There is a belief that has been around for a long time that states that once we have come to know Jesus Christ as Savior, that nothing more is really required of us. And if we keep on living our lives any way we want and/or pretty much how we did before we came to know Jesus, that he will understand and it will be okay and we will still end up in Heaven at the end of our lives here on earth. I guess that is the postmodern version of salvation, but then it has always been around in one form or another down through the ages. We know it as “easy believism” with no requirements attached.
Jesus was both compassionate and clear in his dealings with sinners (hence, all of us, too). For example, while he showed great compassion to the woman who was caught in the act of adultery by a group of Pharisees who brought her to him to be stoned (see John 8:1-11), he did not condemn her (and he told the Pharisees that those who had no sin should cast the first stone, and they all walked away). He did say to her after the Pharisees left that she should “Go now and leave your life of sin” (John 8:11, NIV). He didn’t tell her it was okay to continue on in her current lifestyle. However, the choice was still hers to make.
The New Testament is replete with instructions and examples of how Christians should live in any cultural environment we might find ourselves in. Christianity transcends any culture; it does not become a part of it while existing in the midst of it, and genuine Christianity has always been this way. Three of the chief attributes that are clearly apparent when it is in operation in our lives are compassion, kindness, and forgiveness towards everyone, even our enemies. If we choose to keep on living the way we did before we knew Jesus after we claim to have come to know him, a genuine change of heart has most likely never taken place. True faith brings with it a genuine commitment to the One we believe in.
A.W. Tozer (1897-1963) wrote the following chapter (4) titled, “We Must Have True Faith,” in his book, “This World: Playground or Battleground” (compiled by Harry VerPlouegh and published in 1989), regarding true faith and genuine commitment to Jesus Christ:
To many Christians Christ is little more than an idea, or at best an ideal; He is not a fact. Millions of professed believers talk as if He were real and act as if He were not. And always our actual position is to be discovered by the way we act, not by the way we talk. We can prove our faith by our committal to it, and in no other way. Any belief that does not command the one who holds it is not a real belief; it is a pseudo belief only. And it might shock some of us profoundly if we were brought suddenly face to face with our beliefs and forced to test them in the fires of practical living.
Many of us Christians have become extremely skillful in arranging our lives so as to admit the truth of Christianity without being embarrassed by its implications. We arrange things so that we can get on well enough without divine aid, while at the same time ostensibly seeking it. We boast in the Lord, but watch carefully that we never get caught depending on Him. “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).
Pseudo faith always arranges a way out to serve in case God fails. Real faith knows only one way and gladly allows itself to be stripped of any second way or makeshift substitutes. For true faith, it is either God or total collapse. And not since Adam first stood up on earth has God failed a single man or woman who trusted Him. The man of pseudo faith will fight for his verbal creed but refuse flatly to allow himself to get into a predicament where his future must depend upon that creed being true. He always provides himself with secondary ways of escape so he will have a way out if the roof caves in.
The faith of Paul or Luther was a revolutionizing thing. It upset the whole life of the individual and made him into another person altogether. It laid hold on the life and brought it under obedience to Christ. It took up its cross and followed along after Jesus with no intention of going back. It said goodbye to its old friends as certainly as Elijah when he stepped into the fiery chariot and went away in the whirlwind. It had a finality about it… It realigned all life’s actions and brought them into accord with the will of God.
What we need very badly these days is a company of Christians who are prepared to trust God as completely now, as they must do at the last day. For each of us the time is surely coming when we shall have nothing but God! Health and wealth and friends and hiding places will all be swept away and we shall have only God. To the man of pseudo faith that is a terrifying thought, but to real faith it is one of the most comforting thoughts the heart can entertain.
It would be a tragedy indeed to come to the place where we have no other but God and find that we had not really been trusting God during the days of our earthly sojourn. It would be better to invite God now to remove every false trust, to disengage our hearts from all secret hiding places and to bring us out into the open where we can discover for ourselves whether we actually trust Him. This is a harsh cure for our troubles, but it is a sure one! Gentler cures may be too weak to do the work. And time is running out on us. (Quote source here.)
It’s easy to learn the outward signs of Christianity and to be accepted as a Christian with absolutely no genuine change of heart that changes our very lives from the inside out. And there are some unwritten rules in cultural Christianity and if we learn and follow them, we will be accepted, but that doesn’t make us a Christian. We can act nice and say all the right words and dress just right and still hate our neighbor without telling anyone (although our nonverbal communication might give it away). And we can feel comfortable sitting in church on Sunday morning without it affecting how we live and interact with others (especially those we don’t particularly like) during the week. And we can cover up our true feelings just by being nice on the surface but it is never hidden from God.
It’s easy to live a “fake” Christianity and not realize it here in America as so much of our culture has invaded the church and often not much is required of us. However, it’s a whole lot harder to live out a genuine Christianity as it can upset one’s whole world in ways one never imagined. Most of the conversions in the New Testament revolutionized the lives of those affected. The twelve disciples and the apostle Paul are prime examples of that dramatic and literally life changing experience that turned their lives completely around for their remaining years on earth. Instead, today we tend to attach Jesus to the lives we already have, and we often live in a “Jesus and…” world much of the time. It’s Jesus and money, or Jesus and power, or Jesus and prestige, or Jesus and materialism, or Jesus and popularity, or Jesus and career, or Jesus and (fill in the blank). And we too often give the “and” stuff primary importance in our lives instead of Jesus. And, it’s easy to do, too. So easy, in fact, that we don’t often recognize what we have done.
