Saturday, April 2, 2011

Keeping the Faith



I'm not an avid fan of too frequent or too lengthy blog posts.  So let me just apologize for doing both today.  I've turned off the comments, so please feel free to ponder the following without any need for such.  I'll just tell you right now, though; I often get the works/faith thing all cattywampus - either in my favor with glee & pride, or against my favor with doubt & shame (the operative word being favor).

I invite you to listen to my virtual Guest Blogger, Jack Kinsella (he doesn't know I've given him this great honor.  In fact, he doesn't even know me!).  I find his wisdom to be timely & needful; even a great antidote for cattywampuses ...

Keeping the Faith
Jack Kinsella

Today’s Omega Letter isn’t for everybody. If things are going fine in your Christian life, your faith is strong, and you are confident of your standing before God, then maybe you can skip this one. You probably won’t relate to it anyway.

But if you sometimes lay awake at night wondering if maybe you really aren’t good enough to be saved, or maybe you’ve misunderstood something and maybe you really aren’t saved, then you might want to read on. 

Faith is at once as simple as a recipe for boiling water and as complicated as a recipe for coq au vin. It really depends on how many ingredients you think necessary.

For some, faith means, “Jesus said it, I believe it and that settles it.” That pretty much sums up their Christianity. They don’t feel the need to examine their faith on a regular basis, or in some cases, at all.

I know of people who never go to church and never talk about Jesus and who live life pretty much the same as if they had never heard of Him. You wouldn’t know that they were Christians unless you brought the subject up.

But when the subject comes up, some seem to be more at peace with their salvation than many serious, mature and dedicated Christians that are constantly worried about losing their salvation.

Do you not know people like that? Are they really saved? They think they are. Although a lot of Christians I know would say they are not. 

Conversely, I know many mature, well-studied, serious and dedicated Christians that are constantly reexamining their faith and never completely sure if it measures up. For them, faith is a deeply complicated subject that involves all kinds of additional steps and support mechanisms. 

Do you not know people like that, too?

The writer of Hebrews defines faith as “the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)

When you go to work on Monday, it is because you expect a paycheck on Friday. The paycheck is the substance of things hoped for, and the fact you show up on the job is the evidence that you’re expecting to be paid. 

If you didn’t have faith that there’d be a payday, then your lack of faith would be evident when you didn’t show up.

This is where faith and works get confused. You don’t go to the job in order to have faith in your boss. You go to the job BECAUSE you have faith in your boss. 

That is what the Apostle Paul meant when he wrote; “The just shall live by faith.” They don’t live by faith because they are just. They are just because they live by faith. It is faith that justifies.

But faith in what? That is the central question. 

“Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” (Romans 3:28) 

Have you ever wondered if you were losing your faith? (If not, then why are you still here? I told you this one isn’t for you.) 

The first question to be asked and answered is so simple as to often be ignored. Where did you put it? 

Is your faith in your ability to keep the Word? If so, then your faith is in yourself – no wonder you waver so much. 

Is it in your pastor or Bible teacher? That’s a pretty dangerous place to put it, since he is, by definition, a prime target on the enemy hit list. 

You would be surprised how many prominent Christian leaders suffer faith crises – especially the ones that seem to have it the most together.The more prominent or effective the teacher, the more intensely the enemy focuses his attack. 

Look at how many prominent men of faith have fallen -- and fallen hard -- from Jimmy Swaggart to Ted Haggard. Are they lost now? Were they ever really saved?

Think of how that affected their followers: Was I following a false doctrine? Am I now?

Paul says that a man is “justified by faith.” What does that mean? Faith in Jesus? What does that mean? Does faith mean simply believing that He lived and died and was resurrected on the third day?

“Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” (James 2:19)

So clearly, faith isn’t the same as simply believing. Satan believes.

If your faith is in the indwelling Holy Spirit to keep you from sin, then what does it mean when you do sin? (for you certainly will.) Is the Holy Spirit faithless? Or are you? If you are faithless, then how can you be saved? 

If your faith is in Jesus Christ’s Promise that “him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out” well, that sounds too easy to be true sometimes, doesn't it? Especially when there are so many others all around you that don’t seem to have the same struggles that you do. 

That by itself is enough to cause a major faith crisis. Here you are, struggling through, knowing how many times you fall in the course of a single day, while other Christians seem to have it nailed. 

I’m not going to soothe you by telling you that you’re doing it right. Or that you can’t do better. Or that you shouldn’t do better. Because you likely aren’t, probably can, and certainly should.

But if your faith is in your ability to perform, then no wonder you question it. That is why salvation is by faith that, by the grace of God, Jesus did it all -- because you can’t do any of it.

Salvation is about having faith that you can trust the promises of God. Faith that He will perform them, not faith that you will

"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." (Ephesians 2:8-9) 

"And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work." (Romans 11:6) 

Those are both pretty much unambiguous, black-and-white statements. How much faith must one have to be saved? How faithful must one be to stay saved? Jesus said faith the size of a mustard seed could move mountains.

Can you move mountains?



Postscript:  I don't believe for a minute that Mr. Kinsella means to judge or malign the aforementioned Christians; just to use their well-known & public scandals as an illustration.

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