Christian Faith Part 1: Introduction
At some point in our lives as a Christian, we’ve come to know the story of Jesus and we believe in this story. We believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross for our sins and was raised from the dead. We believe that through Jesus we will live forever.
Like many Christians, I was raised to believe in these facts. I know it’s not the case for all Christians, but for me, I thought this was all that I needed to know about Christian faith. Since I confessed this belief, I was saved. I was baptized. I went to church on an off with my family.
I grew up, and I got to a point where the faith I had was not enough.
The faith I had was not enough to keep me from making one ungodly choice after another. The faith I had was not enough to convince me that Jesus was the only way of salvation. I began to think that all religions were acceptable paths to God, and I began to adopt various beliefs.
The faith I had was not enough to keep me from spiraling downward into severe depression. The faith I had was not enough to keep me from plotting my suicide, even though I had two small children.
I wondered if I had faith at all.
One particularly dark night, I prayed. I prayed very hard. I felt so confused about life. I felt confused about God. I felt confused about all the different versions of Christianity out there, not to mention all the other “faiths.” I prayed that God would lead me to the truth, even if I did not like it. I needed some clarity in my life. I needed hope.
I did not notice God answering, but soon I decided to research a television preacher I had been listening to. That research led me to some online bible studies. I listened to these bible studies and I began to learn that there was more to the faith than I had thought, and in time I began to take the faith more seriously.
I committed to Jesus as the only way of salvation. I faced my sin and began to hate my sin. I learned more about Christian doctrine, the teachings of Jesus, and what it means to live a Christian life. I continue to learn, and it has been a journey of ups and downs. This began almost 6 years ago.
In all this time, one thing I learned is that every Christian struggles with something, and most of us are doing the best we can. Many Christians know that they need more from the faith but there are barriers standing in the way.
My hope is to help remove some of those barriers.
If you’re like I was, then it might be very helpful to learn from someone who has come through severe faith issues.
The best way I know is to share what I have learned about Christian faith.
That is the point of this article series, and I thought it best to begin by sharing a little of my story.
Going forward, I want to take some time to write about faith questions that I have struggled through.
In the next article, I will focus on the question of where faith comes from.
Christian Faith Part 2: Where Does Faith Come From?
Where does faith in Jesus come from?
Is faith something that God gives or does faith originate from within the believer? Why does it seem as though some are full of faith while others cannot believe in God at all? Many act as though faith in Jesus was a choice that they made, and it can certainly feel that way. Is that what is really going on? Why does it matter?
It is my belief that faith is a gift from God.
Here are some scriptures that have helped convince me that faith comes from God:
John 6:44 – No man can come to me, except that Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him at the last day.
Romans 12:3 – For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.
Ephesians 2:8-9 – For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.
Galatians 5:22 – But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith
Hebrews 12:2 – Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
When considering ideas about Christian doctrine, we each have to make our own judgments based on the scripture and what we know about God.
I have discovered that truth given of God will have a certain affect. Such truths will encourage righteousness, not wickedness. So, when attempting to decide what is true, we can ask ourselves, which belief fosters righteousness? Which belief helps us to grow in the faith?
Let’s consider this.
If we believe that faith is merely a choice that we make and something that originates from within us, there are possible consequences.
We might begin to think too highly of ourselves. We might despise those who do not have faith or become fearful towards those who challenge the faith. We can also run into trouble when dealing with doubt.
If we think faith is something we control, then our moments of weakness can be unnecessarily difficult to bear. We can become overly hard on ourselves. There is another danger; we might look to science, reason, or other “rational” explanations of God instead of going to Jesus Himself. Although people have found some use in looking for scientific proof of God, there will always be room for doubt that way.
On the other hand, if we believe that faith comes from God, there are more desirable affects.
We are likely to be more humble-minded and patient with those who do not have faith. We can also find comfort when dealing with doubt. Although it is natural to struggle with faith and these times can be painful and very hard, knowing that God gave us our faith can help tremendously. We know that He will give us everything we need to grow in the faith and overcome any obstacle that is standing in our way because Jesus is faithful and true.
With the first mindset you are at greater risk for pride, fear, hate, despair, and a tendency towards faithlessness. With the second mindset you are more likely to grow in humility, patience, peace, and a stronger faith.
There is no substitute for God-given faith that can withstand the temptations of this world and the strength of doubt.
We cannot simply reason our way to Jesus. We need divine persuasion.
Persuasion? Isn’t that in opposition to faith?
Many treat faith as though it is belief without evidence. That is not exactly the case.
We do not look for earthly evidence alone when dealing with things that are not of this world. We need access to God. God is a spirit. Through relationship with Jesus and the Holy Spirit, we have this access. We have evidence. We have divine persuasion.
