The concept of “justification by faith” is one of the most important doctrines in Scripture. Unfortunately, some misunderstand it, some scoffingly dismiss it, and some ignore it completely. But let me tell you something (and I don’t think I’m overstating the case here), you cannot be a Christian unless you understand and embrace the doctrine of justification by faith. So let’s talk about what it means to be justified by faith.Continue Reading...
Archives For faith
It seems there is a fear epidemic in the church today. It’s wide-spread, extremely contagious, and potentially fatal. The only vaccination for this epidemic is faith. Here are a few of the symptoms of the fear epidemic in the church.Continue Reading...
But what does it mean to have faith? Is faith an irrational and totally emotional phenomenon? Does having “faith” mean throwing away all reason and logic?Continue Reading...
It is amazing to me, when teaching the Bible, how often I hear phrases like this, “Well, I just don’t believe that.” With no more explanation than that, people dismiss new ideas and concepts. And they are surprised their faith isn’t growing.
Here’s the secret, are you ready? When you are not willing to entertain the possibility you may be wrong about what you believe, it is impossible for you to grow in your faith! When you hear a new idea and quickly dismiss it, saying, “I just don’t believe that,” you will never learn anything new and you will never grow.
You must allow yourself and your beliefs to be challenged. If you want to grow in faith, you must continually ask questions like:
- What biblical truth do I need to learn that I don’t already know?
- What biblical truth contradicts what I believe?
- What biblical truth contradicts how I’m living?
In order to find the answers to these questions, you will have to listen to ideas and concepts in which you don’t believe. Then, you will have to ask, “Why don’t I believe that?” Do you not believe that because of what your parents taught you? Do you not believe that because you simply don’t want to have to live that way? Or do you not believe that because it is not true?
When you hear a new concept or idea, do what the noble Jews of Berea did, “they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11). Paul was preaching something new. If they had simply said, “Well, I don’t believe that,” they would have never obeyed the gospel and received salvation.
Instead, they were willing to entertain the possibility that their faith was wrong. They neither rejected nor accepted Paul’s teaching at face value; they simply examined the Scriptures to see if what Paul was saying was true. When they found that his teaching was true, many of them abandoned their previously held beliefs and held fast to this newly found truth (Acts 17:12).
Are you willing to do the same thing? Are you willing to hear new ideas and concepts that challenge you and contradict what you believe to be true? Are you willing to neither accept nor reject what you hear until you have examined it in light of Scripture? And if you determine that what you have heard is true, are you willing to abandon your beliefs in favor of Truth?
That is the challenge. That is the only way we will grow in our faith.
I love you and God loves you,
P.S. What truth do you now hold dear that at one time you adamantly opposed? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
I’ve been told that I’m annoyingly energetic and upbeat. I try to greet everyone I meet with a smile. When asked how I’m doing, I usually reply, “Fantastic!” But many people misunderstand why I’m this way.
Some seem to think that nothing in my life ever goes wrong. “You are just so lucky that you don’t have my life,” they seem to say. Then there are those who attribute it to my age. “When you get to be my age,” they say, “you won’t have so much energy.” I think my enthusiasm may even make some people feel guilty. “Why don’t I feel that way about life? Something must be wrong with me for not being so enthusiastic about God.”
But the answer to being more energetic, enthusiastic, and excited isn’t your age or even your circumstances. Here are some of the things I try to keep in mind:
1. Don’t act the way you feel.
As a general rule, I try NOT to act on my feelings. There are days when nothing seems to go right. There are days when I feel discouraged and frustrated. There are days where I feel apathetic. There are even days when I feel like ignoring (or verbally pummeling) everyone with whom I come into contact. And sadly, whether you’ve ever witnessed it or not, sometimes I act like I feel. But, I try hard to act upbeat and positive, regardless of how I feel.
It isn’t being “fake” or “hypocritical” to act happy when you don’t feel happy. In fact, feelings often follow actions. When you smile, you feel more like smiling. If you don’t believe me, try it. It’s a proven fact, when you smile, you feel happier. God designed it that way. So, often I’m acting the way I want to feel rather than the way I actually feel.
But the most important thing is this, since God’s word tells me to be joyful and grateful (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18), I want to do my best to be exactly that! I don’t always feel joyful, but God’s word tells me to rejoice anyway. I don’t always feel like being grateful, but God’s word tells me to give thanks anyway. You have to decide, are you going to act the way you feel or the way God tells you to act?
