September 6, 2011

Saved by faith, living by faith

Whenever I look at my character and position before God using the evaluation of all that His law says I should be, I get depressed. I know that salvation does not depend on anything I do, yet at times I feel so useless and worthless in the kingdom of God.

Spurgeon says that this despair is a good thing, particularly for those who are not Christians. All need to know that if judged based on the laws of God and His high standard of righteousness, no living person could ever be saved.

I am so blessed to know this is true. Why then be depressed? I live under grace, not law. My thinking is not, “Am I perfect in regard to the rules outlined in the Bible?” but, “Am I perfect in Christ Jesus?” That is a very different matter.

Does that mean that now I am saved by grace that I live by regulations? The Galatians fell into that trap. Paul wrote them and said, “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? . . . . Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:1-3)

Paul also told them, “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law” (Galatians 5:18). He wanted them to know the great freedom of living by the Spirit, but they had fallen from grace and were living by rules and the pressure of trying to please God by what they were doing.

The Christian at Colosse apparently had a similar problem. Paul also had to tell them, “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving” (Colossians 2:6-7)

I received Christ by faith. My part was confession of sin and repentance. He does the saving and  He changes the way I think and act. That has never changed. While I must obey Him, I cannot save myself nor can I live for Him in my own power. My sin should make me sad, but His saving grace should fill me with joy and thanksgiving.

Yet sometimes I ask the wrong questions or think the wrong way. Living for Christ does not mean I am without sin. To say that I am sinless would be lying, so why then do I get so bent out of shape over each mistake? Nor can I think that my faith has to be without doubt. That is not only unrealistic but smacks of pride. The biggest problem with these errors is that I have my mind on myself and my own performance.

Spurgeon says that I always need to consider the object of my faith instead of my faith. When I look at Jesus, then I can say, “There is no failure in him, and therefore I am safe.”

On the other hand, when I look at me, my hope fades in anxious carefulness and worries about being acceptable. Instead, I am always to judge myself by what Christ is rather than at what I am. Satan can easily spoil my peace by reminding me of my sinfulness and imperfections. I need to meet his accusations by faithfully adhering to the gospel, living by its power, not mine.

Father, Your salvation is perfect and complete. It is never based on my performance. If I pridefully start looking at myself, my self-focus so quickly turns from glee to despair. No matter how well I think I’m doing, my performance falls short and becomes a shameful failure. Jesus is my Savior; in the beginning and all the way through to the end, the Author and Finisher of my faith. Keep my heart and my eyes always turned toward Him.

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