“You are saved by faith and faith alone.”
So many Christians have been “brought to Christ” by this statement. This simple easy message of “just say this prayer and you are good!”
I myself have even been taught this.
“If you would like to be a Christian just say this simple prayer along with me…”
Followed by some variation of “Dear God, I acknowledge that I am a sinner and I believe that you sent your son Jesus down to Earth to die on the cross…” and so on.
Here is one I found online.
“It is very simple to be saved–simply admit to Jesus that you are a hell-deserving sinner. Believe that He is Almighty God. Believe that He shed His blood on the cross to pay for your sins. Believe that Jesus died, was buried and then rose again after three days for you. This good news is called the “Gospel.” Pray and ask Jesus to forgive you of your sins and save you. Don’t rely upon anyone or anything in this world to save you except Jesus Christ alone! Make the decision to rely upon Jesus with all your heart for salvation. Ask Him to forgive you and He WILL save you. That’s it friend! See, it’s very simple to be saved.”
Many, so MANY Christians think that this is all that it takes. Just say a prayer, believe that Jesus is God and go about your ways.
Most people would use the most famous verse John 3:16.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
And this is where this issue of translation comes in. Because that verse right there kinda sounds like well if you believe in him there is nothing else you really need to do. But what this actual translation is is this:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
Anyone catch the difference?
Should and shall are two really different words. Eerily similar. But completely different. If we look at it as shall it comes off as a definite. Scholars would state that this verse is one of the most misinterpreted verses in the Bible and that if John were alive today he would be madder than…hell. (dun duh chaaaaa) (And ya’ll can google this for the speculations.)
So going back to the implications of “shall not perish.”
That you are saved by Faith, and faith alone.
Others measure their faith or if they are a “good Christian” by how often they attend church, prayer, flip through their Bible. Yes, all these things are important, but are they enough? Is all that it really comes down to in the end, is saying that simple prayer that Jesus is who he says he is?
So what is a Christian? What does it mean to “become a Christian”?
Jesus says in John that “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born again?”
By accepting christ we are dead to sin, but alive in Christ. Reborn in Christ. When you accept Christ as your saviour people refer to it as being alive “in” Christ. But what does it mean to accept Christ? To believe in him?
What is believing in Jesus? Believing that he came and died for our sins or believing that his way is the BEST way to live. That his WAY is the TRUTH. And that THAT truth is LIFE.
Jesus is the new LIFE. So by accepting Jesus, you are saying you are going to live a new way. You are dead to your old self and alive in his ways. The WAY of TRUTH.
There is a change that happens in you. You are not who you were. You are a new creation. You are “in Christ”. God looks at us and sees Christ. We are made alive “in” Christ.
In Colossians Paul writes that being alive in Christ (being a CHRISTIAN) means that “you died, and your LIFE is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your LIFE, appears (returns), then you will appear with him in glory(Heaven).
He continues to put even more emphasis on the point:
“You USED to walk in these ways, in the life you ONCE lived. But now you must also rid yourself of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, (and my favorite) and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your OLD self with its practices and have put on the NEW self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”
This is what it takes everyone. Not just saying I believe Jesus is who is says he is, but I believe Jesus’ WAY is the TRUTH and that I am devoting my LIFE to that. Constantly building on my knowledge of who Christ is and living by that so that when people look at me they see the image of Christ. They see who he is. Paul makes is pretty clear what a CHRISTIAN is. It means abandoning your old self. If you just say you are a Christian yet a constant change is not made in your life then you are not Christian. That seems really harsh and some might even say “Who are you to say who is a Christian and who isn’t!?!?!?”
Christians are called Christ “followers”. Meaning we follow his ways and we spend every moment working towards that.
My roommate and I were having a long discussion on this topic. To which this statement was made: “Then God wants me to become someone else? He doesn’t want me to be me?”
Because God made me in his image and he doesn’t make mistakes and he made me into who I am. Why should I change that? This whole “Just be yourself.” message.
I read a quote today that was just perfect for this.
“Somewhere in you, is the you whom you were made to be.”
“We need you to be you.”
To which the answer the to the above question is: In our current state, we are someone else. Not the real us. God doesn’t want us to be somebody else, He wants us to come back to who we really are, which is that pure whole version he intended us to be.
When man was created, God said that it was “good”. But we have long since gotten off that path. So far off that path that God had to come down here and remind us how to live. To be our true selves. To show his way that we had long forgotten. It wasn’t even that faith was lacking it’s that the way we were meant to live had gotten so far off path that we needed reminding.
If it is faith alone then why bother doing anything different with your life. You could just look Jesus in the face come salvation time and say “Hey dude, I said my prayer.”
And here’s what Jesus would say to you.
“Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but those who do the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 7:21
In other words, not everyone who considers themselves a Christian is going to heaven.
Which made me ask a question.
Is it more important to live a life for Christ, or a life like Christ?
Yes, they are different.
You can not be a Christian and live a life similar to Christ. Ghandi would be the most prime example. And you can “be a Christian” and not do anything Christ taught. Prime example here would be Hitler.
So let’s address that.
Cause in this statement couldn’t you argue that Jesus is saying “It’s not your faith in me that I’m seeking. I want you to live like me. To live the way God intended you to live. To do his will.”?
Faith by itself is dead.
In James 2:14 it states “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if people claim to have faith but have no deeds? Can such faith save them?”
And then there is this little analogy.
“If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?”
Good point dude.
“In the same way, faith by itself, if not accompanied by action, is dead.”
But to go back to the “well which is more important, to live a life FOR christ, or a life LIKE Christ”. Guess what they talk about this.
