From ‘Straight Answers to Awkward Questions’ on Lutheran Radio UK – What is faith?
Christian faith is what God desires for all people for by it we are saved; we are forgiven, and we have eternal life – life with God now and forever. Christian faith isn’t just something a per-son might do or not do but is something by which people’s life and eternal destiny is shaped. So faith isn’t a take it or leave it matter for Christianity. It is all about Jesus and what he has done for us and that is why Christians keep talking about Jesus and keep focused on Jesus. Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome – Romans chapter 1 – For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to every-one who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:16,17 ESV)
This faith shapes us – actually it is a new birth for those with it are new creations (in Christ) – and God declares these people righteous before him – not because they’re good – but because of Jesus. So in Romans 3 Paul says: For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law (Romans 3:28 ESV). The normal means by which people try to become righteous before God in the religions of the world are by us doing things and not doing other things and hoping that a tally of good deeds over against bad deeds earns us a place with God. Not so Christi-anity! Jesus has achieved our salvation – prepared a place for us – and gives us his life to live now – and this is a free and gracious gift. It is received – believed – he is trusted – we have confidence in him and his Word as op-posed to anything else because, first and foremost, faith is a gift from God. And this is the radical part – the part people find hard to grasp and even believers can forget – because our experiences are so dominant in our lives. But Paul wrote to the Ephesians – chapter 2 saying – For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8,9 ESV)
Christian faith is, at its deepest level, God’s gift – created by the Holy Spirit through the means he uses – words and water and strengthened by words and bread and wine so that no matter what we go through or our experiences the disciples of Jesus rely and trust this Word of God, that Jesus is with them – that Jesus’ promises are trustworthy – and that God is faith-ful in his Son, Jesus Christ.
The best picture of Christian faith is not to think of it as our trust or our confidence – which has a tendency to keep our focus on ourselves – but to think of it as life and living. Just as we did not give ourselves our physical life but we can affect it by our lifestyle choices – so we don’t give ourselves spiritual life, ie. faith but we can definitely affect it by our lifestyle choices. GS