This isn’t a church thing or a religious thing, this is an all of us thing.
You see, our world is full of promises and these promises are things we put our faith in. When we are children, we place our faith in our parents (unfortunately, there are times this leads to some truly deep hurts). Anyone married is trusting by faith in the promise of their spouse. Anyone investing their money is trusting by faith the promises of their financial planner. Anyone working and waiting for a paycheck has placed their faith in their employer that they will come through on payday. There are so many areas of our lives supported by a promise that we have received by faith. The question isn’t “Do I have faith?” It’s “Where have I placed my faith, my trust?”
If you don’t consider yourself a “God” person, that phrase, ‘Faith in Jesus’, might make you a little uneasy or even a little queasy because it sounds so religious and somewhat ambiguous. In fact, that phrase might be so off-putting to you that you’ve never investigated what it actually means; however, I would pose that we investigate, because it’s always dangerous to reject or accept something that you haven’t fully investigated — including things that have no connection to God at all.
I mentioned some examples above, but there are so many worth looking at. How much faith have we placed in our worldview? “It’s not faith, Phil! It is fact!” Okay, maybe, but it is based on somebody else’s word. That is, unless you are the original discoverer or source of said “facts.” All I am saying is that it is ok to be challenged. It is okay to re-examine. It is okay to question.
As a pastor, I am confronted frequently on what I believe and teach. Different points of view are expressed that find what I believe quite offensive. To be fair, most people don’t actually ask me what I believe; they usually tell me what I believe, but I let them roll with it. This is simply because my God can either stand up against the questions, or He shouldn’t be my God.
So what am I putting my faith in? This is where we started, right? Here are two trains of thought:
1. Sin is being fully persuaded that I have the power to do what God has promised. Which means, I believe that I can control my life better than God could, and so I will take matters into my own hands.
Or opposed to that:
2. Faith is being fully persuaded that God has the power to do what God has promised. Which is God’s promise to us of forgiveness and justification for free by faith.
For many of us, I think this can be quite tough. When I think about the stain of sin on my life, I am quick to doubt that God’s promise could be true. When I think about my regret, I doubt that God can do what he said he would do. It’s like there’s this voice in my head that says, “See, that proves it. Look at what you did, look at what you’ve done. You are a failure, and you will never be good enough. There’s no way God will accept you.” Then we take matters into our own hands. We think, “I’ll give more, I’ll serve more, I’ll never do that, I’ll do this every week,” and we trust ourselves rather than trusting God (or we simply reject God all together).
I would contest that it is in these moments where faith is a different experience than simply believing in God’s existence, but actually looking at His promise. It’s in those moments that we have faith and trust his promise.
It sounds like this: “God, You know who I am and I have nothing to prove to You. All I have to lean on and hope in, is Your promise that forgiveness and justification are a gift from You. I can’t prove why You should accept me, but I can point to Jesus and because of Him would you accept me?” God’s promise to that question is always “Yes!”
Now there is a distinction between the two things: forgiveness and justification. They’re not the same thing.
Forgiveness says, “You may go.” This is great. This means, your sins are gone, you’re free to God, but justification goes deeper than that.
Justification says, “You may come.” This means that I can stand in the presence of a Holy God, clothed in the righteousness of Christ. You now have all the rights of a certain status. You are welcome in My presence.
Forgiveness takes sin away from your life. Justification places something into your life. Forgiveness is getting out of jail. Justification is being welcomed home.
Now you might be thinking, “I’m not really religious so all this talk of justification doesn’t apply to me.” Hold on. We all have to justify our existence. So justification is a problem for all of us. Righteousness is your performance record that you point to for your acceptance. Our relationship with God is based on the performance record of Jesus. His record is imputed to our record. It is credited to our account based on our trust in His promise.
Gospel Truth: Righteousness is something God puts in your account, not something you pay out of your account.
Romans 3:21-24 says, “But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”
It’s usually at this point, people think, “Well, if it’s all free, then people can live however they want, there is no incentive to live a good life.” No, No, No. If, when you lose all fear of punishment and just live however you want, your only incentive for doing good was to avoid punishment. If that’s the case, you were doing good for you, which isn’t good at all. If you think, “I better be good to avoid something,” your good is essentially selfish. Only when we have been given everything for free, do we serve others freely.
You don’t have to take my word for it, but I do think it is food for thought: What are we placing our faith in today? Is it things that seemingly fall apart or don’t last or could it be something bigger than that? My hope and prayer for you is that you would consider putting it in the one who saves: Our Lord Jesus.
See you out there!
Phil Wiebe is the lead pastor at Lakeview Church in Stansbury Park.