Faith is fundamental for any Christian. Our salvation hinges on faith, and yet I wonder how much we truly understand what a “faith-based” life really means. What change might we experience if we really took hold of our faith? I want to spend some time considering faith. Jesus tells us that even faith as a mustard seed can move mountains – so you see, there is both the simplicity and the depths and power of faith.
Understanding Saved by Grace Through Faith
How well do we understand the fundamental Christian doctrine of “saved by grace through faith?” How does one come to the faith? What are we putting our faith in? What does this faith save us from? What is the act of God’s grace towards us?
I’m going to answer these questions in basic terms because it’s actually very simple. Over the years, these ideas have been somewhat lost at times, but that does not mean they are difficult to understand. I think sometimes we just need someone to declare it then trust the Spirit to stir our hearts up so that we can seek these things for ourselves.
Before you get started, take a look at Ephesians Chapter 2 if you can. If you cannot, here are the first 10 verses for your convenience. After you read this, what are your thoughts about the above questions?
Ephesians Chapter 2 (KJV)
1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
The Process of Salvation by Grace Through Faith
We need to be careful when explaining the faith in a step-by-step or otherwise legalistic way, but as I mentioned, I want to keep this as simple to understand as possible. Generally speaking, this is my understanding of the salvation by grace through faith process:
- Faith is God-Given: Faith in the Son, Jesus is given to us by God the Father. Though from our perspective, we “accept Jesus,” it is only by the calling of God that we are allowed to know that Jesus is the Son of God.
- Faith Brings is to Jesus: Faith tells us that Jesus is the Son of God who came in the flesh to atone for our sins. We not only believe in who Jesus is, but what he will do. Because we believe these things, we will seek to obey his commandments (Matthew chapter 5-7).
- Jesus Provides the Remedy for Sin: The atonement for our sins includes forgiveness and remission. As the laws of God are written in our hearts as promised though the covenant of Christ (Jeremiah 31:33, Hebrews 8:10), we are changed from a sinful nature to a righteous nature through the course of our lives—always striving for greater perfection of heart—a heart conformed to “that which is perfect” or the laws of the kingdom of heaven. This is accomplished by the Spirit of Truth working in us and freeing us from all things that “steal, kill, and destroy.” (for more on the Holy Spirit, read John chapters 14-16).
- Faith in The Remedy by Jesus Allows us to Approach God: As we strive in this faith, just as Abraham, our faith is counted to us for righteousness (Romans Chapter 4). That is the imputation. It means God sees us based on our faith. He sees us for what we will become while we are yet in sin. That does not mean we continue in sin. “Should we sin more so grace can abound? God forbid” (Romans 6:1). Our imputed righteousness is a means by which we can approach God as we grow from righteousness to righteousness. Darkness cannot fellowship with light, but through the Light which is Jesus, we can have a relationship with God!
- Faith Causes Works: As we continue and our natures change, we bring forth “fruit of the Spirit” which leads to true righteousness that can only come from a new heart, not performance that is vain or something we try to do by our own power or by law. This is a product of faith; only by faith it is given. This is not works-based salvation, but rather, salvation creates “a peculiar people zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14).
- Continued Faith Results in Resurrection: If we continue in the faith, we will be saved from death and granted everlasting life.
- Salvation is Given, Not Earned: Salvation is a gift of grace because it can only be given—never earned. We can never come out of sin and have a new nature on our own, no matter how hard we try. The old covenant law shows us this. The gift of salvation by grace and through faith means freedom from this wicked world and entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven—both in this present world, in the age to come, and eternally.
How does one come to the faith?
We come to faith in Jesus by the hearing of the word of God, but only by God are we able to have “ears to hear.”
- John 6:44 – No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.
- 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.
- 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.”
- Romans 10:17 – So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
What are we putting our faith in? What does this faith save us from?
