April 23, 2013

Faith is a Gift

Yesterday, God prompted me to think about grace. The Christian definitions include, “the free, unmerited favor of God” or “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.” An older definition says, “God revealing Christ in such a way that He changes your life.” Grace is foundational, the means by which God saves people from our sin.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God… (Ephesians 2:8)

This important verse makes salvation plain. Grace saves us, and grace operates through faith. I cannot save myself nor can I control grace or manufacture faith. Both grace and faith are gifts and the one: the unmerited favor of God (grace), is received through the other: faith or trusting God. How does that work?

Faith seems like a religious word but faith is expressed in all of life. When I get in a taxi, I have faith that the driver and his car will take me where I want to go. When we eat in a restaurant, we have faith that the food is properly cooked and not full of toxins. When I go to the doctor, I trust that he or she knows enough to diagnose any ailments and make appropriate recommendations. When I flick a light switch, I have faith that the lights will turn on or off.

Today’s devotional writer says that even science involves faith. No one can prove the basic principles on which scientists proceed yet things work in certain predictable ways. Business also operates by faith, particularly when it comes to other credit (a Latin form of trust). Without trust, credit would never happen. In general, if we had to test and prove everything before using it, I would not get out of bed in the morning for my day would be too complicated.

When it comes to being saved by grace through faith, the Bible means that God does the saving and we believe Him — because He enables us to do so. Part of what faith includes is believing that we cannot save ourselves. It means believing that His holy standard is too high and that…

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus… (Romans 3:23–24)

This suggests the biggest reason why people do not put their faith in God or believe what the Bible tells us about how to live forever. North Americans are noted for independence and being self-made, yet these values are more wide-spread. God says that, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way…” (Isaiah 53:6) meaning every human being has this “I can do it myself” attitude toward God’s offer of grace. Instead of believing what He says about us (“You cannot do this by yourself”) and receiving His gifts (unearned and undeserved), the human heart turns away from grace and faith concerning spirituality to self-effort, which leads to inevitable failure.

For Christians, grace and faith are the entrance to a godly life, but we do not leave them at the door. The Bible is clear that we live by faith and rely on the grace of God for the rest of our days. Even with those wonderful gifts, pride and self-effort continue to be threats. Sin pulls on us, a nagging enemy that continually reminds me how much I need Jesus. He rescued me in the first place and continues to rescue me every day.

The good news is that He does what He promises to do. Faith is based on His character, not my ability to believe. Grace is always available, always free, and always a gift.

Faith becomes easier in some ways after a track record. Experience with Jesus proves that my God always takes care of me and gives whatever I need to live victoriously. I know that He can defeat my nagging enemy and dissolve my pride, even though both constantly try to get me into trouble. Faith believes in what cannot be seen, yet by grace God always proves that what I cannot see is just as real as all His other gifts.

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