Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry

   by Rayola Kelley

We have been considering what unfeigned faith looks like and how it will work and express itself in our lives. As you probably know, we discover or experience different stages of faith in our Christian journey. For example, the first stage of faith is when we are born again. At such a time a new life has been quickened in us by the Spirit. The joy of it all represents sort of a honeymoon in light of discovering Jesus. It is all so exciting and wonderful.

The next stage of faith involves preparing our spiritual muscles to stand. Needless to say, this stage finds us crawling around in uncertainty as we try to find some stable means to pull ourselves up to explore an unseen world that appears to be out of reach. As we test our ability to stand, we find ourselves a bit wobbly as we struggle to put our trust in God so that we can stand on His promises in expectation of them coming to fruition.

Once we learn to stand, then we can begin to take small steps in confidence that if we fall, our loving Father will pick us up and dust us off. He will encourage us to take the necessary risks in order to walk out the life that is being formed in us. After all, faith is about taking a risk. It is obvious that you cannot discover the depths or heights of God unless you are willing to risk normalcy, comfort zones, and conveniences of the present life. To learn to take steps, we must learn to obey His Word. Such obedience allows us to discover the unknown that can prove to be both exciting and frightening. Even though intellectually we know that God will not fail us, we also realize that He may not catch us when we think He should. In our immature way of thinking we can question whether He will bother to pay attention to our particular plight or circumstances. It appears that our unstable spiritual legs also represent our uncertainties and doubts as to whether God will truly take note of us. After all, there is nothing that dictates to Him that He must prove Himself faithful to be at our side while we take such steps. His presence and intervention in our lives are a matter of His abiding grace, not because we are worthy of such consideration from Him.

Once we begin to walk in obedience towards His Word and purpose, our walking legs will become strong and we can begin to run the race toward our high calling and heavenly destiny. We can begin to explore the depths of God’s ways and discover the heights of His character. As we become more disciplined, the path will become narrower as we are called to the place of excellence while we press forward to apprehend the heavenly prize of possessing our Lord Jesus.

Genuine faith is what gets us where we need to be. Each new foreboding terrain of our spiritual walk will cause us to reach down into the depths of our souls in the way of determination, in order to reach up with everything in us to cling to the character of the Lord. It is for this reason that God is able to count or impute that which originates from unfeigned faith as righteousness (Romans 4:4, 9).

God must count or impute righteousness to us because as Romans 3:10 states, “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one.” There is no good or beneficial thing in our flesh; therefore, what we would consider to be righteous in our lives is viewed by God as being filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6; Romans 7:18).

Since God is holy, He cannot accept that which is not righteous before Him. It is for this reason that the matter of righteousness has been clearly outlined in Scripture. Due to the reality that we have no real origin or source of righteousness outside of Christ, we need to understand what God counts or considers as being righteous. As we are reminded in 1 Peter 4:18, “the righteous are scarcely saved.” When you understand how God imputes such righteousness to us, you will understand how Peter could make such a statement.

Right standing in God: The Bible tells us that upon salvation, God places us into Jesus who is the essence of righteousness (1 Corinthians 1:30). When God considers us, He sees the righteousness of Christ and not the best of our filthy rags, which are nothing more than attempts to make ourselves right. Because we are placed in Christ, we have right standing in God. As a result, we can be established in a right relationship with Him.

Right standing before God: To stand right before God entails faith. As previously stated, genuine faith is active. Faith believes God. Such faith declares, “Amen, so be it, for it is so.” In other words “amen” is the same as saying that a matter is already so. Since a matter is what it is, it makes it truth. Because it is truth, its fruits will be brought forth to fruition in the appropriate time. The beauty about active faith is that it will always line a person up to the truth of God. Keep in mind, an unsaved person is naturally bent towards the matters of sin and the world. These people’s preference is the darkness that will hide the intent and purpose of their wicked deeds. However, when active faith is applied to truth, it causes a person to line up to the heavenly and the eternal. Faith clearly changes the bent on a situation. Since the person is standing in line with the purpose and will of God, he or she will be reckoned as standing upright before Him.

