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by Jacob Ninan
It is only by faith that we can receive anything from God, whether that be forgiveness of sins, justification, an overcoming life, the divine nature or fruit in our service to God.
If however our faith is not genuine, then whatever we may have received could be a counterfeit. And if our faith is faulty, we will end up not receiving all the things that God has for us. It is not surprising therefore that Satan has confused many believers' understanding of 'faith'.
For many believers, what they call 'faith' is often nothing more than just a mixture of human optimism (which believes that everything will turn out all right in the end, or that a kind God will finally somehow make everything turn out well), good feelings (tears of joy or sorrow produced when listening to messages or in prayer), confidence in their correct doctrines, confidence in their sincerity, etc. The test of real faith is this: If our faith is genuine, it will produce the fruit of sanctification in our lives. The Bible says that "the word of the cross is the power of God for salvation" (1Co.1:18). In other words, through the cross we receive the power to be saved from both the punishment as well as the power of sin.
Christ's blood alone provides atonement for all our sins. Faith in the death of Jesus for our sins justifies us before God. These facts are understood by most believers. But what many have not understood is that we ourselves also died with Jesus on the cross, and that now we have to take up our cross daily and walk with the Lord.
Our old man was crucified with Jesus (Ro.6:6). It is our sin which crucified Jesus, and when Jesus died, He suffered death in our place. Our old man which deserved death, received that death in Jesus. The new man, which we have now received, has a hatred for sin (Ro.6:10).
If we have not come to Jesus with a hatred for sin, then we have not come with genuine faith - because then we have not really acknowledged that we deserve death. A faith that does not hate sin does not qualify to receive forgiveness from God. Faith is not just a question of agreeing with a doctrine, but of responding to God in total surrender with a heart full of gratitude for His mercy and grace.
When we come to God with the same kind of faith (2Pe.1:1) that Paul had, then we too will be able to say that "WE have been crucified with Christ, and we no longer live, but Christ lives in us" (Ga.2:20). The big 'I' is no longer lord in our lives, but Jesus is Lord. It is no longer 'my will', but 'God's will' that is important. My likes, my dislikes, my convenience, my preferences, my name and my glory, all have been crucified. This is the transaction that should have taken place between us and God when we come to Him. Without such a transaction, our faith is not the kind that is pleasing to Him, nor the kind that will bear eternal fruit.
We will find that when we are identified with Jesus in His death, we will be crucified to the world and the world to us as well (Ga.6:14). Our interests will no longer be in the world and all that it has to offer us, but only in the things that are pleasing to Him who died for us (Col.3:1-3;2Co.5:14,15). Things that we once valued as great and desirable, such as a name, position, wealth, power, social status, fine clothes and food, hobbies, etc., lose their value in our eyes (Lk.16:15). This is one test by which we can know whether the faith we have is genuine or counterfeit.
We can understand something about the faith which is acceptable to God by looking at the Roman centurion and the Canaanite woman (in the gospels) both of whom were commended by the Lord for their faith (Mt.8:5-13;15:22-28). They both acknowledged that they did not deserve anything from the Lord. This was what brought them the admiration of the Lord.
We may find many people who believe that the Lord is able to do miracles for them. But it is rare to find people who sincerely recognise that they do not deserve anything from the Lord.
Another thing that we must note in relation to faith is that it is to Jesus Himself that we come. We are to lean on Him, trust in Him and walk with Him in obedience. A personal relationship with Christ is the essence of the Christian life. It is not to doctrines, to church membership or a code of conduct that we come, but to Christ (See Jn.5:39,40).
When we have received this new attitude to sin, to our own will and to the world, we will have to keep our flesh crucified (Gal. 5:24). Even though we have received a new man from Jesus, by which we have the new mind, we still have our flesh with us. The lusts in our flesh keep drawing us to sin (Jas.1:13-16). It is because of this that we have to take up our cross daily and die. This is the same way in which Jesus also was tempted (He.4:15). He also had to carry a cross daily.
There is a narrow gate to enter in, and after that there is a narrow way to walk in. The narrow way is where all the crucified attitudes which one adopted when entering through the narrow gate are tested in the daily circumstances of life. Many believers have never entered through the narrow gate. But among those who have, very few have chosen to walk along that narrow way steadfastly.
Most people assume that 'by faith' all things will be added to them automatically. They try to 'claim' the life of Jesus 'by faith'. They have not understood that one has to deny oneself and take up one's cross daily in order to follow Jesus and partake of His life (Lk.9:23). It is only by entering into the dying of Jesus that His life can be manifested in us (2Co.4:10). As Jesus denied Himself and took up His cross daily in order to do the Father's will, we too must walk the same way.
Since this involves suffering for our flesh, our natural tendency is to look for a 'way' which will bypass the suffering of death. Satan also is quick to offer us easy ways such as 'claiming it by faith', 'binding the evil spirits that trouble us', more prayer, more Bible study, more fasting, etc., so that by some means or other he can prevent us from entering into the dying of Jesus.
Thus people try out various other ways of obtaining what God has promised, other than the way Jesus has opened for us. As a result, they never come to actually experience the life that Jesus has made ready for them.
Jesus pointed out to His disciples that only a few would find the way that leads to life (Mt.7:14). Many will try to enter in, but will not be able. So He tells us to 'do your utmost to get in' (Lk.13:24 - Philips). In the context of this verse, this means that we must ensure that we have a faith that is living and real.
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