We place our faith in the new covenant which is given by God and through the Son, Jesus (who is one with God and distinct from God). Unlike the first covenant where one nation obeyed outward laws of righteousness to set them apart, the new and “better covenant” is given to all nations and writes the laws in our hearts—actually changing our natures so that we can live according to the laws of the kingdom of God in this present world—thereby saving us from a present life of sin and death, and granting us entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven to come as adopted sons of God unto everlasting life.
- Salvation by grace through faith is the theme of the New Testament, yet it is astonishing how many confused and half-truths there are about the Christian faith. Here is a broad list of scripture to consider.
Let’s go back to Ephesians Chapter 2 and take a look at each verse.
1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.
Without Jesus, we are all dead because of our sin. To sin is to follow the ways of this world and the prince of it rather than following the ways of God. As earthly creatures, it is our nature to follow after the flesh and after this world. Only Jesus walked in the flesh in this world without sin.
3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.
Because of our sinful natures, we do things that cause death—and death is our just reward. Death is the natural cause of sin. We see this presently, not just in that all man die, but we see that those who live a very sinful life often live self-destructively. God loves righteousness and He hates sin. Those who continue in disobedience will face His wrath.
4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.
Though God hates sin, God is also love. Through His abundant mercy, He came to this earth in the person of Jesus the Christ. Notice, it is God who made us alive in Christ. We did not choose to make ourselves alive in Christ. It is through faith that we are saved by grace, and faith is given to us from God. Through the sacrifice of Jesus, a sacrifice which the old covenant sacrifices foreshadowed, we are forgiven and cleansed from our sins so that we can approach God for redemption.
6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
Through Christ, we can approach the throne of God presently and we will live with Him eternally. We can abide in the Kingdom of God now, in the future, and forever. This is a gift beyond measure that is shown through the abundant love of Jesus Christ.
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.
Our faith is not something we create from within ourselves, it is a gift from God: a gift if grace. All things that result from this faith are also of grace, otherwise we might have cause to boast over our righteousness. We are to never be self-righteous. Instead, we are to understand that all good things in us are a gift of grace. It is very gracious that God would come to this earth and die so that we can be transformed from destructive and wicked people into those who are fit for God’s kingdom. Grace is not a means of excuse for continued sin. It is freedom from it as well as forgiveness as we strive in the faith.
10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Everything about our salvation is given to us. Though this leads to good works if our faith is not dead, it is not these works that save us. Rather, the works are what we call “fruit” which shows us that our “calling and election is sure” (2 Timothy). God has purposed all of this for His will to bring up many sons, and He will complete his work in us. So, we continue in the faith knowing that God is true to His word and He will deliver us from the death of this world and of the flesh.
The Precious Fruits of Faith
What would you trade in this world for the kingdom of God? Is there anything worth this gift we have been given? Is there anything in the creation more precious than the blood of Jesus that was shed so that we could have faith that leads to salvation and eternal life? Of course not. Even so, I wonder how much we really lay hold of “the faith” that came at such a high price.
I know I could use more appreciation for it. I don’t want a weak-willed faith. I want to hold it with an iron grip that would not dare allow this world to snatch it away—even in the slightest.
As someone who is prone to letting the world get her down, I appreciate that I can have faith at all. I look at the unbelief in the world and I think, wow. God is so good to me by allowing me to believe in Jesus at all. What an amazing gift!
I’m thankful, but I also want more from the faith. I want to know the one I’m believing in. I want to know what he stands for, what he wants from my life, and how I can grow towards doing things that are pleasing to God. I want to know how to get the most from my faith.
If I continue in this world, and all I did was make a “declaration of faith” then continue living as if this “free gift” made no impact on me, what do I have to show God for the sacrifice he made?
“Here God. Here’s that faith you suffered to give me. No, it didn’t cause me to grow in righteousness, but I believed in you. Wasn’t that what you wanted?”
Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? This sounds like a statement made by a “wicked and slothful servant.” I will never claim to have it all together. I’ve learned that no matter how much I think the Lord is changing me, there is always room to grow.