Right standing because of God: Active faith walks hand and hand with love towards God (Galatians 5:6). It desires to please Him in honorable ways. As Jesus stated, if you love Him, you will keep His commandments. The natural bent of godly love and unfeigned faith is to obey the Lord as a means to bring glory to Him. Because of love and the desire to do right by God, a person will have right standing because of Him.

True righteousness can only find its source and inspiration in God. For this reason we need to recognize that even though we may be counted as righteous by God, we must realize that it is His source and standard of righteousness that He is imputing to us.

This brings us to how righteousness will manifest itself in our lives. Righteousness will express itself in doing right. I am not just talking about doing “good” things. Deeds may give the appearance of righteousness but such deeds may be considered reprobate or useless to God (Titus 1:16). Once again, righteousness is more than doing “good” deeds. It is an attitude that produces a holy inward state that will express itself in godliness.

The reason we must understand how righteousness operates in and through us is because it creates right attitudes in us. The one attitude that speaks of righteousness is its blatant repulsion towards sin. Righteousness abhors sin for it is totally contrary to it. The Apostle John in his first epistle bears this out in 1 John 3:9-10, “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him, and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil; whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.”

The reason righteousness will not tolerate sin is because it breaks fellowship with God and puts one on shaky ground with Him. Sin will cause one to inevitably walk under the covering of the darkness of deception. Since faith is the platform in which righteousness can be declared, established, and brought forth, it will choose to believe God rather than walk in unbelief towards Him. In a way, it will tremble before God in dread of displeasing Him, and in sobriety as to the responsibility to properly handle the matters of God.

We see this same dread and sobriety in the case of Noah. He lived during wicked times. Because he believed God, he walked with Him in a midst of an environment where the Spirit of God was withdrawing (Genesis 6:3). As a result of Noah’s faith, he found grace or favor with God (Genesis 6:8). To avoid the pending judgment coming upon the face of the earth, he was instructed to build an ark. We are told that he, in the fear or dread of the Lord, obeyed. Due to Noah’s reaction towards the wickedness of the world and his response of faith towards God, his right standing before his Creator brought judgment upon the rest of the world (Hebrews 11:7).

Righteousness is what brings a needed contrast into the world. Without contrast there is no means of bringing distinction or understanding to a matter. For example, the Lord imputed the Law to show us we were sinners so it could point us to our need for Christ (Romans 3:19-20; Galatians 3:24)). Without the Law of God there would be no such contrast to awaken or cause people to consider their spiritual plight.

Righteousness will have no part with wickedness. It will not only refrain from partaking of evil, but it will flee it. It was because of unfeigned faith we see Moses choosing to suffer affliction with the people of God, rather than enjoying the pleasures of sin for a season. The reason he chose the way of affliction is because of, “Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward (Hebrews 11:26).

Moses clearly valued the things of God. He was aware of the promises given to the people of God and had faith that in due time that those who maintained the integrity of their faith towards God would experience the fruits of it. In a sense, Moses had gained spiritual sight that allowed him to see beyond his present time and world to a future promise. Hebrews 11:27 stated that he forsook Egypt and endured as seeing Him who is invisible. Remember, Moses encountered God’s glory on Mount Sinai, and beheld His glory.

Faith will cause one to stand upright before God and endure to the end to receive the reward. For Moses, it was the future revelation of Christ, and for Christians, it is the fullness of their redemption.

This brings us to the second type of fruit that righteousness will produce, and that is doing what is honorable. Being right before God is not just a matter of refraining from the ways of evil, but it also entails doing what is honorable. Note, I am not saying doing what is right, for people have different ideas as to what they think is right. Doing what is honorable has to do with doing that which has been ordained by God. In summation, it is what God can count as being right and accept it as a means of service or sacrifice (Romans 12:1-2).

The reason the term “honorable” is used instead of “doing right” is because honorable points to doing that which would constitute your reasonable service. On the other hand, “doing right” perceives that a person is being quite “noble” about a matter.  In many cases the individual is seeking honor or recognition for his or her deeds.

