Tuesday 28 April 2009

A Living Faith #4 Effort


Faith and works are inseparable; salvation requires both elements to be present and neither of these elements will be achieved without making an effort to overcome the natural tendencies of human nature. It takes an effort to learn and put into practice the Commandments of Christ.

However, although effort is required on our part, non-the-less faith and its works will not be achieved by personal strength. Trust and faith in the Lord Jesus comes first. It is only by remaining firmly rooted and grounded in him that faith will grow and produce works. Paul writes:

“For though I am absent in the flesh, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ. As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.” Colossians 2:5-8

Firstly Paul speaks of remaining steadfast in faith. Life will throw many temptations, trials and difficulties in the path of all who truly seek to follow the Lord Jesus.  There will be times when these temptations and trials may feel overwhelming and maybe even insurmountable. Possibly there will be even times when the thought comes, ‘why me’? Nobody is unique in having this experience, for it will be something that all who diligently seek the Lord Jesus and strive to follow him will maybe feel. What really counts is how we respond to these trials and moments of weakness.

Now one option is to think that the path and effort needed is too much. Faith wavers, trust decreases which then leads to an attitude of ‘live for today, for tomorrow we die’.  Another option is giving way to despair; a longing for salvation may remain, but a deep abiding feeling of personal sin and unworthiness, hangs like a black cloud overhead. This may lead to an attitude of ‘I have done so much wrong, sin feels overwhelming, and therefore I must have failed’.  However, there is a third option, the one that fights despondency and puts faith into action. 

So, how can we put faith into action? Well in the quote from Colossians Ch.2 Paul continues by exhorting believers to walk in Christ, being rooted in him and established in faith. If we ‘walk in Christ’ then in effect we will obey and follow His Commandments. Faith does not give up, rather faith acknowledges personal failure and inabilities, it perseveres and remains in Christ.  Faith does not surrender to despair, but continues to be active:

Ø  A living faith trusts and has hope.
Ø  A living faith confesses sin, repents and endures.
Ø  A living faith realises that Yahweh has in Jesus provided the means of reconciliation and paved the way for mercy and forgiveness.

Apart from Christ we are and can do nothing. But through him all things are possible for as Jesus said “all things are possible to him who believes." Remember the allegory that Jesus used when he described himself in these words:  ‘I am the true vine’. Jesus is the root stock that nourishes the whole vine, thus he continued:

"Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.  I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without me you can do nothing.” John 15:4-5

Without Christ we are powerless and without hope. However, if we remain in him then despite our weaknesses, despite our failures and despite our personal sense of sin, we will ultimately bear fruit. We will produce the works of faith.

Therefore with this in mind, we must take to heart the third point from the quote in Colossians Ch. 2 where Paul warns against being led astray by what he terms ‘empty deceit’ and the ‘traditions of men’. There is only one Truth, only one path, only one Lord. Did not Jesus say: "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

Salvation comes only through faith in Jesus Christ and obedience to the one true Gospel message. Paul warned the early disciples saying “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another” Gal 1:6. The same message applies equally as much in this age:

F There is no other gospel, no other path to salvation than that clearly shown in scripture.
F We know, believe and obey the one gospel message or we do not. There is no middle ground, no alternative way.
F Only if we walk according to the Word can we have fellowship
F We must avoid those things and people that could lead us astray

Thus again Paul writes:

“I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you” 1Cor 15:1-2

Only if we receive the Word of Truth and stand firm by making the effort to “hold fast the pattern of sound words … in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus” (2Tim1:13) will faith be something living and active in our lives.

Without daily exercise and the correct diet the body soon becomes flabby and out of condition.  Likewise without exercising faith and having a well balanced scriptural diet, we become spiritually flabby and spiritually out of condition. In its extreme lack of physical exercise and poor diet leads to obesity and premature death.  In a similar way, unless we make the effort to feed on the Word and grow spiritually, faith will die! Now Paul exhorts:

“…exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.” 1 Tim 4:7-8

So once again we see that it is a matter of character development and having the right attitude of mind. Effort and exercise in spiritual matters is the beginning of exhibiting the works of a living faith.  Paul sums up some of these works saying:

“Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another;  not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;  rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer.” Romans 12:10-12

Note those active words, denoting effort and describing some attributes of a living faith:

Ø  Diligence
Ø  Fervent
Ø  Patient
Ø  Steadfast
Ø  and the implied humility and selflessness.

If the effort is made to acquire these attributes then we will indeed rejoice in hope, for our eyes will be focussed upon the Lord Jesus Christ. The wisdom of Solomon gives the final word:

“diligence is man’s precious possession”… ..“A wise son heeds his father’s instruction” Proverbs 12:27; 13:1

Are you wise? Are you heeding Yahweh and obeying His instruction?  Are you making the effort to develop a living faith?

To be continued …….A Living Faith #5 Perseverance

Andy Peel

In this series:
A Living Faith #1 Substance of things hoped for
A living faith #2 State of your faith
A Living Faith #3 Faith put into action
A Living Faith #4 Effort
A Living Faith #5 Perseverance
A Living Faith #6 Sacrifice
A Living faith #7 Prayer
A Living Faith #8 Change
A Living Faith #9 Our Manner of Life
A Living Faith #10: Our manner of Life #2
A Living Faith #11 My place in the body of Christ and my ecclesia
A Living Faith #12 The Love for Jesus

2016 January update

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