Saturday, January 22, 2011

Living by faith - but what does that mean?

Welcome to the first ever WIP open-blod test!

There are only two questions here, so each is worth 50% of your grade. But don't worry if you didn't study. I'm going to give you the answers.

The first question is this: How are we saved?

Readers of last week's blod know the answer without any hints. But just in case...

The answer is this:

God reveals Truth about Himself - about who He is and what He has done or will do - and we believe that Truth. We are then considered righteous in God's eyes.

It's all about

  • Taking Him at His word.
  • Putting more faith in Him than in your senses, or your mental abilities, or yourself.
  • Saying (and meaning) that whatever God has revealed you will count as true, no matter how impossible it sounds.

These are the things that God has required of us.

Paul makes it perfectly clear in his letter to the Romans (the quote at the top of last week's blod) that we are considered righteous by believing God in this way.

But an interesting thing happens a few books later. Paul went and used the exact same example of Abraham believing God's promise of a son in his letter to the Galatians, too. Except in Galatians he didn't use it as proof that we are saved by believing. In Galatians it proves another point altogether.

Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit [faith]
are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh [works].... So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.

You see what I mean? 

In this passage Paul answers a different question, which is this: How are we to live our Christian lives day by day?

And his answer is this: By faith.

So, we are to live by faith!

Yes, I suppose we all know that.
But what exactly does that look like?
That's where the rub comes.

If we're not careful, this "living by faith" can become one of those super "spiritual", discombobulatingly nebulous, and absolutely meaningless topics.

But (if you'll excuse my rudeness) that's all worthlessness and hooey. At least in my experience. Nothing too "spiritual" or otherworldly does a thing for me in real life. Nothing I can't solidly put my finger on in the real world will ever change the way I approach tomorrow or deal with today.

So what does it look like?

Well (if you'll now excuse my simplicity), the obvious answer is that living-by-faith looks exactly like being-saved-by-faith looks.

And so:

Living by faith means that in every moment of life we consciously decide to trust God's promises - even when everything and everyone around us tell us they are illogical, impossible and simply not going to happen.

That's it.

You learn the promises, statements and commands that God has revealed, and you hold on to those like a piece of flotsam in the middle of a stormy ocean.

And to make things even more clear, here are a few "starter kit" promises that relate very well to life as we know it.

For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, "In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength." (Isaiah 30:15)

Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all. (Psalm 34:19)

I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)

God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
Now for question number two: What if you believed these promises were literally, absolutely and invariably true? How would that affect your actions, the way you think about things, and the way you relate to others right now and beyond?

One possible answer is this: It would change your life.