I will never know anything as well as I should and I will never be good like God is good. However, I do know that I can move towards those things. I know that faith will bring about fruits that allow me to draw nearer to God and detach me from the bonds of this world.
What Does it Mean to Have Faith?
In essence, when we have faith in something, we are placing our confidence or trust in that thing we look to. As Christians, we place our faith in Jesus Christ, right? However, are we as trusting and confident in him as we could be? I know I have much room to grow in this, so I wonder, in what ways can I live a more “faith-filled” life?
Is living a faith-filled life about avoiding sin by our own ability, just to be later discouraged when we fail? Or should we have faith that Jesus will work the fruits of righteousness in us by HIS power?
Is living a faith-filled life about taking vengeance into our own hands when someone does us wrong? Or, should we have faith in the patience, mercy, and wisdom of God by allowing Him to deal with our enemies while we “trust in the Lord and do good?”
Are we living a faith-filled life when we put our trust and confidence in this wisdom of this world over the wisdom of God that most often flies in the face of what the world deems is best?
To truly live in the faith means that we trust in the Lord and “lean not on our own understanding.” Our own understanding tells us that we will always be bound to sin, but yet we also should not sin. Our own understanding is selfish, greedy, and concerned with growing in the kingdom of this world instead of the kingdom of God.
Lay Hold of The Faith and Find Freedom From This World!
When we truly believe in who Jesus is and trust in him, we are given an unshakable peace. I want to know that peace. I want to know what it’s like to smile in the face of adversity, to retain an inner joy that cannot be corrupted by this world, to show the same patience towards others that Jesus shows towards me.
I want to learn mercy, wise judgment, and how to set aside the cares and pleasures of this present kingdom for a kingdom that is far more valuable—and far more satisfying. Faith in Jesus provides these things.
Faith in Jesus is salvation from this present wicked world. It is forgiveness for sins. It is a power to have our natures changed into the righteousness of God. It is a precious promise of entering into a place of eternal peace. Faith is the greatest gift of all—one that we should continue to pursue so that we can live the “abundant life” Jesus died to provide for us.
Avoiding the Legalistic Faith Trap
As Christians, we should want to obey Jesus and bring him honor and glory. As Christians, we should also want to seek all that is made available to us through the wonderful promises of salvation. However, there is one thing that can greatly hinder these things: legalism.
What is Legalism?
If you look up the definition of legalism, you might find something like, “excessive adherence to law or formula; dependence on moral law rather than on personal religious faith.”
As it pertains to Christianity, we could define legalism as any action we take in order to conform to an idea of what it means to be a Christian.
Legalism can include many things, like how a Christian should dress, behave, and worship. We can also apply this to what we deem necessary actions that signify an entrance into the faith, such as making a declaration of faith or becoming baptized.
I understand that the latter examples might seem confusing at first. If you will, please continue reading so a clear point can be made.
Put another way, to act legalistically is to perform outward showings of Christian behavior, that may or may not be an accurate representation of genuine conviction or change of nature. Herein lies the problem with legalism.
Legalism is akin to letter-of-the-law obedience—a form of obedience that is more aligned with an old covenant mindset—a mindset which Jesus came to testify against and abolish. Why? Simply stated, man could not be made truly righteous by following law. Man finds loopholes, lives hypocritically, and at times, will blatantly defy law.
The law of the kingdom of God is not so. These are the laws of the new covenant, as promised in Jeremiah, stating:
But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people (Jeremiah 31:33).
This is the very same law brought to us by Jesus Christ (also referenced in Hebrews 8:10 and Hebrews 10:16). This law is perfect and cannot be tainted by man, because it is of a spiritual nature and instead of being written on stone, it is written “on the fleshly tables of the heart.” This leads to that “new nature” we Christians are to put on.