The heart attitude behind honor and nobility is diversely different. Honor comes out of true humility. When you go to honor something, you must first exalt it. Nobility comes out of pride. When you are regarding something in light of whether it is right or wrong, you are being placed in a position of being a judge over the matter.

 The truth is there is nothing noble about doing right in regards to the things of God, for it is the least a person can do (Romans 12:2). Doing right does not deserve recognition for it is one’s responsibility to do so. Therefore, the concept of being honorable in all we do entails having a right attitude towards the matters of God. As Christians, we must always do what is right because we love Him. We must always be honorable in all matters because it represents the One we serve. Since we have the Lord’s Spirit in us we should be inclined to do right, as well as develop godly tendencies that will ensure the proper disciplines to maintain the integrity of our Christian walk.

Unfeigned faith is what causes us to walk in an honorable way. It directs us in the right way, while inspiring us to greatness and leading us to that which is excellent. It will not settle for less nor accept what is nominal as a means to simply get by. It will be willing to identify with the suffering of the present world to possess the glory of the next.

This brings us to the reality that unfeigned faith must be mixed in the equation in all matters of life if we are going to prove to be honorable in who we are, what we do, and who we ultimately become. What is not mixed with faith will prove to be unprofitable (Hebrews 4:2). It will not be considered righteous; therefore, it will be rejected by God.

Romans 14:23 tells us this, “And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith; for whatever is not of faith is sin.” To do something that is wrong before God reveals that the person does not believe God about the matters of righteousness. To fail to do what is honorable or right shows that the person is walking in unbelief towards God. The individual lacks sobriety towards that which is honorable and will end up showing contempt towards that which is righteous.

Today many Christians take pride in refraining from doing wrong. However, the greatest discrepancy in their spiritual walk is that they fail to do what is honorable or right. Doing wrong is the sin of “commission”, while failing to do what is right when the opportunity arises is a sin of “omission”. In essence, a person is omitting the ways of righteousness in a situation, failing to bring honor or glory to God. Keep in mind refraining from doing something wrong will not bring honor to God; rather, it puts you in a position of having a clear conscience, a pure heart, and a credible witness before God, allowing Him to meet with you and show His grace. But, when it comes to doing that which is right, it will honor God. For this reason, Jesus made this statement, “Let your light so shine before me, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father, who is in heaven.”

Unfeigned faith keeps us on the cutting edge of Christianity. It keeps us open and prepared to receive the truths of God, as well as available and willing to do what is honorable. Regardless of the terrain and challenges, genuine faith keeps us going forward towards our ultimate destination. It will keep our feet on the narrow path. Because of such faith, we will not have any desire to take a detour by turning to the right in lieu of judgment and excuses, or to the left to embrace deception. Because of its steadfastness, God will be able to keep our feet from slipping on the rocks of uncertainty in times of adversity.

Test your faith and see whether it is active or useless. Try your faith to see if it is founded on the eternal Rock or standing on shifting sands. Examine the fruits of your faith to see if it is bringing contrast or whether it blends into the worldly terrain.  Honestly consider whether you are betraying the faith first delivered to the saints, or because of it your life is bringing glory to God.

When we examine these elements, as believers, we must recognize that the past does not require us to have any faith. Faith enables us to walk in the present in light of the future. It is active; therefore, able to possess what has been promised. The writer of Hebrews 6:12 confirms this, “That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”

In considering this Scripture, we can begin to see that those who live in the past are slothful towards the present, and inactive about walking out a matter according to the saints of the past who now serve as our examples. Clearly, we may regard the past in light of examples, but we must not longingly look back or regard the past as that which now defines our present life and the future hope. We cannot place our past in front of us if we are planning to follow those who left all behind to follow God into a new life.

It is through faith and patience that we inherit the promises of God. However, when people are in limbo, it is due to a lack of faith. Since a person is not waiting in faith according to God’s plan, there will be no need for patience to be established. Obviously, these individuals have no need to inherit promises because they never have let go of their fantasies of the past. They are not looking to inherit such promises, but their desire is to do the impossible by changing their past, thereby, changing the type of person they have become or are allowing themselves to become. Sadly, such people will never possess any promises or realize their potential in the kingdom of God.