Faith Is Works, Right?
Is placing your faith in Christ just a different way of saying, “earn your ticket to heaven”?
That's a question that I've received often over the years. It usually crops up when a friend and I begin talking about, “grace.”
Remember, grace is God lavishing God's love on us through Christ. This lavishing of God's love is nothing that we earn. It's nothing that we can bring on ourselves. It is the effect of Christ choosing to reconcile all things through the cross. Christ sets all things right and then we get to experience this God-wrought-loving-justice by faith.
Over the years I have thought often about the nature of faith. Faith, is something that is hard to put my arms around.
I don't know if I will ever be able to come to a clear conclusion to what “faith” really is. It seems like it always just out of reach. I know it when I see it. I know it when I feel it. Sure, there are technical definitions.
Such as, “complete trust or confidence in someone or something.”
But, similarly to the technical definition of grace, these really seem to be left wanting.
Though, the former as opposed to the latter rings more true. This idea of faith being “complete trust or confidence” resonates deeply with me. I think that it does so because it is experiential. When faith is connected to “belief” it moves it more towards a sense of intellectual ascent. Faith is thicker, richer, more dense than just believing.
In Hebrews 11:1 the author defines faith this way, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” This is not intellectual ascent. This is something experiential. The author goes on to say that “this is what the ancients were commended for.” The rest of this chapter is the retelling of people who never saw their faith become reality. Yet, this confident trust in the things hoped for drove their lives.
Could it be that what faith does is that opens the way to allow us to experience the grace that freely offered us?
I think it may be just that.
So, this is what I'm wrestling with. To be very clear, I haven't come to any conclusions. These are simply thoughts running around in my head.
If I preach the gospel of grace through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ and then simultaneously preach that faith is required to receive this grace, does it not cease to be the free gift?
It seems to me that for grace to be the free gift that is described in the New Testament that it must be, by definition, unconditional. To add conditions to grace would undermine grace as the very thing that grace supposes to be, would it not?
If those things are true faith then becomes the means by which we experience the grace that is already present all around us.
Perhaps we can think of it this way: If you attend a 3D movie without the glasses the film is blurry and useless. You simply cannot experience the 3D movie without the glasses. You can catch important parts of the film like the soundtrack and dialogue but you are missing the very thing that makes a 3D movie special. When we put on the 3D glasses we are now able to fully experience the movie in all of its richness and depth. The glasses don't make the film 3D. It was 3D all along, the glasses allow us to experience it!
Is it possible that this is what faith is? It is the lens by which we experience what has been there all along? Without faith (trust and confidence) in Christ we are missing the full 3D experience of grace. When we trust Christ grace explodes into our experience. We can now experience the richness of all that God in Christ has wrought through the Cross.
So, could it be that faith is not required to receive grace but that faith is necessary to experience grace?
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