The second extreme view of faith, which is focused on works alone, often leads to legalism and self-reliance, with resulting self-righteousness. It can distract from the importance of what Jesus did on the cross, and from Him as the way, the truth, and the life. (Of course, belief-based faith can ALSO do this, as people’s beliefs often become their idols – their sources of life.) Putting faith in works alone can lead to not caring about or seeking truth. A popular attitude in modern culture is, “As long as I’m a good person, I’ll go to heaven.” Or, “Do good to others, and all paths lead to the same place.” But this in itself is taking only one stance out of many possibilities.
Most people who do this have not examined the evidence for the other possibilities, so they’re not truly thinking with an open mind but a closed one. To declare that beliefs don’t matter because it sounds nicer, thereby dismissing the possibility that they do matter, is not logically sound. Therefore, as a logic-driven person, I could not ignore the evidence that Jesus was exactly who He claimed to be. But I also could not blindly accept man’s religious interpretations of the Bible about Him, either. I spent several years attempting to separate empty, false religion (whether beliefs-based or works-based) from the truth of God’s heart.
This is one of the most impactful things I learned: No matter where we fall on this spectrum, or how we interpret the written word regarding this or other issues, it is critical that we keep the focus on the Living Word, Jesus, clothing ourselves with His love above all else, because “if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” (1 Cor. 13:2)
We must look to our Lord Jesus as the perfect example in everything. He disproved both beliefs-only and works-only salvation. Many evangelicals become comfortable in their personal beliefs and then wait around on heaven, maybe doing a little evangelism in the meantime. Jesus was about loving others and meeting their needs in the here and now. He did ask if people believed in Him, but He also stressed the importance of people actually following Him, and said that true faith will produce good “fruit” as evidence in their lives. But He also said that there will be some who do good works yet are not recognized as true believers (Matt.7), and He called out the religious Pharisees for having hypocritical hearts (Matt. 23).
Filtering all scripture through the lens of Jesus, the exact representation of God’s being, and particularly the cross – which was the revelation of God’s extravagant, self-sacrificial love – is necessary to glean the correct meaning. Several proof texts could be chosen to back up both ends of the spectrum discussed in the faith debate, though some would be taken out of context. But as soon as debate becomes our focus, our focus is no longer on Christ but on our own perceived rightness. God wants to be our only source of life, our lover with whom we enter into a covenant relationship – not like the cheapened legal transaction it’s become in western culture, but like a sacred marriage covenant.
Faith is not about doing perfect works, having no doubts, or being high on feelings. Staying the course regardless is an act of faith – or faithfulness – to those vows. I do still wish I could feel the Spirit more, but when I don’t, I choose to trust. And there has been gradual evidence of the Spirit in me; I’ve been healed from the painful, lonely turmoil I was experiencing. It has been replaced with a peaceful, strong calm. I do still have doubts, but I’m betting my life that God’s promises are real as I walk toward them and stay devoted to them. That decision and action is faith.
It is true that faith is a gift from God, and nobody could have faith without God. But just like the related gift of salvation, God offers it to all people but gives all people the choice to accept it, or to reject it. In that way, faith is not only from God by grace, but also a result of our God-given free will. We all have struggles, but throughout them, we can each choose to keep following God in faith.
As I was asking Holy Spirit to speak as I wrote this, I realized something. When I said the typical “salvation prayer” as a kid, it was without any doubts (but it was also without some things that should have accompanied genuine faith). When I was an adult, distant from God, angry and hurt because I couldn’t see God to be good, crying on the floor, it was the most doubtful moment of my life. But THAT’S perhaps when God saved me! I genuinely chose to forsake all else, even if it meant dying of loneliness, to follow God.
It’s a lot more complicated than that, since God is always trying to meet us where we’re at and move us closer to His true heart; so I do believe that something happened when I prayed at nine years old. There were bits of evidence throughout my life of God being with me, so maybe Satan’s deception in the church (manifested in the misleading theology which was the shaky foundation of my faith) just led to me not abiding in Jesus. I’m just thankful He’s reached my heart with truth to abide in Him now, and to hopefully help others who are lost and hurting.
The Spirit also reminded me that we may not have all the right answers – and that’s okay, I’ve learned to say, “I don’t know!” – but God is all about our hearts. He knows our intentions, whether we seek Him or desire Him, and He’s the perfect judge to trust with what we don’t know.
If you’d like more information on how faith and salvation passages have been twisted, check out Pastor Greg Boyd’s ‘Twisted Scripture’ series, especially the sermons on:
To read the entire article: How Losing My Faith Helped Me Find (Real) Faith
Thank you for reading and for sharing with others! We pray you are blessed by it and we appreciate your support following our blog. ~Jessica