Tidbits and Blessings Blog
by Jeanie Malone
I’d love for you to join the conversation. Please share your thoughts in the comments section under each entry.
What makes Christianity truly unique? All major religions besides true Christianity are works-based, meaning your future or afterlife is determined by works, or what you do now. Obedience is a big tenet in every religion but in a very different way than it is in Christianity that believes in salvation by grace alone by faith alone in Christ alone.
Obedience in most religions is necessary for salvation or other desired result but is evidence of salvation in true Christianity. Think of a person’s obedience to God’s Word as a result of his or her faith in God and as the evidence others need to believe. Obedience in faith is a testimony of the positive choice regarding the faith God gives each person. Salvation is the result of a choice to submit to God and own the truth of Christ’s sacrifice. Obedience is faithfulness in gratitude for the salvation given in grace through faith.
My most read devotional, My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers, reads the following for March 28: “Faithfulness to Jesus means that I must step out even when and where I can’t see anything (see Matthew 14:29).” Chambers argues that faith is not “intellectual understanding” but is “a deliberate commitment to the Person of Jesus Christ, even when I can’t see the way ahead.” He states that we can know when instructions come from God “because of their quiet persistence.” So while faith employs reason, the emphasis is put on the choice to surrender and commit.
Chambers continues, “When I begin to weigh the pros and cons, and doubt and debate enter into my mind, I am bringing in an element that is not of God. This will only result in my concluding that His instructions to me were not right. Many of us are faithful to our ideas about Jesus Christ, but how many of us are faithful to Jesus Himself?” Youch! That cut is deep and personal, convicting and fruitful.
We see Chambers’ point illustrated when Peter walked on water to Jesus as recorded in Matthew 14:29-31:
And he said, Come. 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. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?
Peter allowed questions and debate to enter his mind; these caused him to doubt reality because it didn’t make sense within his understanding of physics and more. Peter’s faithfulness was only as fruitful as his commitment to Jesus Himself. Once doubt entered Peter’s mind, his commitment lost strength and thereby fruitfulness. Peter was given by God a measure of faith. The fruitfulness of Peter’s faith was determined by Peter’s commitment, or choice to believe.
To have faithfulness, one must have faith. Pastor and preacher Alistair Begg says that it helps to understand what something is by understanding what it is not. He says in a sermon he preached July 22, 2020, titled “What Is Faith?” “Faith is not a subjective feeling that is divorced from the objective truth that God has made known.” He looks at Hebrews 11:1 for a definition of faith, which says in the King James Version, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” In the English Standard Version, it says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” It is the assurance even though there is not a physical, tangible confirmation. Interestingly, the word transliterated as faith is noted as Strong’s #4102 for this verse, meaning it is persuasion given by God alone.
It’s important to note that we use reason in conjunction with the faith God gives us to trust in Him, His love, and His plans, even when we don’t see the whole picture or we lack wisdom or understanding about a situation. However, just like Peter allowing doubt to stop his reciprocation of faith, we often do the same thing by looking at our circumstances instead of focusing on God and fully trusting Him personally regardless of what we can or cannot see or understand.
Looking at the words used concerning faith in the New Testament, when there is a preposition used with a form of pisteuo in the Greek, it is always noted in Strong’s Concordance as #4100, a verb meaning self-persuasion, personal belief, or human confidence. Often, Bible translations say believe or trust since this is a verb use and denotes the use of reason resulting in persuasion of self, rather than persuasion of God; however, only context dictates for certain if this faith, belief, or trust is self-serving or stems from persuasion of God.
Faith is not only activated by evidence but is also evidenced, or proven true, for others to believe, for them to have the evidence they also need to place their personal trust in God. In the Apostle Peter’s first letter, he encouraged wives whose husbands did not yet believe and obey God’s Word, saying that their husbands would be won over by the wives’ beliefs and resulting lifestyles and character.
Faith, as persuasion by God, is evidenced by works, as we see in James 2. This chapter says a lot about activity resulting from faith. Some Bible translations and added section titles may confuse people to think that works are necessary as part of salvation. However, the original intent of this passage seems to be that genuine faith, as persuasion by God, would lead to a determination by one to believe and trust, showing both sides of faith, if you will. Faith is said in James 2 to be evidenced by one’s activity and interactions. James 2:21 says, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?” The original Greek word translated as justified here has several meanings, and one of them means to show proof or evidence. Our works are evidence of our salvation.
In Galatians 5:22-23 we see the fruit of the Spirit: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”
Each listed fruit of the Spirit is a unique quality of God and can only be bestowed by God. The fruit of the Spirit is the result of a close, trusting relationship with God. Besides being another argument for the triune nature of God, this reminds us that we cannot attain these qualities on our own; they are a gift of God.
Faith is listed among the fruit; some translations list it as faithfulness. The original Greek word used is transliterated as pistis, noted in Strong’s Concordance as #4102, which is only used to refer to the persuasion given by God, not something we can produce on our own. Strong’s #4103 is used as an adjective meaning faithful, “typically, of believing the faith God imparts” and seems to represent the other side of faith—our response.
To clarify, studying the uses of the words noted in Strong’s Concordance as #4100, #4102, and #4103, those noted as #4102, typically as a noun, represent the faith given by God. Those noted as #4100 and #4103 represent our response, typically as a verb and an adjective, respectively. God gives us faith and the option of what we do with it. He knows only by His design will faith be fruitful, but in His great love He gives us the choice to commit to Him with our faith or to ignore the fullness of His invitation.
I love Paul’s description and admonition to Timothy in his second letter. Many of us can quote 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind,” but what follows helps us understand the bigger picture: “Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began” (2 Timothy 1:9).
It is God who called us, God who saved us, God who by His purpose and grace gave us faith to believe in this grand plan that was in place long before we were born but that considers us in every aspect. I encourage you to read the entire letter, chapters 1 through 4, which is centered on faith as God gives and as we can choose to commit and live.
Without the faith that only God can give, there would be not fruit of the Spirit, no opportunity to commit and make a choice given by that faith. God provides us with what we need to live a life that successfully honors Him in all things. I credit a friend on Twitter with the following categorization of how the fruit works in our life:
He continues with the reason for adding these:
“For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:1-11).
In 2 Peter 3:18 he says, “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.”
In his letter to the Colossians, the Apostle Paul emphasized the supremacy of Christ and outlined actions of a life lived through faith in Christ as a person of the triune God. That faith would be a choice to believe resulting from the persuasion by God.
Colossians 3:1-2, 10-17 says,
“If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all; Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.”
I encourage you to read the entire letter, or at least the third chapter. This passage shows clearly how our two-fold faith creates a life that is evidence of the God at work in us.
To recap what we learned:
I'm tired of running from God and am trying to learn to run to Him instead.