So what is faith? Now, maybe your response was with the synonym “trust.” What I really want to know is what does the New Testament consider as faith, the kind of faith that makes a person a genuine follower of Jesus? So, what is faith? How does my “trust” in God translate into being a Christian?
I have been enjoying our Celebrate Summer series in the Book of Romans called “Gospel 360.” This past week we were in Romans chapter 4 looking at the “Confidence of Faith” of the follower of Jesus. So let’s being by looking at what faith is not. Now I need your help answering the following question. “If you were to die today and stand before Jesus and He were to ask you, “Why should I let you into heaven?” What would you say? Go ahead and answer it right now.
I am frequently reminded that many professing followers of Jesus have a shallow understanding of faith. It is something that we talk about all the time but do not really understand. Now, this is important because the Bible teaches that it is what makes a person a genuine follower of Jesus. So we need to get this right. So how did you answer? Here are a few responses that I have heard over the years. One variation that I hear a lot would be “Jesus, I’ve tried my best to be a good Christian.” Another response is, “I believe in God in try to do His will.” And here is yet another,” Because I believe in God with all my heart.” Now these are all responses that miss the mark on saving faith. I like the way Timothy Keller in his Commentary on Romans put it. The first response is “Salvation by Works.” He then goes on to share how the second response is really, “salvation by faith plus works.” And the third response is really, “salvation by faith as a work.” The problem with each of these responses is that “faith equal obedience.” Many of us will struggle with this third response. Yet, what a person is saying is that they are trying really hard to trust God. Each response requires our obedience. Yet, when we look at Romans 4 we see that true faith is simply received as a gift. Think through this verses for a moment, “And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,” (Romans 4:5) This verse reminds us that true faith is not about obedience but trust. I like how Keller defines saving faith, “Faith Equals Trust!… What saving faith is makes a total difference. If faith equals obedience you are placing your faith in yourself and your abilities. This will lead to boasting and pride (or despair and hatred if you fall). But if faith equals trust in God’s promise to save, you are placing your faith in God and his ability.”
Let me encourage you to listen to the sermon. I frequently ask professing believers “So, how did you come to know Jesus?” I used to be surprised at the answers I received. I’ve heard the responses above, and at others times, “God changed my life.” That is cool, but true faith is a matter of understanding God’s promise and then accepting it. This means that we understand that Jesus died on the cross, sacrificing His perfect life, so that while I was still under God’s wrath, He paid the penalty for my sin. The end result is that I trust what God has done for me and as a result Jesus righteousness is transferred to me and I should add that a person does nothing except receive what Jesus has done!
Those that have a false understanding of saving faith will struggle with insecurity and anxiety; they will wrestle with a lack of assurance. It often results in a self-righteousness, a lack of spiritual desire and is marked with hypocrisy. A proper understanding of saving faith results in security and peace and a confidence in your relationship with God. It also results in authenticity and spiritual passion.
-Pastor Joe Parkinson