Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Understanding Grace: Walking by Faith in the Finished Work

18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and forever. Amen. 2 Peter 3:18

 In the last several posts we've been in a series about understanding grace. Grace is a subject that is inexhaustible. As we know grace isn't just a doctrine it is a person, His name is Jesus. When we focus on grace we are simply shifting our focus off ourselves and onto Jesus. That stated I sense the impression to continue with this series, and today share some truths concerning the role of grace and faith in the life of the Believer. 

What is faith?

How do we define faith? Is faith defined as the type of church we attend? For example, I am so and so and I am of the "Baptist faith". Is this the definition of faith? Others say faith is blind. That it is trusting something without any evidence or substance. I choose to let the Word define faith.
11 Now faith is the assurance (the confirmation, the title deed) of the things [we] hope for, being the proof of things [we] do not see and the conviction of their reality [faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses]. Hebrews 11:1 AMP

 This is how we define faith. Let's examine this Biblical definition further in light of traditional definitions of faith.

Faith, the Title Deed

  Faith is defined as assurance, that it perceives as real fact regardless of what our senses tell us. This is of great importance. Faith is the title deed. We who own a vehicle or a house understand the significance of a title deed. The title deed is the legal document that proves beyond all doubt and circumstance that that property belongs to you. 

 In other words, if I said I was giving you a car and then handed you a title deed you wouldn't have to physically see the car to know it's yours. The title deed proves the existence of the car. In this sense then, faith is not "blind." Now, what is the importance of this in the life of the Believer?

 When we understand faith we can walk victoriously in this life. This doesn't mean we have a "rose garden" life and that all will go exactly as we plan. What it does mean though, is when good times or challenging times occur we have victory because regardless of what it seems like God is always with us and He has us in His perfect hand. No matter what feelings we may be experiencing, we are confident in the truth that God will never leave us or forsake us.

Where is your faith?

 Now that we understand what faith is, where is your faith? Where have you placed your heartfelt trust and confidence? Where is your source of hope in all areas of your life? This is a vitally important question. Let's examine where so many of us may have our faith.

Is your faith in your problems? 

 Some in the Body of Christ place faith in the difficulties we face. They put all their trust in trials and tribulations. They are quick to believe the struggles and setbacks are where they grow the strongest. This is where God "perfects" and matures them. 
 13 If we are tempted by such trials, we must not say, “This temptation comes from God.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, and he himself tempts no one. James 1:13
 God is a good God. He isn't sending tragedy or bankruptcy or infirmity your way to strengthen or mature you. He has already deposited within you all the fruit you need to mature and succeed in this life. Trials and temptations give us an opportunity to put to work the fruit we already possess. In essence, it's not the trial that matures but how you respond that brings maturity. 

Is your faith in your performance?

 This is where so many of us were before the knowledge of grace. We are trusting God to meet a need so we desperately try to perform just right. We pray more. We find ourselves giving more. We read our Bibles more. We listen to more teaching CDs or DVDs. We plug into Christian television and turn off the news or other programs. We only listen to Christian radio.

 We do all these things hoping to be good little boys and girls. We want God to look at us and like what He sees. We want to ensure we haven't been naughty but nice. If we believe this is how and why God supplies our needs then we aren't believing in Jesus. We are in reality believing in Santa Claus! 

Is your faith in your failures?

 This is where my faith resided so often before awakening to grace. I best keep my life clean or God won't answer my prayers. I used to believe if I messed up or gave into sinful habits early in the day I would have some type of trouble or difficulty later in the evening at work. If I was good early in the day then I'd have a good day later at work. In other words, the more I sinned the more favor and blessings would elude me. 

 We find ourselves trusting God for a loved one to receive the Lord or some other need to be met. We get going well at first. We begin thanking God for the need being met. Then, oh no, we fall. We slip up. We sinned. We feel now we must start all over again. Surely God will no longer hear our prayers. This is actually taught in some circles. If you fail you must start again.

Or is your faith In Him and His faithfulness and Finished Work?

 This is where I choose to place my faith. When we place our faith in our performance or ability to maintain a pure walk then our faith is in us and not Him. This is where legalism flourishes. When we have our faith in ourselves we have a place to boast. Look what I received by my faith. If you failed to receive you must be doing something wrong.

 Our complete trust and hope must be in Christ. Place your faith in His faithfulness and what He accomplished in the Finished Work. I will not always be faithful and without failure or foul-ups. I may lose my patience in traffic. I may even respond in fleshly anger to an opinion different than my own. This doesn't mean God has canceled out my faith.

 If our faith though is in our abilities, then when we do miss it we make void our faith. This is key, God is not voiding it. We are. In our thinking, we believe that God isn't pleased and therefore will withhold any answer to prayers we may be praying. This mindset eliminates the grace and mercy of God from our prayer life.

 Grace is the safety net, it catches us when we fall. I am not, however, advocating we live a life determined to miss it or indulge in any fleshly impulses. Living according to the flesh is not who we really are. The consequences of fleshly living are we disqualify ourselves from receiving what He has provided and revert back to performance. 

 Place your faith in His faithfulness. He is faithful even when we are not. He accomplished the work of redemption in His Finished Work. Put your faith in that. Am I saying then we need not read the Bible or give or listen to Christian teaching? If this is means to get God to do something for you then it is performance and works based faith. If this is a means to grow in our relationship with Him then we should pursue it. I trust you see the difference. 

 In summation, our faith should be a rest. It is resting in the Finished Work. It is placing all of our trust and confidence in His abilities and performance. I place my trust in Christ's obedience not my own. We disqualify ourselves when we trust in our abilities. Why? Because we can't keep the standards perfectly only Jesus did. Placing our faith and trust in Jesus is the key to overcoming faith. Jesus was always perfect so I trust in His faith not my own. 

 Now when you are believing God to meet a need you can trust in His performance, not yours. You need a job or to see an infirmity removed? Ask the Lord, and believe you have received it. From that point on, put your trust in the Finished Work. Put your confidence in Jesus obedience and perfect faithfulness and not your own. Then, just keep thanking God. This is living in grace and walking by faith. It is resting in His promise and not our performance. It's having faith in His faith not our own.

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