Faith is often an illusive concept, misunderstood in many ways. Two of those misunderstandings involve where faith comes from, and what faith does in the life of a Christian. Faith is the beginning of our Christian journey, but where does that faith come from? Why does it seem that some are full of faith while others are not able to believe in God at all? Are those who “accept Jesus” better in some way? Are they smarter, more enlightened, or more educated?
“I am Alpha and Omega. The beginning and the End.”
As with all things, faith begins (and ends) with God. He is Alpha and Omega, the author and finisher of our faith.
It is God that graciously gives us the gift of faith, that by which we are able to seek the Son, Jesus Christ. No one can simply choose to be a Christian. It is a gift of grace and faith, one that leads to real change in our hearts and our lives.
“No man can come to me, except the Father which sent me drew him” — John 6:44
Faith in Christ is Manifest by our Works
Do you ever wrestle over the question, Is salvation by faith or by works? Most Christians understand that salvation is by faith in Christ, but sometimes struggle with what that really means.
I find that when talking about righteousness, it gives people the feeling that this teaching relies on works for salvation. That isn’t the case, though it is an understandable misunderstanding. I see the connection more as a full-circle towards reaching a better understanding of God, and in turn, a journey towards becoming His children.
What does it mean to have faith in Jesus? True faith in Christ moves us towards a desire for righteousness, and through Christ, we have the promise of salvation from sin and death. Works don’t lead to salvation. Faith in Christ leads to salvation, which is shown by works of obedience to God and love towards our Lord and neighbor.
“Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.” — James 2:18
Christ Calls us to Righteousness
As Christians, we are called to righteousness — a life of obedience to God filled with the love of Jesus. But, this in and of itself is not what saves us. The grace of God and the gift of faith in Jesus is what saves us. If it were works, then we might have cause for feeling proud. But instead, we “make our boast in the Lord” for changing our hearts and leading us to a more perfect understanding of what we are to become as children of God.
“And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness” — Matthew 3:15
Faith Without Works is Dead
Real faith will naturally bring good works. Faith in itself is a work, but it is a work given of God. Faith counts us as righteous in the site of God before we see the fulfillment of it ourselves. But, a faith that just says I believe that Jesus died for my sins, but does not go on from there is like the seed that fell on stony ground. It springs up with gladness, then withers away. This is a dead faith, that will not lead you to everlasting life. “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead” ( James 2:26). The journey of pursuing the righteousness of God that says: “You shall walk righteously, soberly, and godly in this present world” (Titus 2:12 ) can take a lifetime. But with faith, we are transformed into “partakers of the divine nature.” Meanwhile, though we strive in faith, we make mistakes. It is the blood of Christ that washes these sins away so that we can be raised in newness of life.
The Gift of Righteousness is Eternal Life
Through God-given faith and grace, we are given a heart that seeks the Lord and his righteousness. It is by this same faith that we pursue the promise of reaching that divine nature, not by our works, but by the work of the cross which gives us the Holy Spirit of God. It is through this spirit that our spirit and very nature are healed and even transformed while we yet live. This amazing gift frees us from the bonds of Satan that destroy our lives while we yet live. When the Lord’s Day comes and the dead in the Lord are raised, they are saved from eternal death. Not by works of righteousness, but by faith.
Faith allows us to pursue the promises of Jesus, that we might be freed from the bonds of sin. Faith is a gift of life!