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The Crux

3 Ways Faith is Shortchanged Today

What is saving faith?

Today's message is short because I don't believe it needs to be complicated. As I've spoken to people about their faith, I've made the observation that there is sometimes a misunderstanding about what faith is. With that in mind, I've observed three ways that faith is shortchanged in the 21st century church.

  1. It's easy-peasy - In many churches, Christians or would-be Christians are told to "believe and receive". They are rarely warned that suffering is the way of the cross and to expect it before counting the cost. They are rarely even told to count the cost. Faith is not simply believing in certain truths we hold sacred, as if mental assent that Jesus Christ is the son of God will save someone's soul. Real faith is an active faith. If it doesn't motivate you to change your thinking, your behavior, and your ways of interacting with others, then it may not be real faith.

  2. It has too much baggage - While many Christians have been taught to believe in Jesus Christ without being instructed on the how to walk in faith, others are told they must jump through a few hoops if they want to be saved. The message is often subtle. Yes, you're saved by grace, pastors and preachers say, but you must ____________ if you want to get to heaven. Usually, the blank is filled with legalistic expectations, such as giving up smoking or divorcing one's thrice-married spouse. If you must do something (other than repent of your sins), salvation isn't by grace.

  3. It's vaguely defined - Faith has an object. One must place one's faith in something or someone, then trust that object of faith to work out the details of one's belief. Placing one's faith in the wrong object, however, will result in nothing at best or lead to spiritual damage at worst. Faith in a pastor, a church, a denomination, a particular theological message, the Bible, or anything other than Jesus Christ is not saving faith.

What Is Saving Faith?

The gospel message has been lost. Today's version of the Christian gospel has been watered down to a vaguely defined belief system that encourages either a legalistic approach to faith or a libertine, anything-goes version of churchianity. This is why Christian churches mirror the U.S. political system with regard to theological posturing. Progressives and conservatives in the church are often the same outspoken, judgmental, and loveless persons you find in liberal and conservative political circles. We have adopted the world's ways and means.

Saving faith is hard. It's not easy. Before one follows Jesus, one should conduct a personal assessment and count the cost. As a demonstration of faith, all of us must give up something. What must you give up in order to be a true disciple of Jesus Christ?

Saving faith is baggage-free. While each of us must be transformed in our thinking and behavior, there is no list of things one must do or not do in order to be saved. Don't let anyone tell you there is.

Saving faith is well-defined. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. Believing in Jesus is not like believing you'll have another piece of cake. Even the demons believe, but shudder. If you want to follow Jesus, you must know that He will change your heart. He will change what is important to you. He will change you from the inside out. You must be okay with that and willing to follow Him wherever He may take you. If you aren't, whatever belief you have may not be saving faith.

Final encouraging word: If you think you want to believe in Jesus or you're wondering what others may think of you when they find out you do, take that extra step. Whatever is holding you back, hand it over to the Lord, and trust that He will bring you through. Faith is walking without seeing, believing without knowing.

Allen Taylor is the author of I Am Not the King, a personal story of faith in Jesus Christ and the resulting transformation.

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