Evidence of a Living Faith
by Dave Brown
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James 2:26: “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, even so faith apart from works is dead.”
Is your faith in Jesus a living faith? Or is your faith is just in your faith?
Do you believe that the fact that you believe you are saved makes you saved?
If so, your faith is in yourself and not in Jesus Christ, as is that of the Jihadist.
Please ponder these thoughts as you consider this article.
In a former related article on this subject we demonstrated from the context that John 3:16 is not just talking about salvation from the eternal consequences of sin, but it applies in an even greater sense to saving us from the practice of sin now, in this life. In John 3:16 Jesus was encouraging Nicodemus to believe what he commanded in John 3:3, 5 and 7: “You must be born again.” That involves a major change in the direction of a person’s life. It is not just something you do in your head. Faith in Jesus saves us from ourselves, since we all have sinned (Rom 3:23), and without turning and following Jesus we will continue in our sins (Romans 6:1-2). We showed that Romans 6 goes on to tell how we can turn away from the practice of sin and escape both its temporal and eternal consequences. Those who obey Jesus by being born again will fight against sin in their lives (1 Jn. 1:8-9) by offering their lives as a living sacrifice totally dedicated to the service of Jesus Christ (Rom. 12:1-2; Gal 2:20). Those who do not escape the temporal consequences of sin will not escape their eternal consequences because they do not have living faith in Jesus.
In this article we will demonstrate what “living faith” means in a very practical sense by answering the question: “What does the bible teach that those who believe in Jesus become while still here on this earth?” If we do not become these things, then we can know for sure that our faith is not a living faith, and a dead faith cannot save us (James 2:14-26). So, let us allow the New Testament to answer the question of what those with living faith in Jesus will inevitably become in the here and now.
1 Thessalonians 2:10-12
“Ye are witnesses, and God (also), how holily and righteously and unblameably we behaved ourselves toward you that believe: as ye know how we (dealt with) each one of you, as a father with his own children, exhorting you, and encouraging (you), and testifying, to the end that ye should walk worthily of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.”
Do we see this as our ultimate goal in this life – to walk worthily of God? Yes, we know we will never be totally sinless (1 John 1), but are you on the right road? – that road is called “the Way” (Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23; 24:14, 22), and that Way is Jesus (Jn. 14:6) – if you are in Jesus you are on the Way. And the Way leads “into his own kingdom and glory.” God is calling you now to either get on that Way or to continue on that Way – now through the understanding of His word (John 6:44-45).
How can we tell that we are in Jesus?
1 John 2:3-5
Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, "I know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him.
This verse teaches quite clearly that if we are not making an attempt to keep the commandments of Jesus, then saying “I know him” (i.e., “I am saved”) is a lie. The test is whether our lives are oriented toward keeping the commandments of Jesus or not. This is an easy test to perform, and certainly you know right now if the answer is yes or no to the question: “are you keeping the commandments of Jesus?” Apparently there were some in the first century that John knew about who thought they were in Christ (having faith in their faith) but they were not saved because they were clearly not making it their goal to keep His commandments. What was true then is certainly true today. Neither human nature nor the truth of God have changed.
“… giving thanks unto the Father, who made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light; who delivered us out of the power of darkness, and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of his love; in whom we have our redemption, the forgiveness of our sins: …”
Those in Christ are no longer subjecting themselves to worldliness; they are citizens of a totally different spiritual kingdom. They have a higher calling than any materialistic thing on this earth. Why will men make such sacrifices for fame and glory, but they avoid all service to the Lord? – and even go so far as to invent doctrines that teach that obedience to the Lord is sinful (Isaiah 5:20).
“For the grace of God hath appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us, to the intent that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly and righteously and godly in this present world; …”
Do you realize that the “grace of God … instructs?” Most people do not view the grace of God as being an instructor – they view it like free lunch. But it is by God’s grace that we have His word. And hopefully our partaking of some of it will be appetizing enough to us to make us want to devour all of it (Romans 10:17; Mt. 4:4). Be thankful for His grace; be thankful for the privilege to learn all that there is to learn about spiritual things.
“Wherefore, receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us have grace, whereby we may offer service well-pleasing to God with reverence and awe: for our God is a consuming fire.”
Do you realize that it is the grace of God that “enables us to offer service well pleasing to God?” What an amazing privilege He has given to us! Be thankful for His grace that enables us to become the living sacrifice of Romans 12:1-2. If you have living faith you will understand and receive a kingdom that cannot be shaken.
2 Peter 1:2-4
“Grace to you and peace be multiplied in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that his divine power hath granted unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that called us by his own glory and virtue; whereby he hath granted unto us his precious and exceeding great promises; that through these ye may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world by lust.”
If we are going to live forever with God we must become like God – holy. The scriptures furnish us with all things that pertain unto life and godliness (past tense in the first century; also see 2 Tim. 3:16-17). Those with living faith become “partakers of the divine nature” – we become like God as we continue to learn more about Him and continue to strive to do His will. We may never be perfect, but we can sure get on the Way and start heading in that direction.
“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel After those days, says the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, And on their heart also will I write them: And I will be to them a God, And they shall be to me a people: And they shall not teach every man his fellow-citizen, And every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: For all shall know me, From the least to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful to their iniquities, And their sins will I remember no more.”