Here are some scriptures to consider:
Hebrews 11:1 – Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
1 Corinthians 2:12-14 – Now we have received, not the sprit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things we also speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveith not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
Romans 8: 38-39 – For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
It is beneficial to know that faith is not blind belief, but rather it is divine persuasion that comes from Jesus Himself!
Look for Jesus. Talk to Him.
If you don’t have faith, the best thing you can do is seek Jesus. Prayer can feel awkward at first, and that is okay. Humbly ask Jesus to reveal Himself to you, and keep asking. Although Jesus is not a person like you or I, He is a person. He appreciates persistence. It shows that you care and acknowledge that He is in control of the faith you’re looking for. This is good for you. It is good to know that you need Him, so sometimes He allows us to feel that desperation.
Don’t give up.
Jesus can hear you and respond with compassion no matter how bad a person you think you are. If we were born perfect we would not need Him. He made you and He knows you already. You cannot hide from Him, so talk to Him. Find the mercy and faith that only Jesus can give.
If you have some faith, ask Jesus to help you have greater faith. We can always seek more from God, no matter how far we think we have come. We all have room to grow in the faith.
Hebrews 11:6 – But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
Although faith comes from God, we are actively participating in our Christian journey. For example, by faith we know that Jesus rewards those who seek Him.
We will think about this idea in the next article. What should we do with the faith that we are given?
Christian Faith Part 3: Participating in the Faith
It is comforting to know that Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith. However, this faith produces action. The scriptures are full of stories of an actionable faith. Hebrews 11 offers many examples. Here’s an excerpt:
Hebrews 11-7 – By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house, by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.
Why did the author of Hebrews mention these works?
It is because those who trust in God will obey what God has to say—and for a Christian it is this: that we should believe in Jesus.
John 6:29 – Jesus answered and said unto them, this is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.
What does it mean to believe in Jesus?
We are persuaded that Jesus is the Son of God. We are persuaded that Jesus died on the cross for the forgiveness of sin. We are persuaded that Jesus rose from the dead. We are persuaded that those who put their trust in Jesus will also rise from the dead and live forever.
All of this is true. However, as Jesus teaches, the truth is not just in the physical world but in the spirit. We need to see beyond a to-the-letter understanding of the gospel and into the spirit of what this belief—this faith—in Jesus means.
Jesus spoke in parables which are metaphorical stories. He did this for a reason. If it is given of God for us to understand the mystery of the gospel, then we will.
Mark 4:11-12 – And he said unto them, unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: that seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted and their sins should be forgiven them.
How is it that we can see and understand?
It helps if we remember what faith is.
As mentioned in the previous article, faith is God-given persuasion. This is an act of grace. The Holy Spirit communicates the truth of the gospel and God opens our hearts to receive it. From our perspective, we hear the gospel preached and we believe it. This begins very often with the bare bones, legalistic, to-the-letter understanding of the gospel.
It should go on from there.
If we are persuaded that the gospel is true, then we should want to learn more about Jesus. The scriptures reveal a lot about what Jesus had to say. It can be difficult to understand the scriptures, but we can begin to see that Jesus wants us to live a righteous life.
If we begin to seek Jesus in prayer, study the scriptures, and form relationships with other Christians, then we should feel the heaviness of our sin. We should begin to hate our sin and find a desire to live more uprightly.
Jesus teaches that if we seek to keep His commandments, He will send us the Holy Spirit.
John 14: 13-17 – And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask anything in my name, I will do it. If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with your forever; even the Sprit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.
With help from the Holy Spirit, we will continue to see things differently. We will see our sinful nature more clearly. We will understand the teachings of Jesus better, and we will find the guidance we need in order to overcome sin and apply His ways to our life. We will “put on the divine nature.”
2 Peter 1:4-8 – Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
As we pursue the things of the Spirit, we will see results. These results are called the “fruit of the Spirit.”
Ephesians 5:9 – For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth
Galatians 5:22-23 – But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance
We are told by Jesus that we can only bring forth fruit through a life with Him.
John 15:4 – Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
We need the Holy Spirit in order to see past the things of this world and into the things which are spiritual. This includes the way we perceive the gospel, as mentioned earlier. See 1 Corinthians 2:12-14.
What is the spiritual application of the gospel?
As Jesus took up the cross for our sins, so should we take up the cross for Him. This means we die to our selfish and sinful desires. As Jesus rose from the dead, so shall we rise from the dead. This means that we will learn what it means to live in accordance to the will of God as we walk after the Spirit.
This does not take away the other meaning of the gospel, but enhances it and provides a practical application of the gospel to our daily lives. This is a journey that results in life everlasting with our Lord, Jesus Christ!
Titus 2:11-13 – For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world
It is so very important to understand that faith in Jesus is not mere belief in a set of facts. Faith is actionable. Faith will encourage us to seek more grace from God so that we can stop sinning and live more righteously.
Stop sin? Do righteousness? This sounds a lot like works, doesn’t it?
