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!

To summarize:

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.

Do you have a question, comment, or faith story that you’d like to share? Leave a reply below. I’d love to hear from you!

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!

What now?

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?

Do you have questions or comments about this article? Do you have a faith story that you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you!

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 begain 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.

Do you have faith questions or a faith story that you’d like to share? Feel free to leave a comment if you do. I’d love to hear from you!

Born Again

What does it mean to be born again?

For Christians, there is an idea of being born again. This analogy exists to help us understand what it means to be a Christian.

Christians are devoted to Jesus Christ. He is our Lord. Jesus is also the Son of God. If we put our trust in Him, then we will participate in the things of God and we too become God’s sons.

The meaning of life is for the sons of God to come into maturity.

This is the lifelong pursuit of the Christian. We are in an on-going state of death and re-birth as we turn away from destructive behaviors and adopt the teachings of Jesus.

We need Jesus in order to participate in this rebirth.

The punishment for sin is death. To sin is to do things that are contrary to God’s divine nature—the nature of life. If we bring death, it is only natural that death should be our end. We cannot escape it because we have all sinned.

Jesus did not sin. Jesus took the punishment for sin onto Himself when he died on the cross. If we believe that Jesus is the Son of God whose blood was shed for the forgiveness of our sins, then we become saved from death.

As demonstrated by the resurrection, Jesus has the power of life. Through Him and the Holy Spirit, we have the tools we need in order to overcome our dead nature that is contrary to the nature of God and life.

We are told that the Spirit of God provides us with a seed of the divine nature. As we continue seeking Jesus, the Holy Spirit within causes us to grow spiritually into a person who resembles Jesus. This is called bringing forth “fruit of the Spirit.”

We are told that those who walk after the Spirit of God are the sons of God.

If we are “fruitful” then that lets us know that we are on the path of salvation. We learn to trust in Jesus more, we learn more about what it means to be a son of God, and we continue to grow.

Our Rebirth Requires His Death

Our salvation is bought with a great price. If we claim the blood of Jesus for forgiveness of our sins, then we should take that claim very seriously. There are warnings given in the scriptures for those who would take on the blood of Jesus without proper reverence and dedication. They are numbered among the unbelievers.

If Christians take our sin seriously and submit ourselves to the judgment of God, then we will find mercy and forgiveness through the blood of Jesus. In so doing, our sin is revealed to us and we should seek Jesus to help us overcome. We need to be mindful of the resurrection promise. We will be born again, and our present lives will reflect this process of renewal.

There is a lot of enjoyment that comes from living a Christian life, like healing from emotional pain, finding peace in difficult times, and learning how to love more fully. Learning about the things of God can be very exciting and rewarding in general, but there is a lot of difficulty too.

It is not easy to die to sin. It takes time and there is pain involved, which is why we are instructed by Jesus to take up our cross as He did. Although difficult, we take comfort in knowing that Jesus will help us and that our salvation is assured by His promises.

Jesus will raise us from the dead. He will give us everything we need in order to overcome sin and arrange our lives in a righteous manner. The blood of the Son of God covers us as we fail and try again, day by day striving and getting better at achieving the perfection of Jesus Christ that we aim for.

As we continue in the faith, we thank God and know that any goodness that results is the working of Jesus in us. There is always more to learn in this life. We don’t fully know what it means to live perfectly like Jesus, but we know that when Jesus returns and raises us form the dead we will be like Him and we will live forever.

A Note for the Convert

If you’re newly converted or considering Christianity, then you might feel confused about what you should do. You can always pray to Jesus. You can always consider the things you have done wrong in your life to hurt others, ask God to forgive you, and pray to be led to the truth of Jesus Christ and the gospel. Read the scriptures and find dedicated Christians to talk to.

If you don’t feel as if you have taken Christianity seriously enough, then there’s no time like now. Today is the day of your salvation. Pray often, study the scriptures, and connect with people who can help you stay focused on the things of God.

Suggested Scripture for Reading Pertaining to This Article:

  • John 3
  • 1 Corinthians 15
  • 1 Corinthians 11

If you would like to discuss the ideas written in this article or the scriptures above, I’d love to hear from you. Leave a note below.