Those who have living faith in Jesus will have God’s word written on their hearts to the point that they will be able to meditate upon it day and night (Psalms 1). Please see the cause-effect chain that is expressed by the Hebrews writer above. Obviously the writer is talking about those who have living (and not just perceived) faith in Jesus, and this living faith causes them to seek the truth of God’s Way (Jn. 6:44-45). This causes the law of the Lord, the Gospel of Jesus Christ (the New Testament), to be written on their minds and in their hearts … to the point that all who are saved “know the Lord … from the least to the greatest.” The result is that God is merciful to them and remembers their sins no more. Re-read the above passage and confirm to yourself that this is a valid explanation of the cause-effect relationships.
1 Peter 2:4-5
“… unto whom coming, a living stone, rejected indeed of men, but with God elect, precious, ye also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
Recall the responsibilities of the priesthood that Nadab and Abihu neglected (Leviticus 10:1-2). Is our priesthood today to be taken with any less reverence? God used such an extreme punishment at the very onset of the Levitical priesthood to make his will emphatically known. A similar event in the gospel age is given in Acts 5:1-15, to the effect that those who did not have living faith in Jesus were afraid to claim association with the early Christians. There is an opposite type of intimidation today, causing many to refuse to identify with Jesus’ followers for fear of being out of step with their subculture.
1 Peter 2:9-10
“But ye are a elect race, a royal priesthood , a holy nation, a people for (God's) own possession, that ye may show forth the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light: who in time past were no people, but now are the people of God: who had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.”
Notice the purpose of the priesthood, and the other figures of speech that are assigned to those with living faith. If you do not see yourself as fitting into this description, then it is important that you call upon God to help you re-orient your life toward Him.
2 Peter 1:10-11
“Wherefore, brethren, give the more diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never stumble: for thus shall be richly supplied unto you the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
If we can be saved despite a life given to sin, why should we give diligence to making our calling and election sure? This is a question that those who teach the “thou shalt not surely die” of once-saved-always-saved must grapple with. If we do those things listed in 2 Peter 1 we will never stumble; if we do not do them we cannot help but stumble.
“Unto him that loves us, and loosed us from our sins by his blood; and he made us (to be) a kingdom, (to be) priests unto his God and Father; to him (be) the glory and the dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”
“And they sing a new song, saying, Worthy art thou to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou was slain, and didst purchase unto God with thy blood (men) of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation, and made them (to be) unto our God a kingdom and priests; and they reign upon earth.”
This is present tense – right now! Does this not give the full meaning of Paul’s words in Romans 8:37: “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.” Note the present tense: we ARE more than conquerors NOW. The blessings of faith in Jesus Christ make faithful Christians to be a “kingdom of priests” now. It brings life NOW. It saves us from practicing sin NOW. And it brings all of the tremendous blessings of God described above upon us NOW. Not to minimize the blessing of heaven which are infinitely greater. But why not partake of the foretaste of it NOW?
So are we teaching salvation by works? This seems the only attack the enemies of Christ can launch against the obvious truth of the words of the gospel being given. The answer is NO – this is NOT a works-based or a merit-based system of salvation. We do not buy our salvation, and there is no way we can earn it. We can see this if we understand what Jesus meant in …
“Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
How can obedience Jesus’ plea be considered as earning our salvation? We have never heard anyone with living faith claim that they have earned or merited their own salvation. To accuse followers of Jesus of this shows how weak are the excuses of the accusers. Doing the will of Jesus is the greatest gift that we can possibly enjoy – it is hardly a work to be deplored.
The trust in Jesus to the point where we gladly respect and keep his every command to the best of our abilities can never be sinful. It is a tremendous privilege to be the lowliest servant in the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ. How can we denigrate such service by condemning it as “works?” Read Paul’s condemnation of works-based salvation carefully and you will see that he was using this as a figure to represent those who taught salvation by keeping the Old Testament law, and those who felt that it was something that they did (as opposed to the blood of Christ) that brought about their salvation.
It is an insult to God to accuse those who by “faith working through love” (Gal. 5:6) are obedient to God’s commands to be guilty of the “sin of works.” Did He send His son and the Apostles to deliver His truth only for it to be declared a sin to keep it? Can we not recognize that living by faith is the most rewarding, most blessed, and the best possible life that we can live? How can anyone in conscience condemn it as “works?”
Only when we become what God wants us to be can we enjoy the blessings of salvation both in this present life and in the world to come. This is what it means to have living faith in Jesus, who said …
“Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or mother, or father, or children, or lands, for my sake, and for the gospel's sake, but he shall receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.”
The eternal blessing cannot come without the temporal blessings “now in this time.” If you believe Jesus, you will gladly give yourself to His service today because you know that the life that He gives is the happiest and most satisfying life that you can possibly live. We cannot believe in Jesus and then seek some other way of life.
“Rejoice in the Lord always: again I will say, Rejoice. Let your forbearance be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. In nothing be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.”
What more could we ask for? But just as with Nicodemus, we cannot partake of these blessings unless we believe Jesus’ words: “Ye must be born again.” Indeed, this is what it means to have a living faith in Jesus.
What are the conditions of salvation given by Jesus?
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