Do not let anyone deter you from pursuing the things of God by accusing you of works-based salvation. This is not works-based salvation.
There is nothing we can do to earn salvation no matter how good we are. We cannot forgive our sins without the blood of Jesus. We cannot see our sin clearly and have the power to overcome sin without the Holy Spirit who comes in the name of Jesus.
We are saved by grace through faith.
However, once given, faith will produce many good works. This is the grace of God towards us!
God gives us faith in Jesus. By faith we seek Jesus and draw nearer to God. By faith we believe in the teachings of Jesus and the apostles. By faith we seek Jesus to help us overcome our sin which becomes more apparent as we draw nearer to the Light of Christ. By faith we receive the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit brings more power to our life, so that by faith we can draw even closer to God and continue to mature in understanding and righteousness—which are many good works.
2 Corinthians 9:8 – And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.
2 Thessalonians 1:11 – Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power.
How can we be more proactive with our faith?
We can always talk to Jesus more. We can read our Bible more. We can ask Jesus to send the Holy Spirit to help us understand the scriptures, to show us what it means to live a Christian life, and to provide us with the power to overcome sin in our life.
The important thing is to keep seeking. Keep asking. We are to “bring forth fruit with patience” throughout our entire life as a Christian.
There is always more to gain. It is doubtful that any of us will attain perfection before Jesus arrives. We should be cautious in ever assuming that we have become without sin because sin can be elusive, and we can fall into temptation. However, we should experience change that results from a life in Christ.
It’s good to know that Jesus rewards those who seek him often, so let’s keep seeking!
Hebrews 11:6 – But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
Matthew 5:6 – Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.
Also see the parable of the unjust judge (Luke 18).
Let’s get back to Hebrews and close with continued reading into Hebrews 12:
Hebrews 12:1-2 – 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 out faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Is it possible to do nothing with our faith and continue to receive salvation?
James 2:14-18 – What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and hath not works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.
There are many warnings in the scriptures about dead faith. We will discuss this idea in the next article.
Christian Faith Part 4: The Real Problem with the Faith Plus Nothing Debate
Is it possible to have faith in Jesus and experience nothing added to our life? No turning our life around and attempting to live more uprightly? No studying the scriptures? No friendships with other believers? No seeking a relationship with Jesus? No trust in God during hard times?
It seems like a ridiculous notion, doesn’t it?
So then, why is it taught? Why are many told that faith plus nothing equals salvation?
Maybe this is an attempt at graciousness that understands the sinful state of man and the dependence we have on Jesus for our salvation. We approach Jesus humbly, knowing that there is nothing we have to offer in return for our salvation. There is no work we can add to our faith that makes us worthy.
However, some see this faith-plus-nothing teaching as a loophole that can be used to dismiss sinfulness or discourage people from seeking Jesus for healing from sinful struggles. Some see this as a dismissal of the Holy Spirit and gifts of the Spirit.
Before long, those who teach faith-plus-nothing are accused of teaching a doctrine of devils and leading people astray into unfruitful faith. Before long, those who encourage righteousness through aid of the Holy Spirit are accused of works-based salvation teaching.
What we really have here is a communication and perspective issue.
No sincere and dedicated Christian expects to live a life unchanged after committing themselves to Jesus.
Those who teach faith-plus-nothing humbly understand their dependence on Jesus for all things. We are saved by faith, and they cling to that. Why do they cling to that? It has to do with the Charismatic movement and the Holiness movement.
There are Christians who believe that the Holy Spirit will come and make us free from all sin in a literal and tangible way. They teach that those who have the Holy Spirit do not sin. If they continue to sin, then they are not saved and they will not inherit eternal life.
When faced with this opposition, it is natural that Protestant denominations would choose to focus most on grace and faith alone. It makes sense.
However, there are problems with both points of view. There are accuracies also.
Take the Holiness, Charismatic Christian point of view. It is true that we should receive something from our faith. We should pursue the gifts of God given of the Holy Spirit, and righteousness is a fruit of our salvation that comes through faith. So, the notion of faith plus nothing does not add up.
However, claiming to live without the capacity for sin is problematic. There are scriptures that encourage righteousness and even state that those who are born of God do not sin. Even so, we can become tempted. We can find ourselves sinning in a new way.
We are to be vigilant and know that we always need more from the Spirit. We can always grow. We do not want to be stagnant in our faith.
Now, take the Protestant, faith-plus-nothing point of view. It is true that there is nothing we can do to earn our salvation. Salvation is by grace, not the works of man. We can never be good enough to earn salvation.
On the surface, a faith-plus-nothing teaching is unfruitful and does not consider the many scriptures that teach to the contrary. This can seem very misleading and there are those who use this teaching to discourage people from growing in righteousness or use grace and the forgiveness of sin as a cop-out for living sinfully.