When we are transformed by the Holy Spirit, we begin walking a path of righteousness that cannot be contained within the letter of the law, nor can it be attained by a mere fleshly being. This is a walk “not by power or might, but by my spirit.”
Therefore, when we attempt to walk that “straight and narrow path” using our traditions and outward performances of righteousness that seek to mimic what we think a Christian should be, we will fall short—and as with the old covenant, we embark on a path of bondage instead of true freedom.
Examples of Legalism
I’m sure most of us can think of at least one example of legalism among Christian traditions and beliefs today. For the purposes of this article, I want to illustrate some common areas of legalistic thought and compare these ideas to the spiritual change we are to seek.
When you look at this, consider the manner in which God’s people sought to obey Him in these moral issue areas while under the old law. Are we much different today?
|Moral Issue||Legalistic Approach||Spiritual Approach|
|Appearance||Women should have long hair and never wear pants. Men should keep short hair.||Men and women should dress with humility and modesty. Women should not purposefully dress like men or vice-versa.|
|Dietary Law||Christians should not eat pork or drink alcohol of any kind.||Christians should be moderate in all things, never allowing gluttony or dependence on any substance.|
|Sacrifices||Give a 10% tithe to your church. Donate to charities. Help with church functions.||Cultivate a servant’s heart that does not seek after it’s own, but instead looks out for the well-being of others.|
|Worship||Christians must go to church on the right day (Saturday or Sunday). Instruments are allowed. Instruments are forbidden. Conduct quiet services. Jump, shout, and sing to the Lord.||God created the sabbath for man, not man for the sabbath. One honors one day above the rest, one honors every day alike. Worship Jesus with a sincere heart, and praise him according to your conscience.|
Can you see the difference? As Christians, we know that we should live a certain way, so we place restrictions on ourselves or adhere to certain traditions in our attempts to attain righteousness (or, to appear as such). This is an approach that “makes clean the outside of the cup” first. This is a backwards approach that can only get us so far.
In Christ, we should be doing things the other way around. Through his Spirit and with faith in the promises of salvation, we should be seeking a change of heart that will lead to sincere righteousness.
Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also (Matthew 23:26).
Why Legalism Can Become a Trap
If we “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33), our perspective on many issues will change. As this happens, we might do some of the things mentioned in the above “legalistic approach” example. However, law does not consider the inner-man, and Jesus came to change the inner-man.
Some scripture to consider concerning the “inner-man”:
Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16).
But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 1:7)
For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God (Ephesians 3: 14-19).
We cannot fool God with our legalism.
We might be able fool ourselves and others into thinking we are doing God’s will, but He knows our hearts and is not fooled by our traditions. In other words, “God is not mocked.” As with the church in Sardis (Revelation 3:1), we will say that we live, but we are dead.
Legalism kills our liberty.
Another problem with legalism is it opposes the liberty we have in Christ. Of course, liberty is not a license to sin, however there are a lot of things that Christians judge others for that are a matter of individual conscience. Things like praise preferences, holidays, clothing, food, and the like all have some measure of liberty in Christ—so long as we are not in bondage to these things or full of pride. In-fact, when we become too worried over these things and judge others, pride and vanity are often within our hearts, so what does our legalism profit us?
- Division: When we place restrictions or obligations on others, and especially when we begin to judge others according to these ideas, this leads to what Paul the Apostle called “doubtful disputations.” Or, as Jesus said, “straining out the gnat and swallowing the camel.” We become so caught up on small issues that we forget to love one another and divisions break out among the body of Christ.
- Accusations: Things like pet doctrines or traditions can cause us to judge our brethren in a very unrighteous manner. We might question whether they are “real” Christians, or begin to accuse them of having weak faith or of committing a sin, when in reality, they are within their liberty-based rights to make the choices they make and hold the beliefs they hold.
- Hypocrisy: The Christian walk is of a spiritual nature. Therefore, when we attempt to attain that which is spiritual through traditions and other fleshly devices in place of an actual spiritual change, we often become hypocrites. Our inner-self does not reflect the outer performances.
