that can be manipulated in a similar way to, say, electricity. According to this doctrine, we should grow our faith and use our faith in order to obtain what we hope for.  Of course words like ‘substance’ in King James’s day meant something else entirely and modern translations render it as ‘being sure of ‘(NIV) or ‘assurance’ (NASV), or something similar. So is this ‘faith is a force’ idea biblical? I don’t believe it is. 

Having faith in faith is both unbiblical and almost atheistic. Where is the need for God in such a doctrine? All one needs is to believe that belief itself will achieve for us what we hope for – God is superfluous! Our faith is not in faith, but in Jesus, who is the source and object of our trust and dependence.
In the Old Testament, faith is defined as resting, trusting and hoping in God, with the idea that we should trust in and commit ourselves to the Lord. In the New Testament, faith is defined as believing and accepting a statement as true, and further, to place personal trust in this belief. To have faith in Jesus for salvation is therefore to believe what He says and to rely on Him to accomplish what He says He will do. 

However, faith in itself is not limited to Christians. To my mind, atheists are people of great faith because they choose to believe that God does not exist and they live accordingly, trusting implicitly that life ends at the grave and that there is no eternal accountability for how they live out their lives. However, to the Christian, faith should never be separated from the one in whom we have faith, the Lord Jesus Christ.

In essence, faith is a divinely motivated decision to believe and trust in the Lord Jesus. The Holy Spirit illuminates the testimony of the scriptures to us in such a way that we believe sufficiently to act on or rest completely in the promise. The basis of our faith is the nature and character of God as revealed in and through Jesus Christ. God is good, faithful, and totally trust-worthy. 

Perhaps the lady who responded to my wife’s concerns should have addressed her as follows; “Pat, do you believe that God has assured you that He will provide for your needs? Then have faith in what He has said to you; believe Him, trust Him and don’t worry about the flu epidemic. You might be short of funds for a month, or maybe longer, but you will come through because God will not desert you; He is faithful”.

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To regret or not to regret, that is the question

I am writing this from New England, USA, where I am to speak at a conference, preach and present the South African Theological Seminary to prospective post-graduate students. And while here I am also staying with two dear friends, Gavin and Gill, who emigrated from South Africa. I have known them for longer than I care to admit and we have been spending time chatting and reminiscing. At one point Gavin asked me if I have any regrets.

Well, I have done some stupid things in my time and I have also done and said things that have hurt others. I regret these instances, of course, because I regard hurting others, and myself for that matter, as reprehensible. But do I regret these times in the sense that I wish they hadn’t happened? You see, if I had chosen, spoken, or done differently then would I not be a different man to the one I am right now? If people had treated me differently in the past, or circumstances had been other than they were, then I would not be the same today. Can I or should I regret this?

Regret, firstly, is a pretty useless emotion unless it triggers an action that is in some way redemptive. If I have wronged someone and my regret leads me to confess, beg forgiveness and restore what I can, then, in this sense, it is good to regret. Constructive regret of this nature is the exception rather than the rule. Usually, when we regret we just feel sorry for ourselves or beat ourselves up for being stupid or worthless. But there is another aspect relating to regret: God’s gracious providence.

One of the texts which I find myself quoting most often is Romans 8:28; “…and we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” I am not a Christianised fatalist and I do not believe that God has foreordained everything that happens to us. If something bad happens to me I do not think, “Oh well, this is God’s will so I’d better just suck it up.” What I believe is that no matter what happens to us God can and does work good for us and for others.

Because I love him and acknowledge that I have been called according to his purpose, I have no hesitation in applying this promise to myself. This means that God is at work in my life crafting good out of my hardship, and even my selfishness and error. Who I am now is not only the sum of my experiences. Rather, I am the product of God’s grace and love as he has salvaged and redeemed my past, so that I can be who I am today. How can I regret this?

So, to my friend Gavin, the answer to your question is, “No there is nothing that I regret.” How would you answer the question?

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Life NOW… and beyond the grave

I mentioned in my last post that I had recently attended a memorial service. I actually preached on that occasion and my text was John 11:17-27. Jesus’ friend Lazarus had died and he was on his way to the tomb. Lazarus’ sister Martha went out to meet Him and scolded Him for not coming in time to heal her brother.  In response, Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again” and she replied, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”  Martha believed in the teaching of the Pharisees that all faithful Jews would one day rise to life in the great judgement event at the end of time. Jesus’ response was surprising and wonderful; “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die”.

The Message version of the Bible translates verse 25 as, “You don’t have to wait for the End. I am, right now, Resurrection and Life”. At the memorial service the other day there were two men seated in the front row who, unbeknown to me at the time, believed in the dead doctrine of ‘Soul Sleep’. This teaching is similar to that of the ancient Pharisees and holds that when we die we cease to exist until, at the resurrection, God recreates our souls. Martha must have been surprised at Jesus’ response, and certainly the two men in the front row looked rather put out when I explained what Jesus’ words seem to quite clearly mean.

The New Living Translation presents Jesus’ follow up explanation to Martha as, “anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die”. Jesus makes sure that she, and we who read His words today, understand clearly what He means. First He states the glorious truth that anyone who believes in Him will live, even after dying. Unless we are on this planet when Jesus comes again we will all face physical death. However, if we believe in Jesus and are born again of His Spirit then physical death does not mark the end of our lives.  The grave is not an end, nor the coffin a bed in which to ‘soul sleep’, it is simply a door between one level of life and the next. Then, to ensure that Martha understood precisely what He was saying, Jesus added that everyone who lives in Him will never ever die. Could it be any clearer?

The Gospel, the good news, presents a life in Christ Jesus that starts now and transcends death. If we have a relationship with Him NOW then we will have a relationship with Him THEN. This is the glorious assurance that all disciples of Jesus have. Jesus asked Martha, “do you believe this?” and we too need to answer this question – do you believe this?

Life NOW… and beyond the grave Read More »

About Me

My name is Christopher Peppler and I was born in Cape Town, South Africa in 1947. While working in the financial sector I achieved a number of business qualifications from the Institute of Bankers, Damelin Management School, and The University of the Witwatersrand Business School. After over 20 years as a banker, I followed God’s calling and joined the ministry full time. After becoming a pastor of what is now a quite considerable church, I  earned an undergraduate theological qualification from the Baptist Theological College of Southern Africa and post-graduate degrees from two United States institutions. I was also awarded the Doctor of Theology in Systematic Theology from the University of Zululand in 2000.

Four years before that I established the South African Theological Seminary (SATS), which today is represented in over 70 countries and has more than 2 500 active students enrolled with it. I presently play an role supervising Masters and Doctoral students.

I am a passionate champion of the Christocentric or Christ-centred Principle, an approach to biblical interpretation and theological construction that emphasises the centrality of Jesus

I have been happily married to Patricia since the age of 20, have two children, Lance and Karen, a daughter-in-law Tracey, and granddaughters Jessica and Kirsten. I have now retired from both church and seminary leadership and devote my time to writing, discipling, and the classical guitar.

If you would like to read my testimony to Jesus then click HERE.