FOLLOWING JESUS — WHAT IS “SAVING FAITH”
MATTHEW 16:24-25 — “If anyone wishes to comes after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it.”
When you made the decision to follow Jesus, you made the most important, crucial decision of your life.
But Jesus didn’t offer eternal life to you based on:
“saying the right words”
“Having a warm religious feeling’
“an emotional moment when you felt you ought to do something”
“or that walking the aisle seemed like the appropriate thing to do”
“or a need for assurance that you wouldn’t go to hell”
“or that someone told you to repeat this prayer after me”.
There is one, and only one, way to receive eternal life ( or to be “saved”)
And it isn’t how great many people think it is.
In the verses I just read from Matthew 16:24-25 Jesus made it very clear how a person becomes a true follower of His. When you look at the verses carefully it isn’t difficult to understand what He was talking about.
What did He mean by these verses:
“come after Me”
“take up his cross”
Or “lose your life in order to find it?”
These are serious words describing a life-changing relationship” with Jesus Christ. Actually, what we have in these verses is Jesus’ own definition of “faith”. The true faith that grants eternal life.
Many have tried to water down the real New Testament meaning of faith by saying things like,
“faith is taking God at His word”
Or “faith is trusting God to do what He said He would do”
Or “Faith is believing what you can’t see”
These are all nice, but they don’t communicate the reality of the kind of living faith demanded by the Lord Jesus.
Before we talk about the details of becoming a believer in Jesus, a follower of His, it will be helpful to examine what the Bible itself has to say about faith. Just how does God’s word define faith?
HEBREWS 11:1 — “Now faith is the reality of things hoped for, the proof of things not seen” ( my translation of the Greek text)
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
According to God’s word, FAITH IS REALITY AND PROOF.
The Greek word translated “reality” ( often translated “substance” or “assurance” or “the title deed” ) was used in the first century to designate real estate and other accumulated personal property. It is a very tangible term.
The word translated “proof” ( sometimes translated “evidence” or “conviction” ) was a legal term used to describe the evidence which gave strength to the legal case, allowing it to be brought to a higher court. On the basis of this weighty evidence, a legal position could be demonstrated to be true or false.
According to Hebrews 11:1 faith is much more than a mental assent. It involves the utmost in reality and proof.
What kind of reality and proof?
The kind Jesus described in Matthew 16:
“come……deny yourself…..take up your cross…..follow Me”
This is the reality and proof of a personal relationship with Jesus. The reality of the relationship is demonstrated by the proof of a transformed life.
Merely to say that you are “accepting “Jesus or “trusting” Him is not to have or demonstrate the faith that brings personal salvation.
As Hebrews 11:1 says, saving faith is having a life-response which not only claims a title-deed to eternal life in His kingdom, but also demonstrates (proves or gives evidence) that you have truly turned your life of self-centeredness over to His Lordship.
Saving faith isn’t a fleeting emotional desire, not is it blind acceptance. Faith is not simply accepting a set of facts. Faith is not simply having an intellectual belief in the teachings of Jesus.
Saving faith is the reality of following Jesus which, by its very nature, gives evidence of a transformed life.
In the epistle written by James, he put it, the “faith” that fails to produce a changed life is not the kind of faith which brings one to salvation.
James 1:21-22; 2:14, 18-19, 26
“ Therefore putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word (the gospel) implanted which is able to save your souls. But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves…What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but he has no works (corresponding actions)? Can that faith save him? But someone may well say, ‘You have faith, and I have works’; show me your faith without the works, and I’ll show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder…For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works (corresponding actions) is dead.”
As we have seen, saving faith is one’s life-response to Jesus. Now we know that one is not saved by works — that is heresy!!! But the quality of genuine saving faith is show in the scriptures to be that which is living and productive.
Saving faith is sharing a common “real estate” with Jesus in the kingdom of God (“come after Me”, “follow Me”) by denying one’s self and taking up ones cross. The cross is an instrument of death. Death to your old life in the kingdom of darkness. It is symbolic of your total commitment to Jesus—total abandonment to His desires.
The cross of self-death, which must be taken up in order to follow Him, produces evidence of one’s relationship to Jesus because one is then walking (following) in a NEW DIRECTIONS.
THIS IS WHAT REPENTANCE REALLY MEANS.
As you can see, faith can be a confusing concept to understand. So from now on when I speak of faith, be sure that you understand it to mean the life-changing kind of faith taught in the Bible.
The verb form of the noun “faith” found in the New Testament is translated as “believe”.
It means “to have faith” or, literally, “to faith”.
We don’t have such a verb as “to faith” in English, so we use “believe”.
Whenever you see the words “faith” ( noun) and “believe” (verb) in the New Testament, remember that they are speaking of one and the same thing—–
· One emphasizes the fact of it – believe
· The other the action of it — faith
Jesus said if you would place your faith in (believe in ) Him that He would grant you eternal and abundant life. The word believe in the N.T. means to cling to, rely upon, trust in, & obey. Not just have a mental belief.
He didn’t say just to believe about Him, but to make a life-response to Him — to give up yourself to His Lordship.
We need to have a crystal clear understanding of the word “believe” that we see in the new testament.
To have saving faith is different than to simply “believe” as a mental assent that is what many people have.
Satan himself and all of his demons “believe” in God, but they do not have salvation because they are not submitted to the Lordship of Jesus and they have not put their “faith” in Him with evidence of their corresponding actions.