“But someone will say “You have faith; I have deeds.”
“Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.”
His faith is shown by the way he lives. The right way to show your faith is by how you live.
And perhaps one of the biggest slaps across the face in the entire Bible follows this.
“You believe that there is one God. GOOD! Even the demons believe that-and shudder.”
James is saying “So you believe in God? SO WHAT!? Even the devil’s angels believe in him.”
Faith is completely MEANINGLESS without action.
James then goes on to talk about Abraham and his faith and actions towards God.
“You see that his faith and his actions were working TOGETHER, and his faith was made complete by what he did.”
Faith made COMPLETE by what he did. His deeds were his faith. Without the deeds faith was just some word.
“You see that people are justified by what they do and not by faith alone.”
It’s not saying that faith doesn’t matter. It’s saying that faith is only real with deeds.
It’s all about faith, but faith that God’s way, Jesus’ way is THE way. Because Jesus shows us the way through his deeds. We have faith that his way is the truth. And we live out that faith by doing what Jesus did. Not just by saying “Oh yeah I believe Jesus was a cool dude and did stuff.”
In the book of Matthew Jesus says “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.”
Many people live life and miss the point. There are a lot of things we can succumb to and get off the path with. There are many other “ways” we can choose to live life but they all lead to destruction. It’s like driving down the interstate and every foot there’s another exit. And each route won’t take you to your destination. You spend the whole trip looking for your exit. But which one is the right one? And on this road it’s rush hour. Things are flying by and you are missing exit after exit not sure which is yours.
Jesus continues: “But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life…”
But the road that leads to life it’s a one way street without detours. The direction you should go is very clear. The path was made very clear to us and this path leads to life. Life in its rawest most truthful form.
Now this is not saying that we as people are incapable of getting off this path it’s just saying that the actual path itself is a very clear one way street. The actual path has no errors. It is the way, a straight shot to life in it’s rawest most truthful form.
That sounds amazing! Something so obvious must be pretty easy to find.
“…and only a few find it.”
So what is the path, what are we looking for?
The path is Jesus. (Nobody thought I would say that did they?) To follow him. Because he is the way. That way is the truth. And that truth is life.
But something is left out here. Grace.
There’s works, there’s faith, and there’s this third thing: Grace.
In Ephesians it states: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast.”
Now wait just a crock-potting minute. WHAT!?
THIS IS SO CONFUSING!!!!!!!!
So we are not saved by our works? But by grace, which we receive with faith? But faith without works is dead?
So here we go: What is Grace?
Grace is receiving something good that you do not deserve.
So we are saved through being given something good that we did not deserve?
God’s intent for man was to be perfect. But man messed up was tempted by the devil and brought sin into the world so we will never be perfect. We will never be perfect.
So the grace of God came down as Jesus. Lived a perfect life. Defeated sin. Paid our price.
He stood in our place and said “No I did that for him.”
Which when talking about grace you have to bring in this FOURTH thing.
Mercy would be not getting the punishment that you do deserve.
Here’s what it says in Ephesians before the grace talk. Now keep in mind Paul states that these people are already “faithful in Christ” already Christ followers. He is writing to Christians:
Ephesians 2:1-7 states:
As for you, you WERE dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient (The Devil).”
So these people USED TO live a way that was of The Devil, of the World. Meaning they are no longer living this way. They are now living a life like Christ. They are now living his way.
“All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.”
So man by nature was deserving of wrath. We all deserve wrath. God’s wrath. Even the disciples were deserving of God’s wrath.
“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive in Christ even when we were dead in transgressions (even when we were still sinners)-it is by grace that you have been saved.”
So we all deserved hell. Because we were not perfect like God intended us to be. And this really, really upset God. So much that he gave us another chance. Another way. And this…is God’s grace. The standard was perfection. But we had gotten so far from perfection that it wasn’t even possible for us any more. So Jesus stepped in and took the price. He gave us the opportunity.
Man could not on his own earn salvation. It was not by his works alone that he could enter the kingdom of God. Because man could never be perfect. No matter how good of a life he lived, he was still a sinner. Sin separates you from God. So Jesus gave us another way. And in this new way you put your faith. And with this faith:
“God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”
So let’s come back to where our grace talk started.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith.”
Grace through faith.
We receive grace by having faith, and faith without action (without living like Christ) is meaningless. So we prove our faith by trying to live like Christ and we receive grace even though as imperfect human beings we don’t deserve it.
Grace didn’t ultimately save us. Grace through faith does.
Grace was God giving us another chance, another way. Jesus.
Jesus is the way.
Faith in this way brings us grace. And we are saved by grace through faith.
(Almost catchy it’s so back and forth)
Faith in a way. A way that brings us salvation. That brings us life.
But “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” Because the faith is in Jesus. Who by God’s grace saved us by providing a new way.
We are saved by this way. So we must follow the way to be saved.
“Only a few find it.”
There were two essentials that Jesus taught us to be his way. Do these two things and you keep the commandments. (The law/ten commandments) Because as Jesus says:
“All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Jesus says the greatest commandment. The most important thing to do. The way to live His way.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.”
How’s that for a “Love wins.”
May we all find the way that leads to the narrow road that leads to life in it’s rawest form. The way we were intended to live.
May we seek truth.
May we seek Jesus.
May we all see that faith in Jesus means action; That faith in his way means doing things his way, NOT ours.
May we all realize that being a Christian means that we are dead to ourselves….
And alive in Christ.
“Jesus answered, I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”-John 14:6