We are to be vigilant and know that we always need more from Jesus and we can always grow. We do not want to be stagnant in our faith.
Do you see? The outcomes of both teachings are the same.
They both lead to accusation of our brethren. They both lead to potential for stagnancy in the faith.
Here is the reality of it.
Faith is a gift from God. When we receive faith, we get to know Jesus and our lives are changed in proportion to the faith we were given. So long as we are alive, we have time and room to grow in the faith. We are pursuing the Kingdom of Heaven and Jesus is our Way. We come to know Him and through the Holy Spirit we are changed. However, we can be tempted to sin or have a sin struggle that we are blind to. We should always look at our state honestly and seek Jesus for more growth.
As for the Holy Spirit, some receive the Holy Spirit in a very profound way. For some the Holy Spirit is a still small voice. It does not have to be just one way. What matters are the fruits—and no one can truly have faith in Jesus without fruitfulness.
Yes. There are warnings in the scripture of unfruitful and dead faith. There are those who will fulfill those scriptures. We will get to that in the next article and we will consider how these scriptures might be useful to us. However, that is not what matters most for us who believe.
What matters most is to look deeply at our own beliefs and our own flaws. Maybe we are allowing things to get in the way.
Our pride makes us resistant to accountability for our sin, so we either claim perfection or we say faith plus nothing and excuse our sin. Our trust in religious leaders and fear of following wrong teachings blinds us to what is true and hinders us from seeking Jesus above the establishment Christian denominations or sects.
Faith-plus-nothing does not exist. Neither are we required to perform works as a requirement for salvation. Faith produces many good works because it is the working of Jesus within us, however we should not claim to be holy and perfected. Only God is Holy and Perfect.
We need to stop accusing one another. We need to understand one another and come to a more well-rounded view.
Protestants accuse Charismatics and Holiness sects of works-based salvation, of being mentally ill or faking spiritual experiences, and of being holier-than-thou. Some say they are not Christian. They believe that they teach the truth while other denominations are cults. Some justify some sins while focusing on others.
Charismatics and Holiness sects accuse Protestants of being lazy in their faith and leading people to damnation with their teachings. Some say they are not really Christians—or go so far as to call them part of the Great Whore. They believe that they are the real Christians. They teach the truth. They have the Spirit and do not sin.
Both accuse. Both proudly think they are the right ones. Both are missing out on getting more from the faith because they think they know it all already. THESE are the problems that both have in common.
Don’t let pet doctrine, fear, and pride get in the way of a better understanding. It’s so easy to do, but we are called away from this.
I did not intend for the article to go this way. I was going to point out scriptures that warn us of dead, unfruitful faith. Maybe in the next article we will look at those verses, however, I do not see them in the same light as I did moments ago. What you read is an in-the-moment thought process I experienced when I sat down to write the article. I know there are redundancies and maybe this article is not so clear, but I want to leave it as is.
I realize that I did not touch on Catholicism. My experience has been between Protestantism and Charismatic denominations. Maybe there will be more to say later on this.
Christian Faith Part 5: Trust Overcomes Dead Faith
There are many scriptures that warn us about the fate of those who take the Christian faith lightly. So much so, that it is difficult to know where to start when discussing this topic.
These days, it is not so hard to search for these scriptures. An online search of, “warnings in scripture against unfruitful faith” or similar terms would bring up many results. If we read the entire New Testament we will also notice many of these scriptures.
The important thing is to know that these scriptures exist. Then you can do the work of finding them, reading them, and seeking Jesus to help with interpretation.
We might read things that we do not understand, but the Lord knows exactly what we need and exactly when we need it. If we are serious about the faith and about scriptural learning, the Lord will reveal things to us in His own time and in His own way.
There are scriptures that warn against an unprofitable, unfruitful, dead, or lukewarm faith. The unfaithful are destroyed whether they call themselves Christian or not.
However, if we trust in Jesus, then we should not be afraid of destruction.
If we are struggling with issues of sin or of faith, focusing too much on scriptures of warning can do more harm than good. We might become overly hard on ourselves or others, for example.
Know these scriptures exist, search them out if you want to, but do not be discouraged or condemning of others.
Know that Christian faith is not a light thing. It is a serious thing. It is a matter of life and death. So, if you take up the faith be prepared to give your life to Jesus. He will cause you to. Remember Part 2 of this series.
All things pertaining to your salvation are His work, and I have faith for you. I have faith that if you love Jesus sincerely then He will give you all the understanding, faith, and fruitfulness that you need.
I also have faith that God is in control of all things and those who infiltrate the faith will be removed one day. It is best for us to focus on our own salvation with a mindset of humility, thankfulness, and trust.
Do you want to discuss scriptures about Christian faith? Do you have a faith story that you’d like to share? Any questions or comments are welcome. Leave a reply below. I’d love to hear from you!