Active Faith

Bible

Are You Practicing Your Faith?

On his blog, Tyler Hess asked the question, “Are you practicing your faith?

The problem with a lot of sermons, books and blogs is that we like to talk Christian theology in terms of theory.

You believe this and I believe that and let’s sit in circles and talk about it for an hour or two at a time and go away unchanged.

Knowing what the Word of God says is important, but only when it is put into practice.

This is very true. I know firsthand, because I’ve been guilty of it more times than I can count. I can remember one evening when I spent eight hours debating Calvinism with some friends, but how often have I spent that much time helping others?

We tend to place so much emphasis on what we know and what we believe that we forget about how we should act. Biblical knowledge is good, but it is utterly useless if never put into practice.

Faith or Works?

Tyler also mentioned the confusion over whether we are saved by faith or works. While the apostle Paul makes it clear that we are saved by faith (Ephesians 2:8), a cursory reading of James could lead one to believe we are saved by works.

I have written on this apparent contradiction before. Good works do not save us; they justify us. To justify is to declare righteous, not to make righteous. We are made righteous through Jesus’ sacrifice. But if our faith does not produce works, then it is dead (James 2:17). Works are a proof of our salvation, demonstrating that ours is a living faith.

I fear that evangelicals, in response to works-based salvation, have gone so far in the opposite direction that we have excluded works from the equation altogether. Make no mistake, “faith without works is dead” (James 2:26, NASB).

This does not mean that we need to live in fear—wondering if ours is a living faith, wondering if our works are good enough, and wondering if we’re really saved. The truth is quite the opposite! As we live in Christ, he will produce in us the desire to please him by serving others. We may then take this as a wonderful assurance of our salvation.

John tied all this together brilliantly in 1 John 5:1–13. He wrote about the necessity of keeping God’s commands to love one another, and he wrapped it up by saying, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13, ESV). Good works exist to give us confidence in our salvation, not fear of losing it.

Where Are the Works?

What if you don’t see the evidence of good works in your life? Then one of two things is true.

It is possible that you don’t truly know God. It may be that you have made mental assent of the reality of Christ’s sacrifice, but you’ve never surrendered your life to him and allowed him to use you as he wills, producing good works in you. If that is the case, then you need to repent, seek his forgiveness, and submit your life to him wholly and unreservedly.

Or it is possible that you do truly know him, but he is still working on you, preparing you for the works he has for you to do. Perhaps he is using this very post to bring you to the point where he can use you as he desires. Sanctification is a lifelong process. Ask God if you need to be further sanctified in this area. (I know I do.)

Conclusion

Only you and God know whether you have truly submitted yourself to him. If you have, then you need not fear, even if you do not yet see the evidence of good works. Just be looking for opportunities to serve, and be ready for him to use you.

If you have submitted and you do see the evidence, then praise God for this assurance and for the privilege you have to be used by him!

What Do You Think?

Have we overemphasized belief to the exclusion of action? Have you been guilty of this? How can we truly live our lives for God, rather than just believing in him? Share your thoughts in the comments below.