2. See the big picture.
It’s easy to feel completely discouraged when all you can see is the pain of this life. But, when we see the big picture–when we realize life is short (James 4:14) and heaven is forever–it is so much easier to have a positive attitude. I’m not sure how you can read passages like 2 Corinthians 5:1-5, and not be excited:
For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.
Seeing the big picture is about faith and looking to the reward (Hebrews 11:26). How can you help but be overwhelmed with excitement when you ponder concepts such as salvation, grace, mercy, and heaven?
3. Focus on others.
God’s word tells me to be encouraging (1 Thessalonians 5:11). Again, this isn’t conditional. God doesn’t tell us to be encouraging, when and if, we feel like it. He simply says, “Encourage one another and build one another up.” If I always acted the way I felt, I would seldom encourage anyone.
Often we act the way we feel because we seek pity and encouragement ourselves. I know I have been notorious about this. Someone asks, “How are you?” And I reply, “Oh, I guess I’m doing alright,” hoping they will inquire further and I’ll be able to tell them my troubles. We’ve got to stop this nonsense! If you have something you need to share with someone, just tell them, “Hey, would you be praying for me? I’ve had this-and-that going on and I really need some prayers.” We’ve got to stop trying to make people feel sorry for us.
When we are trying to get others to encourage us, we are completely ineffective at encouraging others. This is what Paul described as a Christ-like attitude, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4).
Please understand, I’m far from being as upbeat, enthusiastic, and energetic as I want to be. I want to have more joy and less self-pity. I want to be more encouraging and less focused on myself. But, if you see me with a smile on my face, know that I’m not trying to tell you my life is perfect; just that I want to encourage you.
I love you and God loves you,
The greatest truth is this, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). The Son of God wrapped Himself in human flesh, suffered, bled, and died that man might be reconciled to the Father through Him. He conquered death through His resurrection, and gave man the hope of eternal life. It is truly Good News!
But how does one receive the salvation that is offered in Christ Jesus? There is too much confusion over this all important subject. So, try and forget all you’ve ever heard about how to be saved, and just listen to the Word of God:
1. Sin is the Reason Salvation is Needed – We have all committed sin (Romans 3:23). Sin is literally “missing the mark” that God has set for us. We weren’t born with sins (Ezekiel 18:20), we chose to sin. And the sin we chose to do separated us from God (Isaiah 59:2). The consequences of sin is death (Romans 6:23); it is what each of us deserves. We deserve to die and spend eternity in hell, separated from God. That’s the bad news.
2. Man is Saved by Grace – Man is incapable of saving himself. Since man’s problem is sin, he must be saved from his sin problem. He must be forgiven of his sins. The bottom line is this, you cannot do anything to deserve the forgiveness of sins. You cannot merit your salvation. Ephesians 2:8-9 says that good works don’t earn salvation. You could do a million good things for others and for God, and those good works would never wash away sin. Only the blood of Jesus can wash away sins (Hebrews 9:22). That’s why salvation is by grace. Salvation is something you are given in spite of what you deserve.
3. Man is Saved through Faith – Ephesians 2:8-9 says that man is saved “by grace through faith.” We are told in Hebrews 11:6 that “without faith it is impossible to please [God].” God is spiritual, invisible, and unseen (John 4:24; Colossians 1:15). Therefore, since you cannot see God, faith is defined as being sure and convicted of things you cannot see (Hebrews 11:1). God, and the salvation He offers, is unseen. You must have faith that He is real and salvation is real. Receiving the salvation of God is not a matter of seeing, hearing, smelling, or feeling something. It is received “through faith.”
4. Faith Includes Belief – At the core of faith is a belief that God is who He says He is (Hebrews 11:6). Real faith believes that God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and is present everywhere, because that is what Scripture says about Him. Real faith believes that Jesus is God’s Son, because that is what Scripture says about Him (Acts 8:37). Real faith believes Jesus died, was buried, and was resurrected (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), because that is what Scripture says about Him.
5. Faith Includes Trust – Belief is not the full extent of faith. After all, even the demons believe God is who He says He is (James 2:19). Faith also includes a profound trust in God. In order to receive salvation man must trust that God will do what He says He will do. In the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, multiple examples are given of men and women who were saved from peril when they trusted in God to keep His promises. Man cannot be saved from his sins if he does not trust God to forgive him.
6. Faith Includes Obedience – This is where some misunderstand “faith” and “grace.” Receiving grace through faith does not mean that obedience isn’t necessary. In fact, James says that without obedience, there really is no faith (James 2). As you read through the examples of faith in Hebrews 11, you will find they all obeyed whatever God told them to do in order to be saved. “By faith Noah…in reverent fear constructed an ark” (Hebrews 11:7). Therefore, if man is to receive God’s gift of salvation by faith, he must do whatever he is told to do to receive it.
Here is what God tells man to do to receive salvation:
- Hear the Gospel – Since man is saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9) and faith comes from hearing God’s word (Romans 10:17), the first thing man must do is really listen to the Good News about Jesus Christ!
- Believe – Believing God, as already discussed is a part of having faith. In fact, it is called a “work” by Jesus (John 6:29). Man must be obedient to God by believing Him.
- Repent – Sin was the problem that God man into the situation where he need saving. In order to receive grace, man must die to sin (Romans 6:1-7). Repentance is about changing your mind, your heart, and your life from sin and turning fully toward God.
- Confess – Scripture says that man’s faith in Him must be so great that he is willing to confess that faith, even if it were to cost him his life (Matthew 10:32-33; Acts 8:37; Romans 10:9-10).
- Be Baptized – Baptism is not something that a Christian does in order to be obedient. Baptism is something a sinner does to become a Christian. We are told that it’s at the moment of baptism a person’s sins are washed away by the blood of Jesus (Romans 6:1-7; Acts 22:16), his sins are forgiven (Acts 2:38), he is clothed with Christ (Galatians 3:26-28), he is saved (1 Peter 3:21), he receives the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38), and he is added to the church (Acts 2:47).
Do not think that if you believe, trust, and obey what God has told you to do that you have some how earned your salvation and forgiveness. Again, man does not earn salvation, he receives it when he trusts and submits to God. Please, I beg you, take the time to search Scripture and see if these things are true (Acts 17:11). I want to leave you with one last verse:
“And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name” (Acts 22:16).
I love you and the God who gives salvation loves you,
If I had to choose one word to describe a lot of Christians’ lives, it would be “busy.” I may even use the word, “loud.” There seems to be a lot of activity and noise in our lives today, doesn’t there? Maybe even more than ever!
Even our spiritual lives are busy and loud. A lot of us, applaud ourselves for our Christian busyness, don’t we? I know I sure have. But as I read the Word of God, I see Him saying, “be quiet” more than He says, “be busy.” Not that we shouldn’t be active, because we should; but, even in our activity we need to, “be quiet.”
1. Quiet Faith – Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God.” In the NASB, it reads, “Cease striving and know that I am God.” Sometimes we seem to think, “If I stop now, the whole world will fall apart.” Realize you are not in control! Do what needs to be done, but trust God! Just, “be still,” be quiet, and trust Him!
2. Quiet Reflection – I have said for many years, and it seems to be getting worse, that Christians are afraid to be quiet because their minds might turn toward self-reflection. Just as I’m afraid to step on the scale, when I know I haven’t been eating right, Christians are afraid to be still and quiet because we don’t want to deal with the reality of who we have become. Let me tell you, as one who struggles with this, you will never be the man or woman you need to be until you quietly reflect on who you are right now! 2 Corinthians 13:5 says, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith.”
3. Quiet Time with God – It is great to have group Bible studies and prayer. You may be the kind of person who packs in as many Bible studies a week as you can possibly manage. But think about this for a moment, if it was important for Jesus to, “withdraw to desolate places and pray,” isn’t it just as important for you and I to do the same?! Fellowship is important and necessary for growth, but do not let it be a substitute for quiet time with God!
4. Quiet Influence – Paul writes to the church in Thessalonica, saying something I’ve never heard a preacher say to a congregation today, “Aspire to live quietly (1 Thessalonians 4:11).” You will have much more influence on the world if you do it quietly, than if you stand on the street corners and scream at them! Even your spouse, is much more likely to be influenced if you do it quietly, “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives” (1 Peter 3:1). So, evangelize and teach, but strive to do it quietly.
This lesson is more for me than it is for anyone else. I need to “aspire to live quietly,” as much (or more) than anyone I know. I hope, if you also struggle with being too busy, this has been an encouragement to you.
I love you and God loves you,
Was Naaman cleansed from his leprosy by faith or by his works? “So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God, and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean” (2 Kings 5:14).Continue Reading...