Monday, April 25, 2011

What is Faith?

So you say that you believe in God? Great. You still might be going to hell. Let me explain.

Jesus Christ came to Earth and taught us that he is the only means to salvation. It is through faith in him alone that we are reconciled to the Father in heaven. So what does it mean to have faith in God? Aren't belief and faith the same?

Professing belief in God is not enough

Saying that you believe in God is not enough to save you from eternal damnation. This may seem to contradict what is written in Romans 10:

"If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."
While this passage does instruct us to confess our faith outwardly, we must examine it in its entirety to fully understand what that means. This confession of faith is more than mere words. It is a confession by words of the mouth of one who has first believed in his heart that Jesus is Lord. Look at what Paul writes in the next verse.

"For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved."
The outward confession comes only after an inward change of the heart. One must not only speak these words of faith, but also believe in them.

Now, some may say that they believe in God. But do they really have faith in Him? James points out that even the demons believe in God, and tremble! He explains how a person can show that they have real faith:

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. James 2:14-19

We show that our faith is real not by the words that we speak, but by the things that we do. Jesus says that his true followers will be recognized by the fruit that they bear (Matt. 7:16). Further, we will one day be judged by the things that we do.

“But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.” Matt. 12:36

The parable of the two sons

Jesus often used parables to teach complex concepts. He tells the parable of the two sons to show how actions really do speak louder than words.

“What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’

“‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.

“Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.

“Which of the two did what his father wanted?”

“The first,” they [the Pharisees] answered.

Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him. Matt. 21:28-32

Therefore, we will be judged not by the words that we say, but by the things that we do. I can go around telling people that I am a firefighter, but unless I actually extinguish fires, my words are meaningless.

Faith is not born of religion

We may show our faith by the things that we do, but our actions are not the source of our faith. I can claim belief in God and be a "good" person by doing good things, but these things in themselves do not give me faith in God. The faith must precede the works. The actions are an outcome of the faith, rather than a source of faith.

Faith is not exemplified through religion. At least not by the way that we understand religion today. By most standards, religion is the practice of customs and rituals for the development of one's own personal spiritual well-being. It is completely inwardly focused. Basically, it is selfish.

True religion is not focused on the self. James explains:

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:27

Rather than practicing the religion of following strict rules of conduct, as most people understand religion today, practice the true religion that God our Father accepts. Do not be like the Pharisees who tried work out their own salvation by elevating themselves above everyone else by promoting their own rules and traditions. Jesus repeatedly rebuked this way of thinking and simplified the law like this: Love God, Love others.

Jesus quotes Isaiah to drive the point that our faith is more than following a set of rules:

These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules. Isaiah 29:13

He knew that the Pharisees, with their strict rules, did not understand the words of the prophet Hosea:

“For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.” Hosea 6:6

Be careful that your good works are a result of real faith in God. Are you acting to glorify God, or are you acting to glorify yourself? Practice your faith with your works, not to save yourself, but because He saved you.

Believe, confess, and have faith

Let us then believe in our hearts, confess with our mouths, and practice our faith by the things that we do.

God our Father, thank you for your Son who came to show us how to practice true religion. Give us the faith through your Spirit to complete the good deeds you have set apart for us to do. For your glory and honor always! Amen.

1 comment:

  1. I'm thankful GOD put this on your heart to blog!