I seem to be infinitely stuck on the matter of faith and works. I feel as though I have read most of what everyone's opinion is on the matter, but I cannot reach a conclusion by myself.
Here is how my thought process goes:
1. The Bible explains that we are saved by faith alone.
2. The Bible explains that the evidence of a person's faith in Jesus is the works that he does, or in other words, how he lives his life thereafter.
I understand this and truly believe both statements, however, there is great conflict within me about something that I feel God might be calling me to do, and I am to scared and ashamed to do it because of fear, but I at least used to believe that I was saved. So now instead of the question "how many works do I need to do to earn salvation," the question for me becomes "how many works do I need to do to show the evidence of my salvation?
If all true, genuine faith in Jesus Christ will result in good deeds being done, walking with Christ, and listening to the Spirit when it calls us to do something, and I do not always listen to the Spirit when it calls me to do something, then am I even saved? I do not like it when people say "If people don't have good works, then Christ was never really a part of their life" or "If people's actions do not follow what God commands, then they never truly accepted him as Savior" because I feel like if this were true, then no one could know if they were saved. I do think that I am talking about works to earn salvation, I am think that I am talking about works to "keep" salvation.
I believe in my heart that Jesus died for my sins so that I could gain eternal life, but according to the things that I wrote about above, it feels like to me that if I basically deliberately do not do what I think the Holy Spirit may want me to do, then I am not saved and/or never was.
I am sorry, I just saw a similar question on you website that someone asked and I need further explanation, because I feel that my salvation is at stake. I hope that long-winded emails like this one are something that you guys respond to, but if not I understand. I am truly asking all of this with a humble heart and hope that you can help me.
Thank-you for your help and your ministry.
thanks for the email. I'm not sure which question on my site you were looking at but this one might be useful (if you haven't read it)
What you'll find, and are finding, is that the law/good works is a terrible
way of trying to be saved but can be equally bad in judging whether you are
saved. Yes, there should be signs of the new life in every true born again
believer but judging ourselves on whether there are enough signs or enough works
is the problem. Why? Because none of us can EVER say that we have done enough,
obeyed enough, loved enough, cared enough that way. There is no end to it so it
doesn't surprise me that you could say that you seem 'infinitely
stuck' in this problem! In fact, as you go on as a Christian you normally
see more of what you are actually like in your own munted, deceitful heart.
I've been a Christian 25 years now and I can speak with complete honesty and
say that if my own salvation came down to whether I thought I do enough today,
obey enough, love enough, I wouldn't think I'd make it either. If I was
only looking at the times that I have exerted my own will and not obeyed what I
felt God was asking me to do, (and was judging my salvation on that alone) then I
wouldn't have confidence either. We are all in a battle . We all have areas
of our lives that are not as we would like. That is not to excuse it but what you
will find as you go on is that your fallen nature is much worse than you
initially ever realised and God's grace is far greater than you ever
understood as well. John Newton, the ex-slave trader and author of the incredible
hymn 'Amazing Grace' said it well when he wrote this near the end of
"Although my memory's fading, I remember two things very clearly: I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior.”
You know that a person can't be saved by good works but you are thinking that your lack of obedience in one area means that you aren't saved. So in your heart, you can NEVER be at rest that way. The Bible says that the heart needs to be established in grace.
Hebrews 13:9 NKJV Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines. For it is good that the heart be established by grace, not with foods which have not profited those who have been occupied with them.
This is not just theological points or arguments. It is real life... it is the basis for true growth for the Christian. Without a rock solid foundation in the grace of God the enemy will accuse and use whatever he can to get you to doubt your salvation. And he is a master at it having had many many years of experience. You could be obeying God in lots of areas but he will condemn you in one and get you focused on one area that you may be failing in. Given time, with that focus, all you can see is your own failings.
I think also that you are failing to see what is the greatest 'work' anyone can ever do. The Bible says that without faith it is impossible to please God. The opposite is also true - faith pleases God and is the greatest 'work' that God looks for.
John 6:28-29 NKJV Then they said to Him, "What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?" (29) Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent."
Please also have a look at the following link for it has a lot of wise advise from a godly old man from yesteryear (William Newell):
Especially look at the last two sections concerning the proper attitude of a man
under grace and what gracious souls discover. For example:
To believe, and consent to be loved while unworthy, is the great secret.
To expect to be blessed, though realising more and more lack of worth.
Real devotion to God arises, not from man’s will to show it but from the discovery that blessing has been received from God while we were yet unworthy and undevoted.
In writing this, I am not trying to downplay the importance of obedience (and God as our loving Father can deal with our disobedience if necessary) but without the right foundation there won't be growth. The heart won't be settled. It has to be established in grace. That is the rich soil in which God's life in us develops and grows. And always thank God. To go forward, be humble and honest with Him as to where you are at and what you struggle with (for He knows all our issues better than us anyway) but always be thankful. Even if it is in some small area where you have seen some change. Because in doing so you are exercising faith and freeing the Holy Spirit to keep working out His ways in you. In thankfulness you are getting your eyes off yourself and onto Him. I'll just end with another John Newton quote:
“I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world; but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am.”
I believe we all need our eyes open to this grace and I'll ask the Lord to do this for you. I don't say this because I think you are not saved. I believe you are. But there is a need to base our Christian life on the right foundation in moving forward and not getting stuck. I had to be reminded of this over and over when I was a young Christian and my Mother especially repeatedly shared with me about grace a lot... cos I kept forgetting or was focusing on the wrong things! Anyway, enough said. God is good. I will pray. Let me know how you get on : )
May God Bless,
Thank you for your response, it has definitely encouraged me to develop a basis in trusting in God's grace over trusting in my works as "gauge" of salvation. I would say that I began to view my (and other's) salvation as a matter of how much they changed or what they did after accepting grace and trusting God after watching a video sermon by Francis Chan on YouTube. I know that Francis never says during his sermon that salvation is by works, but I feel as though he is somewhat implying it in how he preaches about the subject. This video still scares me (or convicts me) and because of this sermon I first felt that how I was acting and living wasn't enough. I do not think that what you believe and what he believes are two totally different things, but I feel as though some of your ideas contradict his. For instance, it appears as though Francis Chan puts much more emphasis on works, otherwise we would be "spit out of God's mouth." To better understand what exactly it is that I am feeling I think that you would have to watch the video. I would really appreciate your input on this sermon. I apologize that it is 40 minutes long :)
This following one is only 10 minutes long but preaches a similar message.
Thank you again for taking the time to write to me, as I feel that I do not closely know many people who have the viewpoint that you do, backed by much Scripture.
I watched the videos. While I've heard of those speakers I hadn't listened to any of their messages before. I guess part of the big problem, especially in the US, is that according to the polls, between 75-85% of the population call themselves Christian. Which is a ridiculously high and unrealistic number of those that would be genuine born again believers. And so these speakers (these ones you have given me anyway) have this in mind. They are mindful of the fact that there are many professors of Christianity who are not possessors of the Lord. And that is a real valid problem. I live in New Zealand and we have just under 50% of the population that responds on our census survey's as being Christian - while only about 10% go to a church regularly and probably the actual true born again percentage would be something like 5%. So there will certainly be a lot of people that think of themselves as Christian but don't have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ - they just have religion - or some denominational affiliation - or call themselves Christian because their parents were and their parents before them. The scripture Paul Washer used is certainly appropriate for these:
Matthew 7:21-23 NIV Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. (22) Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' (23) Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'
But note that Jesus says to these that 'I never knew you'. It's not that He did know them and their works weren't good enough or they weren't 'passionate' or 'hot' enough. He never knew them. They never had a personal saving faith and relationship with the Lord Jesus. Anyway, so I understand why the speakers are saying what they are but they cast a very wide net which unfortunately gets true believers questioning their salvation as well, and often does come across as salvation by works even if they say it isn't.
