Friday, March 13, 2009

The Challenges of Righteousness by Faith

What challenges you might ask? Righteousness by Faith (Justification by Faith) can only be thought of as a good thing. Why speak of any challenges?

Basically we are saved by faith through grace and not of ourselves lest anyone should boast (Ephesians 2:8) . To balance this and not slide into so-called "cheap grace", some bring up James' advice about grace without works being dead. (James 2:17)

Morris Venden tells us that the only two (or four) activities we can engage in that open the way for righteousness by faith to kick in are:

  1. Spending time at the feet of Christ through bible study and prayer
  2. Working with Christ through service for others and sharing our faith

Some might feel that the actual time and effort invested in all of these may seem like works themselves. It is important to focus on the fact that prayer and bible study are means to an end. The end is a relationship with Jesus Christ who saves us by his grace.

The service and sharing of our faith are the results of a genuine relationship with Christ. This brings us to the challenges I have alluded to before.

If you spend time in prayer and bible study, but don't share your faith, are you then not saved? Some have suggested that something is wrong in your faith experience if you only nourish yourself, but don't nourish others. While it is relatively easier to sit down with your bible or kneel in prayer at the beginning of each day, going about the sharing of your faith is not as effortless. You have to find the people to share your faith with. You have to have something to say to them that is appropriate so you don't turn them away by any heavy-handed approaches. You have to follow up, give them bible studies, invite them to your church or to evangelistic meetings. It gets more and more complicated.

Tending to the needs of others can be as difficult, but perhaps easier than sharing your faith. You can, for example, contribute to mission fields, charities, etc., and by your means help those in need. If you have more time than money, you could volunteer your time and help out in soup kitchens, or similar groups that benefit those in need.

I would say that just as it is difficult to actually find time for Christ for prayer and bible study, but essential, so it is equally difficult (perhaps even harder) to share your faith with those in need of the good news of salvation.

All of these activities, both the faith-related ones (prayer and bible study) and the works-related ones (service to others and sharing your faith) are impossible for the natural man or woman. These experiences or activities are gifts of the Spirit if they are the genuine article.

Therefore, the only thing you can do is ask God to give you the free gift of his Holy Spirit and he will move you to will (choose) and to do of his own good pleasure (Luke 11:13 and Ezekiel 36:26,27).

Ask for the Spirit of Christ, wait for him to transform and motivate you to seek the relationship with Christ. Look for the change in your life as you read your bible daily and kneel in prayer for divine blessing. Look also for the spontaneous and supernatural change in your life that leads you, out of gratitude, to help those in need and to share your faith with others as the Spirit leads you.

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