The kind of faith the Bible describes is more than intellectual assent. It is placing yourself in the position where you must trust God by acting on your belief!
I’ve always said there is a fine line (cable) between faith and stupidity☺
“And [Abram] believed, [trusted in, relied on, remained steadfast to the Lord, with sustained support and dependence on God manifesting faithfulness and continual adherence on the Lord God]; and He counted it to him as righteousness [right standing with God.]” – Genesis 15:6, (Amplified Bible with Hebrew definitions of the word “believed”).
The Torah credits Abram for trusting in God, not for believing that God exists. The Torah takes God’s existence as a given. The Bible simply views atheism as foolish—see, for example Psalm 14:1, “The [empty headed, senseless, and stupid] fool has said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable deeds, there is none that does good or right.” Psalm 14:1 AMP Bible
Repeatedly we observe that a man’s morality dictates his theology, but that is for another teaching☺.
In the modern world, people have generally defined “faith” as belief as in, believing in God’s existence. But in both the Torah and New Testament, this type of faith is regarded as meaningless. In the Torah, genuine faith is always tied to and expressed in some righteous behavior. We also see this in the New Testament. For example, consider James 2:19-24 where the most complete commentary on Genesis 15:6 is found in the New Testament.
“19 You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. 20 But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? 22 You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS,” and he was called the friend of God. 24 You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.” – James 2:19-24 NASB
This passage is quite clear. In verse 19, “believe,” the mere intellectual acknowledgment that God exists, is said to be attainable by demons. Obviously demons know that God exists but they can experience no redemption based on their simple belief. In verse 20, as if James was attempting to convince those who were challenged to understand this concept, says that we must not be senseless and refuse to grasp that true saving faith is always connected with works. I love verse 22, “…faith was working with his works…” What a poignant way to get the point across! The end of verse 22 is also insightful for it supports the idea that genuine faith will be complete when godly actions accompany it. Of course, God richly rewarded his faithful friend Abram because of Abram’s extraordinary faith demonstrated by his willingness to sacrifice his son, Isaac. As a result, God rewarded Abram by crediting him with God’s righteousness! Are you as staggered with this as I am ☺?
A biblical definition of saving faith is never fulfilled (or complete) without some sort of godly behavior. After all, even Christ Himself said that “The work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent” (John 6:29). Thus, notice verse 24 where the Holy Spirit summarizes how mankind is made right with God—“You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.” – James 2:24
These verses are not a burden or frightening to me at all!
They are a motivation that I continue to work for Jesus Christ for as long as He has me here on earth (Acts 13:36).
One of our challenges in modern Christianity is that we have so long lived with, explained, defined and proclaimed faith as saying a simple prayer with no strings attached. We have overused phrases like:
* nobody’s perfect
* God takes you where you are
* you simply have to believe
* there is nothing you can do to earn your salvation
* it is pure grace and nothing else
* you are accepted by God the way you are
* you cannot earn anything, etc.
These are incomplete answers, and in some cases, excuses which support a person’s negligence in treating God’s grace in vain (2 Corinthians 6:1). These shabby evangelical clichés are not supported in either the New or Old Testaments.
On Easter 2020, thousands of pastors gave thousands of invitations for receptive people to receive Jesus Christ by faith. Praise God for that! Now imagine if these pastors would have given some type of affirmation that one’s new-found faith would ignite the Spirit of God in them and He would empower them with Christ-honoring good and moral actions! It would be utterly profound to cement the truth that genuine faith will always be demonstrated by obedience to our Lord Jesus Christ. Here is a simple example of what could be said after an invitation to follow Christ:
“If you placed your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ today— CONGRATULATIONS! Now, everyday thank Him for taking residence in your life. Take time to open up a Bible and begin to read 1 John and allow the Spirit of God to lead you. HE Will!Listen to the Holy Spirit in you. He will tell you something you can do this week that will please Him, that will agree with Scripture and that will demonstrate your new love for Christ.Congratulations! You have begun the adventure of following Jesus for a lifetime!
I think this type of clear expectation would go a long way in changing the spiritual DNA in our modern view of salvation. Think of the millions of people who would have heard a complete invitation to take part in true, saving faith as they were invited both to believe AND follow the Lord.
Over the last couple of years, this has been one of my favorite Scriptures:
10 “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them [other Apostles], though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.” – 1Corinthians 15:10 ESV
Notice how the Apostle Paul frames the effects of God’s grace (His unmerited favor), released in us and through us — to rigorously make efforts to work for our God and King.
The reason I continue to “work out my salvation” (Philippians 2:12), notice I am not working formy salvation, is because it is my desire to please Him (2 Corinthians 5:9) and further the plan and purposes of God within my sphere of influence. Please read, Romans 15:17, and also the powerful words in context of Romans 15, verses 14-20)! The Lord Jesus Christ said, “As long as it is day, we (that includes you and me☺) must do the work of Him who sent me. Night is coming when no one can work” (John 9:4).
I also know that you and I are in good company along with…
Jesus the Christ (Matthew 7:21-23)
The Apostle Paul, (2 Corinthians 5:9)
The Apostle Peter, (2 Peter 1:10,11)
James the half-brother of Christ, (James 2:14) and finally
The Apostle John (Revelation 2:23).
I suppose all of us who name the name of Jesus Christ long to hear our Lord say these six words on that final day…
“Well done, good and faithful slave…”(Look to Matthew 25:21 NASB).
In our men’s group we have been taking a mere four weeks to discuss the Ten Commandments. Wow, so powerful!
There are many good people who do not believe in God and bad people who do. But individuals and societies that believe in the morally demanding God of the Bible—at the very least, the Ten Commandments—will generally behave better and have clearer moral judgments. Perhaps the most morally confused institution in the West at this time is also the least religious one—the university. Religion does play a vital part of having a civil society.
In regard to the Bible, God commands and expects good works. The Torah is emphatically behaviorist. God recognizes that when a person acts correctly good thinking will ensue. This is clearly a Hebraic paradigm as seen in how Jesus Christ taught his disciples. He taught them by doing and then their doing led to their understanding.
The Greek paradigm is to think morally, and to have your good actions follow. This is also called a Hellenistic paradigm. The prophet Micah strikes the balance of faith and works when he says, “He (God) has told you, O man, what is good and what the Lord requires of you: Only to do justice, and to love goodness (works) and to walk humbly with your God (faith)” (Micah 6:8).
While faith without works is dead, works without faith (humble dependence) in Jesus Christ are simply good efforts void of any eternal redeeming consequence. (See John 15:4, 5)
Please stop and contemplate these verses below:
4 “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. 5 “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” – John 15:4-5 NLT
To simply be a good person practicing good deeds is not enough to gain eternal life. If we don’t have repentance, trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, and adherence to His teachings through the power of His Spirit, our efforts are as filthy rags.
6 “We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind.” – Isaiah 64:6 NLT
This is the reason the Good News is not Good Views☺
We as humans have a fundamental flaw. We all fall short of living up to God’s perfect standard. This inability is what the Bible calls sin.
23 “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” – Romans 3:23 NLT
When we recognize our fallen condition and then fall on our knees in repentance, we are saved from hell and, if I dare say, we are saved from ourselves.
Repentance means we change our mind about our inadequate righteous behaviors and our unrighteous behaviors. In the New Testament it means that we determine to change our actions and move in alignment with God’s truth. Repentance is a most wonderful gift given to us as followers of Christ. (See Acts 11:17, 18).
“17 And since God gave these Gentiles the same gift, he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to stand in God’s way?
18 When the others heard this, [they heard that through Peter the gentiles believed in Christ and the Holy Spirit had come upon them] they stopped objecting and began praising God. They said, ‘We can see that God has also given the Gentiles the privilege of repenting of their sins and receiving eternal life.’” – Acts 11:17, 18 NLT
Aren’t these verses glorious? Repentance is a privilege! Personally, I need to repent every day! It is God’s great equalizer. Repentance allows me to start over when I blow it. Repentance gives me hope. Repentance takes a bite out of my ego. Repentance allows me to restore my relationship with Christ and others. I could go on and on ☺ Wow!
Once again marvel and relish at the hope permeating the verses below:
“Repent, all of you who forget me, or I will tear you apart, and no one will help you.” – Psalm 50:22 NLT
“I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent.” – Luke 5:32 NLT
“It was also written that this message would be proclaimed in the authority of his name to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem: ‘There is forgiveness of sins for all who repent.’” – Luke 24:47 NLT
I will leave you with a few final questions for us all…
- What are two specific ways will you will attempt to obey Christ this week? If you are brave list them out and share them with another person ☺
- I will do one purposeful action this week that will bring attention to our holy Lord.
- List five more benefits that repentance brings you. Write them down and then give Christ thanks out loud for forgiving your sins. How about doing that every day for a week?
Hey, attempting to combine faith and works with you.