For example, the Francis Chan video had quite a few errors in it. If that was the only message you heard about the Gospel you would be left thinking that to be saved you have to sell and give up everything you have (through his use of the rich young ruler and repeated references to the parable of the treasure in the field). Both of these examples were wrong in my opinion to what the scripture is actually teaching. To understand, first we need to ask 'What is the purpose of the law?' One of the main purposes of the law was to shut every mouth and hold everyone accountable to God (Rom 3:19). Having done that, the purpose of the law was to bring people to the Savior so that they could be saved on the basis of faith and grace (Gal 3:24-25) So why did Jesus tell the rich young ruler that to gain eternal life he had to obey the 10 commandments? And when the rich young ruler said he had done this, why did Jesus tell the rich young ruler that he had to sell all that he had? Because the law had not shut his mouth yet! He came to Jesus saying 'what good thing must I do to inherit eternal life?' He came by the law so Jesus answered him by the law... so that the law would convict and shut his mouth. Once the law has done it's job in the life of a seeker, they WON'T COME ASKING WHAT GOOD THING MUST I DO... they will come falling down at His feet saying 'have mercy on me, a sinner'. They would know that there isn't anything they can do to inherit eternal life by their good works because they fall hopelessly and utterly short. They will come and fall on His grace and mercy. It is the only way.
Same goes for Chan's use of the treasure in the field parable. He got the whole thing backwards. The parable is not about seekers giving up all they have to purchase a field (which is said to be the world) so that they can get the treasure. The 'man' in the field who gives up everything is the Lord Jesus, not us. He gave up everything, even His very life, to purchase the field (the world) so that He could get the treasure (true believers) within the field. To swap it around and say that believers in Christ have to sell all they have to gain Christ (as 'noble' as it sounds) simply puts a rod on the back of believers which is too heavy to bear. We all fall short if that is what is required for salvation. It would mean that salvation is not a free gift of righteousness (Rom 5:17, 6:23) but is purchased by us - which is the opposite of the gospel.
In terms of the message to the Laodicean church, I don't want to take away from its impact for it is a relevant and serious problem for parts of the Western church especially. But it is good to note how being 'lukewarm' is defined by the Lord. This church felt self sufficient and comfortable to the extend that they say they have no need of anyone (including the Lord). A true believer would never say that - they know their own heart and their continual need for Him! Jesus is actually seen outside of the church, knocking on the door! They have a little bit of religion but are hypocrites. John MacArthur calls them an 'unsaved' church and there is certainly evidence for this (they are blind, don't have garments to hide their nakedness, have need of no one and Christ is not even in the Church - and He said that where even 2 or 3 are there He is in the midst!) http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/66-14/laodicea--the-lukewarm-church-part-1
In many ways this 'church' reminds us of the description of people in the last days who are self absorbed, conceited and maintain a form of godliness but deny its power.
2 Timothy 3:1-5 NIV But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. (2) People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, (3) without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, (4) treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God-- (5) having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.
No wonder the taste of this type of church makes Jesus sick. It is like tasting something that is yuck! He wants to spit it out. It is not that they are true Christians who are not 'hot' enough. They are hypocrites who are blind and naked while still pretending that they are religious. Like the blind self righteous religious leaders in Jesus' ministry days, this is what He hates the most.
But of those that are His, that see their need of Him, He has promised to never leave nor forsake them (Heb 13:5). He has promised to lose none of those that the Father gives Him (John 6:39). He has promised that they shall never perish (John 10:28) and He will in no way cast them out (John 6:37).
When someone like yourself writes in, it isn't always easy for me to know who I'm talking to. Am I speaking to someone that is a genuine believer? Do they care about the Lord and their salvation? Are they a believer that is struggling with some sin or are they just trying to justify their sin and play games? etc Obviously I only have what is written for I do not know you. But what you have written implies to me that you are genuine in your faith and are serious about salvation. You seem like a seeker of what is true. That is why I wrote what I did. If you are genuine then God's grace is the foundation upon which to go forward. It can be abused and Jude talks about those that are false who just use the grace of God as a 'license for immorality' (Jude 1:4) That is always a potential and real problem. But I wrote what I did for I believe it to be the best foundation for a Christian to go forward.
Hope this helps, and all the best,
PS When I Googled Francis Chan it came up with this link which was a review of an article he wrote that had the title 'Failure to help the poor could send you to hell'. I read the article first of all and it was VERY confused. I'm not familiar with the rest of his teachings as I stated at the start, but if this is what it is like I wouldn't recommend him to anyone. In fact I'd warn people not to go along with it. Again, I'm no expert on his overall teaching so just going by the video and article I've seen. This article points out the many problems in it well: