Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Living our Faith

I wrote this quite awhile ago (March, I think). I had a lot of questions floating around in my head, and I did what is always best and what I pray will be more and more my first recourse- I prayed and searched God's Word. The following is the unedited result. I never intended to do anything with it, but I shared it with a friend a few weeks ago and she encouraged me to post it. (I believe her words were something like, "I better see this on your blog within a few weeks, or else!") So here you go.

Holiness. What is it? Some thoughts.
We are called to be holy. (1 Peter 1:15-16) So how does that work exactly? One camp looks at the fact that we are no longer under the law, but grace; the fact that we are accepted and forgiven, as freedom to do whatever we want. The problems with that are obvious. (Romans 6:15) Then on the other end there are those who try to be holy by their own effort, esteeming the commands of God and seeking to follow them on their own. This leads either to prideful self-righteousness or defeat and despair. (also see John 15:5, and look at what Jesus said to the pharisees!) Then things get less black and white. There are those who embrace the idea that holiness can only come from Christ working in us, but then see any form of discipline or pursuit of holy living as legalism. Still others become so focused on holiness that they are afraid to rest in Christ's love, even if they are seeking His strength to follow His pattern.

So where is the balance? You can't deny that we are called to holiness and perfection (Matthew 5:48) Obviously this isn't a perfection we can achieve. Our only hope is the shed blood of Christ to cover our sin. We can't meet the righteous requirements of the law, only Jesus could. (Romans 3:23-24) But this should then alter the way we live. (Romans 6:1-2, 4, 7:4) So on the one hand, the work of the believer is to believe. (John 6:29) But what is this believing? We act on what we believe. If I knew that I had inherited a fortune, wouldn't I take steps to actually possess it? If I knew that a car had been given to me, wouldn't I climb in and drive it? Belief determines action. It is not a passive knowing of fact, but a revolutionary, life-altering understanding of truth. What is it that we're believing exactly? We believe that Jesus has given us everything we need for life and godliness! (2 Peter 1:3) We're believing that we are dead to sin and alive in Christ! (Romans 6:3-4) We believe that it is no longer we who live, but Christ who lives in us! (Galatians 2:20) We believe that if we but abide in Him, we will bear much fruit! (John 15:5) We believe that His grace is sufficient for us! (2 Corinthians 12:9)

This is only a drop in the bucket. I haven't even touched the Psalms. Point being, if we step out and act on our belief it is not self-effort given the very nature of that which we are believing. If we are fully depending on His strength and not ours, we can step out in obedience and know that it is Him enabling and directing! If I make no attempt to live as He has called me, do I really believe that He will enable? It wasn't enough for Peter to say, "Yes Lord, I know You will help me." He had to get out of the boat. I'm not talking only about huge steps in life: a new job, ministry, etc. Yes, it's absolutely that, but so much more! I'm talking about every single daily step we take: choosing His way over our own, doing everything without grumbling or arguing (Philippians 2:14), Rejoicing always and praying continually (1 Thessalonians 5:16-17), not worrying (Matthew 6:34), and loving God's way (1 Corinthians 13). Again just a drop in the bucket.

Stepping forward isn't legalism- holiness in our own strength. we step forward believing that God does not lie, and believing that as we respond, He will be faithful to rule and reign, to take control as He enables us to yield. Every bit of the process is Him working through us, but we must consent, and step forward. We are not to work in our own strength, but at the same time, God is not going to just suddenly perfect His righteousness in us while we're on the couch watching movies. Paul tells the Philippians to "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure." (Philippians 2:12b-13) So yes, we work in one sense, believing all the while that it is God working through us, as we submit, for He has promised!