Not by Faith Alone

“Why is this headache not leaving?  I’ve spoken ‘by His stripes I am healed’1 all day in faith, and nothing has changed.”

“How am I going to pay this bill that’s due today?  In faith, I believe ‘My God shall supply all my need according to His riches in glory,’2 but the bill is still unpaid.”

“Even though I’ve prayed in faith that I trained up my child in the way she should go, and when she is old she shall not depart from it,3 my daughter is farther away from God than ever.”

Do any of these sound similar to things you’ve said, cried, or prayed?  These statements and questions, and many more like them, come from a sense that all of your faith hasn’t done what you thought it would.  Having been there myself many times, I know how frustrating and confusing it becomes.  Maybe if we consider faith from a little different perspective, however, it will help.

How were you saved?  How is anyone saved?  “For it is by grace you are saved, through faith.”4 You had to have faith to be saved.  Here’s the catch: You weren’t expected to have that faith except by grace – God’s grace.  His grace made it possible for you to have faith in what the Bible says about Jesus paying the price for all your sins and providing eternal life.  You didn’t understand it fully, yet you believed in faith and received.  You didn’t make John 3:16 true by having faith in it.  Because John 3:16 was already true, you were able to receive salvation, by God’s grace, through faith – not by faith alone.

This is the same way we are to live our lives day in and day out, by God’s grace through faith in His finished work – not through our faith alone to make it work.  Somewhere along the way, however, we tend to lose sight of this foundational Truth, and begin trying to operate in faith without relying on God’s grace for it.  We think we are standing in faith, even using Bible verses; in reality, we hope what we call faith will make it happen.  Unintentionally, we’ve omitted the One Who gives the grace for the faith we need in order to believe it has already been done, regardless of what we see in the natural.

Only when we rely completely on God’s grace do we truly come into agreement, in faith, with whatever part of Christ’s finished work is required for our situation.  Now, we speak with boldness and confidence in God’s Word, no matter how long we must wait for the change to manifest in the natural.  Now, we can rejoice in the fullness of Christ’s victory on the cross for our lives –  when we come not by faith alone, but by grace through faith.

1 1 Peter 2:24
2 Philippians 4:19
3 Proverbs 22:6
4 Ephesians 2:8
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Free!

Galatians 5:1 NIV  It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

Romans 8:21 NIV  . . . that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

What do we give to the people around us?  Only what we have received.  Have we received the freedom – the glorious freedom – described in these verses?  As believers in Christ, you might be quick to reply, “Of course!”  My observation and my own experience give a very different answer.  It has nothing to do with whether Jesus Christ has given us this glorious freedom, for He has, but whether we have received it in its entirety.

Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV  8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.

Oh, yes, we received the gift of eternal life, with the assurance of going to heaven.  This was by God’s grace in our hearts and faith to believe we couldn’t earn it no matter how much we tried.  Somewhere along the way, however, we missed the fullness of this Truth: this is also the only way we are to live our lives in Christ – by grace, through faith.  After salvation, we have worked very hard attempting to do enough or be good enough to deserve what He has already given us freely for this life.  In reality, we have allowed ourselves to be burdened again by a yoke of slavery to the law – we must work to be worthy.  This, my brothers and sisters, is not freedom, and definitely not glorious freedom!

When we live in Christ this way, it is also the way we live toward others, seeking to train them in our ways of the Lord.  But this isn’t what Jesus came to give.  He came to give absolute freedom in Him and in His finished work on the cross, including abundance of the grace of God for every need.  In turn, this freedom and grace is to be given to others who have not yet heard the gospel.  The gospel of Jesus Christ is good news – but so much better than what our lives have shown it to be to this point!  He came and gave His life, doing all the works and fulfilling all the requirements of the law, by the grace of God in Him, so that we could live in freedom from those requirements.  When we have a life-changing revelation of this Truth, the works we do in this complete and glorious freedom are done in response to His wonderful love and provision of grace – and with a desire to glorify Him and lead others to know Him this way, too.

Matthew 10:8 AMP  . . . Freely (without pay) you have received, freely (without charge) give.

May you be stirred to seek after His freedom beyond what you have known, so that this will be what you give to others – no strings attached!

Trained or Transformed?

The whole idea for this post is not Kay’s original insight, but came from a message I heard on TV by Creflo Dollar.  I hope the simplicity of the word picture is as powerful for you as it was for me.

Becoming a follower of Jesus isn’t to be a behavior modification program – another set of rules and rituals to follow – though a great majority of the church operates in that mode.  We might work really hard to change a behavior or an attitude that we see is wrong in God’s Word.  Without a heart change to go with it, a situation will occur some day that causes us to fall back to our old ways.  After all, it’s what has been put inside, by others and by our own doing, so it is just a natural thing for us to do.  Let’s call it instinct.

Our well-behaved dog still has instincts that can take us by surprise.  He is trained to sit, heel, fetch, stay, etc.  He follows our commands (rules, laws) every time we utter them.  He may even be so well-trained that he doesn’t require constant reminders to behave appropriately – so it appears the old instincts are gone.  But let a squirrel run past when we haven’t seen it in advance, and his hidden instincts take over.  It’s natural, for he hasn’t been transformed by the words we’ve spoken to him, merely trained to respond a certain way.

(I know it's a tiger, not a lion. Same effect!)

Another illustration would be a circus lion.  He may have been “tamed,” conditioned to respond in certain ways to the actions and commands of the lion “tamer,” but he is still a wild animal.  For this reason, we wouldn’t own one as a pet.  There could come that time when his instincts could kick in, and we would end up being his dinner!  He wasn’t transformed – merely trained.

Romans 12:2 NIV  Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.

The pattern of this world is rules and laws to follow.  When Jesus calls us to follow Him, He doesn’t want us to be trained in following a new set of rules, but be transformed by growing in relationship with Him.  He is the Word of God made flesh. (John 1:1, 14)  When we spend time with Him, in His Word, the Word (by His Spirit) transforms our minds, which is reflected in our actions and attitudes. This is done by His grace, not by our efforts to be transformed.  We are simply asked to be in ever-growing relationship with Him, getting to know Him through His Word and by His Spirit.  It’s only in this that we can be transformed, not merely trained.  It’s only in being transformed that we can truly know Christ and make Him known.