The Greatest Gift of All: Faith

Posted: December 14, 2011 in Theology, Thinking

Hello blog-world! It has been a long time. Real conversations with real people, face to face, are more interesting and more rewarding. But there are just a couple of verses that I want to draw your attention to today while thinking about Christmas and all the presents and everything else. I believe there is an amazing connection between these two parts of the Bible. I will just let you read them first to see if you can draw the connection.

John 6:27-29 – “27 Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

And

Philippians 1:6 – “6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

So Jesus tells a group of half-hearted followers of his (who are about to abandon him in a couple of verses) that in order for them to have true eternal life, they have to stop paying so much attention to this physical life and the always serving their own appetites, and start doing the work of God. What is the “work of God?” That’s what they ask Jesus and he answers them in verse 29, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

So let me just ask some questions. Are we saved by grace or by works? Can we do enough good to earn our ticket into heaven? Ephesians 2:1-10 gives us the answer to these questions.

“1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience– 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved– 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

So we are saved by grace and only by grace, through believing in Jesus, or as Ephesians 2 puts it, by faith. But this seems confusing if you are following my train of thought. We are saved by grace, but Jesus says in John 6:29 that we are saved by works, the “works of God,” which we have already discussed is believing in Jesus.

Confusing huh?

This is where things get exciting. When we bring in other biblical texts, everything fits together perfectly. We need to do a particular “work” of God in order to avert God’s wrath because of our sin and receive eternal life. That work is to believe in Jesus and his completed work on our behalf. Where does this belief come from though? Is it within ourselves? Or is it from somewhere or someone else? If it is something we work up for ourselves then Ephesians 2:9 cannot be true because we would have some reason to boast about our saving faith. I cannot boast at all though because my faith that I have was a gift from God. He is the one that gave me faith. This faith is also called the “work of God.” And what does Philippians 1:6 say?

Philippians 1:6 – “6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

So if you believe in Jesus this Christmas season remember this; Your faith was and is a gift from God. He began your faith. You may be the one who exercises your will to believe, but it is only by the power and gift of God that your heart is inclined to do that. And rest in what the rest of Philippians 1:6 says, that God began this “good work” of belief in you, and He will keep you believing in Jesus until you see Him face to face, when you can behold him with your own eyes. Rest this Christmas season knowing that God has sovereignly saved you and given you the Holy Spirit, who will bring about your full salvation. Merry Christmas!

 

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