“The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17) is the Scripture that many historians say was the pivotal verse in the life of Martin Luther, whom God used to launch the Protestant Reformation. This is a verse that packs some punch!
But what exactly does it mean? I periodically ask audiences what it means to live by faith; here are a few of the typical responses :
To not walk by sight
To have faith in God
These thoughts attempt to capture what Paul meant when he said Christians are to live by faith, yet they all fall short of providing a precise definition that can be lived out in practical ways. Sure, the words used above are familiar, words we often utter in the Christian community, but that does not mean they are well understood! As disciples of Christ, we know the right words to say, but do we actually understand what we are saying? Do we truly live by faith, as we face the challenges and temptations of everyday life?
In answering these questions, I offer an acronym – F.A.I.T.H. – to help us wrap our minds and hearts around those words from Scripture: “live by faith”:
F = focused
I = intentionally
T = toward
H = holiness
When God said, “Be holy because I am holy” (Leviticus 10:44), He meant what He said! In fact, the command is repeated in the New Testament (1 Peter 1:16) to be sure we receive it. But God not only gave the command, He also graciously gave us the means to obey it. To be sure, living a life of holiness is all of grace, a gift freely given to undeserving people. Christians, however, are not merely to passively receive that gift of grace; we are to powerfully respond to it. To the degree that we respond to God’s grace in our lives, we live by faith, as Scripture commands, and our lives will reflect His holiness in all we think, do, desire and say.
Living a life of holiness involves two parties: God and us. Let’s employ my acronym to unpack the role we are called on to play if we are to live by faith.
Focused: Living by faith requires us to focus our minds and settle our hearts on one thing only: the person and work of Jesus Christ. Jesus will tolerate no rival nor should He.
Attention: Jesus is to be the focus of all of our attention – from the boardroom to the ballpark to the bedroom. “Seek the things that are above, where Christ is,” Paul commanded the Christians at Colossi. “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:1-2). From the moment we rise in the morning to the moment we fall asleep at night, Jesus is to be the center of our undivided attention. Is this true of you? Or do you need to make a few changes in your life right now changes in where you focus your attention?
Intentionally: Jesus is intentionally the focus of all our attention. We are to focus our attention deliberately and by design on Jesus. “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles,” the letter to the Hebrews exhorts, “and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2, NIV). A lack of being intentional in our focused attention on Jesus will often lead to our time being hijacked by anxious wondering and carnal desires.
Toward: Because everything in heaven and earth belongs to Him, our lives should continually move toward Jesus and the advancement of His kingdom. “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,” our Savior commanded (Matthew 6:33). We know we are moving toward Him when the size of our care and the shape of our concern for Christ and His kingdom rises above the size of our care and the shape of our concern for our own life.
Holiness: This means living a life in conformity to the Word of God, which will always be contrary to the sin-filled, self-absorbed and self-centered culture around us. “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance,” Peter instructed, “but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy'” (1 Peter 1:14-16). Our lives will not only be marked by what we no longer do – putting off sinful habits – but by what we are actually doing: putting on the habits of holiness, such as Bible study, prayer and active church membership. –Paul urged Christians to “Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature” (Romans 13:14 NIV).
So, is your life marked by F.A.I.T.H. (Focused Attention Intentionally Toward Holiness)? In living by faith, we are to understand that by faith does not mean the absence of any effort or work on our part. However, when we are striving to establish the habits of holiness by faith, we are not producing works of the flesh, unless we are working in our own strength. When we are working in the grace and strength of our Lord, our habits of holiness are reinforcing our responsibility to life, by faith in the pursuit of a holy life a life that is pleasing to God and profitable to others. Never forget that Amen!
Rev. Tommy Boland is the men’s minister and sports minister at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church. He also teaches adult Sunday school. For more information, including Bible study resource materials, please e-mail [email protected] or visit www.tommyboland.wordpress.com.