- Complacency: When we view the sinner’s prayer, baptism, or any other tradition legalistically, we risk becoming stagnant in the faith, without really pushing forward and growing in the things of God.
- Death: It does not matter how much we “honor God with our lips” if our “heart is far from him,” we are not going to inherit eternal life. If we continue fueling unnecessary conflict, accusing others falsely, living as hypocrites, and conforming to this world, then we are at risk of eternal damnation. The salvation and condemnation of others is for God to judge, but it’s not a path we should want to go down.
A Declaration of Faith and Baptism Can Be Legalism?
I’ve written before that I view things like the sinners prayer to be a man-made tradition that’s loosely based on scripture. However, I believe that we cannot judge whether or not making a declaration of faith or becoming baptized indicates one will be saved—either in the positive or in the negative.
Why? These are outer works, that may or may not reflect sincerity. Even if sincere, a person might not continue in the faith and become as “the seed on stony ground or among thorns” (See Matthew 13 for the Parable of the Sewer in the Field).
On one hand, if we tell people that all they have to do is make a confession, and/or get baptized, without preaching the fullness of the gospel of the kingdom that promises an inner change of nature, then we risk leading people on a path of destruction—and that is the common teaching today, sadly.
On the other hand, if we tell people that their declaration of faith is not enough, we are setting ourselves up as judge, and that is God’s domain. When our heart is right and sincere, things like reciting a sinners prayer or baptism is a fruit of salvation. If our heart is not right, it is a work of the flesh. That, I think, is the distinction—and not one that we can go around judging others concerning.
We cannot know the heart of anyone or what God is doing with them. When make judgments of the heart, we risk falling during the time of great tribulation.
When we view our own ideas too stringently, we risk harming those who are already weak in the faith, leading them to question their salvation and relationship with God. In doing so, “it would be better that a millstone were hung about our neck and we were cast into the sea.”
The best approach is for each individual to work out his or her own salvation and seek to be “conformed to the image of Christ.” If we truly seek to know Jesus and to grow in the things of God, then the Holy Spirit will do the rest. Remember, this is not works-based salvation. It is the work of Jesus within us.
The Commandments of Christ are of The Spirit—Not the Letter
The greatest problem with legalism, as mentioned already, is it does not necessarily reflect the inner-self and will only lead to a partial and imperfect form of righteousness. Jesus’s sermon on the mount is the most important example of the commandments of God, demonstrating that true obedience goes deeper than some simple matter of law.
For example, most of us can avoid murder, but can we cause our nature to change so that we do not hate in our heart? Many of us can avoid adultery, but can we change a lust-filled heart? Can we truly love anyone, much less love our enemy without some kind of inner change? Probably not. Those inner-changes are what the gospel of the kingdom of heaven is about!
Through faith in Jesus, we are forgiven of our sins and promised a new nature that is free from the bondage of sin. When we seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, the Holy Spirit will write the knowledge of the Lord in our hearts, changing our very natures from wickedness to righteousness—“against which there is no law” that can condemn us! This is the ultimate pursuit of Christianity, and it is a life-long spiritual journey—one that is often in opposition to and hindered by legalism.
Read Matthew 5-7 for the commandments of Jesus.
Food for Thought
We know that Jesus causes us to “bring forth fruit.” This is spiritual fruit that comes forth out of a changed heart. Therefore, real fruit cannot be fake. We do not want to be as those who offer fake fruit to the Lord. When we approach the Christian life according to the letter of the law (or legalism) instead of trusting Jesus and seeking him so that our natures are changed, we embark on a path of hypocrisy that bears “wild fruit.” What did Jesus tell us would happen to hypocrites and those who do not bring forth fruit?
For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:20).
Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy (Luke 12:1).
I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned (John 15: 5-6).
Consider this passage from Isaiah 5. What are your thoughts about how this might apply to Christians today?