The real issue is that no matter how much we may claim to believe in Jesus Christ or follow him, we usually still keep “self” at the forefront. And we end up asking Jesus for what we want instead of coming to him and laying our lives at his feet and letting him do what he wants with our lives. God does, indeed, have a plan for each and every one of us. Unfortunately, we can easily usurp his plan for one of our own, and we end up asking him to bless what we plan instead of asking him what he has planned for our lives or what he would have us to do–even in the smallest of ways–like being kind to the person at work who wants our job and has made that fact known, and by not retaliating against that person in any way in return, even if we end up losing that job. That kind of response is getting at the very heart of the gospel message. The same thing goes for being passed over for a promotion we deserved by someone with less experience and qualifications, or any number of circumstances and situations that come our way in all types of settings that give us a choice in how we will response.
It is not only in the “big” decisions in life, like a career decision, or marriage partner, that we should seek God’s will and not just our own, but it is in all of the little decisions that come our way on a daily basis that require a choice even when nobody else may ever know about that choice. It is a matter of the heart, and not just the head. It is a faith that goes beyond reason and totally depends on God for guidance.
Genuine faith does not depend on sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). In answer to the question, “What does it mean to walk by faith and not by sight?”, GotQuestions?org gives the following answer:
Second Corinthians 5:6–7 says, “So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight” (ESV). Other versions use the word “live,” rather than “walk.” The “walk” here is a metaphorical reference to the way a person conducts his or her life. We still use the phrase “all walks of life” to mean a variety of lifestyles or cultures.
The apostle Paul reminds his readers that followers of Christ must not build their lives around things that have no eternal significance. Rather than pursuing the same things the world pursues, a Christian should focus on the unseen realities such as Jesus and heaven. Paul goes on to say, “So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Corinthians 5:9–10). Jesus instructed us to store up treasure in heaven (Matthew 6:19–20; Luke 12:33). He promised rewards to everyone who does His will (Matthew 16:27; 1 Peter 1:17; Revelation 22:12) and punishment for those who reject Him (Matthew 25:24–46; John 3:16–18).
Walking by faith means living life in light of eternal consequences. To walk by faith is to fear God more than man; to obey the Bible even when it conflicts with man’s commands; to choose righteousness over sin, no matter what the cost; to trust God in every circumstance; and to believe God rewards those who seek Him, regardless of who says otherwise (Hebrews 11:6).
Rather than loving the things of this world (1 John 2:15–16), Christians should spend their lives glorifying God in everything they do (1 Corinthians 10:31). It requires faith to live this way because we cannot see, hear, or touch anything spiritual. When we base our lives on the truth of God’s Word, rather than on the popular philosophy of our day, we are going against our natural inclinations. Our natural instincts may be to horde money, but walking by faith says we should “give to those in need” (Luke 11:41; Ephesians 4:28). Society may say that sexual immorality is acceptable, but those who walk by faith base their standards on the unchangeable nature of God’s Word, which says any sex outside of marriage is sin (1 Corinthians 6:18; Ephesians 5:3; Galatians 5:19). To walk by faith requires that we tune our hearts to the voice of the Holy Spirit and the truth of His Word (John 10:27; 16:13). We choose to live according to what God reveals to us, rather than trust our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5–6). (Quote source here.)
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.
By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.
By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.
By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.” For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.
By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.
All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.
By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future.
By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.
By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions concerning the burial of his bones.
By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.
By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. By faith he kept the Passover and the application of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.
By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.
By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the army had marched around them for seven days.
By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.
And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames,and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength;and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.
These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us [Jesus Christ] so that only together with us would they be made perfect.
One of the more well known examples of faith in action in the New Testament is when Peter walked on water (see Matthew 14:22-33, Mark 6:45-52, John 6:16-21). Here’s a cute and very, very relevant version of the story from ChildrenSermons.com:
The disciples had a long tiring day and Jesus sent them out in the boat to go over to another town. It was a dark stormy night (couldn’t resist that line) and the wind was tossing the waves around. In the middle of the night, they thought they were seeing a ghost when Jesus came to them walking on the sea! Jesus saw they were scared and told them not to be afraid. When they were the most afraid, he told them to cheer up, he was with them! God has to take the storm out of us before He can take us out of the storms of life.
Peter must have wondered if it really was Jesus or just their imagination. He asked Jesus to tell him to come out on the water with him if this was really happening. Jesus didn’t say, “I’m sorry, Peter, but water-walking is for Messiahs only.” No, he said one simple word: Come. God calls us to do impossible things by faith. It must have taken a lot of faith by Peter to take that first step out of the boat in the middle of the wind and waves. When he did, Peter walked on water! The Bible says,
And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. – Matthew 14:29, 30
Peter was doing fine until he took his eyes off Jesus. As long as he had faith, he did impossible things. He kept his eyes on Jesus and walked on water. When he looked around at the world, he started believing that the storm was going to defeat him. He lost faith. He took his eyes off Jesus, and he began to sink. If we forget that Jesus is right there to help us, we can let the storms of life cause us to sink. If we keep our eyes on Jesus, we can do mighty things for God by faith.
Then Peter uttered what is probably the shortest prayer in the Bible: Lord, save me. Everyone needs to say that prayer. We ALL need Jesus to save us. He is our only hope. Jesus told Peter he should not have doubted. When they got back in the ship, everyone on board came and worshiped Jesus, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God. Whenever we do something with God’s help we need to remember to give Him the glory for it. ~Adapted from “Keep Your Eyes On Jesus” as told by Rev. Lewis Shaffer, Son Shine Ministries International, Inc. (Quote source here.)
So let’s not be doubters but instead be people who live by faith . . . .
Fixing our eyes on Jesus . . .
The Author and Finisher of our faith . . . . ~Hebrews 12:1-2
YouTube Video: “Beyond Me” by TobyMac: