Almost 2000 years into it, most Christians either don’t understand faith or don’t want to. The Old Testament tells the story of our break from God and His promise to provide a way back to Him. The New Testament tells how God provided that way with the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. There is nothing any of us can do to make this different, all we can do is believe what God has promised us. Accepting this gift is called faith and just like any gift, we must be passive to accept it or it’s not a gift anymore.
A group of my friends went into the Canadian wilderness for a week of fellowship and fishing over July 4th. One night a very intense but loving discussion of heaven came up. The argument was simply. Should the believer confidently know his place in heaven or would it be prideful to assume salvation before judgement? If we examine God’s definition of saving faith, we can be more accurate in determining what God intends.
When believers are anxious about our standing with God, we have thoughts like “I don’t have enough faith” or “I don’t feel good enough” or “I don’t feel close to God”. We lack faith and know we don’t measure up. This very internal view of faith is all about the state of our heart. When we feel this anxiety, we become active to increase our faith. We serve more, pray more, do good deeds to improve our standing with God. Competition inevitably begins. We start comparing ourselves to others, looking down on them to lift ourselves up, viewing ourselves as doing more, others doing less and decrease the severity of our sin while increasing it in others. Looking inward creates internal turmoil, competition and pride.
One great example is Luke 18:9-14. Here the Pharisee is relying on his own deeds and uses his neighbors failures as a step to exalt himself over the tax collector! I’ve done this. Don’t do this. With this is as your faith, you are completely dependent upon the state of your heart and your own actions to determine your standing with God, not on God’s promise… not on Jesus…not a gift.
“We receive grace by believing God’s promise. When we accept the word, we receive all that belongs to the word. It might be more helpful to describe this as “justification by God’s word” instead of “justification by faith”, because it is God’s word that justifies here, not our faith as such” -Michael Reeves¹
Don’t look at your heart, the heart is damnable but the word of God is salvation. Our hearts will never be good enough for Jesus. Our faith will never be strong enough to get us into heaven. We can’t look inward to our hearts to get the answer, we must look outward to God’s word and promise. It’s never a question of whether we have enough faith, it’s whether we have any faith in God’s promise. He has made a way through Jesus, so why do you doubt? God has promised YOU!
Outward, passive faith completely removes our inner turmoil, competition and pride caused by looking at our hearts. Place your faith on the solid foundation of God’s word, not the unstable, emotional surface of your heart. Do you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior? A proper understanding of saving faith is simply a yes or no question, absent middle ground. With this definition, saving faith equals the reception of Christ and knowing your place in heaven.
He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but he who walks wisely will be delivered. Proverbs 28:26 NKJV
Several years ago I attended the funeral of a great Christian. He was selfless, humble, intelligent, successful, generous, loving, forgiving man. A man to look up to. His eulogy was filled with all the glorious accomplishments of his life and they were many. The crown jewel to top them all off, however, saddened my already weeping heart. You see, he was sick for years, about the last ten years of his life. An amazing and graceful fighter to the last, he never lost his faith. This great story to top the other stories was a tale of him saying the rosary 7 time a day the last two years of his fight. Seven times a day! Surely this man had more than enough faith to get into heaven and yet he wanted to make sure. He wasn’t relying on God’s promise to deliver him into heaven but his own deeds. While it’s impossible for me to judge a man in his position, I could see this active view of faith kept him from passively trusting in God’s word. I was saddened by his troubled heart but I have no doubt I will meet him again in heaven as he accepted Christ.
Yes believer! You can confidently know your place in heaven when we passively accept the promise of Jesus Christ. Do not look away from God’s promise (salvation) to your heart (damnation) or you’ll have terrible anxiety over your standing with God. There are many people who are still searching for belief. I say keep searching! Some of you may not believe at all and not even sure why you’ve read this far. To you I say study the world around you and then study scripture and it will confirm what you see. But if you have found Him, why are you doubting? He has promised! Don’t look to yourself for your standing with God but to the word of God for your passive salvation and accept His perfect redemption. Check your salvation against God’s promise not your heart. I then pray, continue to listen and follow the word of God to change your heart to be more like Christ.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV
¹Michael Reeves, On Giants Shoulders pg 32