These are verses 1-16, not the entire chapter, so you might consider looking up the whole chapter for full context.
Isaiah 5: 1-16
Now will I sing to my wellbeloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My wellbeloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill:
And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein: and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes.
And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard.
What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?
And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down:
And I will lay it waste: it shall not be pruned, nor digged; but there shall come up briers and thorns: I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.
For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant: and he looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry.
Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field, till there be no place, that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth!
In mine ears said the Lord of hosts, Of a truth many houses shall be desolate, even great and fair, without inhabitant.
Yea, ten acres of vineyard shall yield one bath, and the seed of an homer shall yield an ephah.
Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink; that continue until night, till wine inflame them!
And the harp, and the viol, the tabret, and pipe, and wine, are in their feasts: but they regard not the work of the Lord, neither consider the operation of his hands.
Therefore my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge: and their honourable men are famished, and their multitude dried up with thirst.
Therefore hell hath enlarged herself, and opened her mouth without measure: and their glory, and their multitude, and their pomp, and he that rejoiceth, shall descend into it.
And the mean man shall be brought down, and the mighty man shall be humbled, and the eyes of the lofty shall be humbled:
But the Lord of hosts shall be exalted in judgment, and God that is holy shall be sanctified in righteousness.
A faith-based Christian life is one that seeks, by faith, to have one’s nature changed from wickedness to righteousness—not by our own efforts or ability—but by the power of the Holy Spirit working in us. To do otherwise may or may not lead to condemnation, depending on the level of mercy God is showing each individual.
However, God is not mocked, and we do not want to “throw ourselves off of the pinnacle of the temple.” If we worship the Lord “in spirit and in truth” he will lead us on the path of righteousness that leads to everlasting life. Legalism can hinder our faith, trapping us in a cycle of bondage, and it will be manifest that the love of the Lord was not it us.
If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you (John 15:10-12).
Faith as a Mustard Seed Moves Mountains
Does Jesus hear us because we are full of faith or because it is his will at that moment? Could it be that when the Lord hears us in our moments of “little” faith, he is glorified through both His mercy and our dependence on him for all things?
In this article, we are going to focus on how powerful even the minutest amount of faith can be and why that is so.
When Your Faith Feels Small, Remember Where Your Faith Comes From
There are times when all Christians feel as if their faith is hanging by a thread. When going through these hard times, it can be very helpful to remember that your faith was given to you by God. Real faith is a gift, and God does not give us faith for nothing.
- With faith, we are able to approach Jesus with an understanding that he is the Son of God.
- With faith in Jesus, we grow in the knowledge of the Lord as we learn what it means to live as Christians.
- With faith in Jesus, we are freed from the bonds of law (legalism) because we know that we cannot live in true righteousness by our own ability.
- With faith in Jesus, we are healed from the brokenness of sin as we learn to forgive others as God forgives us.
- With faith in Jesus, we will bring forth fruits of righteousness, bringing God glory as we live out the gospel.
- With faith in Jesus, we will trust the Lord and we will not live in fear.
- With faith in Jesus, we will overcome all accusations of this world, even those of The Accuser.
- With faith in Jesus, we will thrive in the kingdom of heaven during our present lives.
- With faith in Jesus, we will overcome death.
- With faith in Jesus, we are made wise virgins and faithful servants in the everlasting kingdom forever.
Faith is a precious gift to those who God is raising up as His children. As we walk by faith, we grow in the things of the Spirit as we die to the bonds of the flesh. It is an on-going journey, and one that is under the complete authority and workmanship of our creator. There is nothing we can do to earn it and there is nothing we can do to stop it. All things are by the power of God, and it is He who is “the author and finisher of our faith.”
As Jesus teaches us how to walk by faith according to the power of the Holy Spirit in us, we stop struggling so much. We stop living in fear. We stop trying to perform outwardly and instead trust that who we are will change overtime as we are made in the image of Christ. We will not focus on what this world has to offer or what those in this world think of us, because we have faith in something better. We have the kingdom of heaven, now and forever.
All things are given to you, dear Christian. From the moment you first believed until the day you are raised from the dead or transfigured at the coming of the Lord, Jesus, all things pertaining to your salvation are given by grace through faith.
Little Faith Accomplishes Much
How mighty is your God? How vast and immense is One who is eternal? How powerful do you suppose even a vapor of His ability within us might be? Even if that faith seems minute, this is something given to you by the Almighty!
When we call out to Jesus in faith, he hears us. We do not always feel full of faith, but it is in these moments of weak faith that Jesus is made strong in us. His mercy, patience, and power are shown to us so that we know our hope lies in Jesus alone. He hears the broken and the humble. He resists the proud. Sometimes it is the weakest of us, those who are most prone to doubt, and even those who have struggled to believe in Jesus at all who are most likely to be made strong in Christ.
With faith, even mountain-sized sins are leveled to the ground.
You might recall when Jesus said that a faith as a mustard seed can move mountains. If you read this in context (Matthew Chapter 17), you will see that Jesus said this in response to his disciples who could not remove devils from a child. Jesus then healed the child. Don’t you see? Jesus came to heal us. It is by faith in him, “by whose stripes we are healed,” that we can overcome all manner of destruction. He healed people because of his mercy and to show us that he has authority to forgive sin. He also has power to heal. Believe in him! Nothing is impossible for you. No sin has power over you. No darkness is stronger than The Light!
Seek him diligently, and you will be rewarded with the treasures of heaven. You will have love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, and self-control. You will learn Godly wisdom that this world cannot know. You will learn what is true by he who is The Truth. You will grow in the power of his might, able to stand in the faith no matter how the waves roar around you. We must lay hold of the faith, not lay it up in a napkin, and invest what God has given us in the things of the spirit. We are not foolish virgins or wicked servants. We are children of the promise!
You are forgiven. You are redeemed.
You are the workmanship of Jesus Christ within you. True faith is powerful and will bring forth mighty fruits of the Spirit. These fruits are life and light, and they will replace the darkness in you overtime. You are not bound to the destructive forces of this world. You have most wonderful promises in Jesus and great hope and joy that endures all trials we go through. Though we do not yet see all things under our feet, all things are under our feet because all things are under His feet.
He has overcome the world so that we too can overcome.
Does Jesus hear us because we are full of faith or because it is his will at that moment? Could it be that when the Lord hears us in our moments of “little” faith, he is glorified through both His mercy and our dependence on him for all things?
All things happen according to the will of our sovereign God. If our salvation were based on our ability, none would be saved. The purpose of the creation is to “bring many sons of God to glory.” This process can only be completed by the Son, Jesus. God gives us faith in Jesus so that we can pursue the promises of the kingdom of heaven — promises that are given by grace. Within these promises, we are made free from the prisons of this world and the prince of it. We are forgiven by the blood of Jesus shed on the cross and we are raised from death by the power of the resurrection.
We are promised a new nature as the Spirit conforms us into the image of Christ. This is a work done by the power of God, not us. It is God’s “good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” God is made strong in our weakness, even when we feel weak in the faith.
Continuing in The Faith
What does a faith-based life really look like? Is it that picture perfect image of a Christian who is full of faith at all times, or is it a Christian who doubts yet continues seeking God anyway?
The process of continuing in the faith can vary a great deal depending on the individual challenges we face.
Maybe we are facing difficulty from wisdom of this world that seems to contradict the wisdom of God, causing us to question the faith. Maybe we are enduring some kind of ridicule or persecution for our faith. Maybe we become discouraged because of our sin and we feel too ashamed to approach God, question our salvation, or doubt his ability to help us overcome.
Whatever struggles with faith we endure, if we continue on we will find that our faith is made stronger.
Sometimes just holding on to belief that Jesus is the Son of God is all you have, and sometimes that is enough. However, once we come out of the difficulties, we should always push on and seek more from the faith. We have to continue in the faith. We have to grow, “from faith to faith.”
The struggles of faith is a difficult topic for me to write about, because the only experiences I know are my own. So, I think it is relevant and maybe helpful to conclude this series by sharing a little about my journey in the faith.
One Christian’s Journey From Faith to Faith
I don’t remember when I started believing in Jesus, because I was raised to believe in him. As with all believers, I believed that Jesus is the son of God. I believed that since I accepted that he died for my sins, I would go to heaven when I die instead of hell. I later found my faith greatly shaken, began to question Jesus, and considered Jesus as one of many truths out there. After nearly falling into dangerous New Age religion, I called out to God asking for Him to show me the truth.
He led me to a series of bible studies, and this started a journey of seeking the Lord with more sincerity and insatiable hunger for him than I ever experienced. When I looked back on my faith before, it seemed so lacking, self-serving, and weak. I did not believe in Jesus for the right reasons, and I didn’t have any substantial idea about who he really was.
As I learned more about the gospel and what Jesus stands for, I began to have a better grip on the reality of God, the severity of my sin, and the amazing mercy and incredible power Jesus provides for those who believe in him and worship him out of a sincere heart. I also began to see my sin very clearly, and I hated it. I struggled to believe that God would save me. I felt inadequate and fell into a state of depression.
I again called out to God, and He sent me His Holy Spirit. Again, I looked back over my previous faith and saw it as lacking. I thought because I had the Spirit, I had arrived and would be perfect now. I soon discovered that I was not. I had also started writing this blog, because I wanted to help Christians come out of delusional Christian traditions that keep them bound to sin and the same faithless life I once lived.
God allowed me to go down some very confusing paths, and in the process, I learned a lot about legalism, patience, and mercy. I also learned that I have such a very long way to go, and that this Christian journey is often complex and I should not be so arrogant in the way I approach others who disagree with me.
Now, I don’t know what my next steps are or where faith will take me. I do know that whatever happens, it will work out for my good. I know that the Lord will continue to bring me through hard times in order to refine me and bring me up in his image. I know that I always have room to grow in understanding about God, the gospel, the purpose of creation, and most importantly, what it means to live a Christian life.
All of this has happened in the last four years, and it has been an amazing ride! I can honestly say that I am not the person I was a few short years ago, and I have so much hope in the future changes the Lord will work in me.
I know for a fact that the Lord does not despise a sinner who approaches him for healing, no matter how big the sin. I know for a fact that Jesus will humble us if we are too proud so that we can have a heart that is prepared to receive him. I know for a fact that if we seek the righteousness of the kingdom first, he will take care of our needs—especially those of the spirit as we are raised up in his image. I know that our faith is made strong in weakness and in trials, and we will look back on the hard times with thankfulness, and we will learn to trust God over time.
Continuing in the faith is what the Christian journey is about, and as we push onward and upward in the things of God, we find greater peace and soundness of mind and amazing freedom from the cares of this world that would kill, steal, and destroy our faith.
The Christian walk isn’t supposed to be easy. There are times of relief and we are offered comfort despite the difficulties, but the process of growing often means going through hard times. If we seek Jesus diligently to help us overcome sin, depending on where we are and our individual journey and sin struggles, we might go through some difficulties. After-all, tribulation works patience.
Encouraging Scriptures About Continuing in The Faith
If you’d like some scripture to read when feeling weak in the faith, here are some of my favorites. I’m only including some excerpts, so I strongly recommend reading the entire chapter (or book preferably) for context.
2 Peter 1 “Add to Your Faith”
4 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.
5 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;
6 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;
7 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.
8 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.
Hebrews 12 “Run the Race”
1Wherefore 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,
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.
3 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.
Originally posted on May 4, 2018 at my former website, http://www